MY desire to review the Water Babies, at Leicester's Curve Theatre, was based entirely on the obsession my sister and I had with the 1970s film when we were growing up.
It was only when the curtain went up that I had the sinking feeling – excuse the pun – that it may not live up to my nostalgia-motivated expectations. My fears could not have had less foundation.
This was an excellent musical.
It was fast-paced, beautifully-presented and a truly original piece of theatre.
That said, it did take a little while to get going.
With a dramatic opening scene, intended as something of a prologue, the audience is introduced to the teenage Tom, who is accused of stealing from a rich family when he was cleaning the chimney.
Though found guilty, a surprise fairy godmother, Mrs D (short for Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby) steps in to halt proceedings and introduce a moral tale showing the youngster, played by Thomas Milner, that his life need not be wasted on petty crime, beginning a moral tale which would play out in an underwater fairytale.
No sooner had time whizzed backwards, and we were introduced to the love of Tom's life Ellie (Lauren Samuels), he had been apprehended for a crime he did not commit, and he was jumping to the murky depths to escape prosecution.
Only then – after a lot of songs which were a little long, indistinct and overdone for my liking – does the fun really begin.
It is these underwater scenes, which thankfully made up most of the play, which gave me a lasting impression of theatrical satisfaction and chased away any disappointment I had at the start.
A motley trio quickly cycled on to the stage on bikes designed to represent their fishy origin, and the audience was introduced to Claude (Tom Davey), Jock (Andy Gray) and Terrence (Samuel Holmes). The group were by far the most entertaining characters, with their bad jokes and wonderfully camp performance of Die another Day. The three were a true delight to behold.
Tom Lister, who played Eel, is also worthy of a mention, for his truly sinister, yet amusing, portrayal, of the power-mad fish, and Louise Dearma – and especially her incredible voice – were remarkable.
Produced Peter Shaw said he toyed with the idea of making the Water Babies into a musical 30 years ago, but only now was the technology been advanced enough to produce it.
If the underwater effects are anything to go by, it seems that was a wise decision. I defy even the most jaded member of the audience to find fault with the way it was presented.
I left humming a few of the songs, though some of the less memorable ones have been lost to me, and with the feeling I had enjoyed a good piece of musical theatre. Some elements echoed other modern musicals, such as Wicked, which also seem to be regarding overall style more than songs, but that is no bad thing – simply a shift in the genre.
The Water Babies was due only to be staged in Leicester, but after seeing it last week, I would be very surprised if it did not go further in the future.