Robert Tanitch reviews Miss Atomic Bomb at St James Theatre, London SW1
The American Atomic Energy Commission began nuclear tests in the Nevada Desert in 1951. In the early days there was roughly one detonation every three weeks.
It was good for tourism and Las Vegas benefitted enormously. There were all night parties on blast days and Beauty Contests were regularly mounted. The winner was crowned Miss Atomic Bomb.
This is a subject worthy of a serious documentary. Adam Long, Gabriel Vick and Alex Jackson-Long, three Brits, have written an American musical, a satire on American patriotism, American jingoism and American burlesque.
There are two story-lines. A soldier on the run (Dean John-Wilson), having gone AWOL, meets a farm-girl (Florence Andrews) who has lost her sheep (contaminated by the tests) and faces eviction from her caravan. He persuades her to enter a beauty competition which is being run by his brother, a cheap hotelier (Simon Lipkin), who is being threatened by the Mafia.
Lipkin is often very funny and he and Catherine Tate come together very late in the show for an amusing gay double act.
Bill Deamer’s production has bags of energy but it is not enough. Neither the characters nor the songs, nor the gags, nor the show biz clichés, are interesting enough in themselves
Miss Atomic Bomb could have been a blast had it been written 60 years ago. A satire on the atom bomb, radiation and the Cold War so long after the event seems odd and at this distance in time needs to be much sharper – something equivalent to Dr Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.