Two brand new productions, one week apart at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and another five star show. The Belgrade have got their Autumn season off to a flying start and they are really putting their theatre on the map.
20th Century Boy is a new musical inspired by the life of Marc Bolan, T-Rex’s frontman. Peter Rowe’s wonderful writing follows Marc’s son, Rolan, in a quest to find out about his rock star father’s life who died when he was only two years old in a car accident. The combination of scenes in the present day and revisiting key moments from Bolan’s incredible career is brilliantly executed. Drawing all of the elements together, the entire production was like a rock concert and one which the audience responded to in an epic fashion!
Immediately upon entering the auditorium, we are greeted by Diego Pitarch’s set design which is multi-purpose and fully interactive. The stage has been widened beyond the usual hard masking to accommodate Pitarch’s vision to great effect. I have mentioned many times before about collaborative art and creatives working together to build one incredible image. This isn’t as apparent in some shows but this one is quite superb on that front. Gary Lloyd’s direction and choreography made to look even more stunning by Ben Cracknell’s lighting and Will Duke’s video design and from start to finish looked incredible visually.
The absolute best thing about 20th Century Boy is the leading man, George Maguire - a star turn and one of the most inspired performances I have seen in a musical in a long time. Although I am perhaps of the wrong generation to fully appreciate Marc Bolan, my Dad whom I took with me to the press night last night said it was like seeing a ghost onstage...he was THAT impressive. The casting overall was expertly done by the legendary Anne Vosser and if I could bottle up some of those performances, it would be one explosive cocktail! Credit needs to be given to Donna Hines (Gloria Jones) and Lucy Sinclair (June Child) for their incredible vocal prowess - very exciting talents. Having seen Sophia Ragavelas (Helen Shapiro/Chelita Secunda) in a number of other shows before and knowing how amazing she is, I thought she was a bit wasted in this production. However, what she did do was brilliant. In addition to the above, the cast of onstage musicians were electric and so exciting to watch and listen to live.
20th Century Boy is most definitely West End worthy and I would love it to transfer in the near future. Judging by the sheer audience elation , there is clearly a place in the market for this show to be seen by a wider array of people. And one request, PLEASE do an original cast recording - the T-Rex Greatest Hits will not suffice in this case after hearing those vocals!