With a surfeit of so-called “Jukebox Musicals” around at the moment, it’s a very brave production company that decides to launch yet another, but the show Crimson Fair Productions offer has joined the list, and taken the audacious step of promoting itself as being a more authentic 50’s experience than the others.
Having seen Buddy, Save the Last Dance for Me and, Dreamboats and Petticoats, I have to say that the claim is more than a little ambitious as The Twist owes more of it’s heritage to 90s TV phenomenon Stars in Their Eyes than it does to the rock and roll blockbusters of the time, like Ready, Steady, Go.
The show is written and directed by its star, Suzy Jary, an accomplished singer with a penchant for dressing up as her rock and roll heroines, and belting out their greatest hits. The performance she has created is part music history lesson, part tribute concert, part theatrical performance and part audience sing-along.
Set in a Happy Days style diner, with a live four piece band called The Twisters, the story tells of a supposedly popular hangout where the great and good of the rock and roll world pop by to say hello to the owner, “Big” Tony Tremendo, played by David Peyton Bruhl, and to sing a few songs. The only customer in the diner is a local DJ, who decides that he would like to broadcast his show from the diner – and that is the full extent of the storyline.
The first singer to drop in is none other than Elvis Presley, who gets the crowd singing along with a rousing three-song set and, no sooner does he head on his way, Connie Francis arrives. She starts with a superb rendition of “Where the Boys Are”, a performance that shows clearly that Jary has studied her idols and imitates them with meticulous attention to detail.
After her set, songwriter, Strictly Come Dancing singer and musical director, Chris Madin takes the lead microphone as himself (he plays a backing singer in the show), and showcases his voice with hits like “Great Balls of Fire”, while giving Jary enough time to change costume and reappear as Brenda Lee.
Jack Harding opens the second act as the DJ, Danny Dellany, with an extremely elongated introduction and a totally unnecessary “comedy” routine with Tremendo. The next star to drop in is Petula Clark, closely followed by a return visit from Elvis and a set from Buddy Holly leading the audience neatly into the top-of-the-bill finale.
Headlining the performance is Dusty Springfield who, as the spotlight reveals her, looks like a bizarre mixture of Cruella De Ville and Lily Savage as she is topped off by the most horrendous, lopsided, huge, peroxide wig. Her voice is superb, and her flawless version of “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” is only marred by the laughter emanating from an audience that is still reeling from her strange appearance.
All told, the show is not the best of the bunch, but it is a pleasant night out and the dancers from Brighton Jive, who kept leaving their seats to strut their stuff in front of the stage, did add an air of nostalgic authenticity to the show.