Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim (Jermyn Street Theatre)
Adam Long's sixty minute Sondheim skit has the right idea but overstays its welcome
Written by founding member and writer/director of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Adam Long, and with such a title, you expect this show to be a little off-the-wall. It's certainly that and very niche but unfortunately, and more importantly, it feels like a 10 minute skit that's rather run away with itself.
The story goes that Satan has chosen to come to earth - horns, tail and cloven hooves all present - in 1964, "a golden age" in musical theatre. He's born to human parents, has an impressive career in theatre thanks to his manager Robert Schifrin (Mark Caven). Now, approaching 50, he wants to do a Sondheim revue entitled Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim but Sondheim won't give him the rights as he's at an "insufficient standard" to show the emotional complexity of his work. So Satan and Schifrin attempt to convince Sondheim otherwise and in the process we learn more about Satan and his life – he's actually really rather nice, thoughtful and kind-hearted, is Satan.
Dotted through with excerpts from Sondheim favourites re-worked including "Send In The Clowns"; "Franklin Shepherd Inc.", "Tonight" and "Officer Krupke" it's certainly both "a pastiche" and "an homage" to Sondheim. There's no doubt that Long loves Sondheim's work. The problem with this show however is that the magic of Sondheim is very tricky to mess with and to just place quite clever new rhymes into Sondheim tunes isn't quite enough. If anything it highlights the lack in the new work and I, for one, wished I was just listening to a straight Sondheim revue. I didn't laugh enough, or care enough, about this story to make it worth messing with the music at all.
Caven as Satan's manager puts in a good performance and the "public domain medley" - that he takes over - is one of the funniest parts of the show, that and the cat video (and it's not often you get to say that). While Long, a funny and charming stage presence, didn't quite capture me. He was too nice, in the most mediocre sense of the word.
All in all, even though I laughed during the course of the show, more in surprise than actual amusement, I think this show needs lots of reworking before it's actually 60 minutes worth watching.