Please note: this review was originally written for Musical Theatre Review
This town isn’t big enough for the both of us… That’s right, there happens to be two new cowboy musicals in London town and with Cowbois at the Royal Court ending in early February there is a new kid on the block… Bronco Billy the Musical.
Let’s start with the simply sublime cast. They completely moulded into each character which is as endearing and well-rounded as the next. The chemistry between Emily Benjamin as the leading lady and Tarinn Callender as the titular character might not be as palpable as possible but I think this is more down to a fairly predictable love story structure rather than the actors capabilities themselves. A special mention goes to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who is utterly scene-stealing with her comedic timing, farcical interpretation and ingenious characterisation.
The score is best described as an enjoyable way to experience the sensational vocals from the cast, Emily Benjamin, Tarinn Callender and Karen Mavundukure in particular. Any one of these performers could sing Happy Birthday on repeat and I’d listen intently. There are a couple of standout musical moments including “You Can Ride With Me” but overall the soundtrack is quite generic with a ‘follow your dreams’ narrative.
Some of the script felt a little clumsy with some lines feeling almost panto-esque with one of the villains dramatically announcing his name for it to only be pronounced incorrectly back to him. This jarred with the major plot points of the show as, tonally, it feels off to have a show with themes of identity, poverty, discovering true family, death and murder to suddenly click into jazz squares and cheesy one liners at the drop of a cowboys hat.
Unfortunately, the odds were against the wonderful cast on press night with many a prop and scenery mishaps occurring. With show filled with tricks, stunts and theatre magic, it may take some time to iron out any kinks and quirks, but I have no doubt that a cast as skilled as this one will handle it with ease.
There is no expense spared on the set which despite being enclosed in a relatively small theatre, manages to expanse across the Wild West and beyond. The main feature is a tour bus of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert ilk on a central revolve which is complemented by additional scenery which unfolds from the wings. Combined with a sizeable fire, smashing plates and stars and streamers which pour into the auditorium and you’ve got a visually engaging and stimulating set.
This show is a fun night out, but unfortunately loses its soul along its way but this is not for the lack of trying by the cast. If you’re keen to experience some powerhouse vocals and in need of some daft humour to distract you from the day to day of life then this is the show for you.
Bronco Billy The Musical runs at the Charring Cross Theatre until the 7th April 2024.