After a year that’s seen TV dominated by royals, from the inescapable coverage of the Queen’s death to the much-debated fifth season of The Crown and Harry and Meghan’s tell-all Netflix documentary, Prince Andrew: The Musical feels like a darkly fitting conclusion. Naturally, there will be people who slam this Christmas special, written by and starring impressionist Kieran Hodgson, for the title alone. Should you make comedy about these serious allegations – sexual abuse, sex trafficking and paedophilia – at all?
In the end, PATM doesn’t actually try to. This is not a South Park-esque edgelord musical retelling, with jokes making light of Andrew’s behaviour. In fact, the allegations are largely tap-danced around, while the royal is painted as a general wrong ‘un. Instead, we go on a journey through Andrew’s life, with lengthy compilations of archive footage overlaid with a voiceover from Hodgson as Andrew, as he bigs up his own achievements and har-hars at his own jokes.
These slower moments are intercut with snippets of his life set to song, from his rivalry with Charles (internet comedy king Munya Chawawa) to his romance with and subsequent split from a nasal Sarah Ferguson (Jenny Bede). The special opens on *that* Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis (a pitch-perfect Emma Sidi), where the royal launches into a number about how he’s “nailed it”, before worrying: “I can’t believe I said that, the thing about the sweat / Though you’d rather have a prince who’s dry than one who’s soaking wet.”
There’s a distinctly Fringe-y feel to the special, where clever lyrics sit alongside far sillier rhymes (“Can I speak like a businessman? Business, business, yes I can”). Unfortunately, the presence of Chawawa, a man who churns out God-tier comedy raps in a matter of minutes on Instagram, only serves to highlight where Hodgson’s lyrics lack his pace, density and bite.
But when PATM leans into its place as a musical theatre parody, it really shines, often thanks to the slick choreography and strong choruses. The best song has to be a West Side Story-inspired duet in which Andrew asks Sarah to divorce him while remaining in his life forever. “We’re closer now than spouses / Life partners in adjacent houses,” the pair harmonise, as rich strings swell.
Throughout the Channel 4 special, Hodgson makes it clear that the jokes being made are at the expense of Andrew and the wider royal family. When Andrew warbles he’s “the best looking royal”, the chorus echoes: “Yes, the most normal looking royal.” In the final scene, a more serious tone is adopted to address the severity of the allegations. Charles corners Andrew in a dark dungeon, strewn with headlines criticising the royal.
“You were friends with a paedophile. You brought a sexual predator to Balmoral,” he spits. But then, more comedy at the royals’ expense, as a picture of the real-life Charles and Jimmy Savile appear, and the new King desperately tries to turn the slides off. For some, a musical about Prince Andrew will never be appropriate. But if you’re going to do it, Hodgson’s work might just walk the line of acceptability.