When Harry Met Barry: A Musical Comedy
Straight boy action. But not the good kind.
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You know the story. Celebrity chef meets Soho club kid at a bus stop. His former best friend meets a girl with oversized glasses (she’s the kooky one, see) in a launderette. All is well until the straight boy (Barry) is reunited with his quondam ex, chef Harry, and they realise they loved each other all along. Simple.
This new musical (in a reworked version since its 2005 incarnation at The Venue) is a saccharine-sweet love story set against the backdrop of contemporary London life. Everyone, gay or (mainly) straight, is looking for that special someone – luckily here, we have Betty Blue (a chipper Madeleine MacMahon), a heavenly envoy in killer specs to chivvy the potential couples along. Sadly, divine intervention is what Paul Emelion Daly’s musical needs. The plotting is paper-thin and occasionally implausible, the lyrics relentlessly rhyme (that’s a crime) and the score is somewhat uninspiring. It’s a peril of the fringe that there isn’t space for more of an orchestra, but Musical Director Lee Freeman plays on valiantly while Tim McArthur marshals his cast around the raffle ticket stage with direction which is serviceable if predictable.
That’s not to say that the cast need a sprinkle of fairy dust. The fivesome are worthy of better material, with strong vocals across the board and a youthful charm which triumphs over the slight script. Wesley Dow (a handsome and charming Harry) and Craig Rhys Barlow (conflicted Barry) have rich, emotive voices while Aiden Crawford (club queen Spencer) and Holly Julier (poor, dumped Alice) display moments of still sensitivity.
The cast rise above the glib characterisation (Spencer particularly feels dated as a character) and the old fashioned sexual politics of at-it-like-rabbits homos and picnic-loving straights to produce moments of genuine tenderness - a song shared between the couples the morning after the night before is a highlight.
So, everyone’s looking for love. Who knows, if you’re lucky, maybe a fairy will give you what you really, really want.
When Harry Met Barry is Above The Stag, Victoria (London) until 7 August.
Review: Dan Usztan
Photo: Derek Drescher