Tag Archives: John Barr

Rehab the Musical

Rehab the Musical


Playground Theatre

REHAB THE MUSICAL at the Playground Theatre



Rehab the Musical

“the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force”


Kid Pop (Jonny Labey) is a rock star; top of the game and at the height of fame. He has the whole world in his hands, yet he is in the firm clutches of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Inevitably he is up against an unsympathetic judge after the tabloids splash his drug habit on the front pages. Expecting a custodial sentence, he is instead sent into rehab for sixty days. Kid Pop cockily accepts this as a free holiday rather than the journey into the wilderness we follow him on. He is, of course, in denial. In control. The drugs are in control – but so is his pr man, Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen) whose hold over him proves to be almost as fatal as the narcotics. Labey and Allen are portraying vivid caricatures here, but the beauty of their performances lightens them into warm shades of humanity. A skill shared by the entire cast.

The story, to some degree, stems from songwriter Grant Black’s and Britpop poet Murray Lachlan’s personal battles with addiction and mental health. But far from preaching they have alchemised their experiences, along with writer Elliot Davis, into a shining gem of musical theatre. It has just the right balance of humour and pathos, shallowness and depth to appeal to the masses. Yes, the journey is a touch predictable, and the twists in the road clearly signposted, but the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force.

Labey is enjoying every moment, barely able to contain his delight even in the darker moments. He has sixty days to recover in ‘The Glade’; the rehabilitation centre populated with his fellow addicts. Depicted as misfits they resemble everyman – perhaps a symbol of the ubiquity of addiction. The velvet voiced Phil Sealey is poignantly magnificent as over-eater Phil while Annabel Giles hilariously recounts the past shenanigans of sex-addict Jane Killy (numerous name-drops of real-life celebrities will surely have lawyers working overtime!). ‘The Glade’ even houses a tanning addict. “Yes – it’s a thing” deadpans John Barr in a glorious turn as Barry Bronze, forever showing polaroids of his orange skin from past holidays.

While Kid Pop counts his days in rehab, Malcolm Stone desperately and ruthlessly tries to keep his protégé in the headlines and his name alive (if not the client). Obsessive, corrupt and foul, Allen amazingly renders him likeable. Jodie Steele gives a star turn as sidekick Beth Boscombe, hard as steel (no pun intended) but with a heart, and voice, of gold. The show stealer, though, is Gloria Onitiri as Lucy Blake, sent into ‘The Glade’ by Stone to spy on Kid Pop. Onitiri’s presence and outstanding vocals are as dangerously intoxicating as the subject matter.

The writers have put together a wonderfully strong piece of theatre. It shuns digging deep into the nature of addiction, but it never belittles it. The abundant humour never mocks these characters – there is too much affection and care in the writing. But let us not forget that this is a musical. And the score is exceptional. From stadium rock to cheesy-pop; power ballads alternate with rousing ensemble pieces. Duets and solos tug our hearts in all directions possible. All pulsing with wonderfully clever and emotive lyrics, and swaying to the rhythms of Gary Lloyd’s sharp choreography.

“Rehab” comes with a message but is so beautifully dressed up in song and dance we soak it up without realising what we are learning. We are just swept along on the highs and lows of a truly addictive performance.



Reviewed on 7th September 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Top show reviews from August 2022:


Monster | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2022
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Apollo Theatre | August 2022
Diva: Live From Hell | ★★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | August 2022
Get Up Stand Up! | ★★★★ | Lyric Theatre | August 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | August 2022
Ride | ★★★★★ | Charing Cross Theatre | August 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Godspell Online in Concert

Godspell Online in Concert



Godspell Online in Concert

Godspell Online in Concert

Online via Hope Mill Theatre

Reviewed – 26th August 2020



“The music speaks for itself, the lyrics speak for everyone, and the singers’ voices speak of the future for our industry. If this concert is anything to go by, it looks bright.”



Fifty years ago, “Godspell” made its Off-Broadway debut as a play with music: a retelling of the Gospel of Matthew set in modern-day New York City. The writer, John-Michael Telebek, was inspired by the lack of drama, conflict and resolution in the conventional religious services he witnessed at the time. Congregations were bored. His aim was to create a religious experience that would be theatrical, and that would ‘move’ people. An entertaining way to approach a serious subject matter. It was to be another year before Stephen Schwartz’s music was introduced into the show and the barriers between music and religion were being torn down. Even so, it is a piece of work that constantly needs updating and revitalising for it to remain relevant or interesting to audiences of today.

This fiftieth anniversary ‘concert’ production, directed by Michael Strassen has completely done away with Telebek’s text, leaving just the magic of Schwartz’s score to spread the message. A necessary ploy for the purposes of this production but one that is truly satisfying and refreshing. It is a far cry from being a ‘live’ experience, but what is communicated to the audience is the joy of the performers and their spell-binding performances. Although filmed and pieced together from the cast’s own homes, the sense of community inherent in the material manages to break through the screen.

The song cycle loosely retells a series of parables from the New Testament that lead up to the crucifixion of Christ. Despite all the undercurrents, it is a driving message of hope for a brighter future, made all the more relevant by cleverly splicing images of our world in lockdown into the final frames of the broadcast. Stephen Schwartz himself provides a poignant introduction to the concert; paraphrasing a couple of the central questions that the musical asks: “will we tear ourselves apart? Or can we come together as a global community?” It is a heartfelt opening with nothing whatsoever mawkish about the sentiment. We are then asked to ‘enjoy the show’.

And enjoy it we certainly do, even if the thought of another online event is starting to irritate that itch to get back to live theatre. The host of leading lights from Musical Theatre, under George Carter’s musical direction, give wonderfully fresh and novel interpretations of the numbers; from Jenny Fitzpatrick’s a Capella opening verses of “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” through to the finale. It does come across at times as an extended music video, but it is a delightful journey as we are steered through the songbook. One of the highlights has to be Ruthie Henshall’s risqué routine during “Turn Back O Man” which puts a whole new spin on performing “within a bubble”. Lucy Williamson and Shekinah McFarlane team together for an entrancing “By My Side”. Darren Day gives a wonderful turn as Jesus in “Alas for You”, evoking an underlying anger at injustice that hasn’t really changed since biblical times. Danyl Johnson’s spirited “Light of the World” oozes optimism, but the true spine-tingling moment comes as a kind of encore, after the finale. During “Beautiful City” Jodie Steele’s crystal voice emerges from a bruised soul, clinging to a hope that she wants to impart on us all. “You can give up bitter and battered, or you can slowly start to build.” “Yes, we can”, the chorus responds.

Irrespective of the intrinsic religious messages, this anniversary concert carries its own message. A message made much clearer by the sheer talent of the voices delivering it. The music speaks for itself, the lyrics speak for everyone, and the singers’ voices speak of the future for our industry. If this concert is anything to go by, it looks bright.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans




Godspell Online in Concert

Online until 29th August via Hope Mill Theatre


Previously reviewed by Jonathan:
Nearly Human | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020



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