BWW Reviews: DESPERATELY SEEKING THE EXIT, Leicester Square Theatre, May 1 2013
Take a kooky cult movie of the 80s with an iconic look, stir in Blondie's greatest hits and leave to simmer with a National Theatre-trained director in London's pre-recession West End. Mamma Mia! What could possibly go wrong? As it happened, it was more a question of what didn't go wrong.
Writer Peter Michael Marino has been angry and sad about the things that were done with his musical and has emerged, not quite unscathed, with Desperately Seeking The Exit (at the Leicester Square Theatre until 20 May).
Anglo-aholic (his term for his addiction to London) Marino tells his tale with wit and wisdom, slowly building a nightmarish vision of miscommunication, egos running rampant and a vacuum of leadership that proved (almost) fatal. Along the way there's plenty of jokes, observations on how, as Wilde remarked, America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language and how English politeness can be used to avoid making tough decisions.
Marino is tremendously engaging - he would make you laugh if he were reading the telephone directory - and his best work is done when bringing out the pathos in his situation (and that of the 100 staff thrown out of work when the show closed in 2007 after just 14 performances). Distance may not quite have brought closure - there's still some pain - but there's a happy ending for Pete and for many of the cast who were to go on to big roles in the West End.
This monolgue will delight fans of musical theatre but will also appeal to anyone who has ever tried to pull a project together - be it a school fete or a "working group" to address issues. Marino may be flying First Class as his show crashes and burns, but he, and everyone else involved, is just like us - that's how Desperately Seeking Susan - The Musical failed and how they (and the show) survived.
Photo John Yabria