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The Guardian

Posted 14th January 2006
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The Times Online

Posted 2nd January 2006
Written by Sam Marlowe

Times are tough on Frottage 3, one of the Universe’s least fashionable planets, and tougher still at Saucy Jack’s sleazy cabaret bar. How sweet young chanteuse Booby Shevalle longs to escape the clutches of the club’s pervy and possessive owner, and join the Space Vixens; a kind of intergalactic Charlie’s Angels who fight crime with the power of disco!

But any artiste who leaves Saucy Jack’s is found murdered, with the heel of a sequinned red slingback through the heart. Can the Vixens, led by the luscious Jubilee Climax, solve the mystery and catch the killer?

It hardly matters. This cult musical, with book and lyrics by Charlotte Mann and Michael Fidler, and music — a vestige of Weimar, a trickle of tango and dollops of disco — by Jonathan Croose and Robin Forrest, is unashamedly silly. It lacks the emotional excess that would elevate its trash aesthetic to true high camp. We may enjoy the Vixens belting out such songs as Glitter Boots Saved My Life, or a lithe young barman pole-dancing in a pair of bubble-wrap pants. But the pseudo-tragic plot needs more schmaltzy intensity.

Nor is there ever a hint of the edginess or transgressive danger of really effective cabaret. Equally, the cast needs to perform as if their lives depended on it, even while they have their tongues in their own, or someone else’s, cheek.

It’s a double-edged trick, not easy to pull off, and it’s best executed in Fidler’s slick, if slightly soulless, production by Carl Mullaney’s divine drag queen Booby. Recalling her troubled childhood, she reflects, “I always knew I wasn’t like all the other little girls.” Elsewhere, there’s an intermittent sense that the performers, fabulous though they look in Liz Cooke’s dazzling costumes, are going through the motions.

Still, the choreography, by Bruno Tonioli, the Strictly Come Dancing panellist, is functional yet funky, and the singing is impressively powerful. Faye Tozer, formerly a member of the pop group Steps, makes a marvellously leggy Jubilee, strutting her stuff through stompers and ballads with aplomb.

Come to Saucy Jack’s for uncomplicated, mildly naughty entertainment, and you won’t be disappointed. But don’t expect it to send you into orbit.

 

The Financial Times

Posted 15th December 2005
Written by Ian Shuttleworth

This musical blend of the polymorphous perversity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the rock'n'roll sci-fi of Return to the Forbidden Planet and the disco of, er, disco has always worked best in the clubbier venues; the last time it played the West End, at the Queen's Theatre in 1998, you could feel the industrious effort pour off the stage in waves, like the dry ice it periodically deployed.

In contrast, the converted church crypt off Leicester Square that is The Venue has a zone of table seating round which the performers can prowl while we cowards skulk in the ranks of folding-plastic-bucket seats further back. The director Michael Fidler uses the whole space well, even daring to leave the corpse of Chesty Prospects, stabbed through the heart with a sequined slingback, in the middle of the auditorium at the interval before bringing her off in the second act.

That gives a fair idea of the plot: camp serial killer in intergalactic clip-joint, patrolled by lamé-wearing amazons; love, death, showbiz and bubble-wrap fetish. It is obviously an attempt to write a successor to Richard O'Brien's "don't dream it, be it" sensation, and thus sets itself high standards. This time out, it damned near meets them.

Scott Baker is a pudgy, arch Saucy Jack whose image and manner form an agreeable contrast with his later villainy. As head Vixen Jubilee Climax, Faye Tozer knows exactly the kind of campery to provide while ably belting out her numbers: her stint in the manufactured pop group Steps trained her in showmanship rather than dramatic subtlety, just as the show requires.

The decision to use a pre- recorded score has its benefits in big-blast numbers such as "Glitter Boots Saved My Life" and Jubilee's big power ballad "Living In Hell" but the show would gain from having at least a core band playing live.

Despite this and its derivativeness, I found myself surprisingly seduced. As long as the Prince Charles cinema next door does not hold a campalong screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show during the run.

 

The Working Informer

Posted 30th December 2005
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This Is London

Posted 13th December 2005
Written by Fiona Mountford

At a certain point you just have to give in gracefully to the onslaught of glitz, camp and sheer kitsch spectacular that is this cult musical and start clapping along.

For me, surrender time was when the trio of eponymous foxy ladies, a sort of intergalactic Charlie's Angels, informed us in song of how "Glitter boots saved my life" and started brandishing their preferred weapons, jewel-encrusted hairdryers.

The plot, and I use this word advisedly, centres on the mysterious "slingback killer" - named after the murder weapon of choice - who is cutting a swathe through the artistes of Saucy Jack's Cabaret Bar.

