nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
July 24, 2009
There are as many pluses as there are minuses in the production of Colin Chaston and Tony Clout's That's Showbiz!, a charming, mostly well thought out musical play from London.
The conceit of That's Showbiz! is that we, the audience, are the audience members of a live television celebrity chat show hosted by Preston Quick, the "King of Chat." Quick is more of a Maury Povich-type than he is a Regis Philbin; his show is molded more around ambushing celebrities than it is promoting them. On today's episode, there's a battle between the divas. In one corner is the aging diva of stage and screen Kira Czar. In the other is Sophie Lee, a young starlet thrust into fame after winning a TV talent show where she impersonated Kira Czar.
A full scale production, according to press notes, would feature corporate sponsorship by way of commercials throughout the show that would help cover running costs. I imagine it would be very lavish, with a huge television studio and multimedia, etc. What we have now, directed by Marc Eardley, is much smaller, obviously, and somewhat effective, though messy.
Chaston, it seems, is responsible for the book, music and lyrics, with Clout on arrangements and additional music. The simple, hummable score is stronger than the scattered book, which, for an English musical, is bogged down by a confusing ending, and a few too many Americanisms, sex jokes, and Sarah Palin analogies.
Patrick Ryan Sullivan is commanding as our host and Jeremy Zoma is very sweet and unassuming as Wayne, the perhaps gay stage manager. Karen Culp, as Kira, doesn't have the commanding presence of a diva and Abigail Hardin's Sophie is distinctly unsure of herself, visibly staring at her feet at points while doing Natalie Loftin Bell and Andy J. Frye's choreography.
That's Showbiz! has a lot of potential. This, the North American premiere, is a good first start. Let's hope it gets future revisions that it deserves.