BWW Reviews: USHERS - THE FRONT OF HOUSE MUSICAL, Charing Cross Theatre, March 15 2014
Sometimes, fringe theatre is at its best when it's poking fun at the bigger brothers and sisters in the West End. USHERS: THE FRONT OF HOUSE MUSICAL is a fantastic tease, but this is no mere snarkfest - there's a heart underneath the satire.
We're Front of House at the latest West End juke box musical from superstar impresario Sir Andrew Lloyd Mackintosser (never let it be said that they are too subtle). This is the land of the ushers, under the rule of the lecherous and ambitious duty manager and failed opera singer Robin (Ralph Bogard).
The cast are working from the moment doors open: showing the audience to seats, taking coats, and doing a good trade in tacky merchandise. Straight away they are into songs about the tricks of their trade, the need to maximise profits (Spend per Head) and the allure of Leading Men.
James Oban and Yannis Koutsakos' songs are great fun, with enough hints of the West End numbers they are pastiching without completely ripping them off.
The show is packed with gags and in-jokes at the West End's expense, but this is an affectionate show laughing with the Stagies gently being ribbed on stage. In fact they get their own representative in usher and undercover Twitter spy Rosie, played with gusto by Ceris Hine. They even manage to poke fun at the critics: a brave move.
But beneath all the humour, there's also an engaging story. Should out of work actors chase their dreams, or are they destined to remain front of house for ever? And it deals with the perils of actors dating each other and the jealousy and emotion that entails.
The relationship between Ben and Gary (Liam Ross-Mills and Daniel Buckley) is touching and authentically portrayed. Ross-Mills is a delight to watch, and moves effortlessly from playing the clown to being the beating heart of the show.
The twists and turns are anything but subtle - you're going to see the big reveal coming a mile off, but this doesn't matter one bit. The laughs keep on coming, and you're rooting for the front of house team by the time the curtains down. The fringe needs more shows like USHERS.