“We’re all banged up without a bang”
Maureen Chadwick, Ann McManus and Kath Gotts’ musical adaptation of long-running TV show Bad Girls
only lasted a couple of months in the West End back in 2007 but they still managed to get out a cast recording (and a DVD too, though I’ve not been able to track that down yet). My first experience with the show was with the Union’s fringe production
earlier this year and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself.
Sadly, I don’t think this recording quite captures the joie de vivre that the show gave me. It actually highlights the randomness of Gotts’ score, both musically and dramatically. David Burt’s Jim Fenner is a case in point here – Burt plays up the devilish charisma which is his forte in suavely slick numbers like ‘Jailcraft’ and ‘The Key’ yet for all his old-school Hollywood charm, we have to buy him as the sexually predatory villain of the piece.
To be fair, that’s an extreme example but such inconsistency is indicative of Bad Girls as a whole and the songs aren’t really strong enough to stand up on their own here, switching from heartfelt spiritual to vaudeville to flat ballads. Julie Jupp and Rebecca Wheatley do their best as the Julies with comic number ‘Life of Grime’ but it doesn’t pop as it did onstage; so too with Yvonne’s glammed-up number ‘A-List’, Sally Dexter’s powerful voice deserving a better calibre of material.
But for all my head says this doesn’t work, my heart has been softened by the memories of that Union production and I can’t help but be a little seduced into this trashy life of crime – the 80s power pop of ‘The Baddest and the Best’ is pretty much the definition of guilty pleasure. Maybe one to borrow off a friend rather than buy outright.
“You won’t get that out a book on prison procedure
When those suits get caught on the hook, that’s when they need ya”
Bad Girls ran for eight years on ITV, covering the whole gamut of women’s prison storylines from the sublime to the senseless, and now the women of HMP Larkhall live on in Bad Girls the Musical, written by original creators Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus with music and lyrics by Kath Gotts. Taking many of the characters and fashioning its own story from a range of plotlines across the lifetime of the show, Will Keith’s production for the Union makes for an effective translation from screen to stage.
Perhaps naturally, given the size of the 17-strong company and the number of introductions that thus need to be made (even for those familiar with the TV show), the main thrust of the story takes a little time to come into focus. The corrupt practices of prison officer Jim Fenner, fond of doling out privileges in return for sexual favours, eventually crystallises the motives of the diverse cast of inmates but there’s also the slow burning relationship between lifer Nikki and reformist governor Helen that adds to a book which may seem slight but is ultimately dramatically satisfying. Continue reading “Review: Bad Girls the Musical, Union”