In late 19th century Paris, a bawdy new dance was born. The can-can grew from the seductive dances of Moulin Rouge courtesans into a high-energy show involving high kicks, splits, and exposed undergarments. Back then, you would have to go to French cabaret for the can-can. Now you can see it in railway arch in South London.
Can-Can! promises fun and frivolity, and boy does it deliver. The show is a stunning, sugary confection of acrobatic feats and lavish design. From jaunty musical numbers to Adam Haigh’s breath-taking choreography, there is plenty to enjoy – even if you get the feeling you’ve heard this one before.
The performances are strong if varied. The show requires a great deal of athleticism and singing chops, and while everyone delivers on the former, there are those who fall a little flat on the latter. Regardless, I could not fault the sheer energy and enthusiasm that has gone into Can-Can!, a show which had me beaming from its opening moments.
Kathy Peacock is outstanding as Jane Avril. A dynamo singer and powerhouse performer, I was shocked to learn that this is her first professional show – although I am sure that the world of musical theatre will be seeing a lot more of her soon.
Kathy is certainly in good company. Standout performances come from supporting singers and dancers Kasey Claybourn, Sarah Kacey, leading man Damjan Mrackovich, as well as James Alexander-Chew and Grace Manley, whose duet performance towards the end is utterly spell-binding.
The show is not without its flaws. The story, while admittedly historical, could use a bit more invention in its telling. Can-Can! also suffers from some rather clumsy exposition and odd pacing, and I found the first half to drag a little compared to the second.
The jokes often fall flat too, the most torturous of which being a fart gag that goes on for far too long. Perhaps this was the point, but it felt like a missed opportunity for some fourth-wall busting humour of its obvious ridiculousness.
Can-Can! is nevertheless a marvelous production, and a definite one to watch for any lovers of musical theatre, dance, and thrilling spectacle. This dance was both a scandal and a big popular hit, and would go on to influence music hall culture across the world. A century later, Can-Can! is every bit as joyous.
Author: Phill Willmott
Director: Phil Setren
Producer: Sasha Regan
Box Office: 020 7261 9876
Booking link: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/can-can.html
Booking Until: 9th Marcch 2019