The Last Ever Musical

Theatre, Drama
The Last Ever Musical
© Michael Brydon

I’m not sure about you, but I think there’s a limit on how many times the use of the word ‘tampon’ can be amusing in a song, even if the writers’ tongues are lodged firmly in their cheeks.

The intention behind Simon James Collier and Richard Bates’s exhausting musical, according to the programme notes, is to ‘hold up a mirror’ to the fringe theatre scene in London. It follows washed-up producer Brian Wilts (Jonathan Barnes) who decides to turn his worthy play, bankrolled by the Femlette Feminine Hygiene Corporation, into an all singing, all dancing musical called ‘The Life and Death of a Tampon’. Gathering together a creative team who clash and a group of dodgy actors, we watch as this car-crash of a show takes shape.

Bates’s music is actually not bad. The songs are varied, fairly catchy and performed well by an enthusiastic cast. It’s the book that’s the problem. It’s obviously supposed to be a piss-take, but the plot jumps are ridiculous, so that instead of laughing, you’re just left bewildered.

Moreover, Brian’s reasoning for suddenly deciding to swap to a musical just doesn’t make sense and for the rest of the show you can’t help but wonder why on earth they are bothering to go through this hell.

The cheap digs quickly get cheaper – especially when a rival show called ‘Vaginal Thrush – The First Itch’ is introduced half way through. But it’s the second act that’s the weakest with a climax which is, frankly, pretty lame. By ending on a positive note the writers were presumably attempting to comment on the tireless capacity for bad musicals to put a happy tint on pretty much any subject. But here it feels like a rushed cop-out.

By Daisy Bowie-Sell


Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
1 person listening

Saw the show last Sunday, had heard what the show was about but it was a lot more funny than what I had been expecting. The songs were brilliant, the cast looked as though they were enjoying themselves and I felt that the audience were relaxed and enjoyed themselves too. The singing and acting was great, very professional. Would recommend anyone to go and see this, you need an open mind and a sense of humour.

We saw the show on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it, we found it extremely funny. Parts of the storyline were a little hard to follow but the singing and humour made up for that! All the cast were really giving it their all and appeared to be really enjoying themselves, they certainly ensured that rhe audience did too. I would advise anyone with a good sense of humour to go and see this show.

I went to see this show on Wednesday evening and along with a packed audience I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was extremely funny and sharply satirical, full of toe tapping memorable tunes. It is a fun and frothy evening - not to be missed.

I really didnt know what to expect when I walked in the theatre on Tuesday. What a surprise!! Not the greatest story in the world. But I took it for what it is, a bit of fun! The performances (sorry if I get names wrong) Marlene the casting director was hilarious! The actors in the show within the show were ok, a little wooden. Brian was fun and really believable. The hippy director was right on the money. Roxane the musical director was hilarious and probably the strongest singer. The writer was really watchable and has a beautiful voice. I'm currently at drama school and will tell all my peers how good this is. Also, £11 for a ticket is totally rare in the fringe at the moment so even the budget conscious can go! If you want a laugh and see something that doesn't take itself too serious then this is the show for you.

Didn't know what to expect with this show, given the storyline, but I was pleasantly surprised. It has some really funny moments, and the music is great. Don't bother with this show if you only like Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, as you might be shocked by some of the content (guy singing to a tampon springs to mind). However if you like Book of Mormon, Family Guy or South Park, then you will find this hilarious.

Saw this show on Sunday and my party of four thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Cast had lovely voices, funny (if a bit complicated at times) story, with some very humorous one-liners, it seemed as though all involved were having a great time and this rubbed off on the audience, who were extremely appreciative of their hard work. If you want a light hearted evening out where you can let your hair down then this is the show for you.

A hilarious show, great cast. It you hate Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Sthe MacFarlane (worse if you draw a blank at the mention of their names) you wont like or understand this show for what its trying to do and how it goes about it.

Like its inspiration, it is clearly a show that appeals to an audience far from traditional. If you hate Arrested Development, The Office, South Park, American Dad or Family Guy you wont like this... But if you love them and movies like Ted or Team America and their take on The industry of what theatrehas become then you know what you're in for. A no holds, no critic, holds barred. The result is refreshing, funny, witty and a surprisingly accurate portrayal. Its clearly an uncomfortable place for those now living in the fantasy it pokes fun at.

