Fanny & Stella is the engaging musical by Glenn Chandler and Charles Miller that tells the true story of Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park who were arrested in 1870 in London for cross-dressing. The musical was first performed at Above The Stag in 2015 and is now revived in the much larger new venue in their main auditorium.
The story is told as a play within a play, with the main characters recreating the story of their arrest and the events before and after for the audience of an East End working men’s club. This device allows the various characters to comment on events as they happen and also allows the strong ensemble cast to play multiple roles with relish. The whole cast are excellent, but it is the two leads, Tobias Charles as Frederick Park aka Fanny and Kieran Parrott as Ernest Bolton aka Stella who carry the show with outstanding performances, packed with camp exuberance and touching reality in equal measures. Mark Pearce is also very good as Mr Grimes, switching between many over the top characters without it ever feeling forced. The songs are excellent too, many in a genuine musical hall style, all staged with wit and precision by director Steven Dexter. Fanny and Stella is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these upper class gay men in Victorian London, a glimpse that proves outrageous and camp behaviour has been with us for a long time as has the struggle for acceptance. The show is witty, fast paced and totally enjoyable with some great songs and strong heartfelt performances.