Review – The Musical of Musicals – the Musical

Sunday 24 December 2006

Musical of Musicals posterHow many times have you read the words “utterly brilliant” in a West End Whingers review?

If your answer to this question is more than zero, you’re confusing us with someone with altogether lower standards, because, as you will by now realise, dear reader, we really are very hard to please.

Yet “utterly brilliant” were the words that burst from Phil’s wine-moistened lips during the interval of The Musical of Musicals – The Musical! at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.

Admittedly Phil had been drinking all day but then that’s not as unusual as you might think. The word merlot needs only to be whispered to Andrew and he can reach the same state of inebriation.

In case you haven’t read our earlier ticket tip on the show, it’s basically four singers and a pianist who re-use the same plot five times to create mini-musicals in the styles of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb.

It’s shamelessly full of in-jokes and only for die-hard musical theatre fans. But if that’s your theatrical photofit, you’re in for a treat. All three WEW guests (two of whom had been horribly scarred – if only aesthetically – by the recent WEW outing to Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks) had an absolute ball.

The references and the jokes come thick and fast – so much so that both Phil and Andrew found themselves spending much of the show thinking, “I must remember that one” only to find the effort of committing something to memory entirely wasted when something equally funny or clever or both came along 10 seconds later.

It’s hard to pick out favourites, but the Andrew Lloyd-Webber spoof Aspects of Junita is particularly satisfying, taking a pop at the pompousness of “wretched recitative” in a song called We Never Talk Anymore and a swipe at recurring musical motifs in I’ve Heard That Song Before.

Here’s a taster:

  • Phantom: I want you to sing for me. You have the voice of an angel.
  • Junita: Who, Me?
  • Phantom: A whiny, self-absorbed angel.
  • Junita: But I can’t pay my rent.
  • Phantom: I’ll forego your rent if you will sing something I wrote myself.
  • Junita: You wrote it yourself?
  • Phantom (quietly): Do you know opera?
  • Junita: No.
  • Phantom: Yes, I wrote it myself.

OK, so ALW is pretty much fish in a barrel material, but the Sondheim pastiche (A Little Complex) is so clever that it really does sound like Sondheim, and so funny that it sounds like Sondheim the lyricist from his Gypsy! days when he was still brilliantly witty and before he started to believe musical theatre should be a serious art form.

Composer Eric Rockwell and lyricist Joanne Bogart have great fun with Jerry Herman in Dear Abby! (“Watch me strut ’cause I’m an old pro/I can’t sing or dance/But I’m the star of the show.”)

All five performers combine the comic talent and musicianship to make the whole thing work.

So, with just a few days before the end of the year, does this glowing review mark a turning point for the West End Whingers or is just seasonal goodwill? Check in the new year and see if this blog is dead. If it is, you had better do a Google search for “West End Pollyannas” and see what comes up.

One Response to “Review – The Musical of Musicals – the Musical”

  1. westendwhinger Says:

    Can’t recommend it highly enough..if you know your musicals. Went to the King’s Head in a tired and emotional state and came out on a high. Even the scrum for the dreadfully uncomfortable seating was soon forgotten. WEW were told by a cast member after the show that we were “a very good front row”..we’re getting our own reviews now, and they’re good!

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