Slow, stilted and clichéd, new original musical The Hard Boiled Egg and the Wasp is roughly based on the demise of Dan Leno, a turn of the century music hall comedian and singer who died in 1904 after spending time in an asylum following a mental breakdown.
We see Leno as he is abruptly thrust into an asylum, effectively at the mercy of stuck-in-her-ways nurse Cornthwaite.
Chris Vincent as the music hall legend is suitably appealing with charm and pathos - but his characterisation is cheapened by a clutch of vaguely sketched fellow inmates in the asylum, each believing they are variously Queen Victoria or Napoleon.
The rather cuckoo Miss Cornthwaite (Alwyne Taylor) wants to lobotomise Leno, to the consternation of her vivacious assistant, Amelia Proudfoot (a strong turn by Sarah Earnshaw).
Sadly, the show would have done better scrapping this muddled sub-plot which throws up some horrendous songs - Cornthwaite repeatedly invites Amelia to walk in her “rose garden”, a painful metaphor we could well do without - and instead focus on the fascinating Victorian theatrical impresario at its heart.
The cast’s generally good voices do an otherwise decent score (from Andy Street) justice but are lost on lamentable lyrics from the usually competent Jonathan Kydd, who also directs.
The music hall set up of the show has been done elsewhere, better – and really is just a distraction that stops boredom setting in.
The problem is The Hard Boiled Egg and the Wasp doesn’t know whether it’s comic hammer-horror, camp musical or touching tribute to a legend – and this confusion is its real downfall.