At any Fringe you’ll be able to find at least one crooner showcasing some of history’s best show tunes – One Day More, There’s No Business Like Show Business, anything from West Side Story – you’ve heard it all before. But what about the musical numbers that get left behind? Those that were embarrassingly booed off stage and those who never even made it there? Enter George Heyworth and Matthew Poxon, who bring the very best numbers from the very worst musicals to life in Top of the Flops.
Top of the Flops is a hilarious and loving tribute to those might-have-beens, what-ifs and should-definitely-never-have-beens of musical theatre.
I must confess I’m not a great fan of musicals. Certainly not as much of a fan as ‘Tragic Homosexuality Consultant’ Matthew Poxon seems to be, who excitedly reels off fact after fact about the most obscure musical flops of all time with childish glee. You can easily imagine him diligently editing Wikipedia articles about Hal Prince late into the night. My ignorance left me incredulous; some of the chosen musicals seemed so outrageous in concept and execution (Prettybelle anyone?!) that I was left half-doubting as to whether they ever could have been produced at all.
If you really love something, you love it flaws and all. With that in mind, Top of the Flops is a true celebration of musical theatre and as much as Heyworth and Poxon gently poke fun at the musicals, they also poke fun at themselves alongside it. You can always find rich material for ridicule from plumbing the dark depths of an actor’s habits and peculiarities - chanting ‘Stephen Sondheim’s bondage dungeon’ as a vocal warm up was a particular highlight. Heyworth and Poxon spark off one another, creating a warm atmosphere that meant that every joke was extremely well-received by the Friday night audience who were left laughing from the get-go.
Heyworth (best known as one half of Fringe favourites Bourgeois & Maurice) has an incredible voice. Although tongue-in-cheek throughout, he nevertheless gives each tune his all and filled The Warren’s Blockhouse with note perfect performance after note perfect performance. Poxon, acting as his over-eager sidekick, provides brilliant accompaniment on the keyboard and educates us in musical theatre like a camper, more musical version of Richard Osman.
There were a couple of moments when jokes seemed to be stretched just a little too far for laughter to be maintained. Although using the projector was a good concept that cleverly reflected the performance of Look What Happened To Mabel from Mack and Mabel, I couldn’t help but miss Heyworth singing towards us in the audience rather than towards his webcam. Minor quibbles aside, the show was packed full of sharp one-liners and both Heyworth and Poxon were great company, making witty improvisations with the audience. Their Carrie finale was powerful, surprising and, of course, side-splittingly funny.
Well-conceived and well crafted, Top of the Flops is a hilarious and loving tribute to those might-have-beens, what-ifs and should-definitely-never-have-beens of musical theatre.