The stiletto of suspicion points firmly at the jealous Jack himself, but getting bogged down in administrative details is decidedly not the point of this evening. Not when there are silver thigh-length boots to wear, outrageous hair extensions to twirl and more glitter than a Christmas-card convention.

For the whole thing is nothing more or less than a celebration of the delightful tackiness of disco music: even the vixens themselves have sworn a solemn oath to live or die by its power.

Director Michael Fidler and choreographer Bruno Tonioli, the Strictly Come Dancing judge, take the soundtrack no less seriously than their leading ladies, which resulsts in some wonderfully natty routines around the auditorium's cabaret-style tables. I defy anyone not to come away singing the Space Vixen anthem while windmilling their arms in the appropriate girl-power gestures.

Faye Tozer, late of Steps, impresses as the feisty Jubilee Climax - on the planet Frottage 3 everyone is blessed with names of this ilk - as she gives Scott Baker's Ziggy Stardust look-alike, Jack, the runaround and writhes enticingly up and down a pole that is just made for dancing.

Carmen Cusack has great fun as fearsome lesbian biker chick Chesty Prospects and Melitsa Nicola and Gemma Zirfas provide fine support for Tozer as her fellow lovestruck vixens. Perfect for the party silly season.

 

The Daily Mail

Posted 9th December 2005
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The British Theatre Guide

Posted December 2005
Written by Bronagh Taggart

If the idea of Star Trek meets Cabaret with a passing homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show appeals, then Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens could be for you.

Saucy Jack's is a seedy bar on the Planet Frottage III where intergalactic low-lives hang out. The singers have names like Vulva Savannah and Magenta Hole amongst others and the clientele includes resident lounge lizard Willy von Whackoff (ably played by Mark Carroll). Instead of a "Zero Tolerance to Drugs" notice above the bar, there's one stating its zero tolerance to plastics. This is a planet that has consigned (not entirely successfully we later learn) the ecologically unsound product to history.

A series of murders has been committed at the club and the only clue is the murder weapon - a slingback sequinned shoe which the villain thoughtfully leaves behind still stuck in the victim's body. But a whodunit it certainly isn't, as the prime, and only, suspect is the club owner, Saucy Jack himself. Scott Baker cuts a slightly disappointing figure as the arch villain, Jack - he was too obviously sinister from the outset and might have achieved more had he gone down the 'charming rogue' route.

But Saucy Jack has murdered his last victim, because three famous law enforcers, the Space Vixens, are on his case. Jubilee Climax (played by Faye Tozer, formerly of the group Steps) has history with Jack and it is not long before their love is rekindled. But this doesn't stop her pursuing justice and blow-drying Jack to death by the power of disco.

The show premiered at the Edinburgh Festival back in 1995 and won a Fringe First. It was directed then (as now) by Michael Fidler who also wrote the song lyrics. It debuted in the West End in 1998 and later ran for three years in a purpose-built venue in East London. As a production, it seems to fare better in smaller, more intimate venues that suggest an actual cabaret bar, where the cast can run freely through the audience. This production is half and half - some of the audience are at tables in the centre while the rest are in seats around the back. And at times the cast looked a little cramped as they struggled to be seen by both sets of people.

The choreography was conceived by Bruno Tonioli (currently finding fame as one of the judges in the TV series Strictly Come Dancing) and it was competently performed by the cast, although the first act felt a little safe. It didn't really take off until the comic "Fetish Number from Nowhere" in the second act where Von Whackoff and bartender Mitch (played by Paul Christopher) whipped off their clothes to reveal underpants made of patchwork pieces of the contraband plastic. The gesture seemed to finally give the cast the licence they needed to let rip!

The Vixens, extravagantly dressed in thigh-high glitterboots, silver tunics and using hair-dryers instead of guns, are the most fun aspect of the piece and give the show a much-needed shot in the arm when they enter. As the only star name, all eyes were on Faye Tozer. She was obviously no stranger to the disco moves and was in fine voice with her solo song managing to deliver, without flinching, the memorable line "this serial killer is cramping my style".

She was strongly supported the other Vixens, played by Gemma Zirfas and Melitsa Nicola, and by Carmen Cusack who played the plastic-bootlegging, lesbian love-interest, Chesty Prospects, and delivered the raunchy number "Park my Bike" with aplomb. She surely deserved bonus points for remaining 'dead' on stage throughout the entire interval.

As always with a musical, its success (or otherwise) tends to rest with how memorable the songs are and unfortunately there weren't any real knock-out tunes that the audience would unwittingly find themselves humming. In addition, the story was entirely predictable and although it is billed as a spoof, that doesn't mean that logic and tension can be thrown out the window.

A nostalgic look back at the glam rock and disco eras.

 

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