The television drama, set in the fictional HMP Larkhall, ran on ITV for eight series from 1999 to 2006. The musical, written by the creators of the television series and first seen in July 2006 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, is based around some of the core characters from season one.
In it, idealistic new Wing Governor Helen Stewart tries to make improvements on G Wing, but old guard officers, including Jim Fenner and his sidekick Sylvia Hollamby, stand in her way. A death on the ward leads to an angry protest which also forces Stewart and her love interest inmate Nikki Wade onto their opposite sides of the bars. Other featured inmate characters include Shell Dockley and her runner Denny Blood, the Two Julies, and the top dog and missus to the king of gangland, Yvonne Atkins.
Helen Fraser recreates her screen role as Sylvia ‘Bodybag’ Hollamby on stage in a cast that also features Sally Dexter, Nicole Faraday, David Burt, Laura Rogers, Julie Jupp, Amanda Posener, Caroline Head, Rebecca Wheatley and Chris Grierson.
Bad Girls - The Musical has a book by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus with music and lyrics by Kath Gotts. Its songs include “All Banged Up”, “Jailcraft”, “The A-List”, “One Moment”, “The Baddest and the Best” and “Freedom Road”. The production is directed by Maggie Norris, who also helmed it in Leeds, and designed by Colin Richmond, with lighting by Tim Mitchell, orchestrations by Martin Koch and choreography by Anne Yee.
Although not invited to be part of the usual first-night glitz, the critics’ praise today suggests they weren’t bitter. Although acknowledging that Bad Girls - The Musical didn’t contain material of too much depth, all remarked upon the show’s “entertaining” qualities and its ability to switch “between gritty melodrama and gaudy glitter” in a style not unlike Billy Elliot. What’s more, as the Evening Standard’s Nicholas De Jongh points out, it is indeed “the first lesbian musical” in the West End, and its overdue arrival as such should be applauded.
- by Tom Atkins