Friday, 27 November 2015

Review: Jest End at the Waterloo East Theatre

Jest End
Waterloo East Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 26th November 2015

Jest End is back! Known as 'the British Forbidden Broadway', the satirical show lovingly makes fun of the West End's most popular shows and biggest stars. 

A show like Jest End simply would not work without the right cast - and we're certainly in safe hands with Simon Bailey (I Can't Sing/The Phantom of the Opera), Lizzy Connolly (Xanadu/Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Scott Garnham (Grand Hotel/Les Miserables) and Jodie Jacobs (Legally Blonde/Rock Of Ages).

It is truly remarkable that for £18 you can buy a ticket to see four of the finest West End performers working their socks off. Written and directed by Garry Lake, Jest End is non-stop, full on fun. Obviously, if you're not stagey and haven't seen many West End shows you will wonder what crazy world you have stumbled into (I don't think WEF readers will have a problem here). Inevitably a few numbers are funnier than others; I found the songs which point the finger at specific producers/performers funnier than the general show sketches. 

Unbelievably Connolly played her final performance in Xanadu at the Southwark Playhouse on Saturday night and opened in Jest End on Tuesday! Going from strength to strength, Connolly is fast proving herself as one of the strongest comedic actors working in musical theatre. Once again she gives a stellar, scene-stealing performance.

Jacobs is a performer who knows exactly how to bounce off an audience, the simplest of pauses and expressions pave way for some of the evening's biggest laughs. Her vocal talents are just supreme; during her Carole King number I stopped caring about the comedy and simply sat in awe of her rich vocal tones and stunningly effortless belt - we need a Jodie Jacobs one-night-only concert ASAP.

I love that the 'Defying Gravity' number 'Rely on me the Lead' has been reworked with Connolly and Jacobs hilariously impersonating Louise Dearman and Rachel Tucker (Irish accent included) who famously performed the song together in Jest End before going on to enjoy long careers with Wicked.

Garnham and Bailey are fast becoming the Ant and Dec of musical theatre - I've lost count of how many shows I have seen them in together. Both have incredible voices which soar without amplification at the Waterloo East. They pull off some of the evening's tightest, most ridiculous costumes and master the comedy, bringing a touch of old school theatrical charm. 

At its best Jest End is terrific but I think one or two numbers are starting to feel a little tired. I chuckled throughout but didn't find myself in uncontrollable snorts of laughter like those around me (the press night audience of industry guests couldn't have laughed any harder). Personally I think I preferred Forbidden Broadway but I don't think either show is better than the other - it just comes down to personal taste and different senses of humour.

It's wonderful to see Jest End back in London starring a formidable cast of hot West End talent.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Jest End runs at the Waterloo East Theatre until 6th December 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Read our interviews with Simon Bailey, Lizzy Connolly & Scott Garnham

Photo Credit: Garry Lake

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