Bel-Ami The Musical (Charing Cross Theatre)
The world premiere of the new musical based on the 1885 novel by Guy de Maupasssant opened at the Charing Cross Theatre last week
Creating a new musical is always an ambitious project and this world premiere, based on the 1885 novel by French author Guy de Maupasssant, is a zeitgeisty take on the media establishment even as today's tabloid journalists are lining up in the dock for their part in the phone hacking scandal.
Set in present-day London, George Dury (Johnny Fitzharris), is a homeless ex-serviceman returned from Afghanistan. Just when you think he's on the verge of a post-traumatic stress comedown he meets his former commanding officer Charles Forester (Andrew Bowerman), now a foreign correspondent for a popular daily tabloid, who gets him onboard as a fellow journo.
From this typical 'jobs for the boys' scenario George works his way up the ladder, manipulating various powerful women with his lothario charms who are able to play the system and aid his success as he eventually finds himself editing the celebrity gossip column Bel-Ami.
Performed by students at London College of Music, University of West London, the production displays a wealth of young talent who sing the house down thanks to superb music and lyrics by Alex Loveless, who seems to use an unusual mishmash of 80s synth and modern pop as his reference points.
At times however the storytelling feels disjointed as the catchy music frequently overwhelms the plot, which is far too fixated on George's Alfie-esque philandering to the point that you lose track of who he's with and why. Just as this over-egged aspect of George's character starts to get tedious, some sound problems with the speakers and mics in the second half only serve to highlight the precariousness of the production.
Nevertheless the show must go on and, unperturbed, the fabulous cast finish in style. The final verdict: those who love their musicals will delight in such an inventive adaptation, but it's a show that could certainly benefit from higher production values.