Jimmy Johnson fulfils his dream of becoming a police cop after a devastating loss, but soon becomes embroiled in a mission far bigger than he could have imagined: partnering with a former cop to take down the infamous Hernandez!
One of the most relentlessly funny pieces of modern musical theatre around, it is the understanding of the art of comedy that sets this show apart from others. Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe have achieved an incredible feat of writing a side-splittingly funny script and songs while also starring in the cast and co-directing (making their borderline-obsessive commitment to removing their clothes whenever possible even more amusing). They really lean into the absurd and utterly ridiculous, perhaps once or twice a little too much, but generally to great effect eliciting raucous laughter.
The writing is witty and self-aware, ensuring the audience are taken by the hand on this wild ride. From hysterical and perfectly-timed breaks of the fourth wall to Nina Conti-inspired audience participation – another star was born at this performance – you never quite know what’s coming, and it’s always a fun surprise.
It is impossible not to rave about every single member of this cast – they are all supremely talented performers with exceptional comic timing and range. Hunt is the perfect straight man to an otherwise purely chaotic host of characters, endearing us to him instantly; Roe contrasts him superbly as the ridiculous caricature of the jaded retired cop trope. Melinda Orengo gives fabulously cartoonish innocence and girl-power as Rosa, while Parkinson and Natassia Bustamante multi-role like it’s their life’s purpose. All vocal performances are excellent and powerful, but Bustamante shines on another level.
We feel exhausted (in the best way!) trying to keep up with the rapid fire of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes, so one can only imagine how on earth these amazing performers remain so high-energy from start to finish. Not only are they consistently giving 110% to Matt Cole’s hugely impressive and demanding choreography, but each and every moment is performed with total comic precision, mastering the dreaded (and so easily poorly executed) art that is prop comedy. Becky Kerby deserves credit for what is no doubt the mammoth task of prop supervision on this production!
The sound itself was a little too loud at times, occasionally drowning out performers and at one point it seemed that an actor wasn’t able to discern the appropriate key (which they very quickly remedied themselves, suggesting it had nothing to do with their own ability). But Ben Adams’ music is fun, catchy, and captures the '80s American vibe of this piece brilliantly. The audience don’t need to be invited twice to join in, whether clapping or singing (though be careful what you’re willing to repeat!), and it is certainly a soundtrack worth recording.
If there are tickets available, be sure to book ‘em!
The show runs at Southwark Playhouse (Borough) until 14th October.
Review: Penny Lane Photo: Pamela Raith