COUGAR – The Musical
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Thursday 21st May, 2015
Donna Moore’s musical receives its UK premiere in the Belgrade Theatre’s super B2 studio, transformed here to a swish bar run by one of the characters. Mary-Marie (Suanne Braun) is in her forties and embracing it – along with any young stud she can get her claws into. Lily (Pippa Winslow) is a newly divorced empty-nester, at a loss, who wanders in. Dawn Hope is Clarity, an academic exploring the ‘phenomenon’ of cougars – predatory women on the hunt for younger men. The trio are complemented by a fourth – the only male member of the cast, so to speak: Barnaby Hughes who plays everyone else.
They’re a likeable bunch and they put the numbers across well but rather than a plot, we get a series of scenes that are like sketches, showing different aspects of the women’s lives. Any conflict that arises is easily resolved or glossed over and they move on to their next cocktail and their next cock.
Suanne Braun is the funniest of the three as the sassy bar owner trying to keep in shape with some half-assed exercises. Dawn Hope has the strongest singing voice and Pippa Winslow comes across as the most rounded character, as vulnerable Lily finds her way in this new world. Their voices blend well and the score glitters with wit and some not-bad tunes. A pit stop at a nail bar (with Barnaby Hughes appearing as manicurist Eve!) is perhaps the catchiest number, although a song about a vibrator called Julio goes down well. The three women are very good but the piece amounts to a showcase for the talents (and yes, the physique) of Barnaby Hughes.
It’s a lot of fun, a little saucy and a little touching but more of a cabaret-style entertainment than a piece of musical theatre. It’s a more thoughtful piece than a raunchy girls’ night out. Imagine Cole Porter does Sex & The City.
Why should there be an age limit on love, the show asks? It’s a fair question but falls shy of another question: Can’t these women just be out for the sex? Why does love have to enter into it?
It’s definitely, irrefutably American with its outlook, its navel-gazing, its affirmations, and its ‘finding oneself’ philosophy.
On-stage musicians Neil MacDonald and Joe Pickering on keyboard and drums respectively bring the spirited score to irresistible life in this classy, slick production that purrs rather than roars.