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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Bad Girls - The Musical
Garrick Theatre Autumn 2007

Bad Girls is a rather pointless experience. There isn't much about it that is actually bad, and about as little that is good. The rest is just uninteresting.

It serves no real purpose except the admirable one of keeping a few dozen performers in employment - though, judging from the tepid response of a Friday night audience that did not significantly outnumber the cast, it may not do that for very long.

The musical - book by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus, songs by Kath Gotts - is based on the TV soap set in a women's prison that ran for several seasons from 1999. A few of the characters, and in fact a couple of the cast, have been carried over from the TV version, but the plot is new.

Well, new in the sense that it was written for the show, though the authors have dipped into the very shallow end of the Big Book of Dramatic Clichés for their story and characters. If I tell you that there's a new female warden with progressive ideas about treating the inmates with respect, and the old-line guards resent her, you can write most of the rest yourself, just as you can guess at the one-of-each cast of prisoners.

This wouldn't matter much - the plots of many great musicals can be summed up in a single sentence - if the songs, script and staging were inventive and energetic. But Kath Gotts' songs are strictly by-the-numbers, rarely rising above the level of what would be scenery-changing filler in other musicals.

Neither director Maggie Norris nor choreographer Ann Yee is generally able to move people around the stage in any interesting or attractive ways, and so the occasional moderately bright spots seem better than they really are.

Nominal star is Sally Dexter in an extended cameo as a gangster's moll who knows how to play the system, though most of the plot is carried by Laura Rogers as the new governor, Caroline Head as the obligatory lesbian, and David Burt as the villainous guard.

Burt gives a nicely dry reading to 'The Key,' a villainous song with some of the nasty energy of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, and gets the one production number with some silly imagination as he dreams of promotion and glory. Sally Dexter is joined by Julie Jupp and Rebecca Wheatley (as a pair of very hausfrau-ish streetwalkers) in a funny number about being randy. And Laura Rogers and Caroline Head share a good song, 'Every Night,' about their growing attraction to each other.

But for most of the rest of the evening your mind will wander, perhaps to thoughts of what else you might have been doing with your time or your £55.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Bad Girls - Garrick 2007