Two Edinburgh Fringe musicals – one home-grown and almost London-ready, one more pantomime but decorated by an impossibly handsome half nude ‘Adam’.
STOP THE TRAIN (The Musical) ★★★★
Paradise in Augustines
Among the slew of American college circuit and chamber musicals at the Fringe, Stop the Train by Rick Guard and Phil Rice stands apart for looking nearly London-ready. Its score, orchestrations, big cast and production values are all first-class so it’s beyond unfortunate that some of the lyrics are away-day, super-saver, railcard-discounted tosh that sound like they came from one of those we-make-it-up-on-the-night improv shows.
Self-absorbed commuters on their phones and tablets are interrupted by a man with an axe to grind. It must be zeitgeist-tempting to give him an actual axe and a more politicised motive, but he’s a shabby everyman with a homily about seizing the day. Isn’t that from Newsies? The somewhat stereotypical passengers each sing their inner dreams, and it’s no surprise that the pinstripe lawyer is a tassel-twirler. Production numbers are very well-staged, especially nail technician Amy’s ambition to become a full-time WAG in a Donna Summer-y disco routine. Everyone sings strongly, neatly embracing both musical theatre and pop, and the versatile chorus dancers really add to the impact.
Some of the arrangements are too Alan Menken-grandiose for the songs’ contents – when the unlikeable yuppie couple finally sing a ballad, you’d really rather it was more simply underscored, although that would expose the dreadful “you went and left me on my own / and now I stand here all alone” lyrics.
The show admits it’s still in development. You have a great concept: fix the words, and you may also have a hit.
ADAM & EVE AND STEVE ***
Hyperbole is a wonderful thing – Edinburgh’s gutters run with it. According to the PR this musical comes from a “sellout season in Los Angeles” – actually a four and a half week run in a 46-seat venue very much the wrong side of the Hollywood Hills. It is a delightful curiosity, though, in the sense that it’s a show deliberately aiming at a long life on college and festival circuits rather than having eyes on the prize of Broadway or the West End.
That doesn’t make it bad, even if its composers Chandler Warren and Wayne Moore pace the same musical corridors as Jason Robert Brown or Ahrens & Flaherty. This boutique piece is played with the lightness of pantomime, making it a wholly enjoyable outing.
In this Eden project, an impossibly winsome and Welsh Adam—a fine performance of masculine innocence by Guildford student Joseph Robinson that should guarantee him Prince Charmings and Aladdins till he’s as old as Darren Day—is torn between a bromance with diabolically-created Steve and fecundity with Hayley Hampson’s rather coarse and chavvy Eve. This being musical theatre, despite the audience clearly willing the boys to get together, he finally nests in the lady garden.
Stephen McGlynn has infectious joy chewing the scenery as an outrageous Beelzebub and, despite their rivalry, God and the Devil do a reflective soft-shoe routine, rather like Lola and Mr Applegate in Damn Yankees.
No deep insights, but lots of fun all the same.
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