Music and lyrics by James Burn, book by James Burn and Ian Poitier
Choughed Productions Ltd
New Players Theatre
Legacy Falls is the funniest musical I have seen since Austentatious early last year at the Landor Theatre.
Billed as 'the musical that dishes the dirt on soap', Legacy Falls mocks mercilessly but with affection an entertainment form that is the butt of easy jokes. But here the focus is not just on cheap scenery, bad writing and ludicrous plot lines in the soap, it has its own ration of coercion, drinking, gossip, affairs and skeletons in closets outside of the show too so the storyline is satisfyingly farcical both sides of the camera.
As one of America's favourite soaps, Legacy Falls, is about to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, a new British producer arrives to 'sweep clean' and satisfy the network bosses' need to recover the show's falling market share whilst also having to satisfy the puritanical sponsor. Shaken by the idea of big changes in the show, the cast reveal their true colours.
And the Legacy cast are the standard collection of stereotypes: Jack Monroe (a dead ringer for oil magnate Blake Carrington), his screen wife, ex-wife, wife and ex again super-bitch Veronica Monroe Casey Bennett (much-married and all shoulder pads and back-combed blonde hair), her rival the vampy Madison Bennett, and the next generation Jed Casey, vacuous, baby-oiled and fit, and Brandy Monroe, vacuous, skinny and pretty.
Off screen they are all divas or bimbos. Edward Trafford who plays Jack has been with the show since it started and finds himself frustrated but resolved to a one-character acting career playing "Jack Monroe until one of us dies", whilst Stephanie Stone (Veronica) has no illusions, "call it fate, call it karma, I was made for daytime drama," she belts with the conviction of a television Broadway Baby.
Taylor Taylor resigns herself to Madison being killed off for the sake of the ratings but dim-beyond-blonde child advert star Amber Fox fears for the acting job that she got on the casting couch. "Starving actresses are easily impressed," she explains.
The heart of the show though lies away from the cameras with a warm love story between Edward and Daniel who finds himself on set by an accident of fate; it is a relationship which, thanks to gossip-mongering TV presenter Fleur McCain, gets pushed into the public domain.
You'll have to go and see the show to find out how that particular plot gets played out - actually you could just go and see the show for an evening's fun - but their relationship provides the score with the love songs that every musical needs. The other numbers flourish on witty lyrics and I especially liked a duet between Stephanie and Amber, "Normal People", in which they bemoan the fact that they couldn't cope without stardom because they "lack the necessary skills to stay alive [like] work the microwave". Oh! for such a lifestyle, but of it course it does make the point that there is a price to be paid for fame but without taking anything too seriously.
On the compositional side I admit to humming the show's theme tune under my breath on the way home on the train (but isn't that the point of them?) "Whatever You Do", which Daniel sings to Edward, is simple and powerful and finely delivered by engaging Tim Oxbrow who gives a tender and sincere performance throughout.
Legacy Falls isn't without fault - it isn't strikingly original and it wouldn't hurt to loose some ten minutes for instance, but it is blessed with an all round excellent cast, not just Oxbrow.
Mark Inscoe is impressive as Edward/Jack; he is increasingly appealing, dignified as he witnesses his fame turn to notoriety, and I found myself willing Edward to let himself be loved by Oxbrow's adorable Daniel even though a happy ending always looked to be on the cards.
Tara Hugo is outstanding as viperous actress Stephanie Stone and Veronica Monroe Casey Bennett. She delivers her sharp one liners with the dryness of a shockingly dry martini and appears as though she could spit out "Ladies Who Lunch" at the drop of a hat. Displaying great cool and determination she trooped on through "Without You" in spite of a mic that clearly had ideas of its own about how and when to function.
Joanne Heywood is delightfully funny and sexy as cynical Taylor and Madison and there are also memorable performances from Aimie Atkinson and Pippa Winslow.
With such good performances the comedy is delivered with excellent timing and a good deal of flair. If you are in need of a laugh this is a show for you. Similarly, if you like to hear a well-delivered song you won't be disappointed. Most importantly, if you can still remember who shot JR then you need to get out more and Legacy Falls could be just the therapy you need!
"Legacy Falls" plays until 20th November
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti