Wolfboy **** Musical Theatre, George Square
WOLFBOY is a critic's musical. Anyone reading the title and looking forward to a lycanthropic adventure in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Teenwolf will be sorely disappointed.
Instead they'll find the dark and disturbing tale of two troubled teenage boys locked in an asylum for their own good.
The outside world is a frightening place of child abuse, incest, absent parents and violence. Based on a play by renowned Canadian playwright Brad Fraser, the action centres on the co-dependent relationship the boys form to protect each other from the very real dangers lurking in the corridors.
Notorious for its 1984 Toronto production, which introduced Keanu Reeves to an unsuspecting public for the first time, very little has been heard of the piece in the UK since.
One can see why adaptation author and director Russell Labey and lyricist Leon Paris could envisage the tale set to music. Running through the story are a number of incoherent voice-overs; a young child talking and singing, references to numbers and colours.
Only as the drama unfolds does the audience begin to understand the disturbing significance of the words.
Blending this with crackling on-stage tension and musical performances by the main characters works unexpectedly well; the audience were so engrossed by the drama they leaned increasingly further towards the stage in stunned silence as the evening progressed.
Taking the helm as the Wolfboy, or David, is Paul Holowaty, better known as Hollyoaks bully Macki, bringing a swaggering, energetic quality to the role. Holowaty really grasps the mentality and behaviour of a young man grappling with mental illness. Playing David's fellow inmate and suicide risk, Bernie, is relative newcomer Gregg Lowe, who displays a wonderfully casual brutality towards co-star Holowaty at the beginning of the first act.
Making up the rest of the ensemble is Katie Beard as the institution's manipulative and misguided nurse and Steps alumni Lee Latchford-Evans playing against his good guy persona and revelling in a deliciously chilling twist.
While Beard and Latchford-Evans do their best to keep the momentum of the drama in hand, their characters feel somewhat superfluous to the action and developing relationship between the two boys. Indeed, it is the changing nature and sexualisation of the relationship between Holowaty and Lowe that keeps one gripped.
There is a moment, however, where director Labey shies away from completely embracing the sexual tension between the boys, robbing the show's central turning point of the shock value Fraser embroidered into the script.
While the songs work well in the fabric of the play, they lack the hooks and orchestration to work as standalone pieces.
Where Labey and Paris have a chance to make a great difference, is with the play's dnouement. While fitting for Holowaty's character, it seemed lazy and contrived to end the play in such a way for Lowe, whose character had the potential to take far more of a journey.
Yet for all Wolfboy's faults, it's a must for anyone who likes to be challenged by their drama.
Run ends Monday
Porn The Musical
Musical Theatre, George Square ****
EUROVISION meets Club 18-30 in this affable Maltese ode to all things erotic. Set between Malta and the United States, Porn is the tale of young, naive Stefan who leaves his cheating fiancee Jade to start a new life in the new world. Falling instantly in love with the beautiful Sanddy (yes, that's with a double D) a girl who helps him out when he's down on his luck, Stefan follows her into the seedy world of sex films and double entendres. When a genital drama threatens to derail the film they're making, however, it's up to Stefan to save the day, but can he get the girl too, or will the evil Jade have her vengeful way?
Poppy, perky and likeable, much of the show's Pythonesque humour is derived from the company's distinct lack of budget, an issue that certainly doesn't dent their excellent comic timing or infectious verve. In fact, the whole show could be described as an X-rated version of Spamalot.
Max Dingli puts in a turn reminiscent of The Big Bang Theory's Leonard as the hapless Stefan, while David Ellul steals the show as porn star Dr Johnny Long, with a Phd of the non-academic kind.
Sarah Naudi's Sanddy has a surprisingly engaging yodel and the sultry poses of a fairly convincing porn star. Narrating the show is Maltese radio star and the book's author Malcolm Galea, a suave host with a leaning towards The Rocky Horror Picture Show's own narrator.
The eight-piece band back up the action with a well-orchestrated score based on traditional Maltese melodies. The songs may be cheesy but there's a cheerful glee behind the performances, with some of the catchiest tunes you'll come across this Festival.
The fabulous Everyone in Malta Is Related and I've Got A Phd stand out in particular for their cheeky, mickey-taking vim, which had the well-oiled audience onside from the outset.
Appropriately it's Miscellaneous Man, Toni Attard, who spends much of the show lamenting the fact he has no character of his own, that sums Porn up nicely: "This is the only porn you can ever watch in the company of family and friends without ever being called a pervert. It's also the only porn where the climax is in the story and the throat action is in the singing. It's cheesy and silly but great fun."
The one musical this year that guarantees a happy ending.
Run ends Monday