We have observed before how carefully one must choose the title of one’s show lest critics, sub-editors or even pesky bloggers get their hands on it and turn it on its head and here is Peter Michael Marino doing it to himself, sort of, with a bit of help from Charlie Spencer.
Having eventually recovered from a year long bout of depression and a severe case of haemorrhoids the writer of the 2007 West End flop musical Desperately Seeking Susan has nicked a quote from Charles Spencer’s review and used it for his one man piece Desperately Seeking the Exit (director John Clancy) which explains what went wrong.
The Whingers never saw DSS and we’re not even sure why. We’re both very partial to The Blondie, whose songs were purloined to musicalise the plot from the 1985 film (memorable because (a) it featured Madonna and (b) she wasn’t terrible in it).
How bad could the musical version have been? As bad as Paradise Found? Viva Forever! (which has just announced it is not quite forever)? Or the so-bad-it-was-(almost)-good Too Close to the Sun? Surely not.
Marino says he came up with the idea for his musical whilst high on pot. By pot, we mean dope, weed or grass. According to the Americans behind his show no one here knows what pot is. But then Marino (also American) believes we don’t know what limes are either, don’t know where New Jersey is, don’t have ice in our drinks, don’t drink margaritas (Phil’s cocktail of choice), that we sleep on beds filled with straw and use “holes in the wall” to get money out of banks. Oh and that we “whinge” a lot but we suppose we must allow him that one. We thought it was Americans who have to have cultural references changed for them rather than the other way around. Aren’t we more up to speed here because we’re so exposed to American films and TV? But there you go. On this also are the British wrong.
This you-Brits-are different-from-us-and-in-a-bad-way approach is not the obvious way for even a self-confessed “Angloholic” to win over an English audience but each moment of disgruntlement was generally rapidly forgotten thank’s to the engaging Mr Marino’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and self-deprecation in the delivery of his tale.
Blame is laid at many doors (not least director Angus Jackson and choreographer Andy Blankenbuchler) for the collapse of DSS but Marino’s own failings are equally and commendably laid bare.
Apparently it was all going swimmingly at the early workshops. Indeed, the über-prolifically successful producer Sonia Friedman predicted a hit (and supplied the wickedest anecdote of the night. It would have been impolite not to laugh out loud. So we did). The director of DSS had limited experience of helming West End musicals (i.e. none), but thankfully recovered enough to go on to direct the brilliant The Browning Version among others.
It is an interesting account of what can go wrong. If you’ve ever worked on a musical you will want to see this show. If you’ve ever worked on a musical and emerged with piles, rather than piles of cash, you’ll want to see this show. And should you be contemplating working on one it is required viewing.
However, there was not quite enough insider gossip for our tastes and so we shall be re-reading Nichola McAuliffe’s marvellous book A Fanny Full of Soap to make up for it.
Still, it was inspirational in its way and the Whingers have been inspired to whip out their dusty bongs and spend a night improving on their musicalisation of Rosemary’s Baby featuring the back catalogue of the incomparable Tina Charles.
Then we shall show you how dirt is truly dished.
Desperately Seeking the Exit is at the Leicester Square Theatre until May 20th.