The show is billed as "the smash hit West End musical", but this is not a musical based on the cult film. Think rock concert, think tribute and you won't be disappointed. Your night out starts well before the house lights go out, as Simon Foster and Brad Henshaw, not yet under cover of hats and shades, sashay into the auditorium acting as their own warm-up men. Just when there seems a real danger of audience participation (almost involving your reviewer, to her alarm!), the guys disappear into the wings and Jake, Elwood - and organised anarchy - take the stage.
With the aid of a six-strong band and a backing trio, they have the audience rocking in the aisles before you can sing "Flip Flop and Fly" (and you have no excuse not to join in as the words descend panto-style on a screen). Everyone on stage gets their moment, especially the only soul sister in the line up, raunchy Krysten Cummings. There's classy support from elegant special guest Antonio Fargas, who takes us back to a more glamorous era with "Minnie the Moocher". And just when you think the boys (and girl) can only do loud and 'in yer face', the heart-stopping harmonies of "Under the Broadwalk" win them appreciative silence.
Strong singing and musicianship underpin this show and an audience of aficionados up for an evening in the company of their heroes gives it a great atmosphere. For me, it's a tad commercial, as if everyone on stage might just be going through the motions again, but hey, the motions are sexy and self-assured, thanks to Michael King's choreography. And when I sympathised with the usher/icecream seller for being forced to wear hat and shades, he was rightly indignant: "Try and stop me wearing them. I'm their biggest fan - it's a fantastic show!"
N.B. Don't be disappointed if you don't get all the songs I mention. They're selected nightly from a list of possibles.
- Judi Herman (reviewed at the Wimbledon Theatre)