Published in the Student Advertiser.
It starts with death.
No – it starts with a lady, Mrs. Fazackalee (played by Liza Goddard nonetheless) singing whilst playing the piano, a piano situated in a pub beneath what looks like Trongate Bridge. (We later learn we are in London.) Her final note ends and the audience applauds generously. Fazackalee’s friends are quick to start begging her to stay as she hurriedly pulls on her coat to depart shyly with her teenage son, Tom (Sam O Rourke). In a final bid to win her over, her 71-year-old lover Simon (Leo Andrew) quickly initiates a pint-downing competition, which concludes only with his untimely and devastating death.
The scene quickly switches to the family home of a young, married couple. Mr Spencer, a screenwriter (played by Haydn Oakley), is hunched over a typewriter atop a wobbly table in the centre of the otherwise empty room when, suddenly, his wife (Laura Pitt-Pulford) enters to question the location of their missing furniture. Failing to produce a smash hit movie has landed the couple in an imaginable pit of debt. Believing it impossible to overcome, Spencer is preparing his latest script for consideration when a phone call changes everything.
Stunned to discover they have inherited Uncle Simon’s Bijoux Theatre, the two newly-weds have their honeymoon hopes dashed when they learn that it is a complete “flea-pit” in contrast to the lavish Cinema across the road. To restore it to its original glory, they need the help of the uncooperative manageress Mrs. Fazacklee (Goddard) and Mr. Quill (Brian Capron), the unreliable projectionist, to help them meet their ambitious targets.
The Smallest Show on Earth is a brand new musical inspired by the hit 1950s film starring Peter Sellers, featuring classic swing music by Irving Berlin. Throughout their UK tour, the production has received star recommendations from the likes of BBC Radio.
The catchy tunes and constant one-liners were highly entertaining, though, notably, some of the jokes were lost among the audience. The stage execution of those swift transitions between locations was impeccable and fundamentally flawless. Without much visual alteration, it was easy to recognise the movement between one location and the next through dialogue and sound effects. Visually, the entire show takes place in the lobby of the Bijoux Theatre in Sloughborough, though, the story unfolds between the Spencer Family home in central London and the train journey from Piccadilly to the Bijoux, as well as the various rooms of the theatre itself. It was fairly easy to acknowledge these different locations.
Although the story is typically British – a classic tale of good triumphing over evil, and good battling against the odds for justice – the show is not boring or too predictable. The excellent ensemble and supporting cast members are as key to the success of this production as the well casted leads – particularly Matthew Crowe whose fantastic portrayal of Robin Carter, a desperate son eager to prove himself worthy in the family solicitors business, had the crowd laughing every time he walked on stage.
I see no reason why this new musical shouldn’t become a classic in no time.
Header image created by Rachael Procter