So, I’ve been there. I mean I have REALLY been there. I was a West End theatre usher for just over two years whilst studying for my masters, so I certainly know the tricks of the trade. Therefore for me, Ushers The Front of House Musical, was a happy trip down memory lane into a simpler life where sorting change was high priority and lusting after Michael Ball from afar was totally acceptable. For the innocent, non ice cream selling, bystander, I imagine the show is a riotous insight into the life of those who fall shy of the spotlight. I have to say, parody or no parody, writers Yiannis Koutsakos, James Oban and James Rottger have hit the nail on the head: life as an Usher was JUST like this show!
So this production is undeniably a hoot! I laughed from start to finish and not just because of my personal connection with the subject matter, but because the script is side splittingly whimsical and the actors are extremely comically gifted! I have to say Ceris Hine as the robust Rosie had me howling in my seat as she sang her lusty cabaret style ode to Michael Ball. What is funnier is that people like Rosie truly do exist. It is deliciously tragic; a sentiment that Hine channelled beautifully.
Similarly tragic yet very very real was the middle management character of, Robin, played by the delightful Ralph Bogard. The superbly projected “how to’s” enacted by Bogard were reminiscent off all cringey staff training videos, sadly not just contained in the world of the West End. These video insights gave the production a great sense of structure and overall made the piece accessibly comic to a wider audience; you don’t have to have worked as an usher to recognise the farce of a unskilled manager’s power trip.
The show is given some much needed heart by the hugely talented Dan Buckley and Liam Ross Mills, who play gay lovers working together at the theatre. The drama’s of working relationships are known by many and this pair bring a tear to the audience’s eyes when their relationship seems under threat of being crushed by the uncertainty of the showbiz industry. I have to say, I was amazed by the stage presence and set of pipes on Buckley, who proved he is not just a comic actor (he was most recently seen as cover Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon) but has real hidden depths. I can’t wait to see what this promising young actor does next.
Overall, this production is truly the perfect blend of funny, tragic and totally relatable. It is seriously more engaging than a few of the shows I have seen penned by supposed West End legends recently (who are delightfully ridiculed throughout the entirety of the show.) To me Ushers The Front of House Musical proves there is fresh writing talent out there just waiting to usurp (the ahem ficticious) “Sir Andrew Mackinwhojamaflip’s” of the industry…
Ushers the Front of House Musical runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 19th April.