The Menier Chocolate Factory’s recent success with musicals has resulted in West End transfers and a resulting healthy scattering of Laurence Olivier Awards. The latest musical to try its luck at the intimate venue is Paradise Found, which received its world premiere last night with Charlotte Marshall in the audience.
Set to the music of Strauss, Paradise Found is a bawdy romp of a show which never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously. Sexual innuendo, bed-swapping, cheery prostitutes, bumbling barons and an abundance of puns fill the stage with its endearing quality being its deliberately slapdash, knowingly ridiculous style.
The premise is equally as silly as the grinning characters that make up the society of Vienna in which the audience finds itself. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the Shah of Persia, finding himself unusually lacking in desire, takes himself off to Vienna to find his libido. Find it he does, in the shape of the beautiful, and out-of-bounds, Empress. Flagged by his chief Eunuch and Grand Vizier, the servants plot a Measure For Measure-inspired plan swapping the Empress for their new lady-of-the-night friend Mizzi. But while the Shah rediscovers his happiness, it seems others have mislaid theirs, as the switch causes broken hearts and fierce jealousy to surface.
With an all-American cast, the production is led by Mandy Patinkin, a veteran Broadway star with a handful of Tony Awards and effortless stage presence. As the Eunuch he steals the show with his Buddhist Monk persona, naive, silly personality and his ability to hit unnaturally high notes for someone not of the Eunuch persuasion.
Joined by the quite crazy Baron (Shuler Hensley), slightly dim Mizzi (Kate Baldwin) and the hard done by brothel mistress Frau Matzner (Judy Kaye), they present a motley crew as they try to explain the nature of desire to the Eunuch, who ironically, as devoid of desire as he is, is the one most obsessed by the nature of love.
With costumes that look like they have been picked straight from a Disneyworld dressing up box, a sprinkling of catchy, impressively well-sung songs and more than a healthy dose of lechery, Paradise Found is an unashamedly camp romp that would have carried the subtitle ‘Carry On Vienna’ well.