A host of characters find themselves at the Seize the Cheese contest and, thanks to the magic of the mystical Keeper of the Cheese, we see glimpses into their lives and what led them to the top of this very steep hill, and they learn to step out of their comfort zone and "take the first small step" to embrace their "inner me". 
Strangely enough, it does feel like the ridiculous concept of this show has potential, however much of the execution is sorely lacking. 

The plot is all over the place - even for a story that jumps around through time, it is rarely clear where or when we are, and the central motivation of The Keeper makes absolutely no sense. Not to mention, the entire message of the show seems to be that you should be bold and brave and take "the first small step" to overcoming obstacles, but Phobia Phil's triumph over his fear comes as a complete accident - he explains that he lost his footing and fell! 

The script feels sloppy and rushed, with dull exposition aplenty and unnecessarily-pantomime humour that simply doesn't land, including a desperate attempt to shout synonyms for 'penis' at random intervals in one song that feels cheap rather than earned silliness. Characterisation is minimal - we are presented with snippets of stories that should be moving, but we just aren't invested enough in any of these characters (perhaps besides Phobia Phil) to care. The Keeper in particular needs to be a far more vibrant character, guiding us along in the story. It is ironic that a musical about cheese speeding down a hill feels so slow, and yet doesn't give us enough time with any elements of the plot to ground its story! 

In this reviewer's personal opinion, there were also far too few cheese puns, but those that were used were great fun and enjoyed by all. 
The music is fun (the minimal band of Alex Courtney and Jacob Mosely, directed by composer Patrick Steed, are very good) though not especially memorable, and lacks consistency through different songs. There are a few high-energy numbers that don't hit as hard as they could, but The Tears of the Cheese (as bafflingly ridiculous as it is) is a real crowd-pleaser, and Hold Me Some More is a touching song, though isn't given the weight it deserves due to poor pacing of the story. It should be noted that the sound balance in the space doesn't quite work, so often we are left unable to hear singers over the music - this could go some way to explaining a lack of energy felt through some songs. 

Other technical aspects of the show are good, in particular Kiren Virdee's choreography and movement direction - she makes interesting use of the limited space, and choreographs a large ensemble cast brilliantly - which is enhanced by Alex Forey's excellent lighting design. Forey does wonders with such a small playing-space, drawing our eyes where they're needed and making the stage feel far bigger than it is. 

Performances are a decidedly mixed bag, with a general lack of commitment to the absurdity of the piece (though whether this fault lies with performance or direction is another question), and under-rehearsed acapella moments that desperately needed accompaniment, but there were a few impressive stand-outs: Jodi Bird gives gorgeous innocence and fighting spirit as Jasmine, and Rosie Zeidler is comedically excellent and shows off her acting and vocal range in one of the more memorable songs. James Dangerfield is particularly impressive as Phobia Phil - his performance is beautifully wide-eyed and he is both a brilliant dramatic and comedic actor. 

However, rather fittingly for this story, it is impossible to keep your eyes off Travis Wood as The Cheese and Spirit of the Hill. Travis constantly gives 110% and delights the audience whenever he's on stage, squeezing all the goodness he can from the material and adding his own fabulous unique flare. 
A clear triple-threat, he is the absolute highlight of this show and should be lauded as such: his Cheese left exactly no crumbs! 

Definitely weird, but needing work before wonderful, Seize the Cheese runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre (The Studio) until 11th November. 

Review: Penny Lane