Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim

Adam Long
SJC Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre
Jermyn Street Theatre

Adam Long as Satan and Mark Caven as Satan's Manager Credit: Hydar Dewachi

Satan—yes that one, with the horns and hooves and tail, waving a red toasting fork—loves Sondheim. He’s planned a Sondheim show and his agent Robert Schifrin has got a one-night booking at the London Palladium to launch it.

Maybe you didn’t know that back in 1964 Satan got bored with Hell and decided to take human form. It wasn’t an easy childhood being bullied at school for his Satanic appendages but mother loved him Though dad packed his bags and left, he did see his sixteen-year-old son make his Broadway debut playing Paul in A Chorus Line.

Satan’s career flourished for a time, though Zero Mostel got him sacked from Fiddler (he was too much competition), but things are tougher now. Shelf-stocking in Asda is an odd branch of show-business, even if Satan gets to choreograph the other guys in a routine for doing it.

The trouble is Mr Sondheim resolutely refuses to allow Satan to sing anything from the Sondheim Songbook. Can Satan and Schifrin change his mind? I mean, says Schifrin, “Andrew Lloyd Webber will let anyone sing his crap”.

The show’s publicity is clear. It tells us “Note: This show contains absolutely no music by Stephen Sondheim, and is not endorsed in any way by Stephen Sondheim or anyone who knows him.” That doesn’t prevent it being packed with pastiche Sondheim or, as Schifrin more tactfully would put it, it’s heavy with homage.

Composer and musical director Joanna Cichonska is in charge at the piano and she and Long ensure that there is something delightfully familiar about some of Satan’s songs and the pair’s rhyming patter. More importantly they are fun and funny. “Something entertaining, nothing nauseating” leads the list of things they promise in their opening number and they deliver.

Though Satan has to admit his demonic powers are no match for Sondheim’s artistic integrity, writer and director Adam Long plays Satan with panache and appropriately explosive temper and Mark Caven makes his button-lipped agent a perfect foil when he’s not grabbing the limelight for himself.

This is an hour of lovely lively relaxation, without pretension, in which the audience enjoys the show as much as the high-spirited performers. You can’t help wondering whether the model for the manager might be. Is it X or Y? and agents will probably have a list of clients as difficult as Satan, but you don’t have to be in the business to find this fun.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton