When swarms of tourists and summer's stifling heat descend on the capital, the West End's theatre promoters seem to take leave of their senses. The Piccadilly is the latest theatre to succumb to the current rash of musical retro shows dedicated to the sounds of a particular decade. This time the '50s get an airing - at least it s not the '70s again - in a show which resurrects four rock idols for the delectation of a nostalgic audience. Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison and Elvis all return to the stage to perform a selection of their greatest hits against a backdrop of projected images from the '50s.
Rebel Dean opens the evening as Elvis, with, pasted up behind him, newspaper headlines from the day announcing that Elvis was to be filmed only from the waist up, presumably to preserve the innocence of America's daughters. Unfortunately, this impersonator is laughingly unsexy and definitely lacking in any of the King s charisma. No danger of perverting young minds here.
Peter Howarth as Orbison and Reuven Gershon as Holly, on the other hand, provide strong vocal and visual performances. The audience is whipped into something of a Nick Berry-led frenzy with Holly's rendition of “Heartbeat” and Orbison's “Pretty Woman” set to images of the Roberts/Gere film. Together with Kludo White's leather-clad Cochran, they make for compelling viewing. A few moments of musical fire are also provided by keyboard player and musical director James Compton, but the show never pretends to be more than it is. A tribute show, that is, and certainly not a musical.
A passing reference to Buddy Holly's untimely demise is made with the sound of a plane as he leaves the stage, and screeching brakes accompany Eddie Cochran's exit. Otherwise, the obligatory combining of musical resources in a grand finale - with all four legends giving “American Trilogy” their all - is the only note of drama in an honest evening's entertainment.
4 Steps to Heaven isn't exactly a heavenly show then, but it's far from being hellish.