On a winter’s night, the queue stretching along the pavement outside Leicester Square Theatre looked a chilly prospect. I asked if there was a separate line for members of the press, as often there is, but sadly not on this occasion. When I eventually took my seat and found it was towards the back of the stalls, I was feeling a little unappreciated. Little did I know that the puncturing of overinflated egos would be a theme of the production I was about to see.
Even a grumpy C-list critic can be easily won over by a decent show, which this is. With original songs from Pet Shop Boys, a larky script by Jonathan Harvey, and Frances Barber owning the stage as German über-star Billie Trix, it would be odd if Musik had nothing to recommend it. But while it’s by no means a flop, this hour-long show which started life on the Edinburgh Fringe isn’t quite the perfect storm its constituent parts might lead one to hope for.
Billie is fabulous company. She’s absurd and self-satirising from the moment of her entrance. Posing with her back to the audience, her opening song tells of her early woes (“Life was tough – I was tougher”) before she turns to reveal that her stage costume includes an eye patch. She launches into a tirade about Madonna stalking her and stealing her ideas. It’s not the last time Billie takes credit for other icons’ work – guess where Warhol got his soup can idea from?
Billie travels from Berlin to New York (she slept between the toes of the Statue of Liberty) and immerses herself in popular culture, weaving herself into the fabric of modern history, up to and including a what-might-have-been take on the current Harry/Meghan “crisis”.
The music is catchy, the script witty, and Barber is a consummate pro. If it’s neither funny nor emotional enough to be described as a tour de force, it’s nevertheless a very entertaining hour, and I headed out into the winter night feeling warmer than when I had arrived.
Written by: Johnathan Harvey, Pet Shop Boys
Directed by: Josh Seymour
Produced by: Cahoots Theatre Company
Playing until: 1 March 2020
Box Office: 020 7734 2222
Booking link: https://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873609192