Review: Smash!

By John Nathan, April 11, 2011

Menier Chocolate Factory

After Jack Rosenthal attempted to turn the success of his television play Bar Mitzvah Boy into a hit musical the resulting flop left its author bruised. He did what all great writers do when they are hurt - he wrote about the experience.

All the main players of the showbiz disaster are reflected here; there is the producer (Tom Conti) who has more faith to put in the show than money; the egotistical composer (The West Wing's Richard Schiff); the director (Cameron Blakely) with a thousand ideas, none of which will make the musical good; the lyricist (Josh Cohen) and finally the author, a role Rosenthal turns into a woman, originally played by Maureen Lipman in 1981 and here by Natalie Walter.

Rosenthal's dialogue - some of which has been brushed up by the late author's playwright daughter Amy - is an odd mix of trademark sparkling exchanges and, much less characteristically, bland running jokes.

It is telling that in a play about the theatre, Tamara Harvey's smooth production works best outside the setting of the rehearsal room. The best scene is when Carrie Quinlan's waitress deconstructs the musical more devastatingly than any critic. She is a cameo but among Rosenthal's archetypes, the most true character in the play. But then truth was always Rosenthal's forte.

Last updated: 4:18pm, April 11 2011