Blink Twice, Above the Stag

In 2009, Above the Stag filled the usual torpidity of the summer fringe with Blink!, a collection of songs from musicals that flopped.

Unlike the shows it used as source material, it was a hit. It was not without faults, though: the spoken links that provided context weren’t executed well enough to adequately stand alongside the sung material. Also, there was something of an over-reliance on numbers from shows that, while possibly counting as flops on paper on their original run, have gone on to not insubstantial success (e.g., Chicago).

This year’s sequel has the confidence not to play it safe in such a manner, although it does include one number from a show that is currently running in the West End — the title song from Love Never Dies, albeit in its original form as Our Kind of Love from the Lloyd Webber/Elton mess of The Beautiful Game.

In a brave move for a show which is attempting to repeat its predecessor’s success, there is a continuing theme of demonstrating how composers repeatedly mine the same ideas. Jerry Herman, showcased last year for his drag comedy La Cage aux Folles, provides similar numbers from his revue flop, Jerry’s Girls. Adam Lilley’s scene stealing entrance in the second act’s opening numbers provides one of many comedy highlights, and ironically also gives him a vocal which is much better suited to his voice than many other songs which sit uncomfortably at the upper end of his range.

Ironic use of over-earnest choreography is used frequently to comically undermine songs which don’t deserve to be taken seriously, or to provide additional comedy to numbers which are nowhere near as funny as the writers clearly wanted them to be. The trio of Anna Gilthorpe, Ashleigh Jones and Emma Lumsden performing Glitterboots from Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens manages to transform an intrinsically silly number into something that lampoons the over-earnest choreography that has scuppered many a West End show.

Perhaps the strongest vocals belong to Reed Sinclair, whose renditions of Dear World (another Herman flop) and, in duet, First Lady of the Night from Bad Girls add to an impressive roster of numbers from all concerned.

There are so many bad musicals with odd little gems of songs in that the Blink format has every chance of becoming a regular franchise. If any future incarnations improve as much as Blink Twice has over 2009’s original, they will be truly amazing.

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.

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