★★★★ | Bath House, Above The Stag

For their summer production, Above The Stag have returned to one of their successes from 2009. Bath House The Musical is a fun, frothy, irreverent romp, which is quite perfect for a summer evening. Given the fact that the cast spend most of the time wearing nothing but a towel, I imagine they’re quite relieved they are performing on warm summer evenings.

The story, such as it is, concerns young Billy, wide-eyed and innocent, who turns up at the baths looking for love and fun. Advised on bathhouse etiquette by the disembodied voice of Giles Brandreth, he explores the steam room, the locker room, the showers and anywhere else he might find a bit of cock. Threaded through this narrative is a bit of an unlucky love story, but, don’t worry, there are no real broken hearts, and very little interrupts the generally high spirits of the show. Lyrics and script are both very funny.

The score is a witty amalgam of musical references from Ethel Merman to jolly Christmas songs, not that you have to get the musical references in order to enjoy songs with titles like I’m a Bear Chaser, Clickin’ for dick, Bathhouse ABCs, Christmas at the Baths, and the hilariously sweet Penises are like Snowflakes. I’m still humming the tune three days after the show.

Tim McArthur, who directed Above The Stag’s recent successful production of Orton, directs and also stars in the show, and proves to have excellent comic timing and a lovely voice. His direction and choreography is well conceived and never less than apt, but I did occasionally wonder if he might not have had a bit more cheeky fun with the towels.

In such an ensemble piece, it would be insidious to single out any of the performers, who all get their moment to shine and who all give excellent accounts of themselves. The show being rather short, it ends with a sort of disco megamix of all the songs from the show, a la Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It’s quite a marathon and my only criticism would be that the entire cast found it a wee bit taxing. In my experience the only way you prepare for something like that is to build the stamina by repeating the number without a break twice or three times. Maybe they didn’t have time. No worries, I’m sure they will build up the stamina by the end of the run.

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The projected run of Bath House The Musical sold out so quickly that it has been extended by three weeks and will now run until August 9th, so if you didn’t get your booking in early, there’s still time to catch it.

Bath House the Musical is at the Above the Stag theatre in Vauxhall.

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