Rehab the Musical

Reviewer's Rating

Hussah! London has a new theatre space. Down on the south side of Piccadilly, immediately to the right of the BAFTA building, is now ‘Neon 194’ in a rather lovely basement that used to be a restaurant. And in that space, for now at least, resides Rehab The Musical.

Well…where do I start…

Let me be positive and start with the cast, who are outstanding. Oscar Conlon-Morrey, John Barr, Keith Allen, and Mica Paris are joined by a host of relative newcomers. The entire cast really do act and sing their socks off.

However, what can’t be glossed over is that the story is killed stone dead from the get-go by the book, which just doesn’t have the superstructure there to support the rest of the show.

The protagonist of Rehab The Musical, Kid Pop (a charismatic Christian Maynard), is an aggressive, nasty, abusive pop star who, in spite of his evident anger is, dramatically, completely passive. He gets caught doing class A drugs and finds himself in court (note to director: British courts do not use gavels and never have done) and is sent to the rehab of the title where he meets a whole group of people suffering from various addictions.

However, other than more sex and drugs Kid Pop doesn’t actually want anything so really why should I, as an audience member, want to spend the next two hours with him? Truth is, I didn’t. And if I hadn’t been reviewing I’d probably have left at the interval.

In fact – to get a bit technical – the character with the active want dramatically is actually the antagonist, Kid Pop’s manager, Malcolm Stone (a dastardly Keith Allen), in that he wants to control Kid Pop (and much worse in Act Two). Confused? So, clearly were the creative team who really should have tried considerably harder to sort the mess out.

Anyway, the upshot is that although we might be interested to hear what happens, we don’t actually care about anybody – well, not strictly true, more of which later – and after the third or fourth song I found my mind wandering as the tiny and very cheap and nasty chairs that Neon 194 is furnished with numbed my behind into catalepsy.

That isn’t to say that Rehab doesn’t have some good songs. It does. Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen)’s first song, ‘Obsession’ has real truth, and some very entertaining lyrics, but as a whole the songs should do more of the heavy lifting in moving the plot forward when all too often they don’t.

For me the stand-out song is actually from one of secondary characters – the only believable character, and the only one I cared about – the rather wonderful ‘Ordinary Me’ which is both touching and has real depth. Of course it helps that it’s being sold by the peerless Oscar Conlon-Morrey.

There’s another entertaining song in act two… this time about cheese… but the score as a whole rarely soars in anything other than volume (the sound is ridiculously over-amplified given the size of the space). There’s the almost obligatory gospel number – the Act One closer – and the melismatic scream-fest that is ‘Museum of Loss’ but other than that the whole is decidedly MOR.

The dialogue is rather more Eastenders than West End, with the occasional unfortunate hostage to fortune, such as ‘How much more time do we have to waste on this sh*t’ which provided an unintended titter.

Oh, and did I mention the merch? The producers clearly think they have a hit. I wish I shared their confidence…