Book and Lyrics: Eric Idle
Music: John Eu Prez and Eric Idle
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Frankie Forman
The Public Reviews Rating:
The haphazard overture of tuning instruments ‘sets the tone’ for this happily chaotic show. The opening number – a generic celebration of Finland – is cut short by the narrator’s correction of Finland to ‘Eng-Land!’. The choreography complements the comedy well with a generous helping of ‘mince’ and the jokes come thick and fast, executed with ease by an accomplished ensemble cast. Jon Robyns as Dennis/Ser Galahad (amongst other roles) is particularly good, shining during his uproarious duet ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ while comically framed by flailing dancers. The show is also peppered with topical jokes – Boris’s would be cameo is a (blonde) highlight – and they come to a climax in the witty number ‘You Won’t Succeed in the West End’.
Bonnie Langford is standout as the all-singing, all-dancing, all-overacting Lady of the Lake. The role fits this flame-haired fire-cracker as snugly as her sequinned dresses. She understands the tone of the comedy and performs with infectious joy: the audience is swept along with her energy. When she laments her diminished contribution in the second half, the audience is in complete agreement. We miss her! The cheers after her solo numbers were renewed during her bow at the end of the show.
Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur – a part he swaps with Jon Culshaw during the run – does a good job. His Basil Fawlty-like disinterest in things is amusing and provides a welcome counterpoint to the high-octane tone of much of the rest of the show. However, his delivery remains similar throughout and it does at times slow down the pace of the piece; some variety in his performance would have made for a more interesting King Arthur. Todd Carty as Patsy provides a similar foil to the hyperactivity, pulling long and gormless expressions in the right places and getting good comedy mileage out of his role as human horse.
There are the ingredients of a great show here. It is well written, boasts a fabulous score and lends itself to acerbic contemporary jokes. In many ways the production serves its template well. It is a dancing and singing visual extravaganza with a lot of verve and energy. For those who saw the original West End show (or even the New York version): be warned, there is nothing new. It doesn’t ‘wow’ and it doesn’t ‘dazzle’. But it is a safe and comfortable musical comedy that follows in the footsteps (if shadow) of its lofty predecessors. To take a cue from one lyric, ‘you won’t succeed in the West End if you don’t have any stars’. You have one in Bonnie. Three from me. And I’m pretty sure you’ll do just fine in the West End.