New company Roar Edge productions, dedicated to showcasing new talent and artists’ creative collaborations, announce their first musical “Bedding Belle” with a bang at Leicester Square’s Hippodrome Casino. Its West End cast members trump each other with previous credits from “Wicked”, “The Lion King”, “Mamma Mia”, “We Will Rock You”, “Hairspray”, and many more.
Belle is the new, and very working class, girl at a prestigious school. Having gotten in on a scholarship, she naturally stands out amongst her posh classmates Arielle, Jazz, Cindy, Gary and Spencer. The six pupils share typical teenage drama amongst themselves and come to terms with typical teenage issues, such as unrequited love, secret parties, cyber-breakups, or whether to drink vodka neat or with orange juice. “Bedding Belle” is an original musical, but also a Disney-parody, so expect familiar tunes albeit with different lyrics. Very different lyrics. Song contents ranges from sex over to seduction, career goals, dating preferences and delve back into the topic of sex again.
The one-off Hippodrome performance was “only” a rehearsed reading, thus had to do without elaborate stage design or costume changes. The actors’ amazingly strong voices were supported by a live piano and violin. It is very noticeable that the performers have been part of the biggest of West End shows so far and are brimming with talent. It is an absolute pleasure to hear them sing, both together and in solos. Every single cast member (Gemma Knight Jones, Maisy Bawden, Rhoda Dell, Michelle Pentecost, James Alexander Gibbs and Brian Gilligan) is outstanding in their own right, but Leanne Jones as high school bully and rich girl Arielle absolutely owns the stage whenever she is playing. Her character is not much else than downright mean, but from the start until the end of the play, Leanne Jones adds so much spark and attitude to her incredibly hilarious and expressive performance. Her rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls is the highlight of the show. The only disappointment is that there remain quite a few loose ends by the end of the musical. The ending number very much feels like the finale of the show, but story-wise the ending seems a bit abrupt. Moreover, Arielle snaps at Cindy at the start of the show “shut up, you are only a subplot!”, which unfortunately means the audience never finds out what happens to her and severely under-used character Spencer.
Only time will tell what will happen next to this work in progress, but it is an utterly enjoyable parody musical with magnificent performances that could compete with the likes of Avenue Q once finished for a proper staging.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent