“All credit must go to the dancers, for their talent and unflagging energy, but ultimately this is an unremarkable evening”
Beats on Pointe is described in the press release as ‘an electric fusion of street dance and ballet’, but ballet enthusiasts will be disappointed, as it is heavy on the street dance, with only the most cursory nod to pretty basic ballet choreography. And, disappointingly, ballet is mostly signified in this show by girls (and one boy) in tutus. Brodie Chesher is the performatively camp ballet boy (and crowd favourite incidentally) and it seemed a shame that his role here was so restricted, as there were fleeting moments which hinted at a grace and physical truthfulness denied him in this unashamedly commercial show.
Athough Beats on Pointe is predominantly a street dance showcase, there are also moments of comedy, beatboxing and drumming; there is even some singing (an ill-thought out and completely out of place duet). It is a weird mish-mash of a show, tonally uneven, and seems unsure of who it has been designed for. The comedy moments are pretty cringe-inducing and by and large were met with awkward silence last night, other than the delighted giggles of the very youngest audience members – although the teenage girls were brought on board later by the bizarre twerk-off, in which the two performers were costumed as pensioners, lumme lawks what a hoot! These moments conspire to give Beats on Pointe a slightly retro feel, and there is more than a whiff of the old-fashioned variety show here.
All of these things could perhaps be forgiven if the street dance was as exciting as it can be at the highest level, but, despite the skill, stamina and athleticism of all the dancers throughout this incredibly demanding two hour show, they, and we, were continually let down by the choreography, which was repetitive in the extreme. Oriana Siew-Kim and Burak Cagin were notable for their attitude and attack, but, again, as with Brodie Chesher on the ballet side of things, felt trapped in these safe routines, which wouldn’t have been out of place on a cruise. The soundtrack played it safe and retro too – Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson and big hits like Uptown Funk and Pharrell Williams’ Happy, with a bit of Eminem thrown in for good measure. All credit must go to the dancers, for their talent and unflagging energy, but ultimately this is an unremarkable evening. As is so often the case, ‘something for everyone’ ends up meaning ‘nothing to write home about’.
“If you’re a lover of the old Aussie soaps and fancy a few drinks and a silly night out with a group of friends, this is the musical for you”
Summer Street is the brain child of Andrew Norris, who has written the book, music and lyrics and also directs this production. It is a light-hearted homage to the sunny Australian soaps that the UK fell in love with in the late ’80s and ’90s, and Norris shows his fondness for them in this affectionate and very silly pastiche. The musical’s premise is that the four main stars of the show have been invited back to film some special anniversary episodes, culminating in a live broadcast, to mark the fact that the last ever episode was aired five years previously. The show begins with a collage of the ridiculously overblown ways in which the characters each met their deaths, and we then see the actors rehearsing, whilst also giving us an insight into the lives they have been living away from the small screen. Aside from the soap’s star, Steph, whose stardom has continued in a successful spin-off soap, The Wallabies, these aren’t happy stories: Bruce has been left by his wife and is a heavy drinker, Angie works at the fish counter of Speedy Mart, and Paul is a feckless stoner.
There is a nice little twist to conclude the piece, which, incidentally, is much stronger altogether in the second half, but, in the main, Summer Street is a straightforward gag-driven comedy; the one long-playing gag here being the absurd plotlines and hammy acting that characterised Neighbours and Home and Away, but stole the UK’s heart nonetheless, and piloted Kylie Minogue to superstardom. Angie’s main character Bobbi nods to Kylie’s Charlene days, and Paul’s Brock has more than a touch of Jason Donovan, but it is Steph’s Mrs Mingle who absolutely steals the show. Julie Clare is magnificent as Steph and brings a West End professionalism to her performance that completely outclasses her material. She has a fabulous voice and superb comic timing; she simply radiates showmanship, and is even able to lift the cringey tribute song Lucky, Plucky Me!. Norris is extremely lucky to have her on board, as she really does carry this show.
That being said, the three other cast members are all strong and give committed performances throughout. Sarah-Louise Young really comes into her own in the second half and gives a fantastic punchy rendition of her big solo number Chains Around My Heart, as well as a terrific and very funny cameo as her secondary character Sheila in the live broadcast sequence. Despite being hampered by laryngitis, Simon Snashall was engaging as the Eeyore-like Bruce, and Myke Cotton made the most of the ageing juvenile lead Paul.
Summer Street is a pretty flimsy show, and neither the script nor the songs withstand close scrutiny, but the performers are all of a higher calibre than the material. If you’re a lover of the old Aussie soaps and fancy a few drinks and a silly night out with a group of friends, this is the musical for you.