Two years ago comedy troupe Police Cops had a London run of their enjoyably freewheeling show Badass Be Thy Name. It was a sharp, punchy and very silly comedy mixing vampire slaying with the Madchester club scene. For Police Cops The Musical, set in America and Mexico, they have added songs, enlarged the cast and the running time, but have not really enlarged the enjoyment.
Zachary Hunt stars as 1980s eager beaver Jimmy Johnson, whose simple ambition is to be the best cop ever. He joins the force and finds himself working for Chief Molloy (Nathan Parkinson), all testosterone, slick hair and Miami Vice rolled-up sleeves, who explains that if in doubt “rip off your top”. Johnson is soon ripping off his top at every opportunity with aplomb.
But you obviously cannot be a 1980s cop on a mission without a buddy and sadly Johnson’s sideburned best buddy, Harrison (Tom Roe, a dead ringer for the late Heath Ledger) has retired and spends his days drinking heavily. In true cop movie cliché tradition, he is lured back on duty for one final case.
Joining the original cast for this latest romp are Miztli Rose Neville and Andrea Nodroum, both strong physical comedians who play multiple characters as well as a couple of ponies - one of the more subtle jokes features their pony tails as real pony’s tails. Most notably Nodroum plays flamboyant Mexican Juanita Gonzalez and has some stand-out solo numbers.
Gradually though, Police Cops The Musical starts to feel like a bit of an onslaught. Hunt, Roe and Parkinson, who created the project, appear to have thrown pretty much everything they have thought of into the mix. There are daft visual gags with mops and toys, self-mocking montages, film references, energetic fight scenes and so many song and dance numbers it is hard to keep up.
Matt Harrison is credited as co-director and maybe he should have been more hands-on. The motto seems to be if ripping off your shirt doesn’t work, flash your Y-fronts. Sondheim it ain’t.
In the end the best option is to sit back, give up on following the plot and just embrace the silliness of a show that aspires to being both a song and dance spectacular and a corny, knowing send-up of the song and dance spectacular, but ends up teetering somewhere in the middle.
Zesty performances paper over many of the cracks in a production that has the potential to be so much better. There is an extremely entertaining 80-minute musical comedy in here fighting to get out, but it is lurking somewhere in a show that touches on the two-hour mark.
New Diorama Theatre, to December 23, newdiorama.com