The Book of Mormon now has two major contenders for the title of funniest musical in London. But why just coronate one?! Let’s go ahead and give them all crowns (or tiaras, if they prefer).
In any case, rest assured, if you enjoyed the South Park creators’ naughty humour, you will love these two as well. Like The Book of Mormon, these new arrivals also come via New York, but in their UK premiere productions, cast locally, they feel decidedly British in the humour stakes.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Opened last week at the West End’s Savoy Theatre following a regional tour, this stage musical makeover of the 1988 film sees Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound stepping into Michael Caine and Steve Martin as two con men out to seduce and swindle heiresses on the French Riviera. What a double act.
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 1, 2014
These men are clearly having a ball together, feeding off each other’s energy and fun, and it’s so damned infectious. Lindsay, a man of many hats (literally, including a pot plant) and talents, is all smooth – channeling the Rat Pack with his swivel-hipped charm and confidence – and Hound is all rough – or, to paraphrase, Lindsay’s Lawrence, what he lacks in grace, he more than makes up for in (Americans abroad-style) vulgarity.
The exuberant silliness of the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels leading men is matched by the leading ladies: Katherine Kingsley (after her Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain, this surely puts her in the top echelon of musical comedy actresses) as the not-so-squeaky-clean “Soap Queen”, Samantha Bond as a fearsomely fit and libidinous widow from Surrey and, in a priceless cameo, Lizzy Connolly as an NRA card-carrying, Oklahoman Ado Annie on steroids. Elsewhere, John Marquez (who has made a career of silly accents) is a French cop caricature, but he pulls it off.
It’s a toss-up for me between the following.
I never knew angels had such beautiful breasts. – Freddy Benson (Rufus Hound)
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 1, 2014
Know your limitations. – Lawrence Jameson (Robert Lindsay)
Which are? – Freddy
You’re a twat. – Lawrence
I’m tired of being a chump
I wanna live like Donald Trump
200 pounds of caviar in one big lump.
( – from “Great Big Stuff”)
I’ve heard this one described as a marmite musical, but though I loathe the brown stuff, I loved this musical, which is quickly building a fanatical following, and a very desirable one at that. My (serious, theatregoing, not a journo, pays for all her tickets) friend Stephanie, who normally only goes to plays, first booked on a whim and has already returned to see Urinetown three more times (dragging a different friend or friends each time) during its current run at Victoria’s St James Theatre. The limited season finishes there on 2 May 2014 (so don’t dilly-dally), and producers are now in talks for a transfer. The trick is to get the right, more intimate West End venue to retain the slightly claustrophic atmosphere, as well as the cultish demand. A barn would kill it off quick.
Urinetown is set in a dystopian future in where environmental meltdown has led to drought and brutally enforced police state in which citizens must pay to pee in public toilets, regulated by business tycoon Caldwell B Cladwell (a gleefully greedy Simon Paisley Day). The Urinetown of the title refers to a mythical place where trangressors are dealt with, a la Orwell’s Room 101.
But when Cladwell’s daughter Hope (Rosanna Hyland) meets handsome toilet attendant Bobby Strong (Richard Fleeshman), love – and revolution – is soon in the air (along with the toilet stench presumably, though we’re spared that in the auditorium). Urinetown revels in flouting musical convention – from its cringe-worthy title to its disturbingly unhappy ending and serious message about climate change – while also paying happy homage (watch out for the hilarious rip-off of “Cool” from West Side Story).
Other stand-outs in the cast are Jonathan Slinger (a seriously creepy copper) and Jenna Russell (a seen-it-all Ms Pennywise). Wunderkind director of the moment Jamie Lloyd directs with panache – and lots and lots of blood. It truly is a bloodbath at the end!
“Gosh, Daddy, I never realised large, monopolising corporations could be such a force for good in the world!” – Hope Cladwell (Rosanna Hyland)
“Few do.” – Caldwell B Cladwell (Simon Paisley Day)
Musically, my favourite song is absolutely “Run, Freedom, Run”. That’s the one you’ll be humming as you head home. But for laugh-out-loud lyrics, and usage of a bedraggled stuffed bunny, you can’t beat “Don’t Be the Bunny”.
Don’t be the bunny
Don’t be the stew
Don’t be the dinner
You have better things to do
( – from “Don’t Be the Bunny”)