Review: Bathhouse The Musical, at London's Above the Stag
Boys in towels and songs about penises. What's not to love?
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Wide-eyed and innocent, young Timmy is a newcomer to the gay bathhouse scene. With the assistance of a strange disembodied voice (Gyles Brandreth), and several colourful characters that he encounters betwixt the steam and spray, this camp and hilarious musical ensures that Timmy is well and truly initiated into the ways of the saunas of Sodom.
This production will resonate with anyone who’s ever visited a gay sauna, and educate those who haven’t had the pleasure. Informative song and dance routines such as ‘Penises Are Like Snowflakes’, and a lovely little number about being a bear-chaser – delightfully delivered by the delicious Joe Leather – instruct and enlighten.
And aside from a very brief scene featuring clothes at the start of the show, the only costumes involved are the ubiquitous sauna towels – and even they come off once or twice. There is nudity. We were vaguely aware of a song about the steam room, but as its performance coincided with the exposure of Ryan Lynch’s perfect posterior on another part of the stage, we failed to pay it much attention. Lynch’s performance is as well rounded as his behind, making him perfect casting for timid twinky Timmy, the sauna virgin.
The remainder of the six-strong cast deliver screams and steam by the bucket-load. Tim McArthur knows how to take centre-stage as Timmy’s hairy bear lover, and Royce Ullah’s quirky delivery amused us enormously. Matthew Harper flexes his acting muscles, as well as his actual real gigantic muscles. Alistair Frederick is a joy to behold, beautiful in body and voice – and he has all the best lines about fisting. We were particularly thrilled by the private lap-dance that he gave us while dressed as a fetish-reindeer during the Christmas scene. (Yes – this show is literally as camp as Christmas.)
Choreography by Phil Aiden is lively and well suited to the piece’s outrageous campery. Andrew Beckett’s bathhouse set so perfectly captures the environs of a ‘gentleman’s spa’ that we very nearly forgot ourselves and stripped off to our birthday suits.
We’d recommend this frantic night of fabulous frolics to anyone. Don’t expect anything much deeper than a Jacuzzi - just let the bubbling badinage wash over you and leave the theatre cleansed. And a little bit dirty at the same time. A resounding sexy success.
Gt gives Batthouse The Musical five stars out of five.
Bathhouse The Musical runs at Above The Stag until 20 July. For more, visit: abovethestag.com.
Words Richard Unwin, @Richard_Unwin