The Musical (Southwark Playhouse). It’s 1980 in the USA and a couple of odd coppers are on the case of the “baddest cat in America” or in English speak a malevolent criminal. From the off, the cast of five hit all the right notes in establishing a riotous atmosphere and rapport with the audience. Writer/ directors Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe, also take the leading roles of wannabe ‘police-cop’ Jimmy Johnson, jobsworth Chief of Police Malloy and Harrison, a washed-up veteran, respectively. They are supported by Natassia Bustamente and Melinda Orengo who multitask in operating props and taking on several roles, making up a crackerjack quintet of all singing all dancing performers, a motley crew creating havoc and mayhem. The intimate theatre gives the cast openings to interact with the cast, mostly in character but there were one or two moments when the improv gene kicked in, much to the pleasure of this crowd.
The musical numbers by Ben Adams bounce the story along, with impressive harmonies by the cast, and Matt Coles’ choreography is a witty mix of slick and silly, the bonkers physicality and facial expressions bringing to mind the Keystone Cops of yesteryear, with a large tongue firmly lodged in cheek. The pace of the production is such that the storyline almost gets lost in among the gunshots and tomfoolery. All of which requires precision timing and reliance on each other, and they execute every routine with skill and panache, including costume changes and prop placement that happen flash of gunfire. At one point my belly laughing companion shouted out, loudly, “how did they do that?” That is the beauty of this show, two hours of madcap entertainment, a throwback to British comedy of old that feels fresh and appropriate for contemporary theatregoers. Catch this riot of joviality while you can but leave your critical baton at home…you won’t need it

Simon McBurney’s 2013 staging of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (London Coliseum), a collaboration between the ENO and innovative theatre company Complicité is bloody marvellous! Yes, no point holding back when you have an experience like this, even after having been informed at the start that the hydraulic system that they use as part of the set was broken. Didn’t spoil the fun at all and this is enormous fun as well as being the most novel telling of the tale. For those unfamiliar with it all we follow the adventures of Prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno out to rescue Pamina. They are given musical instruments with magical powers but nothing is quite what it seems. And this production is nothing quite like anything I’ve seen. At the side of the stage is a small desk which projects an abundance of evocative imagery, very cool and engaging, bringing the opera to life for those unfamiliar with the genre. The visual aspects of the show are incredibly impressive as is the narrative, which though steeped in 18th century Enlightenment, is pertinent to present day Britain.
When was the last time you had an opera cast in among the audience? Exactly, different and refreshing. We even had the flautist and percussionist come onto the stage adding to the jocularity. As for the singing it was of a quality to please the bird kingdom. David Stout’s Papageno has a gorgeous baritone sound and he is a hoot in the role while John Relyea possesses a booming and characterful bass and brings strong charisma as Sarastro. However, it is Rainelle Krause as Queen of the Night who left the greatest impression with the famous aria sung while sat in a wheelchair, the coloratura still pristine and full of emotion. Poor Peter Hoare was comically booed during the curtain call, his Monostatos being a misogynist and generally awful man, the archetypal pantomime villain. It’s that kind of production and I loved it.

“I’ve always been able to do an English accent”, Billy Crudup confidently opens with in his new one-man monologue, Harry Clarke (Ambassador’s Theatre). Confidently, and optimistically, I should say. Harry Clarke made its debut on Broadway in 2017 and is now making its West End debut. It hinges on Crudup being able to nail not one but two separate English accents, something that the Almost Famous star almost manages. But what’s in an accent? Aside from this, Harry Clarke is a fun Talented Mr Ripley style quasi-thriller about the insecure, timid Phillip Brugglestien – who after a miserable childhood growing up gay in Indiana lives as a nobody barista in New York. On a whim he worms his way into the life of a wealthy closeted businessman, posing as the titular cockney wideboy Harry Clarke. Its entertaining to watch Crudup switch between the two personas – you’re watching the repressed Brugglestien recounting with horror but obvious admiration the romantic exploits of ‘Clarke’, and there are a few great lines, but the overall play is a little insubstantial – Too many times I felt impatient for something big to happen – early on one of the characters, leaving a play excitedly talks about the joy of going into a play blind because ‘you never know what’s going to happen’, but here, unfortunately I was left thinking ‘well what did happen?’ The answer to that is ‘not very much’. This all makes it sound like i didn’t like Harry Clarke. I did, it was fun and silly and there were a few moments that were laugh-out-loud funny (which, for the sake of fairness, I won’t spoil), I just wish there was a bit more substance to it.

Police Cops: The Musical –
The Magic Flute –
Harry Clarke –

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