Barbershopera: Apocalypse No!, Trafalgar Studios, London
Wednesday 19 January 2011
Since their last outing, this harmonious four-piece comedy a capella outfit have gone up a scale and, to a certain extent, eased themselves away from the controlled irreverence I'd previously ascribed to them. This has been achieved by getting silly on a grand scale.
Apocalypse No! has God calling time on Earth, on the advice of his archangels, but the three horsemen of the apocalypse (Death calls in sick) aren't up to the task.
Their consciences are weighing heavily upon them, consciences that are further pricked by Beth, an idealistic head teacher who finds herself mistakenly saddled up as Death's substitute.
Beth (played brassily by Lara Stubbs) convinces the three that there is another way, and thus various pantoesque adventures ensue. As they unravel, so do the real personalities of the horsemen: War (the charismatic Rob Castell) is a pacifist; Famine (warmly portrayed by Tom Sadler) is an aspiring gastronome; and Pestilence (played with comic poise by Pete Sorel-Cameron), despite his ability to "make all the ladies get man flu", as his opening verse goes, is a clean freak.
The numerous twists and turns of the show do start to stretch the goodwill that the show wins in earlier scenes, of which notable examples include Beth rehearsing her school nativity play, an event that is inevitably key to the denouement. In this scene she sings of her trials at the hands of the school governors, and is backed by her pupils (portrayed by puppets) who delight in pointing out her mild profanity: "That's another rude word, Miss!"
The show resolves strongly, bringing back the archangels and God (revealed to be a toy cow) for a final flourish from a choir who hit some heavenly highs during an enjoyably light romp.
To 5 February (0844 871 7632); then touring ( www.barbershopera.com)
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