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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Jest End
Jermyn Street Theatre November-December 2009

If you have a taste for musical parody and parody of musicals, and it wasn't sated by Forbidden Broadway earlier this year or The Musical of Musicals a few seasons back, here's another healthy dose of inventive disrespect. Anyone who loves musicals will enjoy the wicked fun, and anyone who hates musicals can revel in their getting what they deserve.

Writer-director Garry Lake has put new lyrics to melodies from current and recent West End musicals, turning them against themselves in clever and wickedly fun ways. A duet from Wicked becomes a catfight over which witch is the star, a number from Little Shop of Horrors is rewritten into a lament that Hairspray beat them out of all the awards, and Billy Elliot revels in the fringe benefits of being in a class full of girls.

Jealousy and bitchery are recurring themes, as identical blondes vie to audition for Legally Blonde and a trained singer uses Oliver's big power ballad ('Re-al-i-ty T V') to complain about losing the role to a TV contest winner.

A lot of the fun comes, as in that song, from the delightful surprise that new words fit so neatly into the music. Hairspray's opening number becomes 'I Love You Michael Ball,' while self-love turns La Cage's big anthem into "I am Barrowman'.

You get the idea. The attractive and hard-working cast of four - Jodie Jacobs, Laura Brydon, Chris Thatcher and Stuart Matthew Price - race through almost 30 song parodies, and if they aren't all gems, the weak ones are gone fast enough to be forgotten as you enjoy the next zinger.

(For the record, the Spring Awakening number would work a whole lot better with the whole cast and not as a solo, the song about the Savoy theatre never having a hit doesn't really resonate - it's the Shaftsbury that was cursed for years - and the gag about a serious actor playing Javert in Les Mis is about 25 years too late. And the show probably should end with the very clever Les Mis medley, rather than petering out with a lame High School Musical number.)

But those few lapses don't matter. If you haven't had your fill of bitchy backstage humour - and who can ever have their fill of bitchy backstage humour? - Jest End will keep you laughing and send you out humming.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Jest End - Jermyn Street 2009