If ‘The Last Ever Musical’ were, in fact, the last ever musical, I’m afraid I still wouldn’t pay for a ticket. Featuring a host of plodding plotlines and paper-thin characters, this musical does not live up to any level of expectation. With book by Simon James Collier and music/lyrics by Richard Bates the story is of a hapless producer attempting to stage a profit-share musical on the London fringe. However, for some baffling reason this show-within-the-show has, within the story, been sponsored by a Feminine Hygiene company who are now calling the shots and have turned a play about strong women into a low-budget musical. Now, I have no explanation for this bizarre plot twist and neither does the script, but given that the composer’s note in the programme states that felt the need to write this show as he is ‘…especially oppressed by a high tide of cheap gimmickry among new musicals…’ it seems something of a paradox to have written a musical where the major plot-points are hinged on tampons. And I do mean EVERY major plot point, not to mention several musical numbers. Overblown stereotypes abound in the character list: Money grabbing fringe producer, angry feminist lesbian, S&M style über-camp musical theatre composer, arty hippy theatre director, wannabe young performers falling in love, etc. Any chance for actual humour is missed and the over-written, under developed book offers only cheap gags that often leave the audience around me visibly cringing with embarrassment. Musically there are some nice vocal harmony moments in the opening number and many of the cast have strong voices, but the pastiche musical theatre songs don’t drive the plot forwards and often seem cumbersome with clunky lyrics and unmemorable tunes. Quoting once again from the composer’s programme note, I notice that he dismisses ‘cliché-ridden pieces’, ‘from the ‘NYU schools of composers’ and there are some musical jibes at Scott Alan and Jason Robert Brown. On the other hand, the act one closing song in this show is called ‘When The Tampons Come To Town’ and features lyrics about scratching the itch of vaginal thrush (yes, really). I know which school of composers I would rather listen to. The Last Ever Musical runs until September 7th. I would advise staying in the bar of the White Bear until the Period is over.

A chintzy ruched silver curtain, Doric columns and twin bay trees are clues to what we’re letting ourselves in for. What follows is indeed a contemporary musical harking on Broadway clichés. The plot is the process of putting on a performance. Beware: this brand of self-parody delineates treacherous ground, as accorded by the line “I’m still looking for an agent but somehow I don’t think this is the show to do it.” For an agent or a punter it’s not substantial enough to sustain interest. Unless your world is musical theatre, and then this is absolutely the show for you. Every performing arts student will baulk at the cringe-worthy drama workshop characterising tampons (cue a cacophony of self-indulgent snickers). The subject matter is so apart from everyday experience that making a connection is difficult. And yet! Life IS a show – “all the men and women merely players…” as the Bard reminds us. One of the loveliest and funniest numbers ‘It’s Not You’ resonates as a moment of personal reflection. Later in Act Two comes ‘The Five Minute Call’ – “and I’m not ready” – the life of an actor beginning to mirror our own, and beautifully vocalised by Lauren Harvey. The human drama continues to warm-up in the second act, a fuller picture coming into view if somewhat dissipating in the crossover with the play-within-a-play. Simon James Collier is a skilled writer and director. The second half commences with memorable scenes parodying not theatre production per se but Ingmar Bergman and Gilbert and Sullivan, in the literal frame of a producer’s nightmare. Good stuff. Laughing at failure is a guilty pleasure that always hits the mark. Tuneful show-stoppers are backed-up with always uplifting harmonisation, and the show benefits from vibrant individual performances. Jeroen Robben is reminiscent of a less-squeaky Will Young, with a pleasingly well-rounded voice. He and others ably demonstrate the impressive and imaginative choreography of Omar F Okai. Emma Kurij is terrific as the Casting Queen: a crossbred of Su Pollard and Bonnie Tyler if you can believe that. She lights-up the stage. The flirty and funny Lovelace seems fresh from the heart of Stacey Victoria Bland, and is heartily appreciated. Jonathan Barnes portrays a believable ‘producer’ and Rebecca Hood a less believable ‘writer’ if a self-assured performer in complete control of a very attractive singing voice. Rick Tolley simply oodles onstage charm, whilst Leejay Townsend makes for a fittingly outrageous svengali. Meanwhile, the ghostly hands of the keyboardist provide accomplished accompaniment never faltering. Do they belong to composer Richard Bates? Why doesn’t he take a bow? As always on the London Fringe it is the huge amount of talent in the cast that pulls things together and makes a show worth seeing. So get your drinks in early, you can take them in with you.