USHERS: The Front Of House Musical | The Other Palace

Ushers: The Front of House Musical. Photo credit Craig Fuller.
Ushers: The Front of House Musical. Photo credit Craig Fuller.

I recall seeing Ushers: The Front of House Musical in an earlier version almost a decade ago at the Charing Cross Theatre. In what was simultaneously the most bizarre and the most appropriate pre-show, I was shown to my seat by a smart-looking usher who, it turned out, was a member of the cast. Afterwards, the cast were happy to take selfies with patrons. I have no idea to this day what the theatre’s regular ushers thought about having less to do than usual, though perhaps the fact the exercise wasn’t repeated this time around at The Other Palace says something in itself. Or maybe it’s rather that The Other Palace’s studio space has unallocated seating, so there’s less to do in the first place.

While the world has changed dramatically in the last decade, and the show has done well to keep up to date with current theatrical trends, some things, it appears, are still the same. A lyric that referred to a £1.50 restoration fee added to the price of tickets made me laugh as much in 2024 as it did in 2014 (the actual amount varies between theatre operators), and the narrative structure remains unchanged. The devil is in the detail, as the old adage would have it, so there are revisions to the book to keep the production fresh.

To get the very best out of the punchlines requires some familiarity with the London musical theatre scene, though it’s entirely possible to follow proceedings without it. The script is unafraid of making light of almost anything that’s happened in the last few years. When Robin (Daniel Paige), the manager of a flagship theatre of ‘Theatre Nation’, an international theatre operator, loses his temper after an usher, Ben (Luke Bayer), goes AWOL just before the interval, he vows to ensure that Ben will be out of a job “faster than the cast of Bad Cinderella”. In another scene, the much-maligned Opening Night is renamed Closing Night, and the reputation the production company Selladoor Worldwide apparently has for penny-pinching also comes in for criticism by way of lampooning. Management is accused of caring “about the theatre about as much as a Tory arts minister”. And so on, and so forth.

I used to think the show’s closing plot twist was rather cheap and tacky – but during the pandemic, I indirectly experienced something remarkably similar in real life. I worked for the NHS for a while, doing shifts in mass vaccination centres. One of the other administrators was (and, of course, still is) the daughter of the Associate Director of Operations for the NHS trust in charge of the mass vaccination roll-out in the area. She was disappointed to have been fast-tracked through the recruitment process on account of her family ties: she wanted to be appointed (if she were to be appointed) on merit. In this show, Lucy (Danielle Rose) used her stage name when she applied, so the likes of Robin were none the wiser, and she was considered the ‘best’ candidate for the role being advertised. I won’t say more than that with regards to the late plot twist.

The other on-stage characters are, in no particular order, Rosie (Bethany Amber Perrins), a self-styled ‘stagey ninja’, who courts popularity via active social media accounts, Stephen (Christopher Foley), a resting actor who dreams of treading the boards again, and Gary (Cleve September), a resting actor who is about to tread the boards again (or is he?). The choreography (Adam Haigh) suits the relatively limited stage space, and the energetic and enthusiastic cast make this a delightful night out.

The ‘training’ videos (inverted commas mine), according to people who have worked as theatre ushers and have seen this show have told me, are not far removed at all from the actual cringey and corporate videos they have had to sit through. On press night, a couple of patrons arrived late. Let’s just say I doubt they would risk doing that again – the show uses a line that also appears in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert the Musical at the point at which latecomers are let into the theatre: “Can I get you anything? Like, a watch?” A show that easily held my attention from beginning to end, full marks to this highly amusing and entertaining production.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

USHERS: The Front of House Musical will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a new season at the Other Palace.

Set in a West End theatre, the show follows a working shift in the lives of the stagiest people in the theatre – the front of house staff – who portray the hilarious, ridiculous and moving stories of ice-cream and programme sellers who dare to dream…

A preview performance of a new jukebox musical is due to take place, a three-year workplace romance is on the rocks, an untrained newbie is working her first shift and the amorous manager is under pressure to cut costs. What could possibly go wrong?

USHERS: The Front Of House Musical
17 April – 19 May 2024

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