Exposure The Musical – Review

Exposure The Musical. Images Pamela Raith Photography
Exposure The Musical. Images Pamela Raith Photography

If you’re going to write a new musical then the first rule of thumb is to have some sort of game plan. What’s it going to be about? Themes, ideas, characters?

Mike Dyer has apparently spent 12 years on this. But Exposure The Musical, which opened at London’s St James Theatre last night, is seriously out of focus.

It doesn’t have a clue if it’s a hard-hitting exposé on the bastard paparazzi who feed off the indiscretions of celebs, a coming of age story, or an urban fairy-tale about good versus evil.

Dyer’s attempts to see life through a lens has failed to come up with a single snap of anything interesting, inventive, or original.

The dialogue is risible, the characters are one dimensional and clichéd, and the plot is a mess.

It opens with two men standing in one of those African nations torn apart by war and hunger.

“There’s suffering on a biblical scale!” announces one. The other cradles his beloved 35mm camera which has just taken photos that will earn him a Pulitzer.

David Albury Exposure The Musical. Images Pamela Raith Photography

In the hour-long first act we meet the saintly Jimmy Tucker (David Albury) who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and be an award-winning photographer.

His schoolmate, Janet (Niamh Perry), is now a big popstar called Pandora, living the dream. Too much coke, too much booze and way too many tablets.

“You’re coked off your tits. Your womb is toxic!” sneers the bloke who has also got the spaced out Pandy knocked up.

But, for all her failings, Jimmy, who has integrity tattooed on his heart, likes the girl. He agrees to swap his usual subjects – dying babies and the war dead – to snap a few promotional shots of the singer.

Pandora is a 1001 other blonde, vulnerable singers, doomed by the trappings of fame, who have appeared on stage and screen. It’s insulting that misogynistic playwrights feel the need to churn out these cardboard cutouts of women.

Dyers doesn’t do much better with Tara (Natalie Anderson) who is also a victim of circumstance and yet another stock character. Abused by her father she now lives on the streets selling tin angels made of Coke cans to passers-by. When Jimmy spots her he sees through the grime and belligerence and is smitten.

Then we meet Miles Mason, Pandora’s satanic agent, and the second act takes a decidedly surreal turn. “I can make you a modern day Venus – with the arms, of course!” he tells Tara. But she’s not falling for any of that old blarney.

Michael Greco, as Mason, has a devil of a good time with the role. It’s a long way from EastEnders but he puts in a deliciously Mephistophelian turn as evil incarnate who tempts Jimmy to the dark side.

Greco has charisma and confidence, something the rest of the cast struggle to emulate.

L-R Michael Greco (Miles Mason) & Kurt Kansley (Envy) - Exposure The Musical - St. James Theatre - Pamela Raith Photography - (018)

Mason makes a Faustian pact with the naive boy. He’ll make him famous and help exact revenge on a corrupt charity boss if Jimmy will put aside his integrity and turn paparazzi for 24 hours, snapping modern day versions of the Seven Deadly Sins.

The musical numbers in Exposure are, by and large, pretty weak, but there are two standout tunes. Pandora’s final performance, a lament called My Last Goodbye, is a genuinely moving ballad.

But, by far the best song in the playlist, is the the full-throttle, hard rock, 7even Deadly Sins, where Mason summons each Sin on a journey along Hell’s Underground Line (which is a bit like the Northern line in the rush hour and similarly full of weird characters) where the stations are called Lusting Bec and Sloth Square etc.

Timothy Bird’s set design makes ample use of video backdrops that regularly include iconic images from photographic archives plus many that are headshots of the good and infamous.

At one point there is a montage of notoriety with pictures of Philip Green next to Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin; Savile sandwiched between Blair and José Mourinho plus an interesting little collection of sinners – Nixon, Hitler, Mao Tse-tung and Capone. It whiled away a moment or two trying to identify them all.

Exposure The Musical needed to be Photoshopped and airbrushed in the development phase. There may be a good story in there somewhere but it’s hidden amid a confusion of imagery and ideas.

Running at St James Theatre until August 27.

Review Rating
  • Exposure The Musical
2

Summary

Exposure The Musical needed to be Photoshopped and airbrushed in the development phase. There may be a good story in there somewhere but it’s hidden amid a confusion of imagery and ideas.

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