Miss Atomic Bomb is a brave, new musical that ignites with tap-dancing, showgirls, quirky comedy and a plot that is absurdly original.
The story is based in the fifties nuclear-bomb-testing era in the Nevada desert. Myrna (Catherine Tate) and Candy (Florence Andrews) dream of a better life in California, but the road ahead brings a string of events that pursues them. A beauty pageant becomes the only hope for Candy to pay off her debts and keep her mobile home, which could drive her to ‘Cali-phone-ya’. The glamour contest is set in a struggling Las Vegas hotel, run by Lou (Simon Lipkin) who gives an amazing performance both vocally and comically. Lou desperately needs to gain more customers for the hotel or face the severe consequences from his gangster boss. So hosting Miss Atomic Bomb is the rescue package that will change the fate of the hotel and help Candy pay off her debts. It is highly amusing to see the line of beauties as they strut their stuff and show their talents, which is a scene not dissimilar to Gypsy’s ‘Got to Get a Gimmick’.
Catherine Tate is a tour du force of comedy in the piece, although many people at the show were keen to point out her accent was a mixture of a southern drawl fused with an Australian twang. I was too focused on her delivery of lines and characterisation to be worried about the small nuances of her accent.
The staging is simple and steers away from lavish sets; the action is brought to life by the glamorous, fifties, Vegas-style showgirls, with their tap dancing and dance routines beautifully choreographed by Bill Deamer. The large, back-wall projections that set the scenes give enough allure and atmosphere to transform the stage into the intended location. The penultimate atomic-bomb test gives quite an unceasing reality to the seriousness of the events that surround this comedy musical.
The musical numbers are all enjoyable, with the score written and sung beautifully, but there are no stand-out numbers and most of the songs are easily forgotten. Although you do leave the auditorium with your foot tapping away, the musical never really commits to anything deeply enough to give the audiences’ palette anything substantial to feast upon. Although the musical, penned by Adam Long, Gabriel Vick and Alex Jackson-Long, should be applauded for its sheer guts and originality, something not seen often enough, the piece fails to draw you into any emotion or feeling that will last with you when you leave the theatre.
Playing now at The St James Theatre until 9th April – tickets available from just £10
St James Theatre – 12 Palace Street London, SW1E 5JA.