“I’m not unwrapping your sex chair”
It’s always interesting to get feedback on my blogging though the emotions that drive people to write tend to be quite forcible… thus the latest missive I received castigated me strongly for not supporting new musical theatre writing in giving Miss Atomic Bomb a less than favourable review. Regardless of the notion that I do usually aim to be constructive in my criticism, I’d argue that challenging the writers with external opinions is supporting them, many a musical has been rewritten and rewritten and so blind praise does little to help, especially when the material is so formally unadventurous.
Which is a long-winded way of saying I love the concept of what Broken Cabaret are doing in Something Something Lazarus even if I didn’t completely love the show itself. Described as “a new (kind of) musical”, writers John Myatt and Simon Arrowsmith are doing no less than shifting paradigms of musical theatre to create something something new. The show opens in a bit of a blur – Vee and Della, employees of the Midnight Sun cabaret, are haphazardly rehearsing for tonight’s new show, owner Daniel is on the edge of a nervous breakdown and his lover Jay is wandering around in his pants. Events take a little while to come to a climax under Dan Phillips’ direction but boy, do they ever.
For a struggle between Daniel and Jay turns into a life and death situation, and this (kind of) musical transmogrifies into a surreal cabaret. And suddenly the storytelling is electrified, the heightened theatricality allowing a bold exploration of the relationships between all four of them, the change in form permitting a diversification of the musical palette. It’s audaciously unexpected and surprisingly successful as Daniel Cech-Lucas’ Jay becomes an emcee from the ether, flirting with any and every audience member, lapping up any unimpressed faces with an alluring sangfroid.
Daisy Amphlett doubles tirelessly as the cabaret’s pianist Della and all-round musician (ukulele, accordion, tambourine…) and musical director; the ever-elegant Valerie Cutko shines as waspish fag hag and torch singer Vee, and Ralph Bogard’s Daniel fits neatly as the show’s emotional heart. Dramatically, you can’t help but feel that a fair amount needs to be done to tie the whole show together and sort out the issues of the opening section. But there’s also something thrilling about the inventiveness at work here from Myatt and Arrowsmith, real potential in their willingness to experiment and entertain.