We often imagine that ‘bigger is better’ when it comes to musicals, but The Fix, currently running at the small Union Theatre in Southwark, demonstrates what quality and impact can be achieved in a spare off-West End setting. The show, a loose re-telling of the Manchurian Candidate, is a sexy, seductive tale of the rise and fall of a political family-dynasty driven by great music and knockout singing performances by the entire cast.
The Fix is directed in visionary fashion by Michael Strassen and the lighting – mainly in red, white and blue and evocative of the Stars and Stripes – is by Steve Miller. The book and lyrics are by John Dempsey with music composed by Dana P. Rowe and the story is set in America, beginning with the Presidential election campaign of Senator Reed (Pete Gallaher). Unfortunately, Senator Reed dies during a liaison with his mistress but his wife Violet (Liz May Brice) refuses to let her White House ambitions die and, in an emotionally charged number, she boldly asserts “If I can’t be the President’s wife, I can still be the President’s mother!” With the help of the Senator’s crippled brother, Grahame (Miles Western), Violet begins to groom her unmotivated son, Cal (Louis Maskell) to follow in his father’s footsteps. Cal enrolls in the Army and then enjoys a meteoric rise from City Councilman to Senator but is corrupted by his success and becomes involved with drugs, an ex-stripper and the Mafia. Cal’s unraveling is dramatic and inevitable.
Rowe has set the intelligent, well-written lyrics to music in a variety of styles, ranging from Rock ‘n’ Roll through Country and Western to Broadway. And, in delivering the songs, the cast make maximum use of the limited performance space for their choreography. The dancing was always entertaining, full of energy but often sultry. It is unfair to pick a standout from such an all-round, amazing cast but Miles Western, playing Cal’s wily uncle, deserves a special mention. Despite playing a crippled, suffering character, his comic timing and delivery provided some humourous moments that lightened the more serious tones of the show.
There were no frills: no set; no crazy lighting; no breaks for scene changes. Just a few props and the power of performance by an amazing cast. The Fix takes place in modern America but its message of the corrupting power of political ambition is universal. Donmar Warehouse debuted the show back in 1997 and it is difficult to understand why it has taken so long for another production to emerge. This spectacular performance at the Union Theatre underlines the musical’s power and relevance and I hope it won’t be too long until we see The Fix and all its cast members on a London stage again.
The Fix is running at the Union Theatre from 20 June to 14 July 2012. For more information or to book tickets please click here.