saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
Fashion Victim the Musical
The Mayfair Hotel
1st April 2015
Photography provided by Vicent Piquer
If you've ever been to London Fashion Week, you'll know waiting half an hour for a catwalk to start is so commonplace, it's not worth grumbling about. You expect lengthy unexplained delays, they come with the territory. That's where the link between Fashion Victim the Musical and the world of "fashion" starts and ends. As for "musical", well, it barely qualifies as one, given the music and lyrics are even shoddier than the book itself. Dissecting the title, that only leaves "victim" and if you're in the audience, sorry to say, but that's you. I don't normally take such a hard line, but this production has stolen more than two hours of my life. The real tragedy is, if you cut out the waiting around, the interval and the pointless padding, it could all have been done in 45 to 60 minutes easily. It would still be a car crash, but the dash to A&E would be quicker.
Frankly, I don't understand why this show doesn't work. It's had a previous run, some good reviews and it has some fantastic talent in the cast. It feels like it was written in the 30 minutes we spent waiting for the show to start, and yet, we know that isn't true. Why Jonathan D Ellis - who impressed us in Damn Yankees - and Rosie Glossop from The Apple Tree - have ended up in this is surely a similar question to why Hugh Jackman was filmed with testicles on his neck in Movie 43. You have to assume blackmail or extreme poverty. Ellis, Glossop, really, you're better than this. If I hadn't seen you previously, I would assume this is all you can do and I know it's really not. There are moments where the pair's vocals do shine as a brief shot of a flare gun soaring over a tragedy, but their skills are heavily disguised by a terrible, terrible show.
Ellis once again takes on the role of a narrator, here, Jake D Spangle, successful stylist to the stars. One of Jake's customers and friends, Cedric Chevalier (Matthew Wellman) falls for wannabe celeb Mimi Steele (Glossop), who ends up breaking his heart and running off with another Z lister, Tarquin (Adam Redford). All the while her jealous friend Kitty Bogard (Sophie May Whitfield) looks on, huffing and making bitchy comments. In an attempt to add some more interest to a wafer thin plot, there's a "cameo" from Pasadena Everedene (Walter Dickerson), who makes for neither entertaining drag act nor decent actor. I've never seen a drag artist with so little energy - Dickerson seems to take no joy in any of his lines. Drag should at least be fun.
The choreography is basic and clunky and makes the dancers (George Hodson, James Davies, Helen Parsons and Rhian Duncan) also look basic and clunky. We're talking first year dance academy basic. However, with one of them to blame for this (dancer Hodson - also choreographer), it becomes hard to sympathise with how the awful movement holds them back. Maybe they can do better, and given Glossop and Ellis definitely can, I'm inclined to reluctantly give the dancers (Hodson excluded) the benefit of the doubt.
The music and lyrics by Toby Rose are simply dire. The melodies are either completely flat, or reminiscent of more famous tracks - I swear I could hear the start of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 throbbing away on several occasions. If that wasn't bad enough, the only earworm comes in the form of "Datarape", a song which completely trivialises an evocative word and is in the worst taste possible. Dating someone for publicity motivations rather than a romantic intent is so far away from sexual assault that it can't even see the court case in the distance. We're all for making jokes about taboo subjects but those jokes need to be funny. Or even jokes. Given what musical director Michael Webborn has to work with, it feels unfair to judge him musically. Agreeing to take part in this, though? Absolutely, judge him on that though.
I wasn't entirely sure how ramshackle certain parts of the show were meant to be - which is a problem in itself. Was Ellis really reading off an autocue? Was the video design by Max Spielbichler deliberately so juddery? Sometimes a rough-round-the-edges look engenders a bit of love from the audience, underdog style, but here it simply confuses. If director Robert McWhir is trying to pull off something desperately clever, it just doesn't work.
As well as having an unfortunate title, there are plenty of unfortunate lines, such as "It's a masterpiece - a masterpiece of shit" which reminds us of the infamous saying "You can't polish a..." The best I can say about this production is that it's running in the theatre of The Mayfair Hotel, which has some of the comfiest seats in London. Fashion Victim the Musical really is to musical theatre what Movie 43 is to film - you'll go see it out of curiosity as to whether it can really be as hopeless as people say it is, then you'll hate yourself for going. At least, unlike me, you've been warned.
Fashion Victim opened on 1st April and runs until 12th April 2015 at the Mayfair Hotel.
Nearest tube station: Green Park (Victoria, Piccadilly)