A musical depicting the story of Michael Fish, the notoriously inaccurate television weather forecaster, opened to critical acclaim yesterday. The musical, written by Victoria Wood, (who later told reporters that the idea had come to her ‘in a flash, like a bolt from the blue’), charts his career from the Drought of 1976 to his retirement in misty obscurity focussing on his infamy as the nation’s leading hurricane denier following the Great Storm of 1987.
Last night, the critics were united in raining praise on the production. ‘It looks this show is set in for some time.’ forecasted Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph, adding, ‘I particularly liked ‘Typhoon Buffoon’ the final number of the first half. It’s a real twister.’
Starring Sir Michael Gambon as the scruffy weatherman, the show excels in its more poignant moments, such as the bluesy ‘Cloudy and Overcast’, and the unforgettable song of unrequited love, ‘Frost On My Exposed Areas’, performed by Julie Waters reprising the role of Fish’s sultry colleague Isobel Lang, whom she first portrayed in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘North Utsire, South Utsire’.
The show has plenty of atmosphere and the audience soaks up a tsunami of emotions; one moment in gales of laughter, the next on the edge of their seats in awe and horror at the fall from grace from a weather presenter at the peak of his powers to a sad crumpled old man filling the late evening weather slot on BBC’s regional news.
Charles Spencer is in no doubt that the scene where Fish goes outside at the height of the Great Storm and rants at the heavens is destined to be a classic. ‘It’s hard not to draw parallels to King Lear’s tempest scene, except that the Shakespeare play doesn’t have any banjo playing tap dancers. Not that this is detrimental to the musical. Perhaps the Bard should have considered some musical accompaniment to lighten the mood a little.’
After a bright interval, the show resumes with the breezy big dance number ‘Coming Towards You From a South, South Westerly Direction.’ and storms its way right through to a climax with the showstopper ‘Galoshes ‘n’ Sou’westers’ which appropriately for a showstopper is the finale.
The thunderous final applause led to several curtain calls, after which the audience left the theatre and struggled their way home following the unexpectedly heavy snow that had fallen during the evening.