It sounds so preposterously promising. In a Singapore nightclub in 1941, a patron is murdered and a precious gem stolen while a crooked cop croons about romantic liaisons, enemy troops gather at the border, storm clouds gather, the club's house band plan to defect and its sultry saloon singer struggles to regain her memory.
Amazing then that something so seemingly - wonderfully - chaotic, convoluted and cracking can, in rendition, become something so slow, uncomplicated and dull as Song of Singapore. The problem is that the scenario that the American creators of this throwback musical have concocted never comes anywhere close to maturing into a plot. It's a whimsy that's just too flimsy.
What scenario there is is squashed into even more skeletal form by the weight of the show's music. During two and a bit hours' of performance time, there are an incredible 18 songs to trundle through, all sung as if they comprise part of the fictional club's floor show and very few of which advance the meagre action. It's so overwhelming that, whenever the music dies and the unbelievably corny jokes surface (eg "so the fish I cooked was a red herring"), you want to heave a huge sigh of relief. But respite is short-lived. Within literally seconds, one of the characters says something along the lines of, "It's too quiet in here, play another song" and the barrage continues.
There is so little book to speak of that there's not much for director Roger Redfarn to do except choreograph the musical numbers, which involve a lot of dancing with old gents from the audience and forming conga lines.
Luckily, the score includes a few nice songs and they are gustily delivered by the enthusiastic cast, most of whom double as the seven-piece, on-stage jazz band. The title song is the catchiest, while the ridiculous "Harbour of Life" about fishy romances raises the most chuckles thanks to lyrics like "the cuttle fish is a subtle fish" and "even the crustaceans have infatuations". And for pure soulfulness, nothing can match the haunting "I Can't Remember".
The last is sung by Rose of Rangoon, the blonde bombshell saloon singer and amnesia sufferer played by Issy Van Randwyck. Van Randwyck is unquestionably the highlight of the show. She looks stunning - flashing acres of leg - and sounds fantastic. But she is let down by the material and never has the chance to impress fully in the way that you know she can.