In a West End surrounded by jukebox revivals and classic films that have made their way to the stage, it’s always refreshing to see an original musical. Recently, audiences have been dazzled by the irreverent and witty Operation Mincemeat and I was completely won over by the “what on earth is happening” charm of Yeast Nation.

Next up is Scouts The Musical – an actor-musician production brought to us by Gigglemug Theatre, who have collaborated with The Scouts Association to provide an authentic take on the much-loved British institution.

The general structure of the show revolves around the Scout Games, where our protagonists compete to win the coveted gold badge. These cute ‘games’ involve unwitting members of the audience (watch out!) and provide funny moments for the actors to improvise and have fun with the absurdity of it all. However, it’s when the show explores the sense of community and friendship that it is at its strongest.

The central friendship in the show is between Luke, a timid young boy played by Joel Nash, and Ayesha, played with charm by Sydney Spencer – a strong-willed girl who is so imposing that “when she cuts the onion, it does the crying.” Nash and Spencer’s performances capture the youth and innocence of their age and provide the show’s emotional core. I would also like to highlight the sterling work of Rob Gathercole as Lionel Lionheart, a truly genius comic creation who steals the opening of Act 2.

However, the appearance of Faye Kinane, a conniving and untrustworthy scout, complicates matters (for the characters and the show). This is when the piece introduces its villain and goes into bizarre sci-fi territory. While this gives the show a narrative thrust, I feel it sadly detracts from the simplicity of what came before. I would have enjoyed watching a 90-minute musical based on the games and friends that the characters make along the way. Nonetheless, credit must be given to the performances for fully embracing the ludicrous nature of this device.

Despite this stumble, the show has plenty of redeeming features, most notably its musical score, which adeptly travels through multiple theatrical genres. Particularly standout numbers include the power ballad ‘Mother Nature,’ hilariously performed by Gathercole, and ‘Listen to my Voice,’ a villain song to rival ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls,’ performed with true panache by Emily Kitchingham, just this side of tongue-in-cheek.

Overall, with a committed cast and a fun and diverse score, I am pleased to report that Scouts The Musical delivers on what it sets out to achieve. I look forward to seeing the development of this piece and the careers of each of these performers.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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