Robert Scott’s trek through the Antarctic would seem a fairly improbable subject for a comedic musical. What, after all, is funny about trudging through icy winds and below freezing temperatures to eventually perish in the arctic weather? As it turns out, quite a lot, as Scott of the Antarctic: The Musical, demonstrates.
The humourous aspects of the trip are revealed thanks to the discovery of a 'new' diary of Scott's. Through this new diary we learn that the Scott expedition had to memorize a complex series of salutes, that they subsisted mostly on lasagna, paused at one point to have a five day cricket match, and had a predilection for penguins (as detailed in the rousing number 'sexy penguins'). These quirks are demonstrated by five performers who sing, act and joke their way through a re-enactment of scenes from the ‘diary’.
The show also, however, manages to show us what is happening at the rival Antarctic camp of Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian, as well. The members of the Amundsen expedition are played by the same actors as those of the Scott expedition, only with blond wigs. It’s never entirely explained how these glimpses into the rival camp are achieved, since there was, after all, no corresponding new Amundsen diary discovered, but since the scenes of the Norwegian camp are hilarious, it’s best to let that slide. The Scandinavian camp and its contrasts with the largely disorganized Scott camp provide by far the best humour of the play. Their organized expedition, their emphasis on kindness and sharing and their Scandinavian rap, especially, induce widespread mirth.
The music in this show is not spectacular, accompanied by a simple keyboard and amateurishly sung. However, the lyrics are clever and cute and the songs are decidedly not meant to be roaring broadway numbers. The humor of the play itself hits an excellent tone. Despite the earlier noted presence of the 'Sexy Penguins' song, the jokes are rarely sophomoric or crass, but are widely appealing and frequently even astute.
This is, in short, a show that is very self-aware. It is a show that is meant to be an endearing, slightly informal production. It achieves this excellently and manages to be highly entertaining in the bargain.