It is always fun to see a British take on a very American-style musical comedy. The Thing About Men is not perfect in its attempt, but still presents a very entertaining show. It is a fun evening filled with romping music, campy characters and hilarity.
Based on the 1985 West German film Men (or Männer), The Thing About Men is by the creators of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change which has become a staple in regional theatres across America and the longest running Off-Broadway Musical Revue. This show was produced in New York in 2003 and at The King’s Head London in 2007. The Landor Theatre is a strange venue for this type of musical. It would be better suited for a proscenium theatre rather than the intimate pub theatre.
This is a show produced far less than their other more successful revue and there certainly is a reason for that. I cannot help but think this team should stick to revues and leave book musicals to the wayside. Their lyrics were full of predictable rhymes that seemed to come directly out of a rhyming dictionary and needless to say, the book was thin and flat. Unfortunately, it is the actual show that lets this production down.
This musical tells the tale of Tom Ambrose, a very successful corporate suit who’s had many affairs in his 15 year marriage. He finds out that his wife has been having an affair of her own and that spins him into madness. for some unknown reason, he decides to move in with his wife’s younger bohemian lover Sebastian. A young scruffy starving artist who works at Starbucks, he is the exact opposite of Tom. The two magically form a strange “bromance” between one another, though their age difference makes this seem unlikely. Typical musical comedy romps ensue. Tom tries to set Sebastian up with another woman, but has a revelation and decides to spruce Sebastian up and get him a job to make Lucy fall in love with him. In the end, Lucy is scared off by Sebastian’s newfound money and suit, then falls back in love with Tom.
With a small cast of 5, the ensemble is made up of Lucyelle Cliffe and Steven Webb who is a constant source of entertainment shtick. They create all of the other random characters that pop in out and with a moments notice. While Steven Webbs “Way Too Trendy” French restaurant host is an absolutely brilliant display of musical comedy and a highlight of the musical, his other characters are played with less conviction. Lucyelle’s bit characters are wonderfully bubbly and delightful - though both of them needed work on their different types of American accents.
The three main characters have CVs that any actor would be jealous of, but I can’t help thinking their talent was severely let down by the piece. Kate Graham’s portrayal of Lucy was full of complete honesty and sincerity. Her performance of “Because” and the reprise were true highlights of the show because it lacked any over the top staging or predictable rhymes and was played with absolute conviction. Her voice is reminiscent of young Broadway star Marla Mindelle and has such wonderful placement and tone that would suit any modern Broadway musical very well.
Andrew Keates has had many successful turns as director at the Landor, which has garnered him many award nominations. This show seems to be one of his few ventures into American musical comedy. Although I think his strengths lie in the more dramatic side of musical theatre, I do look forward to his next production.