Jermyn street Theatre is an intimate venue of only 70 seats. Its ethos is to showcase forgotten work and great new writers. As a small blackbox performance space this is a great venue for Adam Long’s new 60 minute production, Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim.
The show’s flyers and programme assure its audience that “this show contains absolutely no music by Stephen Sondheim, and is not endorsed in any way by Stephen Sondehim or anyone who knows him”. So, what does it do?
This short comedy play with songs is a laugh a minute production. I went to see the show last night and this polished and ‘played for laughs’ production received whoops and cheers, together with lots of laughter throughout the show.
The play is performed by the talented duo that is Adam Long (Satan) and Mark Caven (Robert Schifrin| Satan’s Manager). The pedigree for this play is tremendously hopeful; Adam Long is an Award-winner and founding member/writer/director of the Reduced Shakespeare Company whose work includes The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Adam Caven’s credits include the West End productions of Little Shop of Horrors, Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(abridged).
This talented pair’s humour, like all celebrated comedy duos, comes from the uneven relationship between the two partners. Adam plays a middle-aged Satan, who came to Earth in human form to become part of the golden age of theatre in 1964. This Hoofed foot, tailed and horned anti-god dreams of singing Sondheim’s music at the London Palladium, whilst his long-standing friend and manager Robert Schifrin (Mark Caven), playing the straight- man. Robert is the more serious, disconcerting grown up character that Satan can feed off. He is an authoritative figure that continually reminds Satan that they do not have the rights to sing Sondheim – even in this show!
The play opens in Schifrin’s office, to a new song- ‘Let’s Do a Show’ performed by the 2 protagonists – we hear this show will be ‘seamless’, ‘elating’, ‘for everybody’, ‘rooting- tooting’ and ‘relaxing’. They are not wrong! We witness “one Hell of a show” where we learn that Satan’s “satanic powers are no match to his [Sondheim’s] artistic integrity”.
As an audience we are taken on Satan’s ludicrous life journey; he regales stories of playing the character of Paul in A Chorus Line and starring in Fiddler on The Roof, coupled with memories of woe such as when his earth- born father left him and his mother. The play combines cleverly compiled text, coupled with self-referencing silliness and perfect musical pastiche. We even get to see Satan Twerking Miley Style!
Due to the Sondheim rights not being in the public domain we hear homages to Sondheim’s work including “I’m just a clown” and “Security Guard Plonski”. Sondheim fans will enjoy these not- so-subtle re-workings and be able to enjoy references to every Sondheim show. We also are treated to a medley of songs that are openly in the public domain. This is a great part of the show and cries out for a larger production including outfits and dancing girls and boys!
This 60 minute production could be developed further and I would enjoy watching a longer version of the production – maybe with added production values and costumes. If you’re not a fan of Sondheim, or only know a little about this composer, you will not be lost and it is quite clear when there is parody at play.