Tag Archives: Rebecca Thornhill



Neon 194



“Keith Allen is clearly having a ball playing the scheming and corrupt Stone”

You’re a Wanker – is the opening number of Rehab the Musical and when the end comes, the audience leaves the venue merrily singing it.

It’s the hedonistic nineties when paparazzi, selling stories to the gutter press and dodgy rehabilitation clinics are all the rage. Out of control popster Kid Pop (Christian Maynard) is papped snorting cocaine; so the judge gives him 60 days in rehab, to mend his ways. But his dastardly manager Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen), sets about to keep Kid on the front pages by putting a mole inside The Grange, to dish the dirt on our Kid.

But how do you heal in 60 days? By meeting all the other inmates staying at The Grange. Meet the joyous selection of addicts with big and honest hearts. With addictions to food, drink, gambling and sex; via tanning and cheese addictions we hear their stories as they reveal their innermost obsessions in their daily therapy circle. And it’s here that the real heart of this musical is found through these extreme but loveable characters, brought to life by a line-up of stalwart and talented West End musical theatre performers including: John Barr as tanning addict Barry Bronze, Rebecca Thornhill as ex Bond girl and alcoholic Jane Killy, and Oscar Conlon-Morrey as the heart-breaking Phil Newman whose song Ordinary Girl is a highlight.

“the big ballads are sung with big belting vocals”

Christian Maynard, as Kid Pop, has all the moves, but is not able to bring such a two dimensional character to life, making his journey to redemption hard to believe. Keith Allen is clearly having a ball playing the scheming and corrupt Stone in toupee and large moustache – and even manages to talk his way through his songs with aplomb. Jodie Steele, as Stone’s sidekick Beth, is underwritten; but we get a glimpse of her steel in the song Die at 27.

Rehab the Musical has music and lyrics by Grant Black and Murray Lachlan Young, with book by Elliot Davis – they all have their own personal history in rehab, addiction and recovery. Addiction is a serious subject but Rehab does have a few laughs too – plus some seriously bad jokes taking the names of Dame Shirley Bassey and Sir Tom Jones in vain – all so nineties. The lyrics aren’t so poetic and the music is in every pop style going, and the big ballads are sung with big belting vocals. With a clever and simple set by Simon Kenny, the show is slickly choregraphed by director Gary Lloyd, whose full company snorting cocaine routine in Everyone’s Taking Cocaine is brilliantly grotesque.

This is the inaugural show at Neon 194 – and a high calibre theatre in the round it has turned into. However, for a new musical with a great live band playing, it is a travesty that the band are nowhere to be seen. It has become part of the course in musical theatre not to see the musicians – and that does effect the whole experience of a musical.

Today, the woke world is more aware of mental health and addiction – so taking us back to the nineties is maybe an unnecessary step too far?


Reviewed on 16th January 2024

by Debbie Rich

Photography by Mark Senior




Recently reviewed shows:

EXHIBITIONISTS | ★★ | King’s Head Theatre | January 2024
ALAN TURING – A MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY | ★★ | Riverside Studios | January 2024
2:22 A GHOST STORY | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | January 2024
THE ENFIELD HAUNTING | ★½ | Ambassadors Theatre | January 2024
KIM’S CONVENIENCE | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | January 2024



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page




The Mill at Sonning

GYPSY at The Mill at Sonning



“Rebecca Thornhill is quite remarkable as Rose, establishing her personality as the pushy, determined, possessive matriarch”


Billed as ‘A Musical Fable’ (although the pedants among us would describe it as a parable), “Gypsy” camouflages its many moral messages in a sheer razzamatazz account of the real-life Gypsy Rose Lee; the highest paid striptease artist of her time. Supposedly born sometime around 1910, the date has always been unclear due to her mother, Rose, constantly re-inventing her daughters’ ages to satisfy her own needs and the fluctuating child labour laws. It is Rose herself who ultimately occupies the central theme of what has been described as one of the ‘greatest American musicals’. Then again, it is hard to go wrong with composer Jule Styne, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writer Arthur Laurents.

Joseph Pitcher’s production is one of The Mill at Sonning’s boldest projects to date which, it is safe to say, doesn’t put a foot wrong either. From the outset we are thrust into the precarious, decadent and exciting Vaudeville world of the 1920s. The overture – worthy of a night out in itself – spills onto and beyond the stage, musicians mingling with cast and audience, characters appearing from suitcases, and a colourful hint of the kaleidoscopic range of Natalie Titchener’s outstanding costumes.

The show displays the contrasting atmospheres of the world depicted. The highs, the lows, the glamour and the shabbiness. Sisters Louise and June are growing up in this world under the formidable shadow of Rose. The ultimate ‘showbusiness mother’, she pushes her daughters into the spotlight and into her own failed dreams with disastrous effects. The more vivacious June is pushed away, while the shy Louise longs for a normal life, eventually eclipsing her mother. Ultimately, she finds her own success in the world she sought to escape, transforming into ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’. Although it is her memoirs that inform the story, it is the mother’s voice that tells it and steals the show.

Rebecca Thornhill is quite remarkable as Rose, establishing her personality as the pushy, determined, possessive matriarch. But far from grotesque. She does monstrous things but is not a monster, and Thornhill perfectly understands that dichotomy. The comedic twinkle is matched by a sincere vulnerability that pulls the character away from cartoon brashness and, amazingly, we end up really rooting for her. If “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” is a showstopping climax to the first act, just wait for her rendition of “Rosie’s Turn” in Act Two.

Evelyn Hoskins, as Louise, wears the timid awkwardness like a mantle to protect herself. When forced to shed this (and, of course, more) her wide eyed abidance is quite moving, tipped by a heart-rending moment when she gazes back at her younger self. The transformation is complete, and uplifting, as she picks up the familiar motif number “Let Me Entertain You”. It’s a fascinating journey. Lost on the way, thanks to the antics of Rose, are sister June (an impressive Marina Tavolieri) and Daniel Crowder’s big-hearted agent Herbie. Crowder skilfully steps through the eggshells Rose has laid, dispelling humour and joy and ultimately heartbreak as the armour of his illusions are shattered.

This fine company brings out the best of Styne’s score and Sondheim’s inimitable lyrics, with choreography and production values to equal any West End or Broadway revival. It is a story of contradictions and contrasts. There is a darkness that is lightened by the witty libretto and sumptuous score, and a hardness that is softened by emotionally charged performances and the slick staging. There are lessons to be learned from the ‘fable’, but it never slips into platitude.

Rose tells her daughters to “leave them begging for more – then don’t give it to them”. This production certainly leaves us wanting more, but gives it to us too. In bucketloads. “Let Me Entertain You” it proclaims. Just try stopping them! A stylish, superbly crafted show that is also steeped in sympathy for the main characters. Since its original Broadway production in 1959, producers have toyed with the ending, often leaving it open as to whether there is reconciliation. This one? Well – just go and find out for yourself.


Reviewed on 1st June 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Andreas Lambis



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Barefoot in the Park | ★★★★ | July 2022
Top Hat | ★★★★ | November 2022


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