Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens
Book by Charlotte Mann; Music by Jonathan Croose and Robin Forrest
The Venue, Leicester Square
TWF Theatrical Productions Riverside Studios
If the idea of Star Trek meets Cabaret with a passing homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show appeals, then Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens could be for you.
Saucy Jack's is a seedy bar on the Planet Frottage III where intergalactic low-lives hang out. The singers have names like Vulva Savannah and Magenta Hole amongst others and the clientele includes resident lounge lizard Willy von Whackoff (ably played by Mark Carroll). Instead of a "Zero Tolerance to Drugs" notice above the bar, there's one stating its zero tolerance to plastics. This is a planet that has consigned (not entirely successfully we later learn) the ecologically unsound product to history.
A series of murders has been committed at the club and the only clue is the murder weapon - a slingback sequinned shoe which the villain thoughtfully leaves behind still stuck in the victim's body. But a whodunit it certainly isn't, as the prime, and only, suspect is the club owner, Saucy Jack himself. Scott Baker cuts a slightly disappointing figure as the arch villain, Jack - he was too obviously sinister from the outset and might have achieved more had he gone down the 'charming rogue' route.
But Saucy Jack has murdered his last victim, because three famous law enforcers, the Space Vixens, are on his case. Jubilee Climax (played by Faye Tozer, formerly of the group Steps) has history with Jack and it is not long before their love is rekindled. But this doesn't stop her pursuing justice and blow-drying Jack to death by the power of disco.
The show premiered at the Edinburgh Festival back in 1995 and won a Fringe First. It was directed then (as now) by Michael Fidler who also wrote the song lyrics. It debuted in the West End in 1998 and later ran for three years in a purpose-built venue in East London. As a production, it seems to fare better in smaller, more intimate venues that suggest an actual cabaret bar, where the cast can run freely through the audience. This production is half and half - some of the audience are at tables in the centre while the rest are in seats around the back. And at times the cast looked a little cramped as they struggled to be seen by both sets of people.
The choreography was conceived by Bruno Tonioli (currently finding fame as one of the judges in the TV series Strictly Come Dancing) and it was competently performed by the cast, although the first act felt a little safe. It didn't really take off until the comic "Fetish Number from Nowhere" in the second act where Von Whackoff and bartender Mitch (played by Paul Christopher) whipped off their clothes to reveal underpants made of patchwork pieces of the contraband plastic. The gesture seemed to finally give the cast the licence they needed to let rip!
The Vixens, extravagantly dressed in thigh-high glitterboots, silver tunics and using hair-dryers instead of guns, are the most fun aspect of the piece and give the show a much-needed shot in the arm when they enter. As the only star name, all eyes were on Faye Tozer. She was obviously no stranger to the disco moves and was in fine voice with her solo song managing to deliver, without flinching, the memorable line "this serial killer is cramping my style".
She was strongly supported the other Vixens, played by Gemma Zirfas and Melitsa Nicola, and by Carmen Cusack who played the plastic-bootlegging, lesbian love-interest, Chesty Prospects, and delivered the raunchy number "Park my Bike" with aplomb. She surely deserved bonus points for remaining 'dead' on stage throughout the entire interval.
As always with a musical, its success (or otherwise) tends to rest with how memorable the songs are and unfortunately there weren't any real knock-out tunes that the audience would unwittingly find themselves humming. In addition, the story was entirely predictable and although it is billed as a spoof, that doesn't mean that logic and tension can be thrown out the window.
A nostalgic look back at the glam rock and disco eras.
Reviewer: Bronagh Taggart