Cream – Canal Cafe Theatre

Cream continues at the Canal Cafe Theatre, London every Sunday at 7pm until 23 July.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

So what makes a good musical? Whatever it is, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Matador and Lord of the Rings didn’t have it. This ingeniously engaging revue picks songs, some of them utterly appalling, from 16 flop musicals and has a lot of fun with them.

A talented cast of four, who have to be very televisual in a tiny intimate space, perform without mics and hold the floor for nearly an hour with witty interjections from MD Aaron Clingham on piano at the back.

For the first minute or two, during which Clingham plays an intro, I was briefly reminded of the church youth club revues I used to take part in, but I needn’t have worried, the show almost immediately finds its feet and sallies forth entertainingly.

The dwarf patter song from Lord of the Rings must be very difficult indeed to learn, but it’s so silly and pointless, you can’t help wonder why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to include it. Lord of the Rings cost £25 million to stage and was London’s priciest ever musical, the audience is informed.

It’s entertaining to ham it up, though, with actors wearing knee pads and sporting funny little horns with Viking curly hair and beards. Clingham’s final laconic comment is: “Suffice it to say, there were plenty of actors available for panto that year.”

Did they really run with that excruciating love song from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Cue cod French accents, coy finger walking along the top of the piano and some very banal lyrics – good theatre for a couple of minutes but I’m glad I didn’t have to endure the complete (short-lived) show.

This little show, directed by Tim McArthur, is slick and well-paced.

Danielle Morris is warmly versatile, flitting with aplomb from hammed up disdain to simpering lover and from twirling dance to stillness, all done with a good repertoire of accents.

Katriona Perrett’s all-singing-all-dancing, over the top take on several over-acted blousy roles hits the spot in this context.

Brendan Matthew has a strikingly beautiful singing voice, especially when he’s not pushing the fortissimo dynamic too hard.

Daniel Mack Shand is a fine character actor with a good repertoire of expressive faces and gestures.

All four are accomplished dancers and they work pleasingly together in a very limited space.

I’m not sure why the auditorium is configured cabaret style, however. This show is performed on an end dias and would have worked just as well with the audience in rows.

It doesn’t affect the end result though – Cream (of the crop or as one actor explains at the beginning, “of the crap”) is quirky, original and warmly recommended for a bit of high-quality Sunday night nonsense.

Susan Elkin


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