“Bad Girls, the Musical”

Garrick Theatre, London • 29 September 2007 • 3pm
Music & Lyrics: Kath Gotts. Book: Maureen Chadwick & Ann McManus.

Director: Maggie Norris. With Sally Dexter (Yvonne Atkins), Laura Rogers (Helen Stewart), Caroline Head (Nikki Wade), David Burt (Jim Fenner), Helen Fraser (Sylvia “Bodybag” Hollamby), Nicole Faraday (Shell Dockley), Amanda Posener (Denny Blood), Julie Jupp (Julie Saunders), Rebecca Wheatley (Julie Johnston), Chris Grierson (Justin Mattison), Emily Aston (Rachel Hicks), Camilla Beeput (Crystal Gordon), Maria Charles (Noreen Biggs)…

It isn’t often that I go see a musical that I know absolutely nothing about before entering the theatre. Bad Girls, the Musical is based on a British TV series taking place inside a women’s prison that aired on ITV from 1999 to 2006. The plot of the musical is based primarily on the characters and storylines of the first season and includes a lesbian love story between one of the inmates and the wing governor. The musical originated at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2006 and is now being presented in the West End.

The result is hit-and-miss.

On the one hand, the book cleverly balances drama and comic relief, prison cell grittiness and typical sitcom humour. The characters are strongly delineated and the overall dramatic structure is strong. The score, although derivative, is pleasant. And the clever use of projections makes the staging very effective.

On the other hand, the show frequently fails to meet West End standards. As good as the show becomes when it uses second-degree humour, it can be quite a drag when it is more literal-minded. Several of the individual performances are weak. And the novelty of the situation and characters becomes too thin in the second act to really sustain attention.

The show isn’t bad. It isn’t quite good either.

But it’s a treat to see Maria Charles, who played the part of Dulcie in the original production of Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend… a few years ago.

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