Ben Elton - The Musical
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
One of the greatest comedy writers in iving memory. The Man from Auntie who challenged Thatch. Saviour of the Blackadder series. A promising life turned horribly wrong. Can Ben be saved from turning into the 'farty' he once hated?
Dan Thomas' first Edinburgh Festival show is an all-singing, part-dancing one-man spectacle-acular, spoofing classic musicals and 80's pop hits.
Oh dear. This concept is so spectacularly misjudged, it's not funny in any sense of the word.
By parodying the shit musicals of Ben Elton with another shit musical leaves us wallowing in so much of the stuff that no amount of irony will save it.
For what it's worth, the idea is this. Nine years hence, Ben Elton suddenly realises his once-sparkling career has turned to bland commercial pap, so he decides to harness his West End 'talents' to tackle politics once more, challenging apathy and injustice through another cheesy musical.
It gives Dan Thomas the chance to rewrite lyrics from Eighties pop stars ranging from Elton John to Abba to reflect the state of the world. But they have to be bad parodies for the central concept to work which doesn't make it any the more entertaining for us. And the idea that Elton's lost his way is overstated and already obvious.
There's a silly Casio soundtrack, and some nonsense involving the supervillain Andrew Lloyd Thatcher, which allows a nice visual joke of the composer wearing half a mask of the former PM, in true Phantom Of The Opera style.
Thomas offers another couple of similarly extravagantly silly
moments; the revealing of his poor-quality drag Kate Bush and
his one-man gay protest march make for daft images, but they're
but fleeting moments in a hour of cringeworthy viewing. Thomas
and his director, the normally reliable Toni Arthur-Hay, should
really have noticed this well before it hit Edinburgh.
Away from this ill-considered nonsense, Thomas is one of the nicest men on the comedy circuit, and some of his guileless sweetness just about peeks through all the joke-shop wigs, cheap costumes and spangly suit. Although the show is performed with good-natured spirit, it's nowhere near enough to save it from itself.