On the publicity material for the third in Above the Stag’s now-annual revue of songs from shows that flopped, The Stage is quoted as describing it as “a high quality evening”.
That quote came from my review of 2009’s first show. However, the section of that review that the quote comes from was not quite so equivocal:
The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done to improve what is already a high quality evening.
Annoyingly, I could use exactly the same paragraph in the review of 2011’s show. Which would be appropriate in many ways, since Blink Again! itself recycles much from the previous two years.
The whole conceit of the Blink franchise is that there is an ever-expanding source of material of flop shows to choose from. However, several numbers feature in Blink Again have been previously performed in previous shows, including A Boy from Nowhere (Matador) and As We Stumble Along (The Drowsy Chaperone).
There is also a reliance on jukebox musicals – from Flashdance to Shout!, as well as a performance of Total Eclipse of the Heart, included by dint of an adapted version being used in Dance of the Vampires.
Of the more traditional musicals featured, several have been mined previously, including The Pirate Queen, Martin Guerre and Moby Dick. As a result, anybody who has seen the two previous versions of this show may find some annoying overfamiliarity.
Still, if the idea is to both repeat and extend the song repertoire of the Blink franchise, at least there are some great new additions. A rendition of Part of your World from The Little Mermaid is superbly executed, only being let down by being followed by an overly ambitious and ultimately unsuccessful use of ultraviolet lighting in the following number from the same show, Under the Sea.
The biggest attention to detail and effort is spent in sending up recent West End flop The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with an intricately stage routine that probably only makes sense to the dozens of people who saw the original, but remains extremely funny even without such knowledge.
The seven-strong cast is Blink’s largest ensemble yet, which also means it has possibly the most diverse range of ability. Mille Dunne and Heather Scott-Martin are certainly the most consistently good members of the cast.
Ultimately, Blink Again! continues the franchise’s tradition of providing a highly entertaining evening out at fringe prices. However, for the third year of the format, it really needs to demonstrate that the series is limitless, and instead it seems intent on showing the reverse.