Some musicals are so bad, they ought to have an Asbo slapped on them, with a condition they aren’t allowed anywhere near a West End theatre until the author has done six months hard labour at a writer’s boot camp. Behind the Iron Mask was one such hilarious catastrophe at the Duchess Theatre three years ago, in which the leading man spent the entire evening with his head stuck in what looked like a galvanised bucket bought from Poundstretcher.
And now along comes Italian writer and composer Romy Padovano to stretch all credibility with a “sexy new musical comedy” at the Arts Theatre, in which a randy cockney Casanova, who calls himself either Bob, Robin, Rob or Roger depending on his latest urge, gets stuck in to as many women as possible while keeping each one’s existence a secret from the others.
If Bob the bounder’s not seducing them, he’s deceiving them, and when he’s not bonking he’s bumping into yet another emotionally vulnerable girl and pretending to be someone he’s not, even going so far as dressing up in a flouncy frock, high heels and a dreadful wig to pass himself off as ‘Sue’, their friend and confidante, before whisking the latest conquest back to his love shack and whipping off the drag for a swift seduction scene on a semi-circular bed with purple sheets. Now if that’s not a Behind the Iron Mask moment, I don’t know what is.
When Bob’s rampant libido first popped out and then ‘Sue’ tottered on like a Little Britain reject, I thought we were in for Confessions of a Window Cleaner meets Psycho in a pervy plot slightly ripped off from Boeing Boeing. But soon I gave up thinking, because the script makes no sense.
Strangely, Russell Labey’s production stumbles along without an interval on a peculiar set that looks like a left-over from the previous production at the Arts, the equally absurd Haunted, eventually reaching some weird but obvious conclusion about madness being love’s flipside. Musically, All Bob's Women is middle-of-the-bed Europop. Comedically, it’s witless. Sexually, it’s pure theatrical vanilla.
Fortunately for Padovano (the only person ever to have written a musical about Eva Braun), the women in the cast – Lucy Thatcher, Sharon Cherry Ballard, Tanya Robb, Nicole Faraday and Amy Booth-Steel, who apparently wear undies designed by Caprice – do everything in their power to find some real musical G-spots in his material, even if you suspect they are faking it beneath those naff purple sheets. Indeed, Booth-Steel steals the show as the lesbian-inclined Gem with a mad Brummie accent. One of the finalists from the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, she may not be Nancy but she’s definitely a comedy star in the making.
As his women are all so amazing, all Samuel Oatley’s Bob can do is to look pretty vacant in his underwear and pretty awful in a dress. Bring on the Asbo.