Features DialoguesWest End & Central Published 17 July 2019

Some remorselessly petty quibbles with West End shows

Exeunt's writers have some unashamedly petty bones to pick with theatre world's biggest hits, past and present.
Exeunt Staff

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at London Palladium. Photo: Tristram Kenton

It feels like an itch, like a nagging flea in your plushy red theatre seat. That pedantic voice in your head that says “Really?” or “How?” or “I very much doubt it!” And yes, the secret to enjoying big budget theatrical spectacles is to get swept along on a wave of deliberately suspended disbelief as the plot takes implausible turn after turn. But sometimes it’s fun to let that inner voice roar. In this piece, Exeunt’s writers give vent to the quibbles that have been eating away at them.

As a longtime Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fan, I am forever disappointed by inaccurate realisations of the dreamcoat in question. The song lists 57 glorious colours! Most of which wouldn’t have existed before the days of synthetic dyes! But yet, I can’t find ‘cream’, one of the few authentically Biblical shades listing in the song, represented in the Palladium production’s incarnation of the eponymous garment. (Alice Saville)

In Wicked, initially Fiyero doesn’t know anywhere to dance in town BUT THEN he not only knows exactly the opening hours of the Ozdust ballroom (we can dance till it’s light) but he in FACT leads them to it (come on, follow me) suggesting he knew where it was all along? Also he comes in on a rope and this is never explained. Is he a pirate? The son of an aerialist? WHY IS THERE A ROPE IN THE SCHOOL? WAS IT GYM CLASS? (Francesca Peschier)

I’m concerned that Tim Rice deeply misrepresents Jesus’ teachings in Jesus Christ Superstar. When Judas (RIGHTLY) points out to Jesus in ‘Everything’s Alright’ that the money Mary Magdalene spent on expensive ointment “should have been saved for the poor”, Jesus replies, “Surely you’re not saying we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always pathetically struggling, look at the good things we’ve got”. Surely this is the very opposite of what JC was all about. (Rose Johnstone)

In Chess, when in ‘Hymn to Chess’ they sing ‘we are one united family – black and white’ THAT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE POINT OF CHESS. BLACK AND WHITE ARE AT WAR (FP)

Remember how Maria Reynolds comes to Hamilton at a time of desperate need? Yes, her husband wheedles the affair to his advantage but we have no confirmation that Maria was involved in the extortion scheme. At worst, she went to the unsung founding father of America to tell him about her abusive husband, became the other woman for a few months and then was…sent back to the abusive husband? We’re expected to be like “ah yeah she’ll be fine?” On the contrary, her odds are beyond scary!! (Louise Jones)

I feel really bad for those two women who thought they would be enjoying a threeway with Philip Hamilton before he got shot. Did anyone tell them about the duel? I feel like in the grand scheme of things they’re the two female characters who are the least screwed over by the end of Hamilton but it breaks my heart. This was an anticipated engagement. They high-fived! (LJ)

In Sweeney Todd, Anthony sings ‘I see you Joanna, Do they think that walls can hide you? ‘
yes.
they are walls. (FP)

Why, after eight Harry Potter films (and countless live book readings) did JK Rowling decree that You-Know-Who’s name suddenly be pronounced ‘Voldemor’ in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Did all the characters suddenly change their minds after Voldemor(T) was defeated to make him sound a bit more… fancy? I found this incredibly distracting. (RJ)

How do you measure a year? Rent suggests many unconventional methods in ‘Seasons of Love’: cups of coffee, inches, laughter… but the one that grates the most for me is “daylights”. Daylights are not a thing. You can’t even measure a day in ‘daylights’, let alone a YEAR. (RJ)

Near the end of We Will Rock You, the gang of bohemians travel to Switzerland, to find the ‘bright star who will show the way’. The ‘bright star’ is the statue of Freddie Mercury, which they find, and immediately realise is pointing to Wembley Stadium, where the secret instruments are buried. THEY ARE IN SWITZERLAND. How could they POSSIBLY tell that?! (Emily Davis)

The main source of terror for me in The Woman In Black was not the titular woman, but rather my disbelief/envy at how on God’s green earth these two men were able to afford to hire out a West End theatre (plus an extremely put-upon technical manager) for their (rubbishly run) rehearsals?? I mean, I know it’s set 100 years ago and they’re two rich white men but still.

ALSO this is not strictly to do with the internal logic of the show (let’s be honest, if we started questioning it too closely it would no longer one of the longest running West End shows) but whenever the Woman did pop up like a pallid-faced meerkat, all I could think about was how she must be legging it through the warren of corridors in a fuck-off massive black lace dress in order to make her mark on time (this is what I’m imagining). Pay rise for the Woman, please. (Ava Wong-Davies)

The Teen Angel in Grease tells Frenchy that her skills as a beautician are non-existent: “Well they couldn’t teach you anything / You think you’re such a looker. / But no customer will go to you / Unless she was a hooker!” This is both obviously a shitty thing to say, and also factually inaccurate: Sandy, the character who’s most set up to be as far as you can get from a “hooker” (or trashy, which is essentially what the Teen Angel means) goes to Frenchy for her transformation at the end, which goes down a treat within the show, at least. Frenchy herself? Dominates and stands way out from everyone else with her look in most productions. The Teen Angel’s taste is what needs a makeover. (Frey Kwa Hawking)

From the closing scene of The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy finally wakes up and sees her family and friends and recalls them all from her “trip” to Oz (“You were there!”), the presumption is that it was a dream. Does this mean that nothing in Wicked ever actually occured? Without Dorothy, there is no Oz. It’s all in her mind. The only possible alternative is that Dorothy actually passed through an interdimensional wormhole inside the tornado that took her across the multiverse to an alternative reality – Oz. Where was she? DID SHE GO TO KANSAS??? (Justin Nott)

In Carousel, when Carrie tells Julie she’s ‘As tight lipped as an oyster, and as silent as old Sahara spink’. Julie responds that it’s ‘Sphinx.. you spell it with an ‘x’, to which Carrie informs her, ‘That’s only when there’s more than one’ (with an implied duh). It’s a good metaphor for Julie’s queer, cryptic character, but it’s always struck me as a strange word to be in their vocabulary as I doubt any Egyptology would have been on the curriculum in working-class, nineteenth-century New England. (Julia Rank)

Henry Higgins sings ‘By right she ought to be taken out and hung/For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue’ in My Fair Lady. A pedant like Henry Higgins would know it’s hanged, not hung! (Julia Rank)

Disclaimer: Exeunt’s writers will not enter into individual correspondence with readers who would like to ‘well, actually’ our well, actuallies. Please address any complaints to Exeunt’s acting public relations manager, Josephine the Ferocious Bear.

For more theatrical pettiness, read Exeunt’s (Mostly) Irrational Theatre Dislikes

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Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

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