The Bookie is playwright Douglas Maxwell’s first musical
Let down by complex plot despite suitably murky atmosphere
Playwright Douglas Maxwell’s first musical is unlikely to threaten the market dominance of Stephen Sondheim or Rodgers and Hammerstein or even Andrew Lloyd Webber any time soon. Aly Macrae’s songs, which range from catchy to unmemorable, punctuate the action rather than driving the story, while the narrative itself needs a serious overhaul for the show to truly take off.
The rich premise promises much. Casino king Jonathan Queen returns to the town of his youth with a plan to build a high-class gambling den, only for his scheme to be derailed by the intervention of his recently deceased brother, who places a bet – with lengthy odds – against the Queen’s gambling empire that true love will come to the town by Valentine’s Day.
The atmosphere evoked in the opening scenes is suitably murky and down-at-heel, and there are occasional gems among the one-liners. But the singing is increasingly variable, the choreography perfunctory, and the cast struggle to flesh out the sketchily drawn characters as the complicated, at times confusing, plot shambles towards its rather facile conclusion.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 13–Sat 16 Oct; Macrobert, Stirling, Tue 19 Oct. Seen at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Sat 2 Oct