5-30 August (ex. 10, 17, 24), 22.00
Little Johnny’s life is one big failure, and he’s singing his heart out about it in a near-empty theatre. Which is a shame, because there’s a lot to love about this cheery tribute to sequins and show tunes.
Despite the sparse crowd, Johnny McKnight gives it his all, appearing first in a dingy nappy and gradually dressing for the grand finale in top hat and tails. The story is told mainly in flashbacks, a device that can easily become tired but which holds up well here thanks to the charm of McKnight and his ability to draw the audience in, maintaining an intimate atmosphere throughout.
Natalie Toyne sings back up and plays all the other characters, but doesn’t try to grab the spotlight or steal the show. Her voice is wonderfully flexible, allowing her to throw in a touch of Liza Minnelli in Cabaret or Barbara Streisand in Hello Dolly without resorting to outright imitation.
The storyline, although autobiographical, doesn’t seem all that fresh, reaching more for everyman inclusion rather than arresting viewpoints. The songs, although well-written and performed competently enough, don’t linger in the memory, and it’s a struggle to remember a single phrase or lyric the following day.
Ironically, for a show all about failing, Little Johnny’s Big Gay Musical is by no means a failure, and is well worth a look. All it really requires is a little freshening up and a dash of edge to create something really wonderful.
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