As jukebox musicals go, Shout! has a bigger record collection than most. Almost 40 songs are featured (some only in part) during the course of a show not so much dripping with nostalgia as drowning in it.
What there is of a storyline is atom-thin; three Northern dollybirds head for the bright lights of Swinging Sixties London, landing at the Peckham hair salon of eccentric aunt Yvonne (Su Pollard). As they fall in and out of love over the course of a decade, they journey through Beatlemania, hippies and the moon-landing until they're finally spat out the other side in various states of marriage, pregnancy and employment.
The book, adapted by Julie Balloo from the American original, is dire. Tepid gags are fired out with machine-gun rapidity (eg “it's my raison d'être”, “ooh you can get pills for that”), as excuses to shoe-horn in the hits and are snuffled out at every opportunity; naturally one of the girls falls in love with a man called Bobby (cue “Bobby's Girl”) and they all go strolling 'downtown' in a pair of boots quite clearly made for walking. It's like watching a strange kind of pop music pornography.
But though Shout! may have quite literally lost the plot, its plethora of toe-tappers is served up by a talented cast whose palpable energy, particularly in the second half, just about saves the show from the abyss. Marissa Dunlop, Shona White and Tiffany Graves make for a formidable trio (Graves is especially strong) while Su Pollard does sterling work as 'wacky' aunt Yvonne. It's just a shame the lines are so limp, because as we all know no one serves up a decent double better than she.
As the sole male cast member (aside from a cameo appearance by the assistant stage manager), John Jack has a busy time. He pops up between numbers to perform a series of mock adverts (which, though occasionally funny, are annoyingly frequent) or to play a variety of cameos from a two-timing playboy to a 'hirsuted and booted' Spanish waiter.
Shout! is a two-hour sprint down memory lane. Period clichés are dished out like sweets while the cast jump in and out of a range of miniskirts, polo-necks and of course those aforementioned boots. The music is often delightful (stand-outs including “Colour My World”, “Those Were the Days” and “You're My World”), and if you're willing to look past the by-numbers creative approach there's a good night out to be had.
- Theo Bosanquet
For our review of this show from the 2008 tour, click here; for the 2001 Jermyn Street production, click here.