Jest End – a collection of musical and visual parodies from the West End’s biggest, brightest and best shows, composed and written by Garry Lake – took to Waterloo East Theatre for a limited run and put forward a strong case for my favourite piece of the year.
Wickedly funny and entirely unprejudiced with its targets – no show is safe. From Les Misérables to Phantom, Matilda to Billy Elliot, Wicked to Miss Saigon – all the big shows get the Garry Lake treatment, and the cast are not afraid to mock their own appearances in shows either.
A fabulous quartet cast of Scott Garnham, Jodie Jacobs, Lizzy Connolly and Simon Bailey powered through two hours of costume changes, spoofing the shows, packing in the inside jokes and ultimately delivering quality vocals on the parody songs.
A nice mix of individual and ensemble performances, seamlessly linked together, it’s easy to forget it is just the four of them covering all the roles. Particular highlights were Scott Garnham’s portrayal of Killian Donnelly (in a Memphis/Kinky Boots mashup) and Lizzy Connolly’s pitch-perfect performance as a ‘Part Time Christine’ – a tribute to the casting arrangements over at Phantom of the Opera.
Jodie Jacobs had me in stitches throughout with her characters such as Billy Elliot and, in her words, “the only Jew in a Christmas show” for the Elf finale, but her skit as Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl, with Simon Bailey as an increasingly creepy David Babani – director of the Menier Chocolate Factory – in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory parody, was just perfectly delivered.
I’d not seen this show before, but it seems to come back for a limited run every couple of years or so. Clearly new bits are added all the time, as it was all topical and relevant to today’s West End selection. In terms of prior in-depth knowledge of shows is concerned, it definitely helps some of the in-jokes land, but as long as you have a general overview of the main shows, you’ll enjoy this tongue-in-cheek view of Theatreland.