Review: Musical Comedy Awards Final, Bloomsbury Theatre

hill & weedon

The Musical Comedy Awards are now in the fifth year and firmly established as part of the comedy firmament. This year they even started to go slightly global. There is also an Irish Musical Comedy Awards competition and the 2012 winner, Ursula Burns, was one of the guests at the Bloomsbury Theatre Grand Final. 

This is just one of the ways that the MCA Final is different to other competitions, which simply rattle through the entrants and then the judges choose the winner. The MCA likes to have special guests to make this into a proper show. Although this can also be confusing. There was one year when I think the guests were peppered throughout the evening and it was not quite clear who the guests were and who the competitors were.

No such problems this time round, however, with the entrants in the first half and the guests after the interval. But there was still room for one other minor controversy. One of the acts in the second half was Best Newcomer Jenny Bede and I felt very strongly that she was easily good enough o be a main finalist. Having checked with the organisers I discovered that she was much better than she was in the semi-final. It was not surprising if she was nervous in her semi-final, she had hardly ever gigged before the MCA Awards.

This review below is an extended version of the short review that appeared in the Evening Standard. You can read that review here.

  

You can't beat a convincing dinosaur impression. Add it to jaunty self-deprecating songs about genial ghosts and female centaurs and you have a winning formula. An unconventional one but it worked for oddball duo Hill & Weedon, who bagged 2013's Musical Comedy Award on Friday.

Robin Hill and Theo Weedon were the outstanding act in the very conistent final, which I co-judged. The dinosaur impression has become a bit of a stand-up trope, with Imran Yusuf and Omid Djalili both doing it too (I think Omid actually does Godzilla but let's not split prehistoric hairs) but that did not stop it from being very funny when the wiry, weedy Hill started roaming through the audience. 

There was plenty more potential on display elsewhere too, even if some of the humour did feel a little Jurassic at times. Runners-up Jonny & the Baptists was another twosome (though I have previously seen them as a threesome) with bags of energy and inventive rhymes, bemoaning the demise of traditional bars and pining for ale served in jugs and music by Suggs.

Next place went to turbo-charged Tina Turner-based character Tina Tea Lady, who was simply the third best. Her totally over the top impression – part Acorn Antiques' Mrs Overall, part Beyonce – was a definite crowd pleaser, but I'm not sure if it would work for more than ten minutes

The other three entrants, Lucy Cox, Steve Seller and I Am, I Am were also deserving finalists boasting quirky worldviews. Cox was like a sexy Pam Ayres, with oddball songs about dodgy boyfriends. Seller's selling point was his speccy, Space Invader-jumpered geekiness. He started off very well but then went way too dark with a song about being a child asking his dad how he was born and getting the repeated answer "I banged your mother".

I am, I am were good but unfortunate for a number of reasons. They had a rubbish name, they had microphone problems and there were just too many male guitar duos on the bill. Even the playful comperes, Horse and Louis, were guitar-based. I expected Tim Minchin or Bill Bailey to be the biggest influence on the acts, but it was the spirit of Flight of the Conchords that was evoked most frequently.

The oddest aspect of the evening, however, was that Best Newcomer Award winner Jenny Bede, who featured in a guest spot, really merited a placing in the main final for her polished rap suggesting umpteen boyfriends for Rhianna who might be preferable to Chris Brown. If there was one act on the bill that I would confidently tip for stardom it would be Bede. By contrast flame-haired Irish winner Ursula Burns was an excellent harpist but just plain weird. The Irish have a great comic sensibility but if she had been an entrant in the competition here I'm not sure if she would have made the final. 

After the competition concluded the night’s double headliners were The Brett Domino Trio, who had a deadpan line in sending up geeky Hot Chip-style electropop and Isy Suttie, who combined wit, whimsy and her old faithful impression of Lady Gaga/Amy Winehouse trapped down a well. A fitting end to an evening showcasing a seemingly bottomless well of musical talent.

 

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