Big mistake, huge
This musical is surely a strong piece of evidence in the case that not everything needs to be turned into a musical. Wildly outdated stereotypes and paper-thin plot lines are left standing bare with nowhere to hide and the result is a confusing and uncomfortable evening. The beloved movie does not work well in this format. Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance’s score does little to resuscitate the proceedings with each number lacking the required musical theatre oomph, each overflowing with generic and uninspired lyrics.
The cast led by Sydnie Hocknell (in Amber Davies’s absence whilst she participates in ITV’s Dancing on Ice) and Oliver Savile battle through the clunky script aiming to find the emotional beats of the show but unfortunately come up short, hindered by the two-dimensional characters they are tasked with portraying. Hocknell as Veronica, a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard, dreams of a better life that arrives in the form of Savile’s Edward, a seriously wealthy businessman specialising in the dismantling of failing companies. Edwards hires Veronica for her services, extending her duties to accompanying him to meetings and functions as the pair’s feelings for each other blossom into something more. The show attempts to inject modern elements into the story but these end up feeling like faux-feminism layered upon a narrative in which a rich and powerful man can solve all problems.
Despite the difficult character work both Hocknell and Savile offer terrific vocal performances, even if the songs themselves are largely forgettable. Hocknell excels in belting out the heartfelt ballads and Savile more reserved and controlled as he begins to question his feelings towards her. Natalie Paris must of course be mentioned when it comes to singing, as she is brought onto the stage to expertly deliver a signature vocal riff though her character is sidelined and underdeveloped for the majority of the production. Completing the lead cast is Ore Oduba who does well as the kindly hotel manager Mr Thompson but his other role as Happy Man is a bizarre and borderline unnecessary one, existing as a partial narrator for portions, never really adding anything to the story.
Some moments do sparkle, albeit few a far between, such as the opera sequence which sees beautiful vocal performances from Lila Falce-Bass and Josh Damer-Jennings but for the most part the show is bland and unfunny. Despite nice individual set pieces, the space continuously feels vast and empty, unable to truly whisk us away to sunny California. Fans of the film will no doubt revel in seeing classic lines delivered on stage and this show does target a demographic that I do not fall into so take what I say with a heavy pinch of salt but there are a vast number of reasons as to why this production does not work It feels cheap and overly commercial, flogging a 34-year-old dead horse to squeeze any last pennies out before its too late.
Touring until September 2024 - Tickets
Photography - Marc Brenner