It's hard to review a show when it's in the performance state that Bumblescratch is in: it's important to remember that while this was a performance, it was most definitely more of a glorified public showcase of the work that has been done so far. It's actually a shame that they ask for reviews at this stage because the show is clearly a far cry from the West End just yet.
I was excited to see Bumblescratch because I'm a fan of Robert J Sherman's previous work on Love Birds; despite having never seen the work before, it's a wonderful recording to listen to. This show however was much less than I expected it to be, but I don't remember the last time that I felt as conflicted about a show as I do right now. While the music was fine enough - forgettable, but nice nonetheless - it really was the show's poor book that let it down as I can't help but feel like there was absolutely no discernible story to it whatsoever.
|Darren Day and Ilan Galkoff as Bumblescratch and Perry respectively|
The story begins with a rat called Melbourne Bumblescratch explaining the backdrop of Plague-ridden London to us and we realise that, for some reason which is never really touched upon, people are after him. He befriends an unnamed young rat and names him Perry and together, they spend the rest of Act One running from these people, all while Bumblescratch eats cheese and hallucinates a Michael Xavier-shaped pi-rat (like a pirate, but a rat... I actually quite liked that joke) and Perry manages to fall in love with a 20 year old human girl who he can easily communicate with. The first act ends with said girl's father bludgering Perry to death and everyone who hated him is suddenly sad. The second act then just follows the rats being upset until Bumblescratch goes home with his wife...
Robert Sherman has somehow managed to create a full length musical with a very beautiful score, but it unfortunately lacks substance entirely. You don't once feel like much is happening in the piece and nor do you ever really warm to the characters, but the music is bizarrely quite pretty. It's almost as though the lyricist is on the complete wrong page to the composer, but they're the exact same person in this instance.
|Darren Day, Jessica Martin and the female ensemble of Bumblescratch|
Despite the funny choice of storyline, the cast in this gala were superb. I'd never seen Darren Day on stage before and I'd actually never even heard too much from him other than last year's Celebrity Big Brother, so it was nice to see that he actually is a very good performer after all. Michael Xavier's beautiful voice was a pleasure to see as always as well, but a real shame that his character wasn't much more to do with the piece. The real star of the show though was Ilan Galkoff as Perry who not only was a fantastic vocalist, but he also acted with such adult conviction that he never really felt like a young child after all - I look forward to seeing what he does next.
Despite being such an intimate reading of the piece, I was also surprised to see such fantastic costumes on stage as well thanks to the small team that worked on them. There was a real "Master of the House" feel to them that was nice to see and considering a lot of the music was reminiscent of that song's show Les Miz, it all tied in rather nicely. It was also nice to see the full band exposed for people to be able to see instead of being tucked away somewhere else. I find it fascinating to watch a band in performance anyway and the whole group of them looked like they were enjoying themselves a lot which was warming.
|The Bumblescratch ensemble|
All in all, Bumblescratch is not anything worth writing home about in its current state. It's a shame that the poor plot and book really drag the rest of the piece down for now, but I do look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve as time continues. It has a lot of room to grow and fill out and with such an enthusiastic group of collaborators and supporters working on the project, I'm sure it will end up blossoming into something wonderful very soon.
Thanks to TheatreBlogs for sending myself and a team along to see Bumblescratch last night. To read other bloggers' reviews, head over to their website now.