Friday, 3 April 2009

REVIEW: Blok Busta

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I guess the easy, lazy, and potentially humorous way to go is with another good/bad list...

(EDIT: On revision while dropping in links and formatting I realised I should briefly cover the plot. In Glamsville it's illegal to listen to disco, but the Blok Busta is going around killing girls with long black hair by playing disco to them. His suspicions fall on a group of teachers and students at Glamsville High after they bomb the school and start a nightclub. Some infighting occurs, another girl dies, a male fantasy lesbian cop hits on good girl gone bad Virginia Plain, and the mystery is solved at the end.)

GOOD:

-The score (too many contributors to list) is mostly original. There’s a few covers in there (including “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes - guaranteed to throw off anime fans everywhere) but there’s a LOT of new tunes here.

-A lot of the songs (bottom of the page) are catchy and have lyrics between competent and clever. I wouldn’t mind having a cast recording on my iPod, even though I’d be hard pressed to justify paying for it. There’s the occasional clunker but for the most part the music is decent.

-The lighting is concert appropriate though a bit excessive during the encore.

-The cast do wonders for the material. For some reason the creative team didn’t feel it was worth listing or mentioning the cast members on the website so I can’t reference them, but the fellow playing Aladdin Payne (yes they all have names this lame) and the actress who took the triple role of the initial victim (forgot the name), Delilah, and Jenny Jenn also deserves credit for bringing some life to the production.

-As actor/musicians, the cast do a great job often doubling on instruments.

-Disco music is a lethal weapon. I approve.

BAD:

-It’s not glam. I know that Blok Busta *advertises* itself as a glam musical, and it does cover some songs from the glam movement and has some glam-ish costumes (though they’re more Jem than glam) but some of the key glam tropes are missing.

-Case in point? The lack of androgyny. Yes the guys have make-up and sparkly costumes and platform boots, but where’re the waifs, the torch songs, and the posing? The characters move like stereotypes and don’t feel inhabited.

-Likewise the movement is off in performance. A big part of Glam was toning down the phallic “Man plays big guitar at crotch level” aspect of Rock, but it was here in abundance. The girls rocked out as well, so they reclaim some points there, but again, the aesthetic was close but not right. Go read some Auslander, see a proper stage production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and try again.

-The book. There’s (barely) a plot, but it’s thin and gleefully discarded for the next tune (hint to Mike Bennett who wrote the show: *NEVER* say something like “This makes me sad. Let’s have a song!” Songs in musicals should be extensions of the characters and not forced. Priscilla makes the same mistake.)

-More on the book. I was chatting to another audience member at the interval and they made the comparison to a comic book. Given that I’ve been on a reading bender lately including as much books of Top 10, The Authority, and Transmetropolitan as I can get ahold of in addition to revisiting Watchmen, any self-respecting comic book author would be insulted by being compared to Blok Busta. I’d compare it more to Vampires Rock, and found that by shifting my expectations from “musical” to “concert with plot-like banter” the second act was more enjoyable.

-Which brings me to the pacing. I felt every minute of the two hours here.

-The spoiler moment with “I Will Survive.” I want to go on Room 101 just to lock that song away forever.

OVERALL

Mike Bennett (author and no relation to the brilliant Michael Bennett) has written good material in the past. I know people who’ve worked with him on other projects and they had nothing but good things to say about them, so it seems like Blok Busta is simply misconceived and an unfortunate mis-step in a long, industrious, and largely well received career. Here’s hoping to a return to form and better things in the future.

Where: New Players Theatre
When: Until 18 April, Tu-Sa @ 19:30, Sa @ 15:00
How Much: £20. Try and get row J or forward.
Concessions: £15.
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RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: A very generous £10. Conveniently you can get tickets for this on lastminute. It’s worth going if you ignore everything BUT the music.
RZ Other Notes: For such a small venue the New Players has a number of seats which feel remarkably distant.

1 comment:

easilydistractedwriter said...

This show sounds plain weird. And not in a good way...