It must be a marvellous feeling to perform in a show like this, the adult rock panto of musicals. Tuesday’s first-night audience bustled into the theatre 100% confident that they were going to have a great night out, clapping even before the house lights went down, and they were not disappointed, as the cast revelled in demonstrating their physical and vocal prowess.
Set in 1980s Los Angeles and peopled by a cast of weird and wonderful characters as diverse as Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” crowd, the show spins a tale of innocence and experience on Sunset Boulevard, weaving together familiar themes of rockstar ambition, the glamour of Hollywood dreams, the sordid realities of exploitation, music cultures threatened by wicked property developers… I had expected that the story would merely provide a series of pegs on which to hang a succession of musical numbers, but the show uses the music far more intelligently, slicing the melodies and tweaking the lyrics and splicing the songs with asides and interventions.
This is a real feel-good musical, so the glamour predominates. The evening was a feast for the eyes and the ears. The stage was a sumptuous spectacle, dramatic and colourful in the larger-than-life production style of hyper-colourful Edward Scissorhands suburbia or Pushing with Daisies, and all credit goes to Beowulf Borritt for his amazing set which brought LA to life with verve and versatility. There was eye-candy galore, with lithe bodies writhing in delight at their own perfection, taut flesh clad beguilingly in magnificent costumes using every fabric and style in the 1980s repertoire, adorned with every kind of lacing, belt, buckle, glitter, stud, and corsetry available from the rockstar and stripclub wardrobe.
It is a giant of a show which fills the whole theatre with light and sound, but it also includes moments of intimacy, of pathos and humour, and that wonderful bond which is created by the occasional ad lib. It unites those who have come to rekindle memories of the heady days of their youth, and those who have come to share that strange nostalgia we now have for bygone days we wish we could have known.
Note: this is a rather adult show containing explicit sexual references (and there is a fair amount of flesh on display).