If you've seen a lot of heavy, emotionally draining theatre this August and now you just fancy a lighthearted romp of a show, then this is the one for you. It's a new musical, well written with several catchy numbers and a strong cast, originally developed at Greenwich Theatre and produced as part of the Dublin Fringe festival. Fast-paced and uncomplicated, occasionally bordering on panto in style, its lovable characters burst into cheery song from the outset.
We follow sweet young couple Billy and Eileen as they leave their home in rural Ireland, seeking fame and fortune in the world of pop music. Billy doesn't make the grade, so naive Eileen chooses to chase her dream without him. Before long she learns what the murky world of celebrity can really be like, and begins to understand what matters most to her and where real happiness lies.
Billy's 'ma' pops up every now and again, either to throw a spanner in the works or to save the day, and an American cowboy acts as a sort of singing narrator. This last character is a bit random, but he's good and likeable - and as the whole piece requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief anyway, it works.
From the description of the show and advertising picture used, I must admit I was expecting something a little trashy and tacky. But I was wrong: the storyline is flimsy, yet it serves as a cautionary tale for a generation obsessed with prime-time TV talent shows. There is a definite social commentary going on here about the emphasis our culture now places on celebrity, and the exploitation which exists in a world where so few have so great a power. The villain of the piece is a Simon Cowell character, who engineers Eileen's career; it's all very simplistic and exaggerated, but manages to make the point while keeping it light.
The performances are very good, with the provision of plenty of laughs and some West-End-standard vocals. It's not the kind of musical I'd personally want to watch repeatedly and it doesn't have all that much depth, but it's a thoroughly jolly and enjoyable production suitable for all ages. Toward the end I found myself, along with the rest of the audience, joining in a song about potatoes. Ridiculous, but lots of fun.