The Candy Man who couldn’t…

8 May


I’ve seen a lot of bad theatre in my time. The most excruciating encounter was probably ‘The Man With The Iron Mask – The Musical’. I sat with my friend Z through an hour of what can only be described as pure torture, watching the lead character try unsuccessfully to sing his lyrics in a decipherable manner, due to a big fuck-off iron mask strapped over his mouth.

Another theatrical faux-pas was ‘Menopause – The Musical’. I’m not sure this really needs explaining as it was pretty much exactly THAT; a group of pained, ageing women not only attempting to recreate the agonizing process of the menopause through a serious of atrocious, morbid tunes, but failing miserably to engage anyone except their mortified husbands in the front row: “Why must you play out this private matter to absolutely everyone we know, Gladys??”

Last night I took my lovely friend Pam to see a show called ‘The Candy Man’, based on the life of Sammy Davis Jr. I didn’t really know what to expect, as the show description was very vague, but alarm bells sounded pretty much from the first act. A short, white, sweaty man completed the number ‘The Candy Man Can’, and announced that he was obviously nothing like Sammy Davis Jr, but the show was an intended tribute to the great member of the Rat Pack and famous vaudeville performer. And he sure did hope we enjoyed it.

Fair enough, I thought. He made for an enthusiastic MC, even though his mediocre attempts at singing made him sound a bit like an over-enthusiastic karaoke host, or a wannabe cruise ship entertainer. When he spoke, he was seriously out of breath, too, like he’d run a mile backstage on a treadmill first, whilst smoking a warm-up cigar.

He started another number… danced in a fairly average manner between some scantily-clad showgirls and attempted the splits. It was then that I realized he intended to perform the ENTIRE tribute act himself. This short, white, asthmatic individual was hell-bent on wowing an audience of a thousand people with a black man’s sacred repertoire. The earth moved beneath my feet. It could have been the tap, tappity tap of his tap dancing shoes reverberating through the theatre as he began another cringe-worthy attempt at entertainment; but I figured it was Sammy Davis Jr himself, turning in his grave.

We left at half time, along with most of the audience; went to get a rack of ribs and a very large glass of wine. I apologized profusely to Pam, told her that theatrical tragedies such as this are almost as memorable as the awesome ones, and promised to take her to CATS.

I do feel sorry for the performers in ‘The Candy Man’ though. Prior to the show starting, the producer, a woman in her 60s in a slinky black dress stepped onto the stage and told us all she was so thankful we’d come; the show had taken four years to put together and had all started with a vision she and a friend came up with in her own back garden.

Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me.

Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that along with ‘The Man With The Iron Mask – The Musical’, and a line up of wrinkling moaners singing songs about age, ‘The Candy Man’ most definitely CAN’T on this occasion.

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