Part homage, part parody, All Star Productions’ low budget revival of Cole Porter’s little-known Out of this World is more fun than most West End shows with an extra zero on the ticket price.
Porter’s late-career comedy ran for a few months in 1950 to tepid reviews, popped up briefly in mid-90s New York, then disappeared into history’s colossal box of musical theatre flops.
Revived above a Walthamstow pub, the action unfolds on a gloriously kitsch cardboard Mount Olympus.
Despite being married to ballsy, flame-haired, Juno (Rhiannon Moushall) King of the Gods Jupiter (Cameron Bernard-Jones) takes a fancy to married human Helen (Ruth Betteridge) who’s on her honeymoon with dull work-obsessed speccy journo Art (Adam Hepworth).
Jupiter sends bastard son Mercury (Hugo Joss Catton, a man whose hair and chin are close to Disney-character perfection before you even add the fine voice and deft comic-timing) to get Helen to Athens, then uses his sneaky god-tricks to fool her into thinking he’s actually Art. And so to bed, with hilarity ensuing as the real Art returns the next morning and wonders why Helen’s suddenly in such a good mood.
A rebellious Spirit of the Night (Katie Deacon) produces gorgeous interludes dancing en pointe, and there’s a whole side-plot involving Juno, a gangster from Chicaaaago (Danny Becker), and Mercury getting the hots for a sparkly eyed shepherd girl who’s got the hots for somebody else.
While the whole cast do a decent job with the essential bits of the dialogue required to move the plot along, the real fun comes from both the chorus’s clowning around – there’s a guy who spends the whole show with a bunch of grapes on his head – and from Porter’s killer lyrics. Why on earth didn’t more of these hit the big time way back when?
Moushall had me in hysterics (and nodding in solidarity) with “Nobody’s Chasing Me” and “I Sleep Easier Now” – the latter a wistful look back at the naughty things she got up to in her youth, and Mercury’s totally un-PC and utterly brilliant dash through his high-profile former lovers in “They Couldn’t Compare” was an imaginative, intelligent, riot.
With lyrics like “After that I staged an orgy / For some friends o’ Lucretia Borgie” I’m not quite sure why Out of This World didn’t hit the big time. Too raunchy for 1950, perhaps, but it’s perfect for Friday night in an E17 boozer.
Out of this World is a daft, campy, utterly bizarre production bumped well above the level of forgettable fringe musicals by performers with a range of quite astonishing voices and a pitch-perfect, tongue-in-cheek sense of the ridiculous.
Out of this World, directed by Randy Smartnick, runs at Ye Olde Rose and Crown until 30 April.
Tickets: £18/£16 concessions