The Joan Jett song I Love Rock & Roll has a very fitting verse which could be applied to musicals like 1960's touring show, Shout!. Jett sings "Put Another Dime In The Jukebox Baby" which is apt, because for much of it, this latest attempt at shoe-horning songs into a ‘pencil skirt’ of a narrative is running on empty.
The setting is a hair dressing salon called Best Cuts, but looking at Morgan Large's ultra sparse set design, ensemble of two and Julie Balloo's pamphlet of a book, it may as well be called Cut Price.
Shout! is billed as an incredible musical journey around swinging London. The idea is that Ruby (Claire Sweeney), Georgina (Donna Steele) and Betty (Shona White) have amazing experiences in London, along with Ruby's aunt Yvonne (Su Pollard).
But these 'experiences mainly consist of the girls sat on bean bags or salon chairs talking about them, rather than living the life on stage. The effect is one of the most static musicals you will ever see.
The one saving grace are many of the cast who try their best to inject life and energy into the piece. Pollard fares best as she clearly loves the Sixties songs and she does imbue songs like "You Are My World" with lots of emotion.
Steele and White also bring more to the table than the show deserves with big vocals, but they, unfortunately are not the leads. That job is Sweeney's whose nasally vocals and strange, almost American diction leave you wanting Ruby to get on a one way bus out of the Big Smoke.
Everything about this musical smacks of desperation, from the name of Steele’s character, Georgina (nickname, Georgy) so that “Georgy Girl” can be sung, through to the clumsy, clunking script and direction. Ruby says: “I need to get some shut-eye” for no reason whatsoever, apart from to cue the sing “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten!” I know how she felt!
Considering it’s the swinging Sixties Bill Deamer’s choreography and direction is quite motionless, resulting in scenes whereby the girls are left singing into their hairbrushes, literally.
As the talented Steele bursts into “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”, she echoed my sentiments, perfectly.
- Glenn Meads