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MOLLY WOBBLY – The Lounge, Leicester Square Theatre, London.

MWTF-324Molly Wobbly (or Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory as it was previously known) is a rare creature: a new musical with genuine heart, an original story and an individual voice.  Paul Boyd, who is responsible for the book, music, lyrics and even direction has broken free of fashion and produced a show that isn’t based on anything and isn’t stuffed with already popular songs.  It demonstrates that the seemingly impossible really is possible (even if, for now, it’s possible in what must be one of London’s most uncomfortable Theatre spaces).

The story tells of the inhabitants of a town called Little Happening, sat waiting for something to happen.  Their world is transformed with the arrival of Ithanku and his magic potion that allows the drinker to be as pretty as they can be; he soon goes to work on the three leading ladies.  Predictably, their three husbands meet this with dismay and a wild goose chase ensues, leading everyone to the inevitable happy ending.

The show has echoes of The Rocky Horror Show, not least because of Christopher Malcolm’s creative input; and the cast attack it with the required dynamism.  The stand out performance of the evening comes from Alan Richardson as Kitten, largely because he also sings the show’s stand out song: ‘One Night Stand’, a witty and intelligent exploration of that kind of evening.  Richardson has a quiet presence compared to the rest of the cast, but has an effortless comic ability that roots him at the centre of the show.

The three central women Jemma (Cassie Compton), Ruth (Stephanie Fearon) and Margaret (Jane Milligan) are all warm creations, brought to life with sensitivity and gusto.  They are all equally endearing, but Milligan receives the most opportunities to explore the full range of her character.  Compton and Fearon feel on the brink of something special, but there is a sense of them still being tied down to their natural leading lady inclinations.

Their husbands: Jake (Conleth Kane), Robbie (Christopher Finn) and Malcolm (Ashley Knight) are more caricature than their counterparts and consequently their comedy can seem a little hackneyed. Kane especially, as a camp hairdresser, raises a lot of laughs, but from age old material that suggests a lack of trust in the audience’s intelligence.

Tying them all together is Russell Morton as Ithanku; a sinewy, snivelling performance that is perfectly judged, with a voice that fills the small room, but doesn’t overpower it.  Morton delivers Boyd’s music as if it were Les Mis and the show reaps the benefits: the rest of the cast joining and matching him.  Boyd’s music deserves to be taken seriously: it’s tuneful and energetic and has some real moments of brilliance.  There are times when it can be repetitive and formulaic, but with beautiful songs like ‘Designed by Margaret Brown’ and truly funny numbers such as ‘The Presbyterian Minister’s Wife’, the little dross there is quickly forgotten.

Molly Wobbly deserves to be seen on a bigger stage.  It has already been taken to the hearts of audiences around the country, but this production and cast should provide the stepping stone to recognition it requires.  Paul Boyd’s work is the perfect antidote to the unimaginative and tepid big budget musicals that are trying to draw in the crowd that Molly Wobbly deserves.

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Reviewed 30/01/2015

By Robert Pearce

27th January – 14th March 2015
Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2.

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