Landor Theatre, London – until 29 May 2016
When not even Show Boat with its mighty pedigree, production values and cast can survive in London, what hope for the small-scale home-grown musical? The Landor Theatre has made an occasional departure from its repertoire of well-focused chamber-sized revivals to host an original creation called Devilish. Possibly with an exclamation mark. Like Oklahoma! Only not remotely like Oklahoma!
Starting not even from a novel, an anecdote really, in which an angel descends from heaven and is shot down into the melee of modern Britain, Chris Burgess has fashioned the slenderest of stories and a battery of lyrics with easy-listening-to-soft-rock music by BB Cooper.
It’s given a colourful cartoon staging, a zealously enthusiastic cast and smart costumes, is directed at frenzied pace by Mark Urquhart and in its puppyish desire to please all but wees on your leg with its own excitement.
My heart sinks whenever young actresses deliberately totter precariously into position on heels. It’s mean to denote age or working class characterisation, but you know in a heartbeat it’s compensating for inadequacies of plot or script.
Alex Green has a bright toothpaste grin and a fine singing voice but is given precious little to work on as Angel: there’s almost no story to develop and you could sum up his entire purpose in the better Wizard of Oz lyric – ‘If I Only Had a Heart’. Again, Victoria Hope is a good actress in a slim part as that theatrical cliché the best friend he doesn’t realise he loves until the final song. Beyond that and an occasionally funny weather girl played as broadly as a young Hylda Baker by Katie Ann Dolling, the characters have barely one dimension each so it’s all a bit of an end-of-term pantomime or High School Musical. Done by an Academy.
Choreography from Australian newcomer Adam Scown is a genuine high point and you can see some of the most enthusiastic hoofers aching for more room to express the finer points of his original work. Be good to see what he does next.
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