16 February 2017
So I went to the theatre again. This time to see a (or possibly from my point of view THE) Jukebox musical.
This is the continuing tour of the musical written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran around the music contained in the long running series of CDs of 1960s music.
Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran are of course famous comedy writers, who’s canon of work include: ‘Birds of a Feather’, ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, ‘Shine on Harvey Moon’ and ‘The New Statesman’.
This really is the epitome of a Jukebox Musical , being based in the era of jukeboxes and being about music and song-writing. It features some of THE BEST music ever written, and this from someone 50 this year so not born until 1967. So you can’t say “well you only like it as it was the music when you grew up”, nope I grew up with later musical genres but still prefer this one.
This production directed by Bob Thomson, choreographed by Carole Todd is produced by the ‘godfather’ of touring theatre in the UK Bill Kenwright.
I first saw this show, strangely enough, almost exactly 7 years ago at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End, at the suggestion of my late Dad. Always being one who enjoys seeing the same show over and over again (my record stands at 33 for Miss Saigon) he said “why not try something new” and I’ll always be grateful for him nudging me to this great show!
So already being a fan of the era’s music I got a ticket for this show, and was blown away by the music, performances, energy and sheer ‘feel good’ nature of this wonderful piece of theatre.
The story is about ‘Bobby’ and ‘Laura’ two young people living in Essex in the early sixties. ‘Laura’ loves ‘Bobby’ but ‘Bobby’ only has eyes for ‘Sue’. ‘Ray’, ‘Laura’s’ big brother is ‘Bobby’s’ best friend, and then ‘Norman’ enters the picture taking Bobby’s chance of fame and chance with Sue in one move.
These and the other cast members play the roles and also all the instruments to perform the plethora of classic Rock & Roll songs.
At the performance I saw the role of ‘Bobby’ was played by Alistair Higgins, ‘Norman’ Alastair Hill, ‘Ray’ David Luke, ‘Sue’ Laura Darton and ‘Laura’ was played by the alternate Chloe Edwards-Wood, all of whom were brilliant.
As I say I’ve seen this show twice (or maybe three times) before, and for me if anything it was better. I felt the humour and timing was sharper, getting bigger laughs and all the support cast gave great performances too, special mention there must go to Jimmy Johnston ‘Phil/older Bobby’ David Luke ‘Ray’ and Mike Lloyd ‘Frank/Slugger/compère’ who were for me the best I’ve ever seen in the roles.
The leads when I saw it were great. I was a little disappointed when I heard that Elizabeth Carter would not be ‘Laura’ when I saw the show (having seen her perform before and loving her voice) but I must admit within minutes of starting I came to realise what years of attending shows in the West End, Broadway and many, many, MANY touring productions had taught me. You don’t get into one of these casts without the skills to do the job and Chloe was a brilliant “Laura’ and I would be happy to see her in this and other roles in the future.
It is, as i mentioned at the start a real feel good show, if anything maybe a little too feel good as I could have lived without the audience participation during some of the earlier numbers, I mean I pay to hear the cast not the audience, there’s always time to join in during the encore.
Stand out songs/performances for me included: “To know him is to love him”, “In Dreams”, “Runaway/Who’s sorry now”and “Teenager in Love”. Stand Out Performances: Chloe Edwards-Wood as ‘Laura’ and David Luke as ‘Ray’, the latter having a great voice and excellent comic timing, something that previous people I had seen in the role, although good, could not match.
I will definitely be seeing this show again, and strongly recommend you give it a go, it’s a great night out, and if you enjoy it, there’s also Dreamboats and Miniskirts a direct sequel featuring the same characters, and Save the last Dance for me another Rock and Roll Jukebox Musical by the same writers and producing team.