Barbershop four part harmony and the battle between Heaven and Hell may seem unlikely bedfellows but the two subjects gel perfectly in musical comedy Barbershopera: Apocalypse No!
God has decided that the human race should be wiped from the face of the earth and another species be given the chance to make a better job of it. He commands his Archangels to call forth the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to exterminate mankind. Saddle forth War, Pestilence and Famine but instead of Death he ends up with Beth – an acting primary school head teacher who stumbles into the inner workings of Hell instead of a fancy dress part for one of her eight-year-old pupils.
Rob Castell and Tom Sadler’s witty, well constructed numbers manage to keep to the spirit of Barbershop close harmony, while also reflecting musical theatre and opera. It could easily descend into farce but it’s an affectionate parody that treats the source material with affection.
There are some wonderfully comedic inventions; a teachers’ reflection on her primary school production of Miss Saigon complete with papier mache helicopter, a Peter Pan parody with Capital Melon-Scoop and the Temporary Misplaced Boys and even an appearance by God himself in an apparition as you’ve never seen him before.
A cappella four part harmony is notoriously difficult to perform but the on-form company deliver complex lyrics and harmonies with deceptive ease. Lara Stubbs, Will Kenning, Pete Sorel-Cameron and co-author Rob Castell are obviously enjoying the material, delivering vocally impressive performances and some marvellously crazy comic creations.
Sarah Tipple’s direction keeps the jokes, both visual and musical, coming thick and fast, incorporating simple props to great effect.
Some of the jokes may be corny, the rhymes may elicit a groan but it’s all good fun. It may look deceptively simple but Barbershopera: Apocalypse No! is a well constructed, inventive and unique musical comedy that is timed to perfection.
This is the third show in the Barbershopera cannon and, judging by the audience reaction, this is a formula that could be around for many years yet.