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I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical | Crazy Coqs Live At Zédel

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical
I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical

The West End currently has 22 musicals playing to packed houses. From Chicago to Kinky Boots, from The Phantom of the Opera to Les Miserables, from The Book of Mormon to Mamma Mia we have an insatiable appetite for musicals. But what’s the reality? Beneath the glamour, glitz and glory what really goes on? To get a sense of that then you must go and see I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical – a series of comic sketches and songs which lifts the lid on the wonderfully wacky world of musicals. Written by Alexander Bermange this show will in 90 exhilarating minutes take you on a journey from post drama school graduate to daunting diva, via obsessed fans, sadistic choreographers, drunken soundmen, callous casting directors and stingy producers.

The show is a five-hander with four singers and Alexander himself on piano. The irreverent and hard-hitting force of the show is apparent from the opening sketch. Alexander is on stage sitting at the piano whilst his four singers are in the audience. He begins to play and they, in turn, sing about all the annoying aspects of the start of any live show. Like the couple that arrives late, enter their row from the wrong end and proceed to walk the entire length of the row as slowly as possible, or the woman who sits in the front row wearing a huge hat, or the man who spends the entire show on his iPhone. This is done with great wit and humour but the point is forcefully conveyed. People are annoying.

Each of the four singers then gets to sing a number which explores one aspect of the bittersweet world (more bitter than sweet) of the musical. First up is Madalena Alberto as the eager drama school grad desperate to land a job. She perfects her audition number only to discover that everyone else has prepared the same song. The number underpinning all those hit numbers we love is brutal: 40,000 performers are chasing 4,000 jobs. Madalena’s song captures the consequences of this imbalance. Like the hundreds of alarmingly similar hopefuls, waiting hours in line to audition. Rejected by the casting directors she maintains her dignity by pretending that she wouldn’t have taken the part anyway.

Cedric Neal wrapped in a scarf, box of tissues in hand, lozenge in throat and downing pills is superb as the performer who although at death’s door is determined to go on stage. In this song, we get the answer as to why anyone would put themselves through this ordeal: performers love to perform. They are addicted to the stage. This is brilliantly brought home in Lucas Rush’s poignant portrayal of the standby. The understudy. Always ready and hoping that the star will get ill, or run over by a bus, Lucas sings both comically but also touchingly about what it’s like to be the standby. The groans from the audience when it is announced that tonight role of… will be played by… A final turn of the screw is deliciously delivered by Alexander who tells Lucas not to worry the stars just arrived.

Suzie Mathers in her number ‘The Diva’s in the House’ is both tremendously terrifying and mesmerising as the diva who rides roughshod over everyone and anyone in her path. I especially loved the way she milked the audience’s adulation by holding a note for as long as possible. In this number, Suzie really lifts the lid on the diva’s power-play repertoire. Not to be missed is the moment where she deliberately pauses Pinteresque style whilst her three dancers are struggling to maintain impossibly excruciating postures.

All of the comic songs are witty, funny, hard-hitting but above all engaging. Blending the whimsy of Noel Coward, the satire of Brecht and the nuance of Sondheim, I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical confirms that Alexander Bermange is a composer of sparkling originality and creative energy.

I must say a word about the venue because it provides the perfect ambience for this show. The late great A.A. Gill championed the Brasserie Zedel, of which Crazy Coqs is a cosy cabaret space, and as ever he was absolutely right to do so. It is the best-kept secret in London. The belle époque is alive and kicking 50 steps from Piccadilly tube.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical sets out to present everything that you could possibly want to know about being a musical theatre performer… if only there were any who would dare to admit it.

Along the way, you will be privy to anecdotes, revelations and confessions – in song – that lift the lid on awful
auditions, debilitating dance routines, mid-performance mishaps, and backstage backstabbing – alongside celebrations of those magical moments (however rare) that make it all seem worthwhile.

With an all-star cast comprised of Madalena Alberto (Evita, War of the Worlds), Suzie Mathers (Wicked, Mamma
Mia!), Cedric Neal (Motown, Chess), and Lucas Rush (American Idiot, Thoroughly Modern Mille), this unique show will cheekily, caustically, yet affectionately lay bare the real reasons why there’s no business like show business…

Music and Lyrics by Alexander S. Bermange. Directed by Derek Bond. Musical Arrangements by Alexander S. Bermange and Jerome van den Berghe.
Cast: Madalena Alberto, Suzie Mathers, Cedric Neal, and Lucas Rush

Crazy Coqs (part of the Live At Zédel programme) | 13 – 19 August and 21 – 26 August 2018
https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel

Author

  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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