Writer: Kevin Fearon
Director: Bob Eaton
Reviewer: John Roberts
Regular lead in the Royal Court’s Christmas show Michael Starke has jumped ship to the Playhouse Theatre to take the lead in new musical hall inspired show The Star and it would appear he is not the only one taking a break from the festivities this year – the critically acclaimed writer of the annual adult offering, Fred Lawless (who has penned the last seven shows), has decided to give himself Christmas off passing the writing mantle onto the theatre’s executive producer, Kevin Fearon.
On the surface it would appear that all the ingredients we have come to expect from the Scouse franchise are there; crazy, madcap characters, an adventure to distant lands with several problems to resolve before they can all go back home, and strong musical numbers…
However, when you start to dig a little deeper, it’s clear that there is one major problem with Scouse of the Rising Sun and that is the script. Fearon’s writing lacks the clever balance of Lawless’ humour and is also missing a clear and concise storyline. Fearon has tenuously shoehorned a superfluous Wizard of Oz storyline into proceedings, which, on top of everything else, looks at North Korea’s new dictatorship and future nuclear crisis, all framed by a massive magic mushroom tea hallucination. This assault on subplot leaves the show with gaping plot holes and a script that regularly misfires under the deluge of knob jokes.
All the above said and done, there are plenty of laughs in the show, but this comes down to the excellent comic delivery and physical performances from the hardworking cast. Lindzi Germain as the loud mouth Clare Crow is on fine form and Michael Ledwich pulls in plenty to smile about as stoner T Inman – he also showcases a rather splendid singing voice too – his Phil Collins inspired opening is hilarious.
Alan Stocks comically hams the hell out of the Scouse dictator Kim Young and Keddy Sutton as the incompetent singer-cum- pilot Carrie Oke delivers throughout. Jake Abraham is sadly laden with the limpest character in the show Tony D’Panda and has to deliver cringe-inducing catchphrases throughout.
Over the past few years the blossoming love story between Russian Boris (a velvet-voiced Michael Fletcher) and scouser Daisy (an engaging and strong Hayley Hampson) have helped the show stick together; here they are left pretty much to the sideline and used merely as a plot device to get characters from one location to another. But they do it with aplomb and provide the show with plenty of showstopping musical numbers.
This year’s show-stealing crown is firmly placed on the head of Andrew Schofield, who pretty much steals the show in every scene – his Sister of Oz character and prisoner character both being real highlights.
Foxton’s set design lacks the wow factor that we have come to expect from previous years and if, one is being truly honest, feels a little cheap – the only saving grace is the delightful Emerald Palace, which shines in all its glory but, by the time it makes it appearance towards the end of Act 2, it’s all a little too late.
Howard Gray musically directs the show with a strong hand and his band of recent LIPA graduates pulls out the stops providing a rich musical backdrop to the show.
Scouse of the Rising Sun must not have been an easy undertaking for director Bob Eaton this year, but with some clever staging and hard work by a cast of creative comedians, they have managed to save the show from disaster. Let’s just hope next year Lawless makes a welcome return with a script that brings the festive favourite back on track.
Runs until 14 January 2017 | Image: Bond Media