REVIEW: WEST END PRODUCER – FREE WILLY (Assembly George Square) ★★★
Amongst the 3,000 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, masked West End theatre and Twitter phenomenon ‘West End Producer’ makes his performance debut with his show ‘Free Willy The Musical’. The anonymous man of theatreland (or ‘WEP’ as he is known), first became known for writing about theatre and then for running two high profile social media contests to find the next stars of the West End.
This unique comedy show centres around ‘WEP’s hunt to find the leading performers for his new imagined high budget show ‘Free Willy, The Musical’ based on the classic movie about a killer whale. As well as leading roles, ‘WEP’ also wants to find outstanding ensemble members who can impersonate other aquatic wildlife such as dolphins, crabs, and sea urchins. Through audience participation and a special guest appearance- can ‘WEP’ find the stars he needs?
‘WEP’ starts the show by meeting the audience in the queue and giving them individual numbers with cheeky references such as ‘24601’ and even cheekier… ‘69’. He then warms up the queue vocally and physically through various exercises. This was a really fun introduction that got the audience excited for what was to happen inside the venue itself.
When the audience are seated, ‘WEP’ warms the audience up more by asking them to do dolphin sounds and sing along to some of his songs that he has written for the show. These songs are filled with musical theatre references and puns and the show starts off well and the audience were excited to be a part of this brand-new adaptation of what would be a hilarious concept.
Around half way through the hour-long performance, the jokes began to fall slightly flat because they seemed very repetitive. The impression ‘WEP’ gave in the queue made the audience think that they would individually be competing for the roles in various funny tasks, however they were sat for the whole performance. We were left longing for some unfortunate chap to get up on stage to do some embarrassing tasks such as riding the blow-up whale or giving their best jelly fish impression! However, this opportunity never arose. Eventually guest star Jenny Bede (as seen on BBC2, BBC3, NETFLIX, Channel 4 , ITV, etc..) joined ‘WEP’ on stage and discussed her show as well as sang some songs and danced for ‘Free Willy’, to eventually land the lead role. This was probably the most interesting part of the show as it varied up the ‘audition process’ and we got to see someone actually competing for a role for the production.
Over all, the show is clearly set for a target audience of die-hard theatre fans who know their Sondheims’ from their Lloyd-Webbers’. There were some highs in the piece and the show has potential to get better with some tweaking of jokes and audience participation. ‘WEP’ has a different guest star for every performance which really benefits the show as you get to see some role play and hear about other professional productions going on at this years Fringe. I hope that ‘West End Producer’ finds and casts the Willy he is looking for and that the run is successful.
Reviewed by Kathy Redman
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