The flyers distributed during Edinburgh Fringe 2019 for this show quote an earlier review of a run at London’s Crazy Coqs venue in summer 2018 from this publication. “You must go and see I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical… witty, funny, hard-hitting but above all engaging”. I quite agree. But what if one’s life were like a musical? The possibilities are almost endless, including travelling by way of a magic carpet (Aladdin), broomstick (Wicked), helicopter (Miss Saigon), or for a more conventional experience, a car (Sunset Boulevard, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ragtime, Grease, Made in Dagenham, and so on).
I recall an actor telling me that he was once able to stay in digs in London’s Gloucester Road. After a West End show he would shake hands and sign programmes at stage door, and then get a black cab back home. Those days are long gone, and it is sometimes the case that actors in the West End are ambling to a mainline station alongside theatregoers getting trains home, as they live outside Greater London altogether. I have even seen a performance where an understudy was on for Act One only, because the principal was stuck on the mainline trying to get to the venue, only arriving a few minutes before the interval.
This show has its own examples to demonstrate that the life of a musical theatre performer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and anything and everything comes under scrutiny, from latecomers to performances to repeated call-backs to dealing with miscellaneous unforeseen circumstances. Exhibit A: the actual indisposition of Felix Mosse for the performance I attended, so that Alexander S Bermange found himself singing Mosse’s lines instead, as if being composer, lyricist, musical director, pianist and co-arranger wasn’t enough to deal with.
This cast is supposed to be portraying characters that are struggling at least partly because their triple ‘threatiness’ (if that’s even a word) isn’t utterly perfect. In such portrayals, they absolutely hit the nail on the head, with Bermange’s number ‘The Key Problems’, about adjusting, re-adjusting and re-re-adjusting (you get the idea) the key in which certain lyrics are sung being particularly memorable. Charlotte O’Rourke’s leading lady character is relentlessly pursued by a crazed fan (James Hume) in ‘When A Fan Loves A Woman’: on the very rare occasion when I am persuaded by a friend or acquaintance to attend stage door after a performance, such people are always there, and they are immediately recognisable, immediately obnoxious and immediately dislikeable.
O’Rourke becomes versatility personified in ‘I Love To Sing’, which I wouldn’t have thought isn’t easy to do – deliberately sing in such a way that is just off-key enough to sound terrible. For those old enough to remember, Les Dawson used to do it when playing the piano – the tunes were still very recognisable, but the odd note was so off that the whole thing sounded quite dreadful, producing a strong comedy effect.
Completing the cast is Charlotte Anne Steen, who both delights and ‘The Diva’s in the House’, a rather self-explanatory title about a musical theatre actor with delusions of grandeur. Hume exposes through song the dangers of continuing to perform whilst under the weather, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this show, which manages to be both a no holds barred insight into the musical theatre world and a love letter to that same industry. A witty, heart-warming and energetic production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The award-winning musical revue is the creation of Alexander S. Bermange, who has been described as a “genius in comic songwriting” (Cabaret Scenes) and is an iTunes comedy album chart-topper. His further credits encompass numerous musicals produced in the UK and internationally, and a multitude of comic songs for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. He was inspired to write the show in response to the public fascination with the secrets of musical theatre.
I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical explores the tumultuous world of musical theatre – from the off-stage feuds to the on-stage smooches, and from the limb-spraining high kicks to the voice-straining high notes. It chronologically capers through the ups and downs of a performing career, taking in the awful auditions, debilitating dance routines, mid-performance mishaps, and backstage backstabbing. And it celebrates the magical moments that make it all worthwhile.
Aug 24-26 2019
Underbelly, Bristo Square