Musical theatre is there to entertain the theatrically non-discerning members of the public and give work to people that can sing, dance and make jazz hands, isn’t it? Obviously, the answer is a resounding No! It is true that some regular theatregoers look down on musicals as low brow but, in fact, they are missing out on so much. Think about shows like La Cage Aux Folles, Wicked or Fiddler on the Roof. Each one of these has an amazing story to tell and raises awareness of issues in a subtle way and each one is a successful musical production. So yes, it is possible to combine the frothiness of musical theatre with an important story or message. Just such a show has recently opened at the Stockwell Playhouse with the arrival of LAMBCO productions Boys in the Buff.
The show starts with our wonderful hostess, the lovely Diana Diamonte (Natalie Harman) welcoming the audience to the evening and explaining what will happen. This isn’t a show with a start-middle-end story but is a musical revue themed around our bodies and how we feel about them. And then Diana introduces to her boys – Dan (William Frazer), Max (Adam O’Shea), Phil (Julian Quijano) and Richard (Shaun Riddick). All four are young handsome and just ‘dreamy’ to look at. In fact, at first glance, you can’t help but wonder what these four young Adonises can tell someone like me – old and currently working as a stand in for the Michelin Man – about body image. But, of course, everyone – no matter how beautiful an observer may think they are – has a tale to tell about their body and what they would like to change. The story itself is around building up Phil’s courage so that he can go ‘Full Monty’ in the final scene.
Over the course of the show, Diana and her boys perform some really impressive songs that really highlight the issues that people face. A couple that really come to mind are the extremely emotional ‘Only a Joke’ which, with its memories of being in school wearing NHS specs, had me shedding a silent tear. Then there is the celebratory song ‘Big Hearted Mama’ which, by rights, should become the next great anthem.
Chris Burgess, responsible for words and music, has penned a really entertaining show with some great songs, which when put together with Director/Choreographer Sam Rayner’s dance moves, really bring a tone and look of various other musicals – definite tracings of Cabaret, Wicked, and many others in the mix. Never preaching, the songs get their message across wonderfully and it’s really worth listening intently to the words as well as watching the lovely delivery by the cast who somehow manage to perform West End style flamboyant choreography, on a quite small stage without hitting anything or falling off the edge. Be aware, there is some audience participation involved and my advice – having gone through it – is throw yourself into it and enjoy the experience. Like Gypsy Rose Lee, I now know how to be seductive with only one item of clothing.
Boys in the Buff is a really camp, fun night out which sends its message out loud and proud in an exciting and highly entertaining way. The cast are wonderfully energetic and engaged throughout. In fact, it’s true to say everyone looked as if they were having a thoroughly good time up there from the start. Did I have a favourite among the cast? Well, William Frazer caught my eye. His Dan flirted with the audience and had a cheeky twinkle in his eye throughout. But the reality is that this was a lovely cast of good singers and dancers who showed great courage in literally giving their all to the performance. The show is suitable for everyone, as we all have a body and all have something wrong with it. I was surprised at the amount of conversation the show generated. In fact, my companion and I spent the majority of the interval talking about things we disliked about our bodies, sleeve gastrectomy, and plastic surgery. Any show that can keep the audience fully entertained and cause quite intense discussions at the same time is a powerful one. Boys in the Buff is such a show and is strongly recommended by this reviewer.
Southern Baptist Sissies
Above the Stag is a theatre that specialises in putting on LGBT+ shows. I’ve been there a couple of times previously and seen some very well produced and very funny plays about gay life. So, I was really looking forward to another visit last night to see their latest show, the European premiere of Southern Baptist Sissies by Del Shores.
This is the story of four people emerging from childhood and becoming adults. These boys are all from the great state of Texas – the ‘buckle’ in the bible belt – and all are regular attendees at their small town Baptist church presided over by a real old fashioned ‘wrath of God’ style preacher (Stephen Parker). The four boys are all really good friends who each bring something different to the group. So, there is preacher’s son Mark (Jason Kirk) the thinker, TJ (Daniel Klemens) the brawn, Andrew (Hugh O’Donnell) the introverted and…
The Chemsex Monologues at the King’s Head Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet
Some of you may have heard of an app called Grindr. It is a social app for gay men that enables them to chat and arrange to meet up. Okay, it may be a bit more than that but once again I must remember my mother reads these things. Anyway, if I was to download it and switch it on now, two things would become apparent very quickly. The first is that a lot of people take really bad photographs which seem to cut off their heads and the second is that the world is divided into those that say ‘chems OK’ and those that say ‘No Chems’. Being firmly on the ‘No Chems’ side, it is interesting to delve, if only briefly, on the other. Such an opportunity is available as Patrick Cash’s play The Chemsex Monologues makes a welcome return to the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
As the title suggests, The Chemsex Monologues are a series …
https://www.londontheatre1.com/news/185309/review-the-busy-world-is-hushed-finborough-theatre/ Michael James and Mateo Oxley – Credit Scott Rylander
Let’s start this review off with a quote “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.” If you aren’t sure where this is from I will let you know at the end of the review. However, this quote get’s nicely to the central crux of Keith Bunin’s play The Busy World is Hushed which is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre.
Hannah (Kazia Pelka) is a happy Episcopalian minister and widow. She is working on a book about a recently discovered gospel which may predate the ‘famous four’ – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – and, if the dates work out correctly, may have been written just after the death of Jesus. Like many academic types, Hannah is really enthralled by her work but dreads the thought of writing it out, so she is interviewing Brandt (Mateo Oxley) for the position of gh…