Sky News the Musical in concert at the Union Theatre, London.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Writing clever songs around the light-hearted end-pieces to Sky News bulletins – you know, the ones about the Kenyan who offered President Obama 500 cows for his daughter’s hand or all those aaaah-making, bizarre animal stories – sounds a terrific idea for a musical.
Tony Greenlaw, an expatriate American who runs the Musical Theatre programme at a performing arts college in Canterbury, gave us a taster of his work-in-progress show with a concert version at the soon-to-move-across-the-road Union Theatre in Southwark.
He played piano (sometimes too loudly for one or two of the female voices in such a small space) while a team of talented singers performed his songs.
Greenlaw’s flair as a lyricist with a sense of humour suggested the idea could well take wing and much of the material was entertaining.
Particularly enjoyable were ‘Love On the Water’, sung with terrific verve by Hollie Hunter, about a woman with a crush on a manatee (a particularly ugly walrus-type sea creature), ‘Like Me!’, well put across by Ben Purkiss and David Michael Hands, and ‘The Day’ with The Voice finalist Alaric Green as the Kenyan in love with Obama’s older daughter Malia.
Greenlaw loves his animals and, manatee apart, we also had entertaining stuff about dogs – ‘Good Boy’ and ‘Stowaway’ – and a hunky gorilla – ‘Primal!’ with Elizabeth Futter, Lucy Grainger and Emily Lynne fighting over Matthew McDonald’s matinee-idol ape.
Humans weren’t ignored and a news item about the baggage loader locked away in the hold of a plane inspired ‘Buried Alive in the Sky’, while ‘The Girl On the Phone’ was powerfully sung by the excellent Lynne.
Greenlaw’s wife Beth was among the rest of the cast which, in a second half chiefly devoted to stand-alone material from his February one-nighter at famed New York cabaret spot 54 Below, also featured Laura Beasley and Emily Woodbridge.
One of those, ‘Making Tracks’ was from Greenlaw’s next musical venture, about Brownie Wise, the sharp saleswoman who invented Tupperware parties for housewives wanting to make their own pocket money and be independent.
Wise became a celebrity in the male-dominated culture of the 1950s, but was getting too much of the credit for business partner Earl Tupper’s liking, so he forced her out of the company as if she had never existed. Sounds like another good idea. Watch this space…