By Susanna Mulvihill
The Wonderful Sisters are a three-girl USO act who are anything but Wonderful. As characters they are in turn despotic, idiotic and neurotic, as additions to the stage they are a mistake. This show from the outset suffers from technical flaws, a terminal script and clichéd banality. Apparently confused as to period setting, we are faced with 1940s style of music and clothes, littered with with current cultural references and occasional video footage of a Churchill impersonation that could only have been less convincing if it had been played by a 20 year-old blonde girl. The only salvation is that the songs and harmonies are well performed by the three person cast. Unfortunately they are given little to work with by way of characterisation and lyrics.
As the audience enter we are bid ‘Welcome to the Army’ by the cast at the door. An impressionist picture of the US flag is being projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, however as you can see the bars at the top and bottom of the computer screen the feed is coming from this spoils the effect somewhat. As the house lights dim a short film is played, a parody of a Second World War US army recruitment video, with a voice-over that sounds British and featuring images that include space rockets, already confusing the time period. The girls then launch into their opening number, but the backing track is too loud to make out the lyrics clearly. This is perhaps due to the mis-placement of their radio mics which are being worn far too far from their faces. A better way of staging would have been to have period-style microphones on stands that the cast could have carried to the side of the stage when not needed, as they required no amplification for the dialogue. The words in the songs you can hear are like a cross between George Formby and a Carry-On script, with the jokes being heavy on Double Entendre and smut. These fail almost universally to raise a laugh from the audience, with the funniest lines being the titles of the songs. The only time one of these ditties approaches intelligence or real humour is in “Educational Song” an alternative sort of warfare involving ‘intimate relations’. The numbers do have good harmonies and are well choreographed, but this doesn’t entirely make up for the lack of subtlety in the lyrics. In particular there is one section in the penultimate song which has a strong anti-semitic sentiment. This comes out of the blue and may be an attempt at subversive humour. If it is it is misjudged, in bad taste, and the joke falls flat.
In between the musical numbers is an attempt at a plot between the sisters involving world domination and some sibling bickering, but the story is hackneyed and predictable. The two dimensional characters fail to develop in any way throughout the course of the show. The performances in these sections are luck-lustre, possibly because the script offers so little for the actors to engage with. There are plenty of all-American wholesome smiles but there is little substance.
There are a good number of female trios on the cabaret circuit singing in close harmony, some comedic, some not. These three sing and move well together but I’m not convinced they need to have this sort of narrative behind them. Strong lyrics and well composed songs are enough in themselves without a gimmicky story to make up a decent show. Overall, this production feels like it’s trying to be edgy and controversial but fails to hit its target.