“Who has an affair with someone who isn’t good in bed?!”
The Thing About Men is a US musical comedy about the unexpected bromance that develops between Sebastian and Tom when the latter moves into the former’s New York apartment. Unexpected, because Sebastian, a would-be bohemian artist, is having an affair with Lucy, who is married to advertising executive Tom but tired of his philandering ways. When Tom finally twigs that his wife has been having some fun as well, he moves out and somehow manoeuvres his way into identifying Sebastian, adopting the name Milo and moving in with him. But his plans for sabotage are derailed when the process of getting to know each other turns into the beginnings of a much-needed male friendship.
Billed as a musical comedy affair, Joe DiPietro’s book is based on a German film Men by Doris Dörrie and along with Jimmy Roberts songs’, makes for an enjoyable evening in the intimate surroundings of the Landor Theatre. It may be warmly funny rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious and pleasantly tuneful rather than instantly catchy (on first listen at least) and there’s a definite randomness to much of the story, but the creative team assembled by director Andrew Keates play very much to the venue’s strengths to elevate the production into something more than the sum of its parts.
Martin Thomas’ design creatively allows a useful flexibility and shows a nice inventiveness; Joanna Cichonska’s musical direction of her band of four bounces with a great freshness; and Keates has cast extremely well. Peter Gerald somehow manages to make Tom/Milo a protagonist we connect with despite borderline psychotic tendencies and brims with vocal confidence; John Addison’s loved-up Sebastian also has great appeal and their unlikely friendship ticks over in a most satisfactory manner. Kate Graham sounds beautiful and does well, but is undoubtedly a little hamstrung by the role of Lucy, who is most compromised by the show’s tension between the love triangle and the bromance, and deserves more stagetime.
Most of the laughs come from the efforts of Steven Webb and Lucyelle Cliffe who work their way through over 20 characters between them in a series of cameos sprinkled through the story. These are often hilarious interjections, as in Webb’s officious maître d’ and his persistent waiter or Cliffe’s ditzy neighbour Edith, but there’s a couple of rather misjudged ones too but fortunately Keates has kept a tight rein on them so that any excesses are mostly curbed and the pace kept at a merry trot throughout.
For a piece of entertaining musical theatre, The Thing About Men certainly fits the bill. Where the writing may not always be the most revelatory, the plotting frequently keeps you on your toes and the confluence of cast and creatives means that it is never less than amusingly engaging.