For Club Mex, a new musical penned by comic Tamar Broadbent, Manchester’s ever-versatile Hope Mill warehouse space is transformed into a Mexican holiday resort.
Surrounded by neon strip lighting, audience members stand on a dance floor in the middle of the action to evoke a convincing nightclub experience. The partygoing atmosphere is driven by John-Victor’s impressive original score, which channels a variety of club classics.
The plot centres on the hen party antics of bride-to-be Mel (Jade Johnson) and her two best friends, with Broadbent’s script finding lots of risqué comic potential in the events that unfold. The casting (initially undertaken via Instagram) is a real strength of this production. Johnson’s vocals shine, especially during power ballad Cry and the anthemic Taking on the World, and Alison Arnopp displays considerable presence as the promiscuous Tiff.
Audience participation is encouraged by the cast, particularly by Alvaro Flores as local lothario Antonio. Sometimes, however, attempts to convey the realism of the clubbing experience result in sight lines being obscured and dialogue getting lost where the action takes place at ground level rather than on the raised stage areas.
Ultimately the show works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Devising some characters as immediately recognisable types allows Broadbent to poke fun at the ridiculousness of contemporary courtship and culture, themes drawn out by Atherton’s direction and John-Victor’s lyrics.
Club Mex provides an amusing and unusual take on the genre that will hopefully bring musicals to the attention of a new audience.