Jest End

Reporter: Charlotte Marshall, first published Fri 20 Nov 2009 10:40
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Some people take life, art and musical theatre too seriously. Not so the folks at Jest End, a parody of all things West End that is running at the Jermyn Street theatre.

If the thought of Les Mis being laughed at, Mary Poppins being mocked or Avenue Q being aped makes you feel as angry as a misunderstood green witch, a trip to Jest End is not for you. On the other hand, if musical theatre is right up your street – which, in that case, would probably be Shaftesbury Avenue – but you are more than happy to see it lovingly teased, this musical sketch show is 90 minutes of knowing, self-referential fun.

It does help if you have more than a working knowledge of the goings on in London’s Theatreland. From the show music to the productions and personalities in the firing line, the more you know about musicals, the more jokes will hit their mark.

Writer and director Garry Lake twists some of musical theatre’s most popular songs, along with a few that might need a little more thought to remember, to aim satirical shots at topics from the West End’s favourite flops to reviving old classics, audition bitchiness, unlucky venues and, memorably, Mary Poppins’s choreography and the ongoing success of Les Misérables.

Current headliners also receive a sly dig in the ribs; Chris Thatcher memorably taking off Michael Ball with a trademark slightly embarrassed cheesy grin, while John Barrowman, Lee Ryan, Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber all make appearances.

The four strong cast – Thatcher, Jodie Jacobs, Laura Brydon and Stuart Matthew Price – throw themselves wholeheartedly into the comedy, never skimping on silliness or outrageous accents.

Among the battling co-stars, flip-flop costumes, mermaids seeking jobs and sexually questionable characters, Reality TV, sung to the tune of Oliver!’s As Long As He Needs Me, stands out as a song with more bite. While the rest of the show happily teases and taunts with a broad smile on its face, this tune alone shoots daggers.