Devilish!** (Landor Theatre)

Posted: May 11, 2016 in Theatre

devilishThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

“It was an ordinary day…” chant the folk of Clapham, South-Weat London, signalling that the extraordinary is about to happen. Indeed it is, as an angel descends to Earth in front of their eyes. It is also an ordinary opening song that sets the tone for a new musical that always struggles to escape from being bland and predictable. Alex Green’s Angel is a dim toff who seems more likely to have made the short flight across the river from Chelsea than to have landed from Heaven. Appearing with wings of white feathers and matching loin cloth (the halo got lost in transit), he professes the wish to become human and to experience all the emotions and frailties that such a form entails. Angel’s first sight of the human race is Ruth (Victoria Hope), a young lady leading a drab life following the death of her partner exactly three years earlier; of course, he had looked very similar to Angel. Her boss, the devilish Nick Brimstone (Gareth James) is a ratings obsessed television executive who lures Angel away from her with promises of fame and fortune. When Nick sprouts red horns and sings Welcome to Hell, James grabs a mike to give his all to the pounding number and, if nothing else, puts us in the right mood for the Eurovision Song Contest. BB Cooper’s score is a mix of simple, catchy pop tunes and a style of jazz that now sounds somewhat dated. The jazz elements are emphasised by musical director Ian MacGregor’s four-piece band often giving prominence to clarinet or saxophone. The show hovers uncertainly between a schmaltzy supernatural romance similar to Ghost and a dark satire of modern celebrity culture. However each of these styles undermines the other, with Chris Burgess’ book and lyrics falling short on the sincerity to make it work as the former and having neither enough wit nor bite for it to succeed as the latter. That said, here are compensations in Marc Urquhart’s energetic production, stemming mainly from the exuberance of the 10-strong company. Adam Scown’s choreography brings several numbers to life, particularly the rousing Sell Your Soul that closes the first half. There are adept comedy touches too from Katie Ann Dolling as a wannabe tv weather girl, George Longworth as her amorous plastic surgeon and Louie Westwood, doubling up as a has-been Brummie magician and a camp tv presenter. Devilish! is good-natured, inoffensive and mildly amusing. There is not a great deal to dislike about it, but sadly, all the company’s strenuous efforts prove not quite enough to give the show real wings.

Performance date 10 May 2016


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