As fringe musicals go, this is proper. It has a complete plot, strong characters, fully orchestrated songs, a nice bit of choreography. But it would have been so much better if they’d put all that talent towards a better theme than supermarkets.
This isn’t a Ken Loach film. The musical, composed by Laurence T Stannard and written by Jamie Bisping and Amaya Holman, has about as much to do with actually working in a supermarket as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has to do with birdwatching.
Instead, it’s a cartoonish caper about the strange employees in a supermarket – the fish counter girl, cashiers Nicki and Vicki, a strange woman who eats cat food – and a man who hatches various absurd plots to shut the place down.
The attempt to be comic, however, falls a bit flat. That’s partly to do with the performances: although all very decent singers, they overdo the comedy acting, which drowns out the jokes.
Musically, there are quotes from Stephen Schwartz, Les Mis, a few other parodied bits, but there’s Stannard’s own idiom attempting to poke through, too.
The team is definitely worth keeping an eye on. With better material they could create something brilliant. Still, Unexpected Item is a pleasant way to pass an hour – definitely one to checkout.