This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com
There are many of us who can never walk past a theatre where the hoardings are displaying the name Sondheim. So, in Jermyn Street right now, the advice is to read the small print, which informs us that, notwithstanding its title, this show contains no music by Stephen Sondheim whatsoever. Such a pity. Having been lured in regardless, the first thing we hear is a familiar chord from Comedy Tonight, followed by variant tune and lyrics. The same trick is repeated later with Send in the Clowns and Gee, Officer Krupke, but these numbers are as close as we get to real Sondheim. Satan yearns to perform the songs of the Master, but simply cannot get hold of the rights and so the Devil of musical theatre is pitched against its God. Sporting bright red horns and tail and white hooves, writer/director Adam Long plays Satan, who, we are told, came to earth in 1964 because it was a very good time for musicals. Now 50 and reluctantly accepting that he is too old to play Tony in West Side Story, he is putting together a musical revue and has set his sights on a gig at the London Palladium. Mark Caven plays his long-suffering manager. Placing two wisecracking New Yorkers in a fantasy comedy, the style is reminiscent of very early Woody Allen, but there is little bite or originality to the humour, with the result that the show’s persistent silliness occasionally becomes irritating. It all adds up to an affectionate homage to Broadway and (arguably) its greatest son. Perhaps the Satan character is meant to represent every outsider who is besotted with musical theatre and dreams of breaking into its highest echelons, but the show is too light a confection to bear the weight of underlying themes. It draws strongly on theatrical in- jokes and it all feels more than a little self-indulgent, but there is not too much to really dislike about it and it passes a pleasant if unremarkable 55 minutes.
Performance date: 17 March 2014