Wednesday, 5 February, 2003
Review by: 
Alan Bird

Zipp! is a fascinating, light hearted and irreverent take on musicals. It is not for people who take their musicals too seriously and if you are in London wanting to visit a musical show, then Zipp! is definitely not for you. This is not a musical, nor is it a serious or particularly talented dip into great show tunes. It is a light hearted, totally frivolous and heartily amusing parody of all that is whimsical in the musical hall of fame.

Gyles Brandreth, long remembered to the British public for his outrageous woolly jumpers that could dazzle anyone with their glaring clash of colours and bewildering patterns, adequate proof that he is a man obviously devoid of taste, as this musical pleasantly re-confirms. The self-effacing unassuming manner with which he unmercifully lampoons himself makes his genteel humour all the more amusing. He quips that the latest craze is ex-Tory MP’s becoming involved in the entertainment industry, and the reason he is hosting the show is because he is one of the few ex-Tory MP’s not in prison!

The cast of five -Gyles Brandreth, Andrew C. Wadsworth, Stuart Barr, Amanda Symonds and C J Johnson- promise to deliver 100 songs from 100 different musicals in the course of ninety minutes. Gyles introduces the show as “… the Ryanair of musicals. No frills, but incredible value for money. We give you the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber in sixty seconds. We give you the show-stoppers without the tedium of the intervening show. And if you don’t like one musical don’t worry because another one will be along in a minute!”

Of course being a typical British spoof, we have some amount of cross-dressing, in which Giles appears in red suspenders and black stockings with an audacious codpiece, as he reminds us “He was not called the honourable member, for nothing” whilst he mimics the narrator from the “Rocky Horror Show”. When he dresses in an outrageous pantomime dress with a ghastly wig to match, he scoffs “I always knew it would come in handy to be a friend of Michael Portillo”. Then he appears as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a character his heart has always longed to be.

There is an electronic scoreboard that keeps a count of how many songs the cast have sung from the musicals, and not only does it keep count but it informs you of the name of the musical the song is taken from and the year the musical first opened. If you are a fan of musical theatre then you realise just how much work has gone into this apparently ragtag collection of musical hits. The shows go from “Floradora” in 1899 up to “Bombay Dreams” in 2002.

It is not necessary to have seen any musicals to enjoy this show, but if you do happen to be a musical buff then you will appreciate this (at times bazaar) collection of musical hits. Does one remember ‘Side Show’, a musical about siamese twins that contained the song “I Will Never Leave You”, not surprisingly it flopped!

Whilst Gyles certainly cannot sing, his charming personality and engaging wit makes him the perfect host of this musical brunch, and he has gathered around him a talented cast of singers. Amanda Seymond, Andrew C. Wadsworth, Stuart Barr and CJ Johnson have beautiful voices, which means that all though the musicals are often ridiculed and the lyrics tampered with, there are all sung exceptionally well. I particularly enjoyed Amanda Seymond’s moving rendition of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”.

This show is a very British affair, and whilst it’s congeniality may lead you to believe this is more suited as entertainment in an Old Age Pensioners home, you would be badly mistaken. It is clean, simple, English eccentricity at it’s appallingly best. The cast have decided not to have an interval, because as Gyles gleefully says, “Do you think we would dare take the risk?”

If you have a cheeky sense of congenial humour and have been a fan of musical theatre over the last decade or more then dare you risk missing such amiable nonsense as Zipp!?


Notices from the popular press....

RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "A witty take on the classics and clangers... " IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "Jolly is probably the word for it but it smacks too much of student revue." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, " Embarrassingly low in ingenuity and ambition." CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "A dotty pleasure that is all its own, recapturing the long lost art of musical revue with a sharp satiric twist." SHERIDAN MORLEY for TELETEXT says, "So endearing"

External links to full reviews from newspapers

The Times
The Independent
Daily Telegraph

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