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Some Like it Hip Hop

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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I didn't realise that I had stumbled into the opening night encore of La Traviata at La Scala in Milan, until I realised I hadn't. This was most definitely Holborn, and I was sitting in the stalls of the Peacock Theatre surrounded by screaming fans - not just teenagers, and not just girls either. ZooNation have returned with their smash hit Some Like it Hip Hop, and it's still pulling in sell-out crowds.

More Twelfth Night than Some Like it Hot, the story sees oppressive Governor turn an imaginary city into a totalitarian nightmare by blocking out the sun, banning books and putting women to work in the most demeaning jobs.

Workers are enslaved and manipulated by the Governor's cronies but when two women dressed as men prove they can do the same, if not better than their counterparts, things start to look up. Buddying up with the nerdy bookworm Simeon Sun (Tommy Franzén - a spectacularly talented dancer and clown) they set out to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is a musical-slash-comedy-slash-theatre fusion for the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent generation, but don't let that scare you. Like jazz I have no idea how to talk about hip hop as an art form, and I worried that my ignorance would shine through. But this show seamlessly blends an effortlessly choreographed combination of street dance, house, breakdance, funk, locking, popping, breaking, whaaking, acrobatics, freestyle and yes, hip hop.

And once my toe tapping turned to full-blown teeny bopper screams it dawned on me that it didn't matter what I knew of any of these things. The original songs, led by musical director and demi-musical narrator DJ Walde, are superb. And the two better-than-Beyoncé divas Eliotte Williams-N'Dure and Sheree Dubois add real heart to the comedy of it all.

This is a showcase of how British theatre is leading the way with a new breed of West End musicals. Director Kate Prince calls Some Like it Hip Hop a "good old-fashioned entertainment". Maybe so, but her experience in choreographing big global spectacles as well as music videos and TV means that she brings a grand vision and a certain epic quality to the stage. It's a modern, fresh hybrid that I hope she continues to develop.

Light is used to make snappy cuts and the mobile industrial set is shunted about adapting to the differing moods, although none of this adds a great deal to the quality of the story. The spirited cast, energy of the moves and rhythm-soaked set-pieces make you want to get up and shake your booty - which I must warn you they make the audience do at the end!

- Bertold Wiesner


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