Following in the footsteps of countless compilation musicals, Love Shack is yet another show strung together around well known chart toppers. Unfortunately, even with three ex-pop stars on hand to liven up proceedings, it’s just not very good.
Daniel Peak's bare bones of a book follows the trials and tribulations of Sam (Jon Lee) and Joanne (Natalie O'Donnell) and what happens to them and their friends once they decide to tie the knot. You might think I’ve missed something out of that synopsis, but honestly, that's it in what’s essentially a low-grade Grease rip-off, further cheapened by Peak's coarse and lazy humour.
Director-choreographer Kim Gavin conceived the idea for the show and persuaded old friend Gary Barlow to write "Sometimes Never Always", the only original song in the score. It’s a heartfelt number, but it exposes the weaknesses of the cover version re-treads that litter the rest of the piece, without a pulse, let alone a laugh or a tear, between them.
Performance-wise, the cast are varied in their abilities. Lee is energetic and has a good voice but is wasted. Faye Tozer from Steps isn't given much to do either. When she does sing, her voice wavers and she looks ill at ease with the 'comedic' scenes. Noel Sullivan from Hear'say has great comic timing and strong vocals but again deserves better material. O'Donnell comes to life during Barlow's song, proving that, during the covers, most of the cast are on auto pilot. All, that is, apart from Rachael Wooding as best friend AJ. She steals every scene and belts out the hits with gusto.
Songs like the title track, "The Time of My Life" and "Music to Watch Girls By" are suddenly delivered by the cast with no real narrative rhyme or reason. Most musical numbers are over within 40 seconds in order to make way for another, presumably with the intention of simulating a fast-moving plot. It doesn’t work.
Love Shack is for die-hard fans of the three teen idols and no one else. It's a bit better than Boogie Nights 2, but that's not really saying much.