It would be easy to be po-faced about Cougar. Easy, but wrong.
Three women over forty are drawn to The Elder Grille Lounge bar, run by Mary-Marie (Suanne Braun). It’s a bar where women go to meet younger men. Mary-Marie is a vamp, sexually hungry, and not ashamed of it. The others are Lily (Pippa Winslow), recent divorcee who starts off Dorothy-like, red shoes, gingham and all; and Clarity, an academic who says she wants to make a study of the cougar phenomenon, but really wants to be one. The action concerns their quests for love, which of course they find, though not where they first expected it.
The show is a fast moving and colourful romp, full of great songs, naughty puns...and a gorgeous male actor (Barnaby Hughes) who plays a variety of roles, including Buck, Goliath, Bourbon Cowboy, Naked Peter (you get the picture), and Eve, a ditzy manicurist.
He had everything: the body, the charm, the dancing, the talent.
This is a girls night out, full of booze and laughter. It doesn’t really challenge the stereotypes, but it’s warm, sentimental, and laugh out loud funny. It gently teases the notion that there is a point beyond which a woman is ‘past it’. To be a cougar here is to know yourself as a woman.
The show has had a long and successful run off-Broadway and gets its UK premier at the Belgrade. To judge by the audience’s reaction, it could easily carve its own niche this side of the Atlantic.
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
Cougar The Musical is on until June 6