USHERS: The Front of House Musical

Wed 5th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Alannah Jones

at 11:17 on 18th Aug 2015

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I strongly suspect that Ushers: The Front of House Musical may well be the cheesiest spectacle ever performed at the Fringe – and it is to be lauded for it. This delightfully and unabashedly corny show is carried off with the most polished of performances by the professional cast, who did indeed greet the audience in character and usher everybody to their seats before returning to the stage as the front-of-house team of the new Britney Spears Musical ‘Oops I Did It Again’. The cast busy themselves adorning the stage with garish Britney merchandise and engaging in boisterous horseplay when Lucy, the new girl enters ready to begin her first shift on the job.

There is certainly a dash of pantomime to this production, which draws upon a range of stock characters from the musical theatre stereotypes: the celebrity stalker Rosie (Alexandra Parkes), the quarreling gay couple Ben (Rory Maguire) and Gary (Ben Fenner), ambitious wannabe Lucy (Corrine Priest), love interest and fellow dreamer Stephen (Cameron Sharp) and embittered failed artiste now a salacious middle-manager for Theatre Nation Robin (Harry Stone).

Whilst thoroughly enjoyable, it must be said that Ushers caters (very successfully) to a rather specific demographic: people who are into musical theatre. The script was teeming with references and puns, some of which were a little obscure but generally rather witty. Alongside the hilarity of the physical comedy, sharp topical references hard the audience giggling away throughout the show. Highlights include ‘Adele Dazeem’ and ‘can I charge my phone onstage?’ Some of the jokes and comic physicality were rather risqué in nature, much to the glee of the school trip of about thirty 14 year olds I happened to be surrounded by.

The cast were all formidably talented, and seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm; I am confident that any one of them could hold their own as the lead of a West End musical. The performances were all polished to a gleam leaving no weak link in the ensemble. In particular Alexandra Parkes gave an energetic and dynamically comical performance as Rosie. Ben Fenner and Rory Maguire gave the strongest acting performances, managing to create moments of poignancy in an otherwise frivolous show.

Ushers is a lighthearted and wonderfully entertaining show. If you love musical theatre then it is not to be missed – just make sure you don’t arrive late, trust me!

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Flo Layer

at 12:18 on 18th Aug 2015

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For the average audience member, a West End show is all about its powerful songs, dances and heart-wrenching love stories, yet for the unseen and unappreciated theatre staff, it is a world of ice-cream, programmes, interval drinks, queues for the loos, and late-comers.

Ushers: The Front of House Musical, is a new show that takes all the glitz, music, dance and drama behind the scenes, as the anonymous waist-coated ushers become protagonists in their very own cheesy romp. ‘Cheesy’ has to be the key word for this show – minor references to almost every musical known to man are combined with the usual love story, troubled love, dreamers and, of course, the necessary villain.

It’s a shame that the echoing church acoustics meant that during many of the songs, lyrics often became indistinguishable and the booming notes of the piano accompaniment drowned out some of the finer vocal harmonies.

The cast were slick and polished, as expected of any highly praised West End show. The tight group choreography has to be the most praiseworthy element of the show. The fantastically sharp tap performance at the end of the show stands out as a particular highlight. Yet in earlier vocal numbers such as Spend Per Head, excellently fast paced lyrics were matched by equally sharp dancing.

The blossoming romance between new usher Lucy (Corrine Priest) and Stephen (Cameron Sharp) was performed with charm, and the smaller musical details and clever use of lighting every time their hands touched was brilliantly funny and well-designed.

Rosie (performed with gusto by Alexandra Parkes) proved to be the comic star of the piece: her flamboyant flirting and absolutely brilliant slow attempt to do the splits, complete with hilarious pained grimaces, had the audience’s shoulders shaking with laughter throughout the auditorium.

Yet the humour became fairly repetitive and distasteful with many of the gags falling flat through over-usage. This was particularly noticeable in Harry Stone’s character Robin – an evil Fagin, or the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin whose groping performance was initially funny quickly became tired.

If you have never been a fan of the all-singing, all-dancing musical then you must avoid Ushers at all costs – the cheese overload might just turn your stomach. Yet if you love musicals, like the huge audience that gathered in St Stephen’s, then it might just be a good choice after all.

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