The Bookie is playwright Douglas Maxwell’s first musical (2 stars)

The Bookie

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

The Bookie

  • 2 stars

New Scottish musical comedy by Douglas Maxwell. Hapless local bookie Stevie McQueen's luck looks set to change when a local boy made good rolls back into town with plans for a brand new casino... but what are the odds on things all going as planned? Suitable for ages 15+.

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