With a sense of impeccable timing, new musical #ZoologicalSociety launches with a concept album. The plan was to accompany the digital release with a live concert performance at BEAM 2020, the UK’s leading showcase of new British musical theatre but whilst that obviously isn’t happening, the album is now available for our delectation, thanks to Joe and Nikki Davison at Auburn Jam Music who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the music.
The first of a series of entirely original musical commissions from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, Vikki Stone and Katie Mulgrew’s #ZoologicalSociety takes its simple concept – animals going through the same societal pressures as humans – and fashions a rather winning musical comedy out of it.
Who knew you needed Lucie Jones’ penguin facing the realities of being a single mother in ‘Marvin’, or Natasha Barnes and Stone as a pair of gassing giraffes in ‘There’s No Way Pat’. This collection of everyday characters living everyday lives – except that, you know, they’re animals – have a real charm to them, particularly as voiced by a very strong cast of musical theatre faves, accompanied by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and Chorus.
On ‘Come On Alan’, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Jason Manford dealing with the pressures of being expected to perform their monkey business, both revelling in the song’s patter and the lapses into the profane are properly funny here. And there’s something delightful, and almost perverse, in how pretty the melody for ‘One Day A Year’ is, given the subject is about pandas procreating, Arthur Darvill and Louise Dearman both leaning beautifully into a tender sweetness.
The wittiness of the writing (music and lyrics come from Stone) means that there’s many a laugh contained within its rhyming couplets and casual asides though the tendency towards the broad means that some of the swearing can feel a little superfluous – Tyrone Huntley’s Brian the lion suffers here. But the lightness of tone throughout, even as it occasionally reaches for something more profound (‘The Something Else’ really is gorgeous) makes #ZoologicalSociety well worth a listen in these trying times.
#ZoologicalSociety is available to stream or to download from all leading streaming services including Spotify | Apple Music | and Amazon Music
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