Review Round Up: Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – The Musical! , National Theatre

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Andy Stanton and Jim Fortune’s musical based on the children’s books.

(c) The Other Richard.

The Guardian: ** “Andy Stanton’s adaptation of his own children’s books is packed with eccentricity and verbal flourishes – all at the expense of the story.”

Time Out: **** “Think about it too hard and ‘Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear’ is quite an old-fashioned thing, pitting the Good Child against the Undesirably Impure Adult in time-honoured Dickensian fashion. It’s also very self-aware, and ready to subvert its heaviest emotional moments with post-modern irony. A genre that luckily, kids seem to embrace. They lap up this offbeat blend of bad-old-days violence, giant dancing doughnuts, and knowing, but expansive, joy.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “This makes for a satisfying and worthwhile addition to the National’s laudable track record of making quality entertainment for all the family. Bonkers, but in the best possible way.”

The Telegraph: *** “Overall, though, Amy Hodge’s production – well-meaning, colourful and jolly as it is – is also half-baked. There’s lots of aimless pottering about, and the unmemorable songs (lyrics by Stanton, music from Jim Fortune) are long, presumably to try and hide the thinness of the story. It has very little characterisation, and sometimes feels like the sort of piece that adults enjoy far more than the children for whom it is intended.”

A Younger Theatre: **** “Andy Stanton goes above and beyond with his book and lyrics, as both have numerous satirical jokes for the adults and more than enough bonkers enjoyment for the children. On top of this, the music by Jim Fortune is playful, experimental and full of surprise.”

Musical Theatre Review: ***** “The songs are all great fun too, and the above-par pantomimic book offers a genuinely hilarious script. Adults will find a lot to enjoy in this so if you don’t have kids, now would be a good time to cash in your godparent tokens.”

London *** “Stanton’s humour does shine through the piece though, including several fun meta-jokes – including “The Saddest Song in the Show” – which make the piece feel like a great introduction to theatre for kids. But focussed a little more as a 90-minute piece, and this could have been a memorable favourite.”

British Theatre Guide: “A series of animal puppets will inevitably catch the eye, while barely seaworthy ships and an umbrella jungle, not to mention an unexpectedly humanised dancing food quartet including a pizza and sushi roll, will keep the little ones entranced.”

The Upcoming: *** “What lets Mr Gum down is the music. It can be hard to make out the lyrics, and the songs are often nothing more than repetitive ditties (admittedly it is aimed at the seven to nine age range). There are some fun moments, specifically a ballad that proudly announces itself as the saddest song in the show. But remove the musical aspect altogether and you’d have a tighter, just as funny production that could more consistently move with the archly silly pace exhibited at the show’s best.”

The Stage: ***** “All in, it’s mad as a shook-up box of frogs, crammed with hilarious lyrics and off-kilter humour. And all while delivering a beautiful message of friendship, happiness, ecological awareness, working together and loving bears. Lovely.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “The show has had to make a necessity of its meta-theatrical referencing to allow props to be wheeled on and off by the stage crew, and some of the words get lost in the volume of the live band, but don’t even try to fight the relentless oddity of Andy Stanton’s world.”

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – The Musical continues to play at the National Theatre until the 31st August.

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