Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
This shameless cult musical is nearly a quarter of a century old now; the story it recycles has its origins in medieval Germany.
But it's set very firmly in the suburban 1970s, with music all the way from Donna Summer to Johnny Rotten. More tongue-in-cheek campery, wit and wisdom than your average juke box musical, given a storming performance by Cut to the Chase, the Queen's own company – heavily augmented for the occasion.
No fewer than twelve actor/musicians, led, as is customary, by an outrageous drag queen. In the wonderful home-made-in-Hornchurch tradition of the Queen's, they've come up with Lady Felicia, dear friend and distant cousin of Hornchurch favourite Fred Broom. More grab-a-granny than disco diva, she does time the carry-on comedy wickedly well, sells a series of sassy songs, and comes on in an impressive collection of flamboyant frocks, reflecting the genre of the musical numbers: a country music momma, the Iron Lady, a naughty nun in a Sister Act moment for the wedding.
Everyone else gets to dress up, too, with more changes than cruise ship chorus boys, from the beige polyester of domesticity to glam rock, ballroom, punk and lounge. One spectacular quick change – from supermarket to sequinned ball gowns – deserved its round of stunned applause.
Our Faustian hero is Joe Soap, the excellent Matthew Quinn, who handles the styles and the story with confident ease. He's tempted by Felicia's Lucy Fur [no subtlety tonight] to leave his ballroom partner and fiancée [Sarah Mahony] for the sinful charms of Miss Hot Stuff herself [Hollie Cassar]. Straight out of university, Cameron Jones makes a suave and slightly creepy narrator, mouthpiece for Satan, the “dark puppet-master”. Between the five of them, they carry most of the numbers, backed by a superb ensemble quartet, including choreographer Valentina Dolci, guitar, bass and drums. The keyboards and, memorably, a saxophone solo, are played by whoever happens to be available – really virtuosic versatility.
The tunes are a nostalgia-fest for the older audience – Nobody Does It Better, My Way [Sid Vicious version], Stand By Your Man, Wuthering Heights and Welcome Home. The title number, too, of course, and dozens more, including a clever TESCO parody of the old Ottowan hit DISCO. And culminating in that empty anthem We Are The Champions.
All done with a polished professionalism - “Jimmy Filth”'s God Save The Queen is preceded by a totally tasteless Peters and Lee [Jones and Felicia] and followed by three chaps in tuxes backing Miss Hot Stuff channelling Carly Simon. This kind of gentle send-up will only work if, as here, it's rooted in affection and secure performance technique.
As ever, the gorgeous costumes and the scarlet and black set [banks of speakers and dazzling lights] are all done in house.
The show is directed by Matt Devitt with Julian Littman looking after the music – Queen's regulars both – and manages to combine a high-energy clap-along night out with a morality musical cabaret. A potent mix, deservedly cheered to the rafters by the audience on opening night.
production photo: Mark Sepplethis piece first appeared on The Public Reviews