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Did The Boy in the Dress score a goal with the critics?

The stage adaptation of David Walliams' novel plays in Stratford with music by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers

Toby Mocrei and the cast of The Boy in the Dress
© RSC, photo by Manuel Harlan

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

★★★★★

"As director Greg Doran keeps things moving along at a lick and is much assisted by choreographer Aletta Collins, who stages two wonderfully inventive football matches in which Dennis saves the day first against the posh boys of St Kenneth's (all vertical stripes, prancing steps and monocles) and the low-arm swinging bruisers of Maudlin Street. They both have the good sense to know that the climactic moment when Dennis's appearance in a dress is vindicated and applauded can be staged in the simplest and most direct way.

"The cast all work wonderfully hard, filling the stage with energy and rounding out their characters with affection. Rufus Hound hits the emotional notes as Dennis's Dad, Charlotte Wakefield (as the dotty French teacher) and Natasha Lewis as Darvesh's eccentric mum are amiably funny, while Forbes Masson as the headmaster, singing about his hatred for kids through gritted teeth, is vividly nasty. On the performance I saw, Tabitha Knowles as Lisa James, Alfie Jukes as John and Ethan Dattani as Darvesh were open and appealing and, as Dennis, Toby Mocrei was simply superb, with a clear singing voice and a touching ability to communicate feeling."


Paul Taylor, The Independent

★★★★★

"The two worlds collide – and mischievously collude – with a delirious comic dynamism in this wonderfully warm-hearted and well-cast show, directed with verve by Gregory Doran. Of the four young stars-in-the-making who get to play Dennis on a rota, it is Toby Mocrei at the press performance. He's enchanting – whether laying bare his soul (which knows that maternal loss has left him feeling at variance with the tough-guy tropes of conventional masculinity) or glinting with just the right modest degree of glee as he swishes into the groove of a spangly, tangerine-coloured outfit."


Natasha Lewis and the cast of The Boy in the Dress
© RSC, photo by Manuel Harlan

Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★★★

"Even if the musical relies on our own willing acceptance of Dennis's decision, it has a buoyant Britpop-style score with nicely varied numbers. The most rousing is "Disco Symphony", where the whole ensemble turn into black and silver androgynes.

"The score also boasts the wistful, in a song about "A House Without a Mum"; the wishful, in a nostalgic number about a beach holiday; and the quietly wicked, in the headmaster's "I Hate Kids". The lyrics rarely take you by surprise but the tunes have an immediate appeal.

"Gregory Doran's swift, sharp production shrewdly offsets Robert Jones's monochrome designs with brightly colourful costumes and makes extensive use of Aletta Collins' choreography – even the two football matches feel like a ballet, with the ball propelled by a rod."


Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

★★★

"Given the market for all things Walliams, and the added allure of Robbie Williams – the Take That truant turned Britain's best-selling solo artist – who has written (with regular collaborator Guy Chambers) the music and lyrics, the prospects for the show at the box-office look ruddy-cheeked.

"The result is reasonably and seasonably enjoyable, at times exultantly energetic and at points transfixingly transgressive (the production is directed by RSC chief Gregory Doran, choreographed by Aletta Collins)."


The cast of The Boy in the Dress
© RSC, photo by Manuel Harlan

Clive Davis, The Times

★★★

"This being a feel-good tale, a happy ending is guaranteed, the storyline fleshed out with workaday pop songs by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. "Ordinary" gets the evening off to a full-blooded start, though.

"Our hero (played this evening by Toby Mocrei) is marooned in Mondeo Man world, his grumpy father and charmless elder brother working hard to repress any unwelcome emotions.

"Robert Jones's perspective-shifting sets are the star turn. Mark Ravenhill's script is slender stuff. We never learn much about Lisa (Tabitha Knowles), the prettiest girl at school who, being obsessed by fashion, becomes Dennis's confidante."


Paul Vale, The Stage

★★

"Amid the grey-tinted world of Robert Jones' inventive set there are some shining, comic performances. Natasha Lewis is great value as an unconventional mother, as is Irvine Iqbal as shopkeeper Raj, spurring the football team on to greater things. Rufus Hound captures the frustration of Dennis' emotionally constipated father but, despite his best efforts, Forbes Masson's seething Mr Hawtrey lacks the virtuosity of the likes of Miss Trunchbull.

"The evening, though, belongs to Toby Mocrei, who alternates the lead role of Dennis with three other young actors. As Dennis, Mocrei demonstrates a sense of timing, empathy and understanding that belies his youth and a soaring confidence that builds as the story gathers momentum."

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