Ignore the hoarding outside the Vaudeville Theatre where Megan Mullally & Supreme Music Program (sic) are appearing which bills her as the two time Emmy-winning star of Will & Grace, Miss Mullally made it quite clear early in Tuesday’s show: “Karen’s not here”.
No, Karen’s not here. Mullally turned up for her London debut bespectacled and in in a black suit. She’s opted for the Nana Mouskouri meets Davina Mccall look. Or, as one of the Whingers’ considerable entourage thought, Tina Fey.
Oh, and she doesn’t do show tunes.
“We eschew show tunes, ” she said. So that’s probably her core audience alienated then. Since arriving in London she’s also picked up English expressions, describing things as “fine” and “lovely” probably alienating people further by saying “I’m sounding English – that’s terrible”. But one wonders just how long she’s been in London to rehearse with her band as she didn’t seem terribly well prepared for the first of a run of 8 shows this week.
But it didn’t stop some of her audience whooping and yelling like Americans last night. Perhaps they were Americans? “We love you Megan!” was screeched from the back of the stalls (or orchestra stalls as the ticket stated). Where exactly were we? Were we still in London?
One number in and the woman in front of Phil was texting or twittering or something. Phil soon put a stop to that and received some lip for his troubles. Who were these people?
Ok, so no show tunes, so what did she do? Well Ms Mullally described it as “eclectic” to a baffled Loose Women panel on Monday’s show and she’s completely accurate in that (apart from the absence of show-tunes, obviously, although there is a Rodgers & Hart number which is literally show-stopping as it’s at the end). She rattles through pop, rock, jazz, country and western, hillbilly and blues amongst other things, singing mainly unfamiliar songs about “death, loss and sadness”. Some of it she does extremely well. It’s no secret to the Whingers she really can sing as they saw her, and loved her, in the Broadway production of Young Frankenstein. Twice.
Some work better than others, Sondheim’s “I Remember” (from Evening Primrose, which isn’t a show tune as it was originally written for telly), the Rolling Stones’ “Back Street Girl”, an acapella “Wind and Rain”, and especially “St. James Infirmary” show Mullally at her best. The band are terrific, the orchestrations are wonderfully imaginative and the sound balance was unexpectedly good for a first performance.
Andrew loved it. Phil was less sure. The problem is she stays rooted pretty much to her music stand (which also masks her face from some towards the front of the orchestra stalls), frequently consulting the lyrics even when jigging about. She claims she’s a huge fan of some of the song writers, so why doesn’t she seem familiar with their lyrics? She needs to ditch the stand and work the stage and bring the audience in, though she does turn her back to the audience at one point and shake her booty eliciting more screaming from the more excitable members of the audience. It’s the wrong theatre for this kind of show (and the wrong sort of West End prices); in Pizza on the Park it would probably be fantastic.
Just before the interval Mullally instructed the audience to “Go out and get absolutely smashed – wasted”. Now that’s working the crowd. Did she know the Whingers were in?
But Andrew found some poor Yank inside him somewhere by the end of the show and whooped at the opening bars of “You Took Advantage Of Me”- Finally! Something we know! But still, most uncharacteristic. Phil looked at him incredulously. Did he really hear that? Lady Skipper heard it from his front row orchestra stalls seat. It must have happened.
Depends what you were expecting, really.