Miss Atomic Bomb Review

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Miss Atomic Bomb Review

Miss Atomic Bomb Cast

Catherine Tate (Myrna Ranapapadophilou), Dean John-Wilson (Joey Lubowitz), Florence Andrews (Candy Johnson), Simon Lipkin (Lou Lubowitz), Daniel Boys (Mr Potts), Michelle Andres (Rebecca), Stephane Anelli (Professor Alvin Schmul).

Miss Atomic Bomb Synopsis

Miss Atomic bomb centres on a failing Las Vegas hotel in the midst of the 1950’s era of atomic bomb testing and beauty pageant prominence. We follow the destiny of a sheep farmer, Candy, and her fashion designer friend, Myrna, from rural sheep farming to glitzy competition.

This Production of Miss Atomic Bomb

The St James theatre is my favourite fringe venue in London. Having enjoyed its fresh modern vibe when seeing Urinetown back in 2014, I vowed to be a repeat visitor. Thankfully they’ve made that easy by pushing new work to the forefront of their program, indeed, Miss Atomic Bomb is an entirely new British musical written by Adam Long, Gabriel Vick and Alex Jackson-Long. Sadly, this production wasn’t the smash hit musical I’d hoped it would be, but in a way, it had already won by being staged. Translation: go see new theatre.

Miss Atomic Bomb is a truly eclectic mix of nuclear warfare, all American pageant competition, sheep farmers, gangster hotel owners, spies and scientists – it makes for a bizarre, somewhat farcical, few hours of theatre. Although the plot is surprisingly robust, I found the book to be pretty tedious; the comedy was somewhat obvious and riffed off irony relating to the atomic bomb situation again, and again, and again. It was pretty forced and in the wake of the recent terror incidents in Brussels, I found it pretty difficult to laugh at.

The music, which was overwhelmingly upbeat and often similarly complex (think Les Mis-esque overlapping multi part vocals, but louder and less easy to understand) was largely unmemorable but enjoyable at the time. The ensemble numbers were the highlight of the show, coupled with Bill Deamer’s choreography, they lifted the production from the depths of two-handed ballads that seemed to drag on and on. Though perhaps even they could have been saved had they been staged in a more endearing manner.

For such a small space the stage felt vast, empty, at times. Aside from a ladder that formed an arch over the stage and a screen backdrop that changed scene by scene, there wasn’t much to look at. The set felt clinically modern and lacked the atmosphere of the era. Further, all too often (particularly in scenes involving fewer people) the characters lacked direction – it felt like they’d been dumped to stand static in the middle of nowhere.

For a fringe production, Miss Atomic Bomb has a surprisingly ‘star’ filled cast list and in general, they did a great job with what they had to work with. Simon Lipkin delivers the standout performance, he is fully committed to the role of the despairing hotel manager Lou and delivers the only genuine laughs of the production. Of course, I can’t write a review of the piece without commenting on Catherine Tate. She can sing surprisingly well, but all too often relied on similar comedy to her previous work to deliver cheap laughs; I never truly believed she was her character, at times it was similar to seeing a star in a pantomime.

Overall, this is certainly a daring new production. I don’t think it delivers on the fundamental things you expect from a musical (catchy or emotively memorable songs being the key thing it lacks); but it was an interesting watch and credit should be given for an entirely fresh piece that doesn’t derive from, well, anything specific. I give Miss Atomic Bomb a rating of 2.5.

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