Crammed with rustic charm, this year’s show can be summed up as a night of infectious enthusiasm, comedic chaos and unexpected brilliance. mary Cummins with permission for Varsity

What do you get when you put 20 actors, seven scriptwriters, seven directors and a production team in a room, giving them 24 hours to create a musical? Chaos - of the wonderful kind. Add in the theme of ‘a day at the zoo’ and this breeds, unsurprisingly, more chaos - of the animal kind. This is the premise of The 24 Hour Musical: to write, compose and produce a show in the short span of a day, to be performed at the ADC’s late show at 11pm. Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society (CUMTS) pulled off this musical mayhem and left the ADC theatre echoing with laughter, caffeine fumes, and a suspicious scent of bananas.

There is nothing more amusing than an opening monologue, booming with declarations of mankind’s greatest achievements, taking place on a stage filled with the half-hearted, wayward fumes of a low-budget pantomime. Lucas Smith, Charlotte Conybeare and Kavi Noonan’s crayon-coloured lighting splashed onto an undoubtedly minimalistic set of white sheets and discarded netting, cultivating the juvenile mayhem of the zoo setting. Meanwhile the lone smoke machine frequently pumped out laughs in its ironic placement, coming to life only at the most exaggerated moments.

“Performances can only be described as that of a drunk flamingo - slightly wobbly, but undeniably entertaining”

As the opening chorus entered the stage, we were sceptical of this seemingly primary school-esque theatre. But childish satire quickly became brilliant comedy and pantomime, as the toilet humour had the audience in fits of laughter. Opening and closing with chorus numbers, the musical appeared in episodic format, guaranteeing a balanced pandemonium of catchy hooks, wayward spotlights and satirical quips. Episodic zoo escapade unfolded with the grace of a giraffe attempting the can-can: or in this case, 20 sleep-deprived Cambridge students attempting the can-can, a dance that directors made good use of throughout the performance. The choreography, though occasionally lacking in precision, certainly had spontaneity

Yummy mummies, washed-up thespians and a cleverly concocted Red Bull advert. Three hilarious sub-plots interspersed between animalesque jail breaks, waddling penguin chorus lines and some truly ape-like acting. None of which was remotely expected at the declaration of the theme, and is a true testament to the scriptural powers of the CUMTS writing team. Their ability to weave outrageous scenarios - the sexually-charged viewing of a gorilla and a toddler’s Red Bull-infused dream of pitch perfect penguins - into a sarcastic meta-commentary on the comedic nature of musical theatre was a pleasure to observe.

“The occasional breaking of character was not just allowed, but welcomed”

Performances can only be described as that of a drunk flamingo - slightly wobbly, but undeniably entertaining. The occasional breaking of character was not just allowed, but welcomed, as improvised comedic moments added a magnetic tension to performances. The cast were committed to not taking themselves too seriously, and the audience gladly laughed with them. Taking cues from the writers, actors were able to seamlessly build not necessarily believable but likeable characters, giving the illusion of months, rather than hours, of preparation. Apart from the odd missed line and forgotten stage direction, which only added to the lighthearted atmosphere of the production, the cast were at their strongest in their individual segments. Particularly noteworthy were the trios of “At the Gift Shop” and “Les Mis-ellamas” both of whom enraptured the audiences with powerhouse voices, simultaneously painting picture-perfect portraits of disgruntled shop clerks, overeager seven year olds and burnt-out dramatists.

With an almost full house, packed with friends and musical theatre lovers, ears were assaulted by audience outbursts of “slay queen” and snaps, accompanied by sights of staggering students failing to make quick exits. The constant audience interaction, which perhaps risked the production turning into a mammoth inside joke, nevertheless added to the singularity of an evening packed with hilarious one-liners, and often even more absurd house replies.


Mountain View

What are we waiting for this Lent?

Requests by the audience to "drop the album" - only half jokingly - attested to the catchy show-tunes and smoothly executed music of the performance. In fact, the masterminds behind this control were on full display in true animal fashion; Ariella Gordon, Ness Lam, Zane Soonawalla, Jamie Ellis, Gabriel Owens, Kirsty McLauchlan. Understated dark clothing doing nothing to hide their palpable stage presence as composers periodically revolved to take centre place in a team of phenomenal musical talent directed by Annabel King.

What could’ve become a wilderness of forgotten lines or beastly dance moves turned out to be a carefully curated zoo. Crammed with rustic charm, this year’s show can be summed up as a night of infectious enthusiasm, comedic chaos and unexpected brilliance. The zoo may have been metaphorical, but the roar of applause that echoed through the ADC was unequivocally real.

CUMTS Presents: The 24 Hour Musical showed for one night only at the ADC Theatre on the 16th January.