Rip it Up – The 60s
Reviewed – 28th February 2019
“The energy and precision of the dancers shines throughout the show”
The ‘Rip It Up’ team comprises about fifteen incredibly talented dancers, singers and musicians who form the backbone of this 1960s ‘Nostalgia Fest’ currently running at the Garrick Theatre. They are the powerhouse that drive what is essentially a vehicle for four ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ celebrities. It is clear from the outset that the ensemble is far more watchable than the frontmen. What is also clear is the fact that you are not going to learn anything new whatsoever about the decade.
“If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there”. The four headliners – Harry Judd (from McFly), Jay McGuiness (from The Wanted), Aston Merrygold (from JLS) along with Olympic champion Louis Smith MBE – are all too young to have been there anyway; so there is no danger of any insightful anecdotes interfering with the banal banter eked out from them by MC Cavin Cornwall. Fortunately, we have a video back projection featuring veterans (mainly Lulu) to fill us in with some suitably superficial soundbites.
But let’s not miss the point. This is a dance extravaganza, not a history lesson. And while I admit to being a bit of a ‘stick-in-the-mud’, I did have a good wade and I can reveal that there are some real diamonds in there. Most notably a stunning routine that pays homage to Bob Fosse’s iconic ‘Frug’ (as featured in “Sweet Charity”). The energy and precision of the dancers shines throughout the show, bringing to the fore the varied inventiveness of Gareth Walker’s choreography. The fab four figureheads are given plenty of scope to show off, while generously acknowledging and complementing the unsung heroes that fuel the furnace. Dance Captain Scott Coldwell is a ball of burning energy that fires the cast into a machine precisioned chorus.
A solid four-piece band, headed by lead singer Jill Marie Cooper, provides the sonic backdrop: a faithful reproduction of the sounds of the sixties, with some musical surprises courtesy of Barnaby Dickinson’s imaginative rearrangements of the Beatles’ hits from the later years.
But for all the high energy, it is altogether a bit of a stew as we plough through a predictable line up of watersheds including the British Invasion, the West Coast music explosion, Woodstock, the Mods, Psychedelia, Motown, Bacharach, the Beatles and the Stones; bogged down along the way by Cornwall’s tiresome commentary. Like those late night, backwater ‘Best of…’ TV shows, whose style this is emulating, there is an inevitable tendency towards repetition, borne from a need to fill the time slot allotted.
If it lacks the X factor, there is no denying that there is an abundance of the fun factor. While aimed predominantly at the Strictly fans there is enough in the pot for everyone. Like the decade it represents, you just have to let your hair down and enjoy it for what it is. “Rip it Up – the fifties” preceded this, and I now find myself looking forward to them shedding the cheesecloth and donning the glam and glitter for “Rip it Up – the Seventies”.
Keep on Rollin’…
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography courtesy Rip it Up
Rip it Up – The 60s
Garrick Theatre until 2nd June
Last ten shows covered by this reviewer: