If musical theatre was a sandwich, plot would be the pickle artfully placed on the side of the plate. Always a nice thing to have, interesting when done right, but ultimately not all that necessary. The indisputable necessity of every musical is good music. TKD Productions’ new musical unfortunately fails the all important test. I couldn’t remember, let alone hum, a single song from A Body to Die[t] For. This is a shame, because it features a talented young cast and an important subject: weight and society’s attitude towards it. The plot is a perfectly silly, perfectly serviceable piece of musical theatre nonsense. With better music and slightly fresher wit, this already reasonably charming musical could have amounted to so much more.
The show’s characters, like its props, resemble paper cut-outs a little too closely. Of course there is nothing wrong with a cheerfully cartoonish villain or a paper phone, although during one scene I worried that the wobbly paper candelabra on the table might face-plant. Body tells the story of Greta, an average-weight teenager with a difficult stepfather and a uncaring mum. Greta runs away from home, loses weight and is discovered by a top modeling agent. Then she and her hapless lover-boy-next-door Tony get mixed up with a variety of radicals, politicians, and mad scientists. Thanks to a good deal of meddling by this motley bunch, Greta fluctuates from thin to fat to average once again. The decision to have three actresses play Greta is an odd one, as the show is trying to make the point that Greta is always the same person for Tony, no matter what she weighs.
A Body to Die[t] For wants to have its cake and eat it too. However, it finds it can’t be politically incisive and politically correct. Having said that, had Body lead with memorable music, the audience would have swallowed anything, but the show doesn’t quite have the savvy or the songs. Although I found myself laughing at quite a few lyrics, the writers could do with a lesson from Cole Porter: the trick, (and it’s a difficult one), is matching your amusing lyrics to a perfectly fitting and maddeningly unforgettable tune.
Most of the show’s more amusing jokes were sung; the actors had a tendency to throw away their spoken jokes as if embarrassed by them. They may well have been so, as these days I don’t think there’s anything inherently hilarious about a gay man coming out, or anything outrageously shocking about a lesbian couple. The show falls down the hardest when it tried to be the most radical. The political humour, with its stale references to the Bullingdon club and radical feminist Wiccans, feels uncomfortably out of date.
The cast are all enthusiastic singers and comedians and the music is ably provided by a two-person band. Nearly every number features some earnest belting and sparkly chimes. A particular standout was Sam Turrell, who made an endearing Tony. His whole-hearted delivery of stupendously silly lines like ‘I’m running away to join the Body Liberationists!’ provided the show’s best moments. In general, the show worked when it stopped trying so hard to say something and relaxed into its absurd characters and situations, such as the scenes involving a cat-stroking mad scientist, which the audience absolutely loved.
A Body to Die[t] For, is much like fast food; it’s enjoyable at the time but ultimately forgettable.