Stop the Train
New musical founded on a dubious premise with great tunes
Despite rollicking tunes and a broad streak of sentimentality, Stop the Train relies on a vicious plot device which its themes and story never quite earns. A terrorist holds a train full of people hostage, threatening them with death if they don't talk to each other. There's a vague condemnation of social media culture, but the alternative presented – celebrity marriage, a show at Vegas – is hardly blameless. The lyrics switch between easy rhyming and more trenchant commentary, and the scale of the production impresses, yet the forced scenario undermines the fantasy.
Set in the carriage of a train, the strong ensemble makes the most of the musical numbers: for each song, a different character reveals their ambitions or failings. The variety of musical styles ensures entertainment, but the returns to the hostage situation can be jarring. That the climactic explosion relies on an accident exposes the plot's weakness. This is a song cycle masquerading as a musical.
Nevertheless, the cast are excellent and many of the compositions have a dynamism that would not shame Broadway. It is well executed, rarely dropping the pace and even displaying a dry humour. It's unfortunate that the violence – a woman held at knife-point to convince her errant ex-boyfriend that he loves her, and the explosive death of the terrorist – is contrived, since this cast are charismatic and capable of delivering show-stopping routines, and the score is jazzy, versatile and imaginative.
Paradise in Augustines, until 28 Aug, 3.40pm, £14 (£12).