Monday, 5 September 2016

Bumblescratch - Review

Adelphi Theatre, London


Music, lyrics & Book by Robert J. Sherman
Directed by Stewart Nicholls

The Company

Told from the perspective of one Melbourne Bumblescratch, a laid back, sleazy, pick pocketing plague rat, Bumblescratch is a new musical comedy based around this remarkable rodent’s unique and twisted love affair with London during the 1665 Great Plague and the Great Fire one year later. Robert J. Sherman is responsible for music, lyrics and book and he makes a noble job of continuing the songwriting legacy of his father and uncle, The Sherman Brothers who in their day composed countless and timeless movie scores for Disney and other moviemakers.

In its present form however, Bumblescratch is simply too confusing. The book is crammed with around six or seven leading story lines, none of which successfully interlock. An example is the character of Hookbeard, a hallucination that only Bumblescratch can see and speak to. The apparition manifests himself as Bumblescratch’s sort of conscience and while Michael Xavier, as per usual, is genius in the role with a powerhouse voice and an ever present charm, there is little apparent point to his character.

In the title role Darren Day was a sound choice, suiting the Thenardier-esque role perfectly even if his characterisation of the part did make for a very loveable character. And again, the problem with the role is that with so much going on around him, you were never quite sure who he was. One moment he’s a typical East End crook, stealing from the local mob boss, the next he’s a London tour guide and story teller and then he’s being worshipped as the leader of a brand new Rat religion.

In an ambitious move, the show has been written to be sung through. Watching however, it becomes clear that to be able to really follow the storyline on stage, a narrative between the songs is needed. The music itself is catchy and reminiscent of old school golden era musicals, but the muddled book makes it hard to embrace the show. Credit though for the obvious efforts of the producers to “up the game” from typical concert style performances, with Stewart Nicholls' ensemble choreography offering a handful of enjoyable numbers.

Bumblescratch sung well, as this performance was by its entire company, offers much to be enjoyed. If the show is to enjoy a profitable future however, much work is required.

Reviewed  by Charlotte Darcy
Photo credit: Peter Jones

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