Pros: A charismatic cast and lots and lots of laughter.
Cons: The story is as thin as can be.
Bathhouse: The Musical is essentially a fish-out-of-water story about a young gay man’s introduction to the Bathhouse. He is looking for love but shocked to learn that the other men have much more immediate concerns! Created by Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack, the show was first performed in Florida in 2006. A lot has changed since then in the world of online hook-ups and director Tim McArthur has suitably updated the show to include some contemporary references and subtleties that play to a British audience. The result is a fun-filled musical and great night out in a very sociable and welcoming venue.
Above The Stag Theatre used to be above a pub in Victoria but has since moved to its current location in a renovated railway arch in Vauxhall. But they do have their own licensed bar and everyone there seemed to make very good use of it! The staff also dished out cups of free sangria as we entered into the theatre space. It was very amusing to notice most people sitting and holding two drinks as the musical was starting!
The show kicks off with Billy’s wide-eyed arrival to his ‘friendly neighbourhood bathhouse’. And straight away all six performers make an impact that is far beyond what you’d expect six men in towels to be able the muster. Smoke, benches, lockers, a shower stall and some clever lighting works to create a convincing gay sauna. Between songs an anonymous voice-over guides Billy on his pulling strategies and matters of the heart. It took me a while to identify the alluring and suggestive voice belongs to former MP Gyles Brandreth. I worked my way through a trial of associations including the Countdown quiz show and funny jumpers on daytime television to get there.
Most of the numbers are solid tunes backed up with piano and a synthesiser put to good comic effect during the choreographed routines. It can hardly be surprising that the songs you’re most likely to remember are the ones with the rudest titles. ‘Clickin’ for Dick’ is country-style parody on the habits of online porn, and ‘Penises Are Like Snowflakes’ allows the other men to share – through the power of simile – their experiences with Billy. Titles aside, they are very catchy numbers. My favourite song was the uplifting gospel number ‘Hottie Revival’ that refers to the beautiful men who are meant to be seen but not touched. Ailistair Frederick does well to hold and sustain an ever-rising falsetto. All the cast have strong voices and they perform the flamboyant comedy with gusto.
There isn’t much of a story to Bathhouse: The Musical, but then there isn’t meant to be. The show is structured like a revue – light theatrical entertainment where the songs and frolics are the focus. If I were going to pick holes, it would be that most of what story there is weighs heavily towards the first act so the expectation of more in the second half goes unmet. The synergy between a charismatic cast and the audience up for a laugh is what makes this night special. Anyone open to an evening of letting loose should definitely give this show a go.
Authors/Composers: Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack
Director: Tim McArthur
Booking Until: 20 July 2014
Booking Link: http://www.abovethestag.com/whatson/