Jest End is a musical by Garry Lake satirising and parodying some of the West End’s most popular shows. It has been labelled as the West End’s answer to Forbidden Broadway (written by Gerald Alessandrini). It generally runs for a few weeks just prior to Christmas each year, and this time, Jest End takes on Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar, School of Rock, and Hamilton, to name just a few.
This year’s cast are Jemma Alexander (The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Wicked, Rent), Adam Bailey (Edges, Pricilla Queen of the Desert, Starlight Express), Bronté Barbé (Shrek, Cool Rider – The Grease 2, Hairspray) and Daniel Buckley (Sweeney Todd, Eugenius, Christie in Love), all four of whom are wonderful, talented singers and have great comic timing.
Some of the show’s musical numbers were recycled from last year, including: ‘Girls All Over Me’ in the Billy Elliot section; ‘I Am Barrowman’; ‘Part Time Christine’, a parody of the actress who plays alternate Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera; and the Les Miserables section with ‘Stare’, ‘C***frontation’, ‘I’m So Old’ and ‘One Year More’. It would be nice to see some of these replaced with some new material, especially for Jest End devotees who return every year, but nonetheless, the show had plenty of new, current and energetic numbers.
Three shows which are closing soon were particularly memorable highlights of the show: the ‘Jersey Boys Medley’ was fabulous, particularly with Bronte Barbe’s vocals as Frankie Valli; the ‘In The Heights Medley’ was another highlight; and ‘They’re Not Taking Me’ was a wonderful parody of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s imminent departure from the West End and arrival on Broadway, performed by Daniel Buckley as Jonathan Slinger.
Some other new songs for this year satirised some of the West End’s newest arrivals and soon to be arriving musicals. Tyrone Huntley’s show-stealing performance as Judas in the summer run of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Open Air Theatre and Drew McOnie’s famously unusual yet genius choreography was fantastically parodied with ‘Olivier On His Mind’. Newly opened on the West End, a revised version of School of Rock’s ‘Stick It To The Man’, called ‘Unhappy Leading Man’, was brilliantly performed by Daniel Buckley. ‘A Million Reasons To Hate This’ (a version of Take That’s A Million Love Songs) by Adam Bailey as a mockery of Gary Barlow’s upcoming musical, The Girls, and its casting was hilarious.
As well as individual shows, Jest End also levels some general criticism at the current theatre landscape: celebrities and TV stars being cast in leading roles (Sarah Harding’s trials on the Ghost UK tour were hysterically satirised by Jemma Alexander’s caricature) ; low actors’ wages; and soaring ticket prices (‘Gotta Get A Ticket’ (a returning number)).
Overall, Jest End is a fabulous, witty, wickedly sharp show – it is a true theatre fan’s stagey heaven. Jest End is showing at the Waterloo East Theatre until 18th December and we can’t wait to see it back next year for another run!