choice : Freak power

threee to see in seven days
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The Independent Culture
Admittedly, the prison musical is a rather small genre, but it's quality stuff. Jailhouse Rock had Elvis Presley, Chicago is about a bunch of murderesses holed up on Death Row, Kiss of the Spiderwoman redefined jailbait, and now it's time for Prisoner Cell Block H, the musical.

That anyone should dream of turning everyone's favourite TV night in into an all-singing, all-dancing night out is currently boggling many a mind, but non-believers should consider the unlikely beginnings of other hit shows. Consider the case of Dan Goggin, who based Nunsense on a series of greetings cards. Indeed, religion is the excuse - sorry, inspiration - for several song-filled spectacles, from The Sound of Music (more nuns plus a sprinkling of Nazis) to Fiddler on the Roof (no nuns but big on yiddish shtick), to the ill-fated Bernadette; but the form reached its zenith with Into the Light, the pounds 3m Turin Shroud musical of 1986 which closed after just six performances.

Ideas like that make Prisoner look positively humdrum. No chance of that when the cast features Maggie Kirkpatrick reprising her role of the Freak, the storm-raising singing of Hot Mikado sensation Alison Jiear, the glorious Liz Smith and Lily Savage (left). With Lily banged up in Wentworth ("innocent", she says) nobody, least of all the audience, is safe.

DAVID BENEDICT

'Prisoner Cell Block H' previews at the Queen's Theatre, London (0171- 494 5040) from 25 Oct

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