Oscar at the Crown, 3 Stars

Assembly George Square Gardens – Palais du Variete
til Aug 27th

“Sequins, reality television and the complete works of Oscar Wilde: not much else survives in a secret bunker far in the fascist future. Conceived by Neon Coven, a growing non-traditional creative collective, OSCAR at The Crown is an immersive nightclub musical detailing the rise and fall of one of history’s most flamboyant figures”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

Entering the Spiegeltent it’s unusual to see that all the seats have been removed so the audience stand. They’re told that it’s fine to move around and this becomes a necessity as there are podiums made from wooden pallets and water tank ballasts on wheels which are manually pushed and pulled around with singers atop. This was rather wonderful and unique. The set design continues with strips of plastic obscuring the view from some of the booths and the stage – which seemed an unusual choice.

The costumes are reminiscent of SIX the musical and I suspect that’s intentional and aspirational. They’re really impressive. The Press Release says it’s a “sequins” show but to me it had more of a leather look.

The opening song feels like SIX and in fact most of the songs are very similar. The choreography is mainly “whacking”.

The lighting brightens up areas of the venue that rarely align with the cast blocking. The cues are all there but the focus postions needs fixing. With the principals often left in the dark and the audience drawn to look at the bright venue areas it could do with some fixing. The video doesn’t work at all. Projected words onto the plastic semi-transparent strips are neither noticeable nor legible. The crown poster image also appeared but the rest of the video content indecipherable. The sound is a mix of backing tracks, backing vocals, backing harmonies and live mics. There are sections that sound great and other sections where it’s difficult to hear what’s being sung. The dialogue had better clarity.

The most bamboozling part of the show is the book. My interpretation of what was occurring: Oscar is modern day. He’s left mainstream society and started a community of bohemian outcasts who “whack”, sing and push pallets on wheels around a spiegeltent. He meets a fit hot young lord, Bosie (Jamie Cruttenden) and they kiss. His wife Constance (Elizabeth Chalmers) is jealous and she bitches to the commuity about the affair so Oscar Wilde is once again vilifed not only from mainstream society but also from this safe-space community he himself created. While this is all happening, there are songs about Julie Cooper, whoever she is (no idea) and the reality television show The Real Housewives of Orange County. I suspect that, like myself, nobody in the UK cares about Julie or the TV show. Perhaps a US show coming to the UK should be “converted” for its audience? It’s all very confusing despite being a narrated rather than a re-enacted story.

The audience, mainly women in their mid-twenties from what I could tell, found Oscar amazing! I could hear them praising the show as we exitted. It definitely smacks of Starlight Express, SIX and Heathers.
Not even the fabulous cast can rescue this technical mess with a flawed book despite their best efforts and obvious commitment to the production. With a different book and better technical, this is a very original, unique and potentially exciting show!

Created by Mark Mauriello
Music & Choreography by Andrew Barret Cox
Directed by Shira Milikowsky

Mark Mauriello, Shira Milikowsky and Andrew Barret Cox who are deep in preparation for their Edinburgh run say: “We are ecstatic to finally be bringing OSCAR at The Crown to the UK! Hopefully, you love it. This show is about being together, being yourself, dancing and singing your face off, and, above all, obsessing over dead poets and middle-aged rich women. We cannot wait to do ALL of those things with the whole Edinburgh Fringe community. Praise Julie!”