Review: Rip It Up (Garrick Theatre)
Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold, Louis Smith and Jay McGuinness bring their rocking show to the West End
Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold, and Jay McGuinness are all members of the UK's biggest boy bands of the 00s. Paired with Olympic champion Louis Smith, the quartet make up an awesome foursome of Strictly Come Dancing champions (even if Merrygold technically didn't win the coveted glitterball) who can really move. Their variety of talents are put to use in this crazy tribute to ‘60s music which is great entertainment, but does begin to lose its pump halfway through act one.
Rip It Up is framed as a television show which reimagines the 1960s. Lead by presenter Cavin Cornwall, we're taken through the sounds of the era – from Motown and Woodstock to Bubblegum Britain and The Beatles – accompanied by energetic dance routines and a sprinkling of gymnastics. There's also a screen which shows videos of stars (Lulu, Tony Blackburn) talking about the music that shaped them and introducing some facts about the decade. Steve Howell's set design of a TV studio – complete with camera on wheels – is a pop of colour complemented by Leigh Mulpeter's rainbow of lights.
Gareth Walker's choreography is frenetic and lively, featuring lots of fancy footwork and of course some ballroom. The Fab Four, accompanied by ten dancers and a band, exude high levels of energy throughout, constantly encouraging the audience to clap and sing along, as well as take photos. It's a real event. So it's a shame that after a while you feel like you're watching the same thing over and over again. This isn't helped by the videos breaking up the atmosphere just as you get into the swing of things. Really, Rip It Up would be more at home at a holiday camp than in the West End.
The majority of the singing is done by vocalist Jill Marie Cooper, who has a powerful voice and stage presence, and it would be great to see her head up her own production in the future. The boys offer up some vocals, with Merrygold taking the main solos, but their focus is the dances. Smith displays some gymnastic skill, Judd takes a turn on the drums and, almost too predictably, there's a shirtless dance number.
Rip It Up is two and a half hours of fun if you're a fan of a tribute show and just want to be entertained, but you could also spend that time on YouTube looking at clips from the decade instead.