Wednesday, 18 November 2009

REVISIT: Jest End

Never let it be said that I don’t believe in second chances.

On the other hand, let it be said that I absolutely believe in calling ‘em as I see ‘em. And despite thinking this version of Jest End is better than its predecessor, and regardless of the cast who worked their tails off to sing it well, the show still doesn’t come together.

For one, timing is everything in comedy. So why are there still jokes about Gone With The Wind, (nothing about Ernie Get Your Gun though) Mary Poppins, and Footloose (all gone for over a year) and bits about Little Mermaid and Legally Blonde (not open yet)? Ditto the farewell to Avenue Q which doesn’t close until March. All of the reality show bits are recycled from the last show as well, despite the fact that we didn’t have a casting show this year. I’ll almost forgive the Lord of the Rings song even if it took me forever to remember what it was from - though LotR wasn’t mentioned in the lyrics - but it was at least about flops in general. And still nothing about some of the biggest shows in the West End.

Second, the jokes are still one note. ALW and the Phantom singing “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City of Angels is a cosplay skit. It’s not something to put in a professional show, especially given that the joke is exposed as soon as people realise what the song is. The Barrowman and Donovan numbers were the same - Barrowman has a big smile and is loud, Jason Donovan hasn’t done stage in a while. Got it. Now do something with the other three minutes in the song.

How bad was it? I sat behind the creatives who were quite pleased with themselves, and I couldn’t hear all of the audience, but I *could* see the people off to the side thanks to the Jermyn Street’s lovely layout. And I saw that most of them weren’t laughing after the first verse of most bits.

Third, too much repetition. This is both in the lyrics (don’t repeat yourself in comedy unless you’re adding new context, and yes, this means writing new lyrics for each chorus) and in staging (I lost count of how many times the SA guy scratched his arse, how many times girls adjusted their tits, and how many skits ended with or involved someone giving two fingers.)

Fourth, too much repetition. This is both in the lyrics (don’t repeat yourself in comedy unless you’re adding new context, and yes, this means writing new lyrics for each chorus) and in staging (I lost count of how many times the SA guy scratched his arse, how many times girls adjusted their tits, and how many skits ended with or involved someone giving two fingers.)

See? Not funny. Neither is the third time Cameron/Fagin says "Maybe it's time to revive Miss Saigon." That's your second chorus. Your first is to comment on the upcoming Hair revival, the third is to change costume pieces and suggest Cats. See, it builds from happening to "Please no" to "Anything but that."

Anyhow, clearly there’s an audience for this sort of thing - after all, they packed the Menier for Forbidden Broadway - but despite the money and attention being thrown at it, Jest End remains on the wrong side of amateurish, feeling more like something being put on for friends (who seemed to make up most of the not sparse but not full house last night) rather than, you know, an actual paying audience.

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