Murderous Instincts

Norwich Theatre Royal

Well, what an odd show! Did it want to be a drama, a musical or a comedy?

Sure, you can have a stab at all three but your audience will certainly be rather confused – a bit like me.

Hailed as great new salsa musical straight from Puerto Rico, the show has its European premiere here in Norwich before heading for a spell in the West End.

It has a little of everything thrown into the pot, mixed around and then dished out to theatre-goers to make of it what they can.

Basically, a rich widow summons her children to her home after the death of their father.

The usual family politics – that means rows – ensue and the mother disappears.

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Each child then has to learn to be true to its own feelings (that old rites of passage thing) and realise that money isn't everything. Re-enter mother, several denouements, and happiness and contentment all round.

The title? Not a clue. The use of salsa? Well, it was set in Puerto Rico, but it could have been anywhere.

The songs? They range from big ballads belted out by the cast to more sexy salsa numbers, but nothing well known or very memorable.

The majority of the first half was, for me, relatively dire as the show struggled to go anywhere, but the entrance of Jonathan D Ellis as the highly camp Miguel suddenly got the cast going and the play decided it fancied being a comedy after all.

The second half turned slapstick, and as the plot unravelled itself the audience began to enjoy themselves.

For me, I'd have liked to see more actual salsa. There were brief moments when the company – which includes a world champion salsa dancer in Janet Fuentes Torres – showed what they could do, but it was only in the closing minutes that we were transported to a salsa club for a big production number.

Nichola McAuliffe stars as Edwina, the merry widow, and gives a cracking performance, as do all the main characters, producing some of the most beautiful singing heard at the Theatre Royal in a long time.

Will it succeed in London? That's a hard one. Michael Crawford opens in The Woman in White, a new Andrew Lloyd Webber production, and I'd have thought that people would place that high on their list.

This one has a strangely old-fashioned feel to it. With well-worn jokes, a comic John Inman-style gay, and farce-like love swaps, it's hard to see how this can compete with more sophisticated shows.

t The show continues at the Theatre Royal until Saturday September 4. Box office: 01603 630000.

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