dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Can-Can! review at Union Theatre, London – ‘cliché-ridden and heinously cheesy’

Damjan Mrackovich and Kathy Peacock in Can-Can! Photo: Scott Rylander
by -

Director and producer Phil Willmott has proved himself a past master of the musical reinvention. But though his Essential Classics season at the Union Theatre has staged some intriguing and inventive older plays, musicals prove more of a challenge. None more so than this latest fusion of Offenbach and Pinero with the catchy title Can-Can! It’s a patchwork of a piece, freely adapted from Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ and featuring familiar characters from La Belle Epoch.

No matter how familiar the tunes, from Offenbach and his contemporaries, are, Willmott’s book remains a heinously cheesy affair, thin on character development and groaning with clichés. If the aim is to mimic the tropes of operetta, then it overshoots by a mile.

Phil Setren’s unsophisticated direction fails to find the right tone to match this style and despite the enthusiasm of the cast, this musical melodrama fails to take flight.

Penn O’Gara’s costume design is a tragedy of budgetary compromise and even Justin Williams and Jonny Rust’s set design lacks its usual flair. Adam Haigh’s choreography attempts to embed itself in the narrative but only the high-kicking can-can finale stands out.

There is an interesting moment where Kathy Peacock and Damjan Mrackovich as lovers Jane and Christian burst into a ballet to the tune of Offenbach’s Barcarolle but its earnestness seems out of step with the leaden dialogue. The intentional laughs along the way are provided by Mark Garfield as Pujol, the celebrated flatulist but it will take more than a fart joke to save this piece.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Cheesy and cliché-ridden misadventure in re-imagining the operetta, fusing Offenbach and Pinero
^