Trisha Ward and Damon Rochefort's book relies on nostalgia - which in itself is fine. But the concept is over the place - so essentially - narrator Paul O'Grady meets the Angel of the North aka, Julie Carp (Katy Cavanagh) who takes him on a tour of the Street of Dreams. Amazingly, the show pokes fun at Mamma Mia! for being lame and thin - this plot is barely there.
O'Grady is a fantastic live performer and to begin with - he is engaging and knows how to work an audience. But once in character, he often has to hang around during musical numbers - chipping in bits of dialogue. Soon, it starts to become irritating as it slows the (almost) narrative down. His scenes with Kavanagh are toe curlingly bad with incredibly dated humour and needs cutting.
Much has been made of the guest stars but blink and you miss many of them. Julie Goodyear has one number to sing and is on stage for about 4 minutes. Meanwhile Kevin Kennedy's Curly Watts has no other characters to play off so his "You Star Shines So Bright" barely registers. Kym Marsh as young Elsie Tanner - is very good but slightly miscast and her scenes are too rushed to linger in the memory.
William Roache's turn is via a cinema screen and Brian Capron's Richard Hillman returns from the grave but is lit in shadow throughout, so it could have been anyone. Luckily - Jodie Prenger is on hand to belt out the terrific "He's My Man" alongside the incredibly talented Rachael Wooding and the result is electric and very poignant. But, there are too few songs/scenes like this - to bring the Street to life. It feels like a concert with a tacked on narrative - much of it coming from recycled clips of the show - which only serves to remind you how great the soap is - in comparision.
What Street of Dreams lacks is the talent and humour of someone like Victoria Wood - who could do wonders with it. She would bring humour to the piece, pace and a new narrative - linking characters together. She would have also written witty songs for the iconic characters to sing. Instead we witness Sean Tully (an over the top - Andrew Derbyshire) singing the awful "Butterfly" and then - yep - you guessed it - he flies over the arena. The result is excrutiating, as the piece only exists because of the venue - it adds nothing but leads to embarrassed laughter from many audience members, on the night I attended.
With so many characters to choose from - some of the best - Deidre, Blanche, Carla, Sally and Roy & Hayley are missed. In their place are characters and story arcs which amount to very little - Martha Longhurst's death - for example, ends up like an ad for the show Benidorm. And Hilda Ogden's scene takes the cleaning lady out of the street for most of it, so again offers you her worst moments.
At about the 2.5 hour mark, Russell Watson makes a guest appearance singing "Ghosts - Take My Hand" and the number is so cheesy that you think are watching Eurovision, and not in a good way. I saw many audience members leave the arena at this point - even though Watson himself sang his heart out. The material though is weak and uninspired and there is very little story to hang a song onto. The tram crash is staged with flames coming out of the stage - like a Def Leopard gig from 1986 - all very earnest and a bit of a tram crash itself, if I'm honest.
Sadly, Street of Dreams is in the wrong venues - too vast and due to poor sight lines (a show loved by millions in their front rooms is in an arena - epic fail) fails to give you any sense of connection, the show itself is overlong, the songs in the main are unmemorable and despite the gallant efforts of many of the performers, including Prenger, Wooding and a brilliant ensemble - it's "boring, Ken!"