Written by - Mal Pope
Directed by - Kathryn Rice
The Evening Post Theatre, Swansea
The record breaking 22 week run ended 17th June, 2012.
Sitting in the black and pink bedecked 'bar' of Swansea's Evening Post Theatre, listening to some of my favourite rom-com soundtracks, a gaggle of women around me - this musical, in the final week of its record breaking 22 week run, already promises to be a night out any girl will love...
The three main characters of Cappuccino Girls are certainly familiar: Hillary - the ex-magazine editor turned housewife pining for her career; Demi - the shy, put upon mother in a difficult relationship; Connie - the wealthy party girl who can’t get enough of new men, despite the ring on her finger… If you're thinking Sex and the City, don't. You're getting way too excited.
Cappuccino Girls follows storylines that are, to some extent, emotionally tugging, hitting home quite literally for mothers and wives who have let these roles bury who they really are underneath. Relevant, in this age of working, yummy mummies who are expected to have it all, do it all and stay a size 10. At times, I even found myself choking up, identifying with the characters on the glamorous looking stage.
The music, composed by Mal Pope, is mostly excellent, though definitely cheesy in places! Some notable numbers are ‘Men are like shoes’ and ‘Millionaire’, which added humour, glitz and were akin to what a girl would expect from a sparkly show like this. The first act ended with the poignant ‘How Did I Get So Small?’, sung by all three women, Cerian Bidder as Hilary showing a remarkable talent for pulling the heart strings and tear ducts with her surprisingly strong voice - this song was hard hitting and, at this point I thought we would really be in for an exciting second half, full of conflict and perhaps even intrigue, the narration from Eddie hinting that their friendship may not last through their troubles. I was disappointed when the story continued its steady pace, and the friendships went untested. Despite this, Claire Hammacott's performance of the empowering ‘Today’s My Birthday’ was beautifully played out, adding another layer to Demi’s character at least, whose development was the most significant of the show.
The issues, however, are not developed enough to carry the whole performance, and the lack of tension leaves you feeling like there's something big missing...or that you've just witnessed a musical version of a slow week on Corrie... In fact, the content was over-told, and the entire piece could be cut by at least 45 minutes whilst maintaining the same (if not creating a bigger) impact. Despite this, the direction of Kathryn Rice pulled out great performances from the female cast, and Connie's story not being well constructed does not stop us seeing Catherine Morris's talents.
The two male players take on numerous parts, Phillip Arran believable as each girl’s husband and Maxwell James doing a good job in all the extra bit parts. The variety of accents Arran takes on is problematic though, and the transition between one to another is not smooth, though ‘snaps’ to the man for stamina as there is hardly a moment when he is not on stage or acting as a voiceover!
For a show not in its first run, I was surprised to find that the sound design still needed some work, with radio mics too often fading in late, leaving gaps in dialogue and sometimes missing the start of songs.
The set design was wonderfully girly, the black and pink theme continued through from the foyer to the theatre space, and being sat in the café with the characters brought you close to them, enhancing the atmosphere created by the lighting and decor; a nice variation on the stuffier, large scale musicals where you never feel quite so ready to relax. (A waitress or two taking cocktail orders throughout the show would not have gone amiss!)
Mal Pope has successfully created a backdrop against which the lives of these women can cross, showing the 90% female audience that they are not alone with their problems in life and that, in typical chick flick style, it'll all turn out well in the end...