I was quite shocked to discover, after sitting through a fun and light-hearted musical, that I had not enjoyed it. I had previously considered a new comedy musical to be a sure-fire hit for me, but Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area has proved that I do not know myself as well as I thought I did.
It is not that there is nothing to commend in this production, quite the contrary! All the elements are there. The cast are energetic and enthusiastic, all the characters are fun, cheesy and larger than life. The dance numbers are slick and inventive (more creative still considering the relatively small venue). The concept appears promising at first glance: a comedy musical set in a supermarket – the possibilities are endless!
“Rather more bemusing than amusing”
However, the writing, unfortunately a rather essential component in the success of any musical, lets this show down. The sense of humour made me feel old (and I am still in my early twenties). I adore a bit of absurdism – Little Shop of Horrors could be my all time favourite musical – but the plot of Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area was quite simply random, which I found rather more bemusing than amusing. The jokes consisted either of puns (which were overplayed and obvious) or completely random and unexplained happenings. Perhaps too much has been thrown at the plot? Perhaps there were multiple writers and this is simply a case of too many cashiers spoiling the tin of broth?
Based on performance alone, this show is great. The band are tight and look fetching in their pastel pink aprons. A few moments of interaction between the band and the cast were nice novelties. I would not discourage anybody under the age of 21 to see this well-produced musical, as perhaps the humour only appeals to a narrow range of ages, but it certainly did not tickle my musical taste buds.
Image: Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society