WAG! The Musical
New show WAG! The Musical at the Charing Cross Theatre features a strong ensemble but ultimately is "a triumph of style over substance", says Mel West
There's something about us Brits that keeps us watching when we shouldn't: hence Embarrassing Bodies, Ten Stone Testicles and Help! My Gonads Got Better GCSEs Than I Did (still in post-production). It's little surprise, then, that when a show has a title like WAG! The Musical and Lizzie Cundy at the top of the bill, people turn out in droves just to see how gruesome it's going to be.
In fact, it's not. Admittedly there are many sharp-intake-of-breath, cover-your-eyes, is-this-really-happening moments, most notably every time Cundy has to hit a high note, but this is good fun and a fair percentage of the laughs and one-liners find their mark. There's a pleasing self-consciousness which makes the relentless clichés slightly more forgivable, and the strong ensemble cast help to keep the pace and energy up through the rather samey musical numbers.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around two young shop girls (played by Daisy Wood-Davis and Amy Scott) trapped in meaningless lives. Whilst solving their own problems they are also helping to host a celebrity-ridden launch party for a new brand and dealing with the glitz, glamour and narcissism of the WAG culture. It's not long before their stories become swamped by big song-and-dance numbers about plastic surgery, the importance of money, and how little it matters if your husband cheats on you as long as he buys you things. You get the idea.
Amidst the tumult, a couple of stand-out performances lift the show. Katie Kerr ignites the first half as Blow-Jo and gets some of the greatest laughs of the night with her impeccable timing. Ariadne the Greek Wag, comic creation of Alyssa Kyria, kept Act 2 bowling along nicely, although it often felt more like an independent stand-up routine than part of the play itself.
Despite the comedy and the pizzazz, this is a triumph of style over substance. There is potential here to offer a witty and incisive commentary on WAG culture, but it remains sadly unfulfilled. The characters are vacuous and self-absorbed and yet content to be so, going largely unchecked by those who should have their feet on the ground. Off-stage the theme continues. The two young leads fail to make it anywhere near top billing despite carrying the entire show, instead eclipsed by the cameos from the big names.
One can't help wishing that writer Belvedere Pashun had done something to confront the clichés rather than just presenting them before his audience for ridicule. It's fun, frivolous and entertaining, and many will find it a cracking night out, but it leaves the impression that it could have been an awful lot more.
- Mel West