God (Michael Christopher) makes Adam (Joseph Robinson) from dust and places him in The Garden of Eden. But Adam is lonely, so God makes him a companion. It should be Eve (Hayley Hampson), but in Adam & Eve… And Steve, Beelzebub (Stephen McGlynn) intervenes and creates Steve (Dale Adams) instead. Who will Adam choose?
Even the synopsis for this show sounds cheesy, superficial and unlikely to last over 75 minutes. The reality is no different. Chandler Warren’s book and lyrics are simple, uncomplicated and unable to meet the exceptionally high expectations of musical theatregoers today. With lyricists such as Tim Minchin (Matilda and Groundhog Day), Parker, Lopez and Stone (The Book Of Mormon) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton and In The Heights) storming both Broadway and the West End, audiences have been spoilt for tongue-twisting, intricate verse that reads like spoken word poetry and is just as sharp. Warren’s plotline is threadbare at best, with just enough material to cobble together a story stretched paper thin. Even at the start, McGlynn’s opening number “It’s All About Me” feel like it’s shoehorned in to a show that has only just begun – his other numbers, ranging from a soft shoe tap routine with God (Christopher) to a blues standard, are just as out of place.
As a character, McGlynn is tongue in cheek with just a smattering of pantomime villain. The acting as a whole lifts this production – it isn’t particularly high brow or Shakespearean, but Francesca Goodridge ekes out the laughs from the saccharine material and innuendo comedy. Each of the cast is competent in this discipline, which is more than can be said for the singing. Wayne Moore’s piano score, with angel-clad Dean Austin at the helm, bounces pleasantly along in an inoffensive yet forgettable manner. Harmonies are delivered adequately but are mainly in thirds or major variations and as such aren’t particularly taxing on the singers – the group songs are stronger than the solos however, safety in numbers.
Vocally Eve (Hampson) is the strongest, able to hold her own and inject some semblance of personality into the songs. Steve (Adams) and Adam (Robinson) are by no means poor singers, but both break several times in the higher register and need more diaphragmatic support to push through their head voice and sustain those money notes. Credit to Robinson though, he more effectively plasters over the cracks by acting through the song, not the easiest to do given that all the characters wear nothing but tastefully placed leaves to protect their modesty.
The strongest part of Adam & Eve… And Steve (apart from the fact that it finishes) is the set – Maeve Black balances the glittery sparkle of the musical with a well framed, vine covered stage and tree of knowledge. Goodridge makes good use of the stage, but overall direction and choreographic prowess is lacking. The whole musical is too incoherent and too much like a pantomime, everyone hamming it up to catastrophic proportions. The final nail in the coffin are a few exquisitely unpleasant lines – when Eden is rhymed with Sweden, I know I have gone through the looking glass… and the result is a nauseating level of sparkle.
Adam & Eve… And Steve is playing King’s Head Theatre until 29 April. For more information and to book tickets, see the website.