What can I say? I went to this musical with very low expectations – the prospect of a show built around a collection of hit songs of the 1960s strung together by a completely anodyne and light-weight plot did not fire me up with enthusiasm. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go; but my wife was curious. “Okay,” I said; “but if it’s boring, we’re bailing out at half time!”
Well, it was utterly charming. I stayed to eat my words and bop with the rest of the audience at the end. Some of the plotting devices were so outrageously corny and telegraphed that the show had me laughing hard at times. The story is, as expected, nothing but a series of excuses to cue the songs spun around a plot that would make an old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney “let’s put on a show in a barn” movie look sophisticated; the characters are the callow youths most of the audience happened to be when the songs became famous (there was so much light bouncing off white hair in the audience that I bet they had to adjust the lighting scheme). But the whole event is infectious; the audience joins in enthusiastically when ever it is invited to; and there were several younger people scattered about the auditorium too who were obviously experiencing a delightful time.
I saw the show in Oxford; but the tour is extensive, and if it’s coming to a theatre near you, it’s certainly an enjoyable night out and you should consider going if this is music that appeals to you at all. It is, for one thing, very well performed just in terms of the sheer musicality of the band and singers. The four performers named above are all noteworthy in every sense of the word. The energetic and committed singing, dancing and acting of the entire youthful cast is engaging throughout and the choreography and movement are always apt and at times genuinely exciting. It isn’t the most original or inventive show; but then it never set out to be that; and within its limitations it succeeds admirably.
My main criticism is that the show took itself a mite too seriously. They could easily have sent up the whole tradition of the compilation musical with more verve. This production needs, to my mind, a bit of tweaking; to be a touch more cheeky in its approach to the script. But the choice of music is good; the acting and singing are vivacious; and for me this was a very pleasant and entertaining evening of light theatre with a strong nostalgic kick. If you are not completely prejudiced against the music or this genre, then I can recommend attending should it come to a theatre near you.