Writers: Peter Rowe in association with Gary Lloyd
Music: Marc Bolan
Director &Choreographer: Gary Lloyd
Reviewer: Rob Atkinson
The era of Glam Rock has receded into the distant past now and, for those old enough to have lived through it, may possibly form a slightly embarrassing memory involving excessive glitz and some less than vintage acts. As with any genre though, there were diamonds among the dross. By common consent, just about the most sparkly and beautiful diamond of all was Marc Bolan – he of the twirly perm and chiselled good looks. He could sing a bit too – oh boy, could he sing. In truth, Bolan was a sensational showman, rivalled only by David Bowie in the individualistic superstar stakes. When he died in a car crash in 1977, it seemed bleakly obvious that we would not look upon his like again.
To portray such a star, then, in a musical aiming to tell his life story, is no mean feat. Warren Sollars in the title rôle has a head start in re-creating Bolan; he has the enviable bone structure, someone obligingly provided the trademark hair and costumes – and Sollars did the rest with his creditably dynamic performance to capture the late star quite uncannily. The characteristic flick of the hair to get those curly locks out of the way, thatwas there – as was the Bolan-esque vowel pronunciation that gave his singing and speaking voice such an unmistakeable uniqueness. And accomplished showman Mr Sollars certainly can sing, and he certainly can move – both talents combining to bring the late, great Marc Bolan vividly back to life throughout this stunning production.
The show weaves the classic Bolan back catalogue into a clever account of his rise to fame and sad eventual fate, with supporting characters producing some fine performances, notably Lucy Sinclair as Bolan’s first wife June Child and Sue Jenkins as his mother Phyllis. On this first night in York, Donna Hines, who played Bolan’s love interest and mother of his son Rolan, was indisposed after the first act. Her place was ably filled by understudy Lakesha Cammock, who tackled the challenging second act songs with consummate ability and a nerveless confidence that was clearly appreciated by her fellow performers during the bows at the end of the show.
It was the overall effect of the evening that had the audience up on their feet, clapping and whooping as a succession of T Rex standards were given the treatment by the talented performers on stage. Together with an impressive lighting plot, including extremely effective side and back lighting during those foot-stomping numbers, the set-piece oldies blasted into new life in a way that resonated with anybody who has ever felt like dancing to the likes of Jeepster or Telegram Sam – to name only two. The insistent beat and incredibly lively choreography, together with the sheer scale and effect of the movable set, were utterly irresistible; you felt the years rolling back as you witnessed respectably grey-haired pillars of the community reliving their early 70’s Top of the Pops evenings.
If you’re a Glam Rock fan yourself – then don’t miss this. It’s a rare opportunity to visit your long-lost youth and rediscover the appeal of those revolutionary, powerful rock numbers. And if you’re not a Glam Rock fan – then still don’t miss it. You might just be pleasantly surprised and hollering approval by the end. This show will quicken your blood and get your feet moving restlessly, just see if it doesn’t.
The one less than welcome aspect, after a truly fabulous evening in the company of the original 20th Century Boy, was to exit the theatre and find the cold reality of the 21st Century awaiting us. Nothing lasts forever, we were grimly reminded. But for the duration of this spectacular visit to the Psychedelic Sixties and the Sensational Seventies, former youngsters of that era were transported back to happier times when they were young and a bit silly – and they ended up giving a standing ovation with accompanying whoops and cheers, those grey hairs temporarily forgotten. Glam Rock lives! And so, on this evidence, it certainly should.
Runs until: May 31 at this venue (then touring)