The world premiere of any new show automatically brings with it a certain level of anticipation and excitement. The world premiere of a new musical featuring star performers, going up at a large, well respected theatre and no doubt exercising a healthy budget, brings with it an exceptionally high level of expectation.
Miss Atomic Bomb is set in America between 1951 and 1954, when the country was in a high state of excitement about its experiments on nuclear bomb testing. The story is set in Las Vegas where, being on the edge of the nuclear testing site, residents and local businesses openly and extravagantly celebrate each ‘beautiful’ blast as each is seen on their horizon. The Golden Goose casino decides to host the Miss Atomic Bomb beauty pageant as a desperate bid to pull in the punters. Sheep farmer Candy Johnson, played by Florence Andrews, enters the pageant in the hope of winning the price money enabling her to pay off her grandmother’s debt and keep her inherited caravan. She of course finds love along the way and everything wraps up nicely with the bad guys losing and everyone living happily ever after in a haze of radioactive particles.
Miss Atomic Bomb gives us all of the old conventions of what we expect to see in a hit musical show but throws in just enough controversial and unexpected twists to make it refreshing. This puts Miss Atomic Bomb on par with the successes of Avenue Q and Book of Mormon; two musicals who similarly have a fresh and edgy approach to musical theatre.
Simon Lipkin plays the desperate and self-proclaimed ‘odd’ manager of the Golden Goose, and he really is a joy to watch. I hate to use the phrase, but he’s just a natural. His delivery is spontaneous, his characterisation is detailed and his singing is effortless. What a performer. Dean John-Wilson plays Joey, the young romantic lead with a lovable naivety bordering on ignorance. John-Wilson is an enthusiastic performer with fresh and excited air about him. He brings a welcome energy to his acting that is enjoyable to watch; I shall remember him. Florence Andrews is sheep farmer and all American Candy Johnson. With a beautiful voice and very genuine, believable acting, she is perfectly cast and delivers in her role wonderfully. Daniel Boys plays Mr Potts, the man responsible for collecting Candy’s debt money. Boys is another actor who performs with easy and a hugely enjoyable quality.
Catherine Tate does exactly what I imagine she is there to do; get bums on seats. Is she particularly a necessary addition to the cast? Not really. Is she a pleasant addition to the cast? Definitely. She is very well suited to the role and shows herself to be a very capable musical theatre performer while, of course, bringing her own style of delivery and humor to the piece.
Miss Atomic Bomb is a fun and thoroughly entertaining show and if you are looking for something new and enjoyable to do on an evening then this is one to look at. I doubt it is the next new ‘must see’ on the musical theatre scene but it ticks all the boxes for a fun evening at the theatre, and it will make you laugh.
Miss Atomic Bomb is playing at the St James Theatre until 9 April 2016. For more information and tickets, see St James Theatre website
Photo: Tristram Kenton