Blink Again! (Above the Stag Theatre)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog on 3 July 2011.

Blink Again is the third compilation of songs from shows which weren’t quite as successful as they should be to run at the Above The Stag Theatre (just behind the Victoria Palace, where the dance musical Billy Elliot is enjoying a wildly popular run).

In the hands of a successful company of seven and one pianist songs from forgotten or underrated musicals such as 9 to 5, The Goodbye Girl, The Rink, Matador, The Lord of the Rings, The Pirate Queen, Oscar, Which Witch, Bat Boy, The Little Mermaid, Moby Dick, and The Secret Garden come back to life, either as ironic comment on the transience of the musical form, or by showcasing a genuinely good song which just found the wrong vehicle.

The seven performers – Paul Brangan (who shines in ‘Grief Never Grows Old’ from the ill-fated Oscar, Mike Read’s dire musical which opened and closed at the Shaw Theatre on the same night); Millie Dunne (a high point from her is a boozy ‘As We Stumble Along’ from The Drowsy Chaperone, a flop despite being a comeback performance for Elaine Paige); Jamie Lee (touching in ‘China Doll’ from Marguerite and bouncy in ‘Gloria’ from Flashdance); Ashley Martin (a good company player but hilarious in a loincloth in ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ from Tarzan); Peter Navickas (who has the big, big number with Matador’s ‘A Boy From Nowhere’, which was a huge hit for Tom Jones); Heather Scott-Martin (sparky leading the company with ‘A Whale of a Tale’ from Moby Dick); and Emily Spicer (hilarious in the ensemble piece ‘Cat and the Moon’ from Lord of the Rings and vulnerable in ‘I Will Wait for You’ from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) – are all extremely talented and are obviously working hard to keep this show moving along.

Although the show is fun, and bouncy, and camp, and energetic, I felt that the Kneehigh production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was a bit of a cheap target for parody – after all, no one is better at sending up themselves than Kneehigh.  Also Su Pollard, an amazing singer despite her wacky image, carried the musical Shout! and her version of ‘You’re My World’ was far better than the one showcased here, perhaps because she has the knowledge and the life experience to put the song across.  Also, although Bat Boy was truly awful it also parodied itself better than Blink Again does here.

But these are minor quibbles.  Other than having more pauses here and there so that singers can receive applause for their efforts at all the right times, I probably wouldn’t change a thing.  And I very much looking forward to seeing one or two of these performers blossom further in their chosen career.  Big voices, confidence, and talent can be rare even on a West End stage, and it was a pleasure to see it in such an intimate venue as ATS, which only holds around fifty people.