by Charles Busch.

Union Theatre 204 Union Street Southwark SE1 6LX To 21 December 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.

TICKETS 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 3 December.

It’s a wonderful life – kinda.
American writers dealing with Christmas do like stories involving angels redeeming people in trouble. Charles Busch’s play is an odd affair about how Albert, a bit of a wiseguy, goes to Heaven where God gives him the chance of redeeming himself if he goes back to earth to help someone in trouble.

The someone is Irish O’Flanagan, a self-centred, and red-haired cabaret star and bully who gets involved with a gangster, a plot to kidnap the daughter of a rich senator and murder. Can Albert save her and himself at the same time? No prizes for guessing the answer.

It is pleasant enough but what makes it a little peculiar is that Irish is played by Ian Stroughair in his alter-ego role as drag-artiste Velma Celli. Whether this is how Mr Busch meant it to be done I do not know, but given that his other plays include Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, one of Off-Broadway’s longest-running works, is a female impersonator and the subject of a documentary called The Lady in Question it is more than likely.

Stroughair is impressive as Irish, and Michael Adams makes much of the role of Albert who has to show her the error of the ways by showing her what her decision to go out with the bauble-bestowing gangster leads to.

The cast perform the thing with straight faces, which is just as well, and director Bronagh Lagan keeps the action moving along. Since I had thought, the Union being the home to the best musicals on the London fringe, that I was going to see one it took me a little while to realise I was to be disappointed, especially as Mr Stroughair opens the show with a song.

A pity there were not more songs; it would work far better as a camp seasonal musical than it does as a play. But, this being the season of goodwill, one could do worse.

Ellen Verenieks does a nice turn as a failed cabaret star turned drunk, Eduardo Enrikez makes the hoodlum suitably dangerous and Tom Whitelock is a voice of sanity.

Irish O’Flanagan: Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli.
Helen/Narrator/Voice of God: Ellen Verenieks.
Albert: Michael Adams.
Chick/Georgie: Eduardo Enrikez.
Eddie: Tom Whitelock.
Peona: Kany Rothmann.
Valerie: Jourdan Amelia Storey.
Jimmy/Angel: Rhiannon Doyle.
Kilton/Mags: John Hicks.
Cookie/Agnes: Jacqui-Lee Pryce.
Miss Ellerbee/Angel: Alexandra Da Silva.

Director: Bronagh Langan.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Costume: Nik Corrall.
Technical director: Iain Dennis.

2014-12-07 09:39:28

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