Betwixt! [Trafalgar Studios]

A funny musical in two acts with book, music & lyrics by Ian MacFarlane

Bailey Howard – Benedict Salter
Cooper Fitzgerald – Steven Webb
Miranda – Ashleigh Gray
Princess / Nymph Queen / Enchantress – Ellen Greene
Prince Haydn / Haydn Prince / The Great Garbo – Peter Duncan
Reporters, Theatre Troupe, Nymphs, et al – Will Hawksworth, Alyssa Nicol, Vicki Lee Taylor, Rob Wilshaw

Christopher D. Clegg – Producer
Ian MacFarlane – Director
Grace Harrington – Choreographer
Lyndsay Barnbrook – Arranger
Deborah Carter – Costume Supervisor
Rob Casey – Lighting Designer
Rachel Stone – Set Designer

George Dyer (musical director & piano), Jon Mapp (bass), Matt Baker (drums)

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 13 August, 2011
Venue: Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, London

Betwixt! is a new British musical with book, music, lyrics and direction by young writer-director and all-round one-man band Ian McFarlane. The show has been on the road for a while, having started life in a workshop as Enchanted, then a limited run at the Courtyard fringe theatre in Covent Garden, a season at the King’s Head in Islington (where it acquired its current title) and a West End concert in aid of a theatre charity. No doubt many changes have been made on the way. Now refined to West End standards it pops up at the Trafalgar Studios, a good place to showcase small-scale work.

The piece opens in New York where writer Bailey Howard is having trouble finishing his book. In fact he hasn’t started typing. He wants to be famous though. His flatmate, Cooper Fitzgerald, theatrical to say the least and as camp as Chloe, yearns to be a star performer. Both have their dreams. A door appears out of nowhere, with a key. Is it a gateway to a Narnia-type situation, the door to success for Bailey, or just the closet that Cooper came out of? Art, like life, is a journey. They open the door and are thrust headlong into an enchanted world faced with the task of locating a fading daytime-television star who is the only one who can save a pregnant princess from losing her throne. It’s an adult prophetic fairytale foretelling the arrival of a brave hero and a great queen – work out whether it’s Bailey or Cooper as the hero and which is the queen.

Matters become more complicated with a progression of reporters, sex-starved nymphs, a theatre troupe and a mariachi band. Then there’s Miranda, the love interest for Bailey, even though she is a disembodied head in a box. In Cooper’s world, no girls are allowed. The whole thing is done with knowing panache, with jokes about telling the audience “just a clumsy bit of exposition” or Miranda’s pleas that “I got nobody but you” and “I should have quit while I was a head.” For the work of one man the show is amazingly good with some smart lyrics and good, hummable tunes. If the book is a little iffy and over-the-top, well, you can’t have everything. It does, however, boast some outstanding performances. Ellen Greene brings star-quality to her triple roles and sheds real tears in her big, final number, ‘Between’. Peter Duncan pops in and out as the TV star, the Prince and the Great Garbo, a sort of Player King with his peripatetic theatre company. Benedict Salter is credible as the nerdy hero Bailey, and Ashleigh Gray provides true pathos as Miranda, the limbless skull. But it is the super-talented Cooper Fitzgerald who shines forth – as played by the abundantly talented all-singing, all-dancing and all-acting Steven Webb, there seems to be another story just about Cooper waiting to be told. Webb, who resembles the young David Cassidy, needs another outlet to display his qualities.

  • Betwixt! extended until Saturday 10 September 2011 (with Lizzie Roper replacing Ellen Greene after 20 August) at Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, London SW1, Monday to Saturday 7.45 p.m., matinees Thursday & Saturday at 3
  • Tickets on 0844 8717627
  • Betwixt!

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