Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Review Roundup

The Edinburgh Fringe 2012 has come to an end, and of the more than 100 musicals at this year’s festival, some dozen were from the U.S., including the original Mod and several new pieces in the American High School Theater Festival. Other premieres from elsewhere around the world include Clinton (one of the best reviewed of the fest) from Australia; Party Worth Crashing from Canada; Active Virgin (another best of the fest), The Macbeth Project, Mary, The Secrets Hidden in the Beatles Rock Band, Streets, and Towards the Moon from Scotland; and Bereavement (another best of the fest), Dr. Quimpugh’s Compendium of Peculiar Afflictions, 1,000 Suns, The Picture House, and The Wolves Descend from England.

Active Virgin: John & Gerry Kielty (book, lyrics, music)

Malcolm Jack (Scotsman): While the musical itself doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts in the overall enjoyment stakes, it bears firm recommending purely as a thoroughly enjoyable hour spent in the company of a crazily talented cast and crew. … While it probably lacks that immersive feel-good factor necessary for a musical to enjoy a serious commercial lifespan, it’s easy to imagine this show having some kind of educational application as a stealthily un-preachy way of reaching impressionable young minds with an important message. 4 out of 5 stars

Ana-Claudia Magaña (Three Weeks): Featuring amazing singing and active, exciting choreography, the story explores gym culture in a humorous manner. … It is a well-written story with an excellent moral regarding the imperfect definition of perfection, yet it leans towards a somewhat preaching tone. The dystopian ending is well-suited to the story’s build-up, and this is an exciting, physically active play worth seeing. 4 out of 5 stars

Robin Strapp (British Theatre Guide): The cast performs with high energy and the choreography is demanding – they must be exhausted by the end. There are great comic touches and the music bounces along without any real stand out numbers. Various rooms are visited where Botox injections, liposuction, steroids, and protein are delivered but the musical seems to lack cohesion and is rather a series of disconnected sketches. 3 out of 5 stars

Lee Zhao (Fringe Guru): The satire of gym culture goes straight for the jugular, pulling no punches. The musical does take a long time to warm up, and ironically, this is because the opening is perhaps too energetic. … Though the story is a bit silly and the side-plot justifying the second half of the title is perhaps unnecessary, the show is certainly not supposed to be taken too seriously; after all, there is good section of society that should probably visit a gym. Active Virgin is an unapologetic B-musical; as a harmless hour of fun, it does all the right things. 3 out of 5 stars

Bereavement: Maírín O’Hagan (book), Jeff Carpenter (lyrics, music)

Miranda Cannibal (Three Weeks): Bereavement: The Musical is such a listless piece. … While the mixture of comedy and darker elements should have the potential to work, but actually makes the show feel muddled and cringe-worthy. The musical routines are performed well, with excellent vocals from the performers and good choreography, though they rarely complement the overall story. Ultimately it felt that too much had been crammed into this production, to the point where it is hard to understand what the creators are trying to convey. 2 out of 5 stars

Ellen Macpherson (Fringe Guru): While there were a few bumps along the road, this show is ultimately a crowd-pleaser – endearingly awkward, full of almost-offensive black humor and at times incredibly moving. It’s not perfect, but it’s an entertaining time. … With a bit more tightening and polishing, this could be a formidable example of new writing in musical theatre. There are some excellent stories in this production that genuinely strike a chord with those who have blundered their way through bereavement. 3 out of 5 stars

David Pollock (Scotsman): Opening at a funeral, what sets itself up as an apparent excuse to hammer a delicate subject and a bit of chorus line frivolity into one incongruous whole, turns out to be an amusing hour’s entertainment with a nice balance between sensitivity and bad taste. … Unfeasibly, it’s all more good and insightful entertainment, than it is crass and headline-grabbing. 3 out of 5 stars

Antony Sammeroff (The Skinny): Bereavement takes a little time to find its feet owing to a slow beginning and a general ambiguity as to whether a narrative is going to emerge or not, but it has much to recommend it. The performances are accomplished and varied, and it manages to cut straight into the heart of long pondered existential questions. … Musical theatre fans will enjoy this contemporary work although it may not convert those who are already averse to its emotional and comic norms. Still, there is much to be said for Playing the Death Card. 3 out of 5 stars

Clinton: Paul & Michael Hodge (book, lyrics, music)

Benet Catty (Fringe Review): There’s plenty of comic caricature here but there is no rewriting history. … The show owes more to the political cartoon than to musical comedy or storytelling at its present length but this isn’t wholly to its detriment. … It took Clinton himself time to work out what he really was. Let’s hope that this musical of his life also gets a second term to prove what it can really do. 4 out of 5 stars

Malcolm Jack (Scotsman): Clinton and Clinton take us on an all-singing, all-dancing journey through the highs and lows of two terms in office to a swinging live soundtrack. … A sequel is threatened, and with Chelsea waiting in the wings, even a trilogy. It’s chaotic and rife with questionable logic, but as far as madcap Fringe musicals go, Clinton scores typically well in the approval ratings. 3 out of 5 stars

Anna Millar (The List): There’s high energy here from the off, from an engaging, talented ensemble making good use of a relatively small, pared down space to sing, dance and guffaw their way around the highs and lows of Clinton’s outrageous (mis)fortunes. … The yin and yang, too, of Clinton’s personality is played out to nice comedy effect. And while some of the dialogue is a little hit and miss, the show’s catchy songs and first-rate performances hint at a show with great potential to grow. 3 out of 5 stars

Hannah Sweetnam (Three Weeks): A raucous, outrageous and sexual affair, Clinton isn’t for the faint-hearted. A striptease, sex scandal and jazzy numbers about “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” gave an uproarious take on past American constitution. … Although lyrical timing was a slight issue during group numbers, seamless accompaniment from a live band and fast-paced, frivolous choreography from Alissa Keogh made Clinton fantastic Fringe fun. 4 out of 5 stars

Mod: Paul Andrew Perez (book), George Griggs (lyrics, music)

Gordon Clayton (Edinburgh Guide): Mod is fun. Fun, fun all the way! … While the music is the sound of the 60s it is to the credit of the writers that they have come up with original music that really works without resorting to a back catalogue of the times. … The choreography and singing are up-tempo throughout and while not mentally challenging at all, it was a perfect antidote to being soaked en route to the venue. 4 out of 5 stars

Katherine Cunningham (Three Weeks): It’s not an original premise, but Mod makes up for that with a lot of enthusiasm, loads of good jokes, and strong singing and acting. … The original songs aren’t really catchy, it’s not especially memorable, and not much in it escapes from the expected high school drama clichés – but it’s still enjoyable, if not brilliant. If you want fun, nostalgia and a good time, Mod is a good way to go. 4 out of 5 stars

Antony Sammeroff (The Skinny): This is not a thrilling tribute to 60s mod culture. … Neither is it the “original musical comedy” it tips itself to be. Rather it is a banal, nostalgic Beatle-mania retrospective that dares not name a single other band from the era. … If there is one thing that Mod gets right it is the choreography, which captures the era perfectly and is well danced to boot. … It’s heartbreaking to see such a young and ambitious cast struggle to breathe life into such poor material. 1 out of 5 stars

Michael Wilkinson (Broadway Baby): Mod is a brash American import exploring teenage angst amid Beatle-mania as the infamous group set out on their tour of the States. However, Beatle-mania in this production … is tantamount to a gaggle of girls running around screaming for the best part of an hour. … Although composer-lyricist George Griggs had some interesting musical moments in the score, some of the lyrics were too obvious and after sleeping on it, the music wasn’t particularly memorable. 2 out of 5 stars

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