Tag Archives: Rob Jones

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

 

Thriller Live

Thriller Live

★★★★★

Lyric Theatre

Thriller Live

Thriller Live

Lyric Theatre

Reviewed – 10th December 2019

★★★★★

 

“an energetic and spectacular tribute to one of the most influential artists who has ever lived”

 

Thriller Live first opened at the Lyric Theatre in London in 2009 and since then has had over 4,000 performances and is soon to be the 11th longest running musical in the West End. Celebrating the life and legacy of Michael Jackson, Thriller Live, produced by Paul Walden and Derek Nicol, takes its audience on a journey through the King of Pop’s greatest hits from his early life in the Jackson 5 to his dizzying success with the albums Bad and Thriller.

The show has little plot other than a vague chronology of Jackson’s life and musical career. The incredibly cute Ishaan Raithatha plays a young Michael Jackson and leads on ABC and I Want You Back while Florivaldo Mossi does an excellent job of playing the King of Pop at the height of his career. With Mossi’s effortless flair, it’s easy to forget that you are not actually watching MJ himself. In Billie Jean, Mossi takes to the stage alone and dominates the space with his incredible imitation of Jackson’s dancing. The choreography (Gary Lloyd) is incredible throughout the show and particularly notable during Dangerous, Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal.

For a special two-week run this Christmas, singer Peter Andre also joins the cast. There is great excitement for Andre amongst the crowd and any appearance of his on-stage garners whoops and cheers. Andre did well to keep up with the King of Pop’s signature moves, but his voice is unfortunately not nearly as strong as the other singers. The strongest vocalist is Vivienne Ekwulugo who leads a beautiful rendition of Who’s Loving You.

Haydon Eshun and John Moabi do well to host the show though there is no one person who is particularly good at getting the audience going. Any enthusiasm from the crowd is the result of favourite songs rather than engaging audience participation. During Shake Your Body, the cast attempt to start a sing along but it is far too early in the show for the audience to really be warmed up enough. By the finale, however, the audience are far more receptive.

The set (Johnathan Park) consists of several screens one of which opens at the back of the stage to create an entrance and from behind which the band plays. Two tall light-up staircases sit either side and lead up to a walkway where the cast dance and in Smooth Criminal show off Jackson’s famous anti-gravity lean. There is another large screen that hangs above the stage and displays different images depending on the song. Bursts of light and flashing effects (Nigel Catmur) are also frequently used to enhance crescendo moments.

There are few props, but these are barely necessary as the dancing and lights are engaging enough. During Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana in the second half, two sofas are wheeled around to add variety to the dancing. There is also some flag waving at the end of Can You Feel It and fake drums to match the banging in They Don’t Care About Us. The costumes (Rob Jones and Catherine Teatum) are suitably Jackson-esque with lots of sparkles and iconic outfits such as the Smooth Criminal white suit and the red Thriller jacket.

Michael Jackson fan or not, it is hard to not find yourself bopping along in your seat or, when encouraged, to stand to your feet and sing along. Though some more information on Jackson’s life would have been appreciated, Thriller Live is an energetic and spectacular tribute to one of the most influential artists who has ever lived.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Betty Zapata

 


Thriller Live

Lyric Theatre until 26th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Flora:
Torch Song | ★★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | September 2019
Art Heist | ★★★½ | New Diorama Theatre | October 2019
Children Of The Quorn | ★★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | October 2019
Last Orders | ★★★ | Old Red Lion Theatre | October 2019
Smashing It! | ★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | October 2019
Ugly | ★★★½ | Tristan Bates Theatre | October 2019
Don’t Frighten The Straights | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | November 2019
Escape From Planet Trash | ★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | November 2019
Sydney & The Old Girl | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | November 2019
All I Want For Christmas Is Attention | ★★★★★ | o2 Forum Kentish Town | December 2019

 

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