If you are a fan of musical theatre, then seeing a show on the West End is your holy grail. Unfortunately, it is not a cheap hobby and with some top ticket prices over one hundred pounds, catching all of the top shows may be more of an aspiration than a possibility for many people.
However, there is an answer. Simply nippity pop along to the Waterloo East Theatre where the talented team from Jest End are back in residence and ready to run you through virtually every show you could really hope to see – including a couple that haven’t made into town yet.
So, how to describe this two-hour romp through the world of the musicals? I could take the easy way out and just say that it’s awesome but that would actually be understating just how good it is. The four-strong cast – Jemma Alexander, Adam Bailey, Bronte Barbe and Daniel Buckley – perform twenty-nine numbers whose tunes are instantly recognisable to anyone that has seen any of these musicals. The words however are completely re-written and each number has its own story to tell. Starting with ‘Circle of Sh*te’ – complete with Mandrill leading a parade of animals – and ending on the amazing ‘Banjo, Twang, Gallop/Superchoredodgytasticextraambidextrous’ which I could easily have listened to again and again.
Did I have any favourite numbers among the twenty-nine? Of course, I did. ‘Motown’ – with the most apt opening line ever, ‘Gotta Get a Ticket’, ‘Still Waiting’, the entire Les Miserables medley and my total No 1 performance ‘I Am Barrowman’ which was a wonderful pastiche not only of my favourite song from a musical but also JB himself, my not so secret man-crush. However, Jest End is not just about the music. Every song is performed by the performer in costume (great work by designer Amy George) and moving in an appropriate manner for the musical it originally came from.
Listening to the words of the songs, there was a definite theme which reflects the reality of theatre these days. Quite a few of them, particularly the very poignant ‘Still Waiting’ reflected on the tendency for producers to ignore trained actors, who have paid their dues, when casting in favour of performers who are well known from their time on a reality show. This is an interesting talking point which, whilst presented in a very humorous way, still raises an important issue and get the audience thinking.
Writer/Director Garry Lake has an amazing talent for putting together wonderful lyrics that tell an individual story in a coherent way. He is also a hard taskmaster on his actors and the four of them really throw themselves into the show running on and off Seb Noel’s lovely stage and totally being involved in the song they are performing. There is a real feeling that these four support each other wholeheartedly.
Summing up then, Jest End is everything a theatre lover could want. Wonderful words, music set all delivered by a fantastic cast – not forgetting James on the piano – It is fun, fun, fun and I would love to get a cast recording to play on those long winter journeys to work. If you want to have a really enjoyable evening at the theatre without having to mortgage the house or flog a sprog on Ebay, then this is the show for you. I went into the theatre cold and miserable and left with a spring in my step and a smile on my face which hasn’t yet left me.
Review by Terry Eastham
The hit comedy musical show exploring and ‘exposing’ the hits, flops and gossip of Theatreland, returns to Waterloo East Theatre after its sell-out season in 2015. Labeled as London’s answer to Forbidden Broadway, Jest End has been going from strength to strength since the birth of the show at Jermyn Street Theatre 2007.
Garry Lake in association with Waterloo East Theatre present Jest End – By Garry Lake.
Created and directed by Garry Lake
Choreographed by Rebecca Howell
Musical Direction by James Doughty
Waterloo East Theatre Brad Street London SE1 8TN
29 Nov – 18 Dec 2016