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Charlie Sexboots

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CHARLIE SEXBOOTS, Boxer Rebellion Theater. This jumbled, sometimes amusing comedy with music by British writers Paul Tibbey and Mark Sims fictionalizes actual political/sexual scandals, including the Christine Keeler-John Profumo affair and the downfall of Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, who allegedly paid hush money to his male former lover. Set in 1962, the play portrays hypocrisy and hanky-panky among a closeted Tory leader, his pop-singer boyfriend, a Keeler-like party girl whom the singer impregnates, and an Anglo-Arab procurer modeled on Stephen Ward, the social butterfly whose relationship with Keeler led to others' ruin and his own suicide. The overloaded plot--the Tory plans to have his boyfriend murdered--is framed by satiric commentary on a TV show in the vein of That Was the Week That Was.

The darkly farcical material--which suggests Joe Orton, Alan Bennett, and Bennett's Beyond the Fringe cohorts Peter Cook and Dudley Moore--requires an antic energy too often lacking here. The best moments are provided by the TV entertainers: wonderful singer-dancer Tara Sullivan and comics Drew Vidal and Glenn Proud. But director Steven Young fails to maintain the momentum when the song-and-dance numbers segue into the "real" action. And though the oft-repeated melodies and some witty one-liners linger in the memory, we never feel the tragic ruin and waste underlying the campy cavortings; one is finally left wondering, like Alfie, what's it all about?

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