The cast list of Barbershopera II reads like a bad joke: a Catalan Matador, a bouffant-topped hairdresser and a town crier (and her dad), all dwelling in Shavingham, Norfolk. The plot is not much more sophisticated. After the death of barber Johnny Johnson, his long lost son, a matador named Esteve, arrives in search of his late father’s Golden Thinning Scissors. He finds himself up against not only his father’s friends, town crier Vicky and her father Rod, but the formidable hair stylist Trevor Sorbet. Expect plenty of jokes about barbers, Norfolk inbreeding and the insatiable murderous desire of a bull fighter…
The story is as silly as you would expect but of course, the pull here is not the plot but the fact that it is almost entirely performed in four-part harmony. Writers Rob Castell and Tom Sadler prove themselves a formidable team, writing harmonies and lyrics that are quite simply breathtaking. Both take leading roles in the show: Castell plays Spaniard Esteve with comedic perfection and Sadler changes character with flawless ease. His evil hairdresser Trevor Sorbet very nearly steals the show in terms of comedy moments.
Sarah Tipple's direction is beautifully executed, the limited space proving no challenge for the all-singing, all-dancing, occasionally murderous cast.
The unfortunate problem with the show is that its biggest challenge is also its best quality. The four-part harmony is so flawless that after 10 minutes one forgets just how technical the piece is; the result in a slightly deflated feeling upon leaving the theatre. It is only in hindsight that one realises that its very flaw lies within its perfection; an obstacle impossible to overcome.
Barbershopera II is 90 minutes of four-part harmonic perfection; it is an incredibly funny, ridiculously silly piece of theatre. The company has won two Musical Theatre Matters awards with its previous show, and it’s clear to see why. They are currently in the process of writing Barbershopera III for another Edinburgh Fringe opening, and I for one, am looking forward to what they come up with next.