Shit-faced Shakespeare – a pared down play in which one of the cast members is three sheets to the wind – has been a staple of the fringe comedy circuit for seven years now, with editions regularly running in London, Boston, Atlanta and Austin.
Shit-faced Showtime works in pretty much exactly the same way. A cast of five, plus one compere, do their best to shepherd the audience through an hour-long family musical – in this case The Wonderful Wizard of Oz during the show’s Leicester Square stint and subsequent Edinburgh Fringe run – with one cast member royally wrecked throughout.
On press night, Alan McHale had polished off two bottles of Pinot Grigio pre-show and proceeded to perform as a peculiarly discordant munchkin and an increasingly sex-obsessed scarecrow, his fellow cast members gamely accommodating his frequent diversions, catty asides, and increasingly amorous designs on Issy Wroe Wright’s innocent Dorothy.
The whole enterprise trades in the same ramshackle ineptitude as Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong. Amateur backdrops, cruddy technical effects, and low-budget scenery provide the setting for a cobbled together mishmash of simple songs, clumsy choreography and pantomime-ish dialogue.
The fun is in the jeopardy, and the show’s success ultimately rides on the cast’s ability to keep things careering off the rails in the right direction. There must be nights that go wrong in the wrong way, but McHale’s turn wasn’t one. A harmless, humorous, high-spirited hour of boozy, bawdy banter.