You know a musical is not working when you start to feel sorry for a character, not because of the plight he is in, but because of the lyrics he is lumbered with. So it is with the luckless Dale Rapley, who plays Jack Profumo in this uninspiring musical about the Christine Keeler scandal. “I’m mesmerised by the beauty in your eyes, I’m hypnotised,” he croons, valiantly, having fallen for Christine. Elsewhere, things are not much better. “Maybe you’re a perfect angel, maybe I’m the devil in disguise,” sings Stephen Ward, the man who introduces Keeler to Profumo.
I want to applaud this musical, and Greenwich Theatre, which stages it as part of its innovative Musical Futures programme. And the Profumo Affair certainly offers a cracking story. Here is the tale of a beautiful girl who grew up in a railway carriage, but who went on to have affairs with both a Russian spy and a married government minister, the fallout from which precipitated Profumo’s resignation in 1963, Ward’s suicide and Keeler’s imprisonment, and contributed to the fall of the Macmillan government.
The writers Richard Alexander and Marek Rymaszewski point out that the 1963 affair erupted at a pivotal time in history, on the cusp of seismic shifts in social attitudes, and float theories about the role of MI5 in the whole business and discuss the impact of the changing attitude of the press. But while all this is interesting, it makes for an indigestible script. The musical numbers neatly pick up on the styles of the times, but none of them is very memorable and the choreography is bland.
There are some nice performances. Emma Williams makes a spirited Christine and has a great voice. James Clyde does his best with an underwritten Stephen Ward and Rapley soldiers on with a featureless Profumo. Meanwhile, Lorraine Bruce holds the stage as the worldly-wise nightclub owner and guide to the times and delivers one of the most cheekily enjoyable lines of the evening: “Come on girls, move your arses, It’s time to fleece the upper classes.”
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