Ushers – The Front of House Musical continues at the Arts Theatre, London until 18 October.
Rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Following two successful seasons at the Charing Cross Theatre last year, and straight from a triumphant run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Ushers – The Front of House Musical is at the Arts Theatre for yet another limited run. Even if you have seen this fun show before, it is well worth a new visit as it it keeps evolving, incorporating references to recent news items such as Liza Minnelli’s cancellation of her show last weekend.
Beginning, as audience members enter the venue, with the actual performers doubling as ushers, the ingenious plot goes as follows: at a theatre where another jukebox musical – Oops, I Did It Again (inspired by the music of Britney Spears) – is previewing, a three-year gay romance is on the rocks between two resting actors, a straight newcomer is catching the eye of another man-hungry usherette, while an untrained newbie working on her first shift is getting on the nerves of the villainous stage manger determined to cut costs…
While the book is clearly not the stuff great musicals are made of, it is served by a fresh and winning cast, notably West End newcomer Rory Maguire (fresh from the Shrek UK tour) as Ben, who gets one of the best songs, ‘(It’s Time To) Let Go’.
In fact everyone of the six cast members has his or her shining moment, but best served is Alexandra Parkes as Rosie who gets the showstopping Fosse-style ‘Leading Men’.
Ben Fenner, as Ben’s partner Gary; Corrine Priest as newcomer Lucy; and Cameron Sharp as Stephen, the male object of desire, are all charming and talented. Only Harry Stone, as the indomitable stage manager, occasionally leans toward the over-acting.
Yet it is more during the ensemble numbers, notably the spirited opening ‘Welcome!’ and the tap dancing finale ‘Goodbye!’, impeccably choreographed by Russell Smith, that the show really takes flight.
The clever direction by Max Reynolds and pastiche-filled score by Yiannis Koutsakos all add up to a pleasant, fast-paced evening of light-hearted musical fun!