The Thing About Men

Tom (Howard Thompson) and Lucy (Amy Newman) live a Desperate Housewives kind of life. He’s a successful advertising executive, she’s a vacuous blonde and neither of them are above the occasional extra-curricular lover. When Tom finds out Lucy’s been cheating on him, he hatches a plan to move in with her lover, Sebastian (Alex Wingfield), and ruin the relationship from within.The Thing About Men is the second musical from Joe DiPietro, writer of Fringe staple I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. DiPietro has replicated the sketch format of Love, Perfect, Change for Thing, the problem being that here we’re invited to follow characters across a journey. This means that Tom and Sebastian’s story is barely sketched, leaving the actors little to work with from the source material.The cast is technically proficient but a little bland. The direction seemed to be to move to centre stage to sing and this resulted in the actors singing a song, something they do very well, rather than acting through the music. Tom has lots of opportunities to bring the audience to his side, despite the fact that he’s written as an unmitigated jerk, but Thompson doesn’t really take the opportunities to find different tones between singing with the other characters and when he is singing to the audience. Similarly, Newman has noticeable parts of the songs she enjoys but her energy sags once they are over. Wingfield’s Sebastian is the stand-out performance of the show. In his first song he describes himself as always ‘having a ball’ and it’s clear that he is. He adds depth to a character who is little more than a cliché drawn in the shape of any of the bohemians from Rent. As the book pushes the credibility of the narrative beyond breaking point, Wingfield is always watchable, likable and grounded in reality. His performance lends this production an air of professionalism.The chorus, who act as characters within the narrative and also offer observations on it, offer strong comic performances. Man 1 (Rob Wilkes, who also directed the production), is a confident and poised actor, who skilfully pulls off a range of silly characters, including a gloriously camp French maitre d’. Woman 1 (Kim Bara Hubbard) seems uncomfortable whilst commenting on the action, especially next to Man 1, but pulls off a series of cameos brilliantly. Her LA gym bimbo is wonderfully played, just on the right side of cliché, without being over the top.Of the production itself, the band is small and ably managed by Rachel Sutton. The score is incredibly difficult to play but they do so with aplomb. The sequined backdrop provides a pretty, glittery stage for the action, although there’s no obvious reason why they’ve elected for this set, which has the tendency to blind the audience when the lights catch them.Overall, I’m inclined to say the problem lies in the material. It offers the kind of jokes and observations that belong in a 1970s’ Woody Allen comedy, not in a 21st Century fringe musical. The actors are definitely doing the best they can with weak material. There is clearly potential in Out of The Bubble’s production, because when they hit the mark they do so brilliantly. There is an inspired Rent-Les Mis joke that brought the house down, and the date between Sebastian and a model (‘Me Too’) was tremendous fun to watch. This review is based on the company’s second performance so I’m sure that as they settle into the run and get comfortable with the space the will improve no end.

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The Blurb

Joe DiPietro's whirlwind musical farce pushes the boundaries of love and relationships. Beautiful wife, handsome lover and jealous husband form an epic love triangle. If romantic comedy is your thing, you'll love this show. www.outofthebubble.co.uk

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