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Bloodbath - The Musical
Published on Sunday, 16 August 2009

Bloodbath: The Musical is a production three years in the making. On paper, it should be one of this year's Fringe highlights - boasting large production values thanks to corporate sponsors, and an impressive pedigree of talent for the Fringe. The director is a co-creator of BBC's Holby City, and the cast includes an original West End cast member of Mamma Mia!, a member of the boy band Blue and an actress from Channel 4's Hollyoaks. In fact, on paper, this production should be playing in the West End.

Sadly though, on stage, this musical is a definite case of style over substance.

The plot revolves around a serial killer preying on nubile female students at an all-American high school. His modus operandi is stabbing his victims in the shower or bath, earning him the nickname, “The Waterman”. Similarly, the characters are the one-dimensional clichés that frequent the teen slasher genre: the air-headed blonde cheerleader, the libidinous quarterback, the dopey overly-sized cop, and the news reporter who would have a murder happen just to get an exclusive. The list goes on; any additional character trait seems to have been an afterthought, purely to give the songwriters a topic to write about. Our heroine's obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example, shows itself for exactly one song.

On the plus side, the dialogue fits the overall theme pretty well. Jokes varied from old or crude to just cringeworthy: a fundamentalist Christian mother advocates the electric chair on the grounds that it was in the Bible, the main couple's first date is on Route 69, the rival school is called Monica Lewinsky High. As for the music, claiming a “driving rock score” in the programme, I was presented instead with something straight from the X-Factor. With a wide array of effects and quick-changing amplification levels, I was no longer sure whether I was hearing the singer live or a studio-recorded soundtrack. Whichever it was, just having these thoughts is a bad sign, since it's clear the performance has lost its heart and soul.

You don't need to have the pedigree and money that this production has to do a musical like this. Indeed, from the high level of singing, acting and dancing I was seeing on stage, I knew the cast were capable of far better. They were all doing the best they could with the material they were given.

Maybe we're all missing something though. The programme claims this musical is unique in “its lampooning of the 21st Century culture of celebrity and its desire for instant excitement.” With its cast, a double-page lingerie advert on pages two and three of the programme, translucent prom dresses and a dance routine complete with goose stepping and near Nazi salutes, maybe the musical is fully aware of how shallow and manufactured it is. Maybe it’s a self-parody? Or maybe I'm thinking far too hard.

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