8 February 2006 WOS Rating: The plot for this musical written by Ben Elton follows the ups and downs of a geek who longs to be more confident. Following a pact with the devil he obtains the soul of rock legend, Rod Stewart, and hey -suddenly he is "Sailing." Forgive me for inserting a song title where it will fit but this show does it at will. The paper-thin narrative makes the musical very easy to criticise, but to be honest it's not totally awful.
Yes, this is essentially a greatest hits karaoke show; but along the way there is some fun to be had, mainly due to the energetic performances from the young, sexy cast.
George Maguire (the alternate Stuart) plays the role like his life depends on it. He brings Elton's awkward, clumsy book to life and also sings like a dream. Rachel Tucker imbues Sweet Lady Mary with real spirit. Her version of "I Don't Wanna Talk About It" is one of the show's highlights. Jeff Edwards is brilliantly droll as Stoner, a Mick Jagger-esque character, and the audience on the night I went loved his constant ad-libbing.
The dancers are all excellent.
Denise Ranger's choreography is inventive; the songs are not easy to design moves around without looking really cheesy, but she manages well. The odd song/set piece is ill thought out but this is down to the sheer number of songs on offer; 20 is way too many.
Of the songs that work, the not widely known "Ooh La La" has resonance long after it's over and "Stay with Me" suits the central plot of boy meets girl, boy almost loses girl, perfectly. But there are some songs which simply irritate or make the audience cackle at their sudden inclusion. One of these is the anthem "Sailing." As the couple declares their love to each other they burst into song... We are sailing..." as dancers dressed in pristine white sailor suits fill the stage. This scene is so camp it hurts. It reminded me of a spoof musical scene from
The Producers, only funnier!
Thankfully the confident cast dig themselves out of Elton's many plot holes. This may not be high art and sure it is a standard musical cash cow, but the winning performers give you a "Reason to Believe."
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at Manchester Opera House)
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