I’ve had a bit of a mixed history with Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. The first time I saw it, I absolutely hated it: it was an amateur production (in both senses of the word), and the corny/bad dialogue just came off as bad. The two great songs – “Space Vixen” and “Glitterboots Saved My Life” – were recognizably snappy but didn’t have enough pizzazz to save the show. But, really, great songs just don’t count for much if the cast singing them aren’t good, and no musical can survive just on tunes without acting and (preferably) a good story.
Which brings us from 2008 to 2013, when I saw the Leicester Square Theater production of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. Suddenly, with the kind of high quality talent London seems to be dripping in, the campy fun of the show was suddenly highlighted, like a turkey sandwich or a burger that with the addition of bacon suddenly becomes a thing of wonder. And thus I became a convert to the joy of this show – or, in show terms, I became a Space Vixen. I came back two more times during the run of the show because it was just that much of a pick me up for me. Thus when an invite came from Two Box productions to see a production of Saucy Jack right up the street from me, at Clapham Common, I jumped on it. I’ve got a bad case of the mean reds this January and this sounded like just what the doctor ordered.
Walking into the back room of the Two Brewers (it’s just a little further down the street than the Sainsbury’s, but on the opposite side), I was impressed by what a great space it was for the show. Saucy Jack is set in a bar, and thus can play very well in a bar (especially since it comes with a pre-recorded soundtrack), but they had upped the level by having the cast members out mingling with the audience members like actual bar staff. I was sat by Booby Shevale herself (Lawrence Bolton), which I thought was great – everyone was already in character! We also had a group of dancers posing as barmaids, and spotlit in the corner I could see the rather brooding Saucy Jack (Joel Dyer) sitting at a table looking … well, broody probably isn’t the word, more like poorly shaven.
Unfortunately, this production didn’t hit the highs of the Leicester Square 2013 show. I blame a bit of it on budget – I want a bit more from my Space Vixens’ costumes, for example – but also voice of our second space vixen, Anna Labia (Nikita Smith) was a bit of a disaster during her big opening number – off key and off rhythm. That was a bit hard to recover from for me (mentally) and made the scenes which were supposed to seem self-consciously campy just seem a little, well, amateur and tired.
It’s clear, though, that for most people this production still delivered what they were hoping for – some fun disco anthems, loads of innuendo, and a chance to wear glittery boots – so perhaps it was just a matter of different expectations and a whole lot more alcohol. Still, I am hoping to see a version that has me rushing back for seconds. And for a friend of mine who is a hard core Saucy Jack fan (and went on Friday), her tickets for next weekend’s performance are already secured, so if she’s to believed, this performance numbers among the good ‘uns. It just didn’t hit it for me.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, January 17th, 2015. It has two more performances on Friday and Saturday January 23rd and 24th. I know last Saturday night was sold out, so be sure to check online rather than just showing up and hoping for tickets.)