top of page

Review: Frank's Closet (The Union Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale


⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

A cult musical is being unpacked and hung up for its first revival as Frank’s Closet moves in to The Union Theatre. Having sold out its premiere run at Hoxton Hall in 2009 and won glowing reviews, would it be able to repeat its success this time around or would it be a case of a diva being past her prime?

 


The premise of Frank’s Closet sees the titular Frank on the eve of his wedding to Alan reluctantly preparing to donate his collection of dresses from iconic divas such as Dusty Springfield, Judy Garland and Agnetha Faltskog. Always losing himself in the fantasy world where the seven divas in question visit him imparting words of wisdom and corruption in equal measure, each in turn gets one last turn to appear in an attempt to help Frank make sense of it all and hopefully be able to let go.

 

Written by Stuart Wood, Frank’s Closet is an unashamedly camp and fabulous look into how some people look to their divas for moral support – something I’m sure many of us relate to. With a story that is full of humour and over-the-top characterisations though with a poignancy about it, the ideas made an interesting premise – one that feels instantly familiar compared to similar shows though with its own spin on it. Perhaps it was rough around the edges at times with not all ideas fully formed or landing to the desired impact. While this lessened the response I personally felt, both in terms of connection and joy, to an extent it added to the charm of the evening, showcasing a life that isn’t as glamorous as our fantasies would suggest.



The songs, also by Wood, are pleasant enough although can be inconsistent at times and notas memorable as you would hope. The musical numbers performed by the various divas provide humorous moments with Julie Andrews tackling ‘Equal’ (followed by the best one-liner of the show) and ‘Let’s Do The Show Right Here’ as Judy Garland highlights of the night. With numbers to reflect the original singers own distinctive styles and nods to their own songs, most notably with some not so subtle ABBA references in the showstopping number and instantly relatable ‘ABBA Made Me Gay’. It was a surprisingly tender beginning to act two with the Gaiety girls that provided the musical highlight, possibly down to how contrasting it was to the rest of the show. A little more versatility throughout may have taken the show to the next level.

 

Sasha Regan’s direction provided excitement throughout as reality moved to fantasy and back again swiftly, always clearly identifiable. Making full use of the intimate yet versatile space of The Union Theatre, Jo McShane’s choreography gave plenty to do for Frank, his divas and the Gaiety girls who made every number all the more grand.



An inspired touch in this production is an immersive nature which adds to the atmosphere and fully makes use of the intimate but lovely space of The Union Theatre. Paul Toulson as Sheila Blige jumps on every surface around the bar performing numbers both before the show and at the climax of the interval, encouraging the increasingly merry punters to join her in innuendo filled songs. This chaotic nature left a lasting impression with its joyful nature, putting everyone in the best spirits for the beginning of each relatively short act. While the immersive nature is reserved solely for outside of the main theatre space, it was a nice addition that proved one of the highlights of the performance for me.

 

As our main character Frank, Andy Moss gives a solid performance throughout, though is happy to step aside while the diva shines in her natural spotlight. That diva gives the performance of the night as Luke Farrugia tackles seven icons of music, history and gay culture in a consistently impressive performance. With gorgeous vocals and expert timing, he is the best thing about the show. An impressive foursome of Gaiety girls played by Sarah Freer, Jack Rose, Olivia McBride and Oliver Bradley-Taylor give Frank and the divas their background singers in equally accomplished performances. The cast is completed by Paul Toulson as Sheila Blige whose time on stage is fairly limited but made up for with brilliant performances before the show and in the interval.



Frank’s Closet is a sweet show with plenty of great aspects to it. There is the feeling that this production hasn’t quite reached its full potential yet, but that’s not to say it won’t be able to get there. After all, it has a decent concept, some great songs and a wonderful cast at the helm. Still a thoroughly enjoyable show, if not quite able to live up to the standard of the stars portrayed throughout, it is well worth a venture back into the closet.

 

Frank’s Closet plays at The Union Theatre until 30th March. Tickets from http://uniontheatre.biz/

 

Photos by Danny Kaan

Comments


bottom of page