'The Glorious Ones' review or 'Who's up for penis pastiche?'

'The Glorious Ones'
Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty
Landor Theatre, 12th March 2012
Written for Time Out

London's musical theatre scene is awash with tired jukebox shows and unimaginative revivals, so it's great to see the tiny Landor Theatre continuing to take big risks. Although 'The Glorious Ones' is penned by Lynn Ahrens and composed by Stephen Flaherty, both awash with Tony awards, it is a quirky show and by no means a sure-fire hit.

The context is relatively obscure. Set in 17th Century Italy, this offbeat musical explores the long-lost theatrical genre, commedia dell'arte, which was performed in the streets and hailed straight from the gutter. The show pays homage to this joyfully bawdy artform and is packed with heaving bosoms, broad laughs and brassy songs. It is the musical equivalent of a naked lass slipping, repeatedly, over a huge banana.

Director Robert McWhir makes ingenious use of this limited space and, despite the large cast and flurry of quick-fire sketches, the stage rarely feels cluttered. The cast is a rainbow of rowdiness and reaches its climax with the cheeky penis-pastiche song, 'Armanda's Tarrantella'.

But this is an innately light-hearted piece and, despite a moving performance from Kate Brennan as the wronged Columbina, there's little emotional depth. When tragedy finally hits, it feels lifted from another play and undermines an otherwise sumptuously silly affair.


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