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Forbidden Broadway: Menier Chocolate Factory.

July 9, 2014

(seen at the afternoon performance on 5th July 2014).

 

I’ve been an avid collector of the CDs (and even vinyl) from this show for decades, but it’s only now that I’ve actually seen the show “live.” And yes, I’m glad I have.

The real joy for me was understanding how they stage the numbers I’m so familiar with on disc. Sure, the sleeve photos are a pretty good indicator, but now I really “get” what it’s all about.

The show relies to a great extent on costumes. That’s obviously the easiest way to deal with so many sequences that would otherwise be unstagable. A few props, mostly cardboard boxes and handheld items like canes and musical instruments are all that is required…

… well, that an excellent pianist and a quartet of the most talented musical comedy actors they can find. Sophie-Louise Dann could be mistaken for Elaine Paige any time, or anyone else she cares to impersonate. You’ll never see Anna-Jane Casey and Liza Minelli in the same room together either. Ben Lewis and Joseph Prouse (Damian Humbley not being Merman, apparently) also managed to hoist everyone from Hugh Jackman to Mandy Patinkin on their own petards too.

Highlights for me were the “Matilda,” “Once” and “Spamalot” sequences, but hilarious arrows flew in all directions throughout. I did object (unintentionally vocally, sorry) to a sick Apollo Theatre reference – far, far too soon, I felt; and there was a high proportion of old material in the show. Maybe a little naughty to present as fresh an old “Pajama Game” sequence, and I could swear the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” thing has appeared somewhere earlier too, albeit in slightly different form.

This is the show for musical theatre fans. No, not fans, “obsessives.” You do need to have seen every show parodied, and know your Broadway Theatre stars past and present to really get much from the show. There is a good deal for the more casual musical theatre fan, but those who get why ‘triple-threat tots’ are funny have most to gain.

It’s mostly very funny, always exceptionally well done. Well worth seeing. At least “Once” (provided you are not in that show, of course…).

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