The campiest show currently playing in the West End is not Viva Forever. (That's the cheesiest show.) It's the hilarious Privates on Parade, currently showing itself at the Noel Coward Theatre.
Simon Russell Beale, who steals the show, plays a drag artist as part of a song and dance unit who entertains troops somewhere in Asia in 1948. When new young recruit, Steven Flowers (Joseph Timms) joins the unit, he is exposed to all sorts of tomfoolery, from both Beale (playing Captain Terri Dennis) and the rest of the troop (including the lovely Sophiya Haque playing Sylvia Morgan, who is the subject of Steven's affection). Meanwhile, it appears that the Chinese are slowly working their way into their camp (and listening in to their conversations), unbeknowst to Major Giles Flack (Angus Wright).
Privates on Parade was on stage in London in 1977. It is based on author Peter Nichols experiences as a young national serviceman with Combined Forces Entertainment (as it was called back then). Not having seen the 1977 version, and not knowing what this show was about, I can say this was was funny, entertaining, and a good night out. So what happens during this two and one half hour show? Lots of singing, lots of dancing, lots of chatting between the other military men, and a memorable shower scene where each of the four young actors strip down and take showers at different times. It is amazing how well-timed this scene is, and that the actors don't look at all uncomfortable.
But most of all, the show belongs to Beale. He wears dresses better than most woman of his size and age do. He superbly wears a Carmen Miranda type get-up, and also wears a revealing undergarment which exposes his bottom half. And Beale plays the part of the drag artist all so well, whether teaching the boys some moves, or in not-too-private moments in his dressing room.
Go see this show, if just to see Beale for his irrestisble star performance.