As a result of the bad press surrounding its culture, many might be put off by the notion of a Hip Hop musical. However, dance company ZooNation bring this exciting dance form out of the shadows and into the limelight, by creating full-length narrative Hip Hop Dance Theatre. This exploration led to the creation of Some Like It Hip Hop, a tale of a city where the sun has been banished from the sky and women are seen as an inferior race. Loosely based on Marilyn Monroe’s 1950’s classic Some Like It Hot, the ‘Hip Hop’ comedy had all the key components of an innovative stage success.
A moment must be taken to commend Wolverhampton Grand’s efforts in getting young people dancing. The Schools Dance Project saw children from 12 local schools learning how to body-pop and break-dance, since September this year. Before the show begun, a dance performance of ‘Moves Like Jagger’ exploded on to the stage and the 22 youngsters performed to a high standard. The amateur dancers put on a fun-filled and extravagant routine and there was evidently some real talent amongst the group.
Whilst the pre-show routine lengthened the already extensive performance, it certainly geared up the audience for a musical like no other. A voiceover cut in, “This may be theatre, but its Hip Hop theatre, so please feel free to make as much noise as possible.” The largely young audience obeyed, whooping and cheering their way through the scenes and getting particularly excited during solo snippets within the dances. The artists each had their own style and some of the most show stopping moments came in displays of gymnastic athleticism and the in-sync dance-off numbers from the entire cast.
The production used interesting concept. Silent dancers, were accompanied by the exceptionally talented, Ross Green as Narrator and vocals came from a collection of phenomenal singers, which created a ballet-esque performance. However, unlike ballet the narration was necessary for the story to take shape and the intricate and amusing script gave the scenes a well-incorporated comic twist. Although the dancers had non-speaking roles, this did not prevent them from making an impression as characters. With exaggerated facial expressions and refined dancing styles, each dancer gave their character individuality. Particularly enjoyable mimery came from Shaun Smith, as Sudsy Partridge, Sarah Richards as Jo-Jo Jameson and Kayla Lomas-Kirton as Oprah Okeke.
Whilst Some Like It Hip Hop does showcase Hip Hop dance styles, it could be deemed a little misleading to title the production a ‘Hip Hop musical’. The show boasted music from soul to R ‘n’ B, through rap and motown style pieces. At times there was even Jack Johnson-imitating acoustic numbers to illustrate more whimsical scenes. This array of genres made the acquired taste in dance accessible to the masses and helped to form a well-rounded and thoroughly enjoyable musical showcase.
Noteworthy scenes came in the form of ‘The Rules of Seduction’, where a 1930’s style broadcast announcement was made to a male dormitory on how to seduce a woman, using gifts, such as a vacuum cleaner. The ironic, almost satirical, look at the oppression of women was extremely funny and the routine had the audience in stitches. An equally inventive saw 8 dancers in separate backlit cabins – or ‘Sleep Pods’ - veiled by thin curtains, twisting and turning their way through the night in a beautifully choreographed routine.
Although the performance was not glitch free, with a couple of wardrobe malfunctions and a badly staged kiss for the audience on the right of the auditorium. At times, the more serious scenes seemed a little hammed up and could have done with a little less intensity. However, the imperfections did not take away from the production as a whole.
The performance rounded off with one of the best finales I have ever seen. After the show has reached its conclusion, and just when you think it’s all over, a full soul band are rolled onto the stage and the fun really begins. Getting the audience on their feet and doing the ‘Dougie’ and the ‘Carlton’, the energetic encore was a fantastic way to close the fun-filled comedy. At times, the dress circle did feel a little unstable, shaking as the audience jumped around, but this was a fleeting worry.
Everything about Some Like It Hip Hop was electrifying and unusual, from the dance styles to the curtain calls and it certainly “hit the spot”.
- Hannah Sweetnam