Book: Joe DiPietro
Director/Choreographer: Karen Bruce
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Set in a small backwater in America, Love Me Tender tells the story of a town “all shook up” by the arrival of a guitar playing, motorcycle riding roustabout. When our roustabout, Chad, is told at the start that the mayor has outlawed loud music and basically anything fun, one could be forgiven for thinking that the plot is going to be less than original and follow along the lines of Footloose. Give this show a chance, as the plot soon heads full speed in a different direction, based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, with the more predictable aspects taking a back seat. This is a show full of twists and turns, high energy and lots of humour, keeping you interested and entertained from start to finish.
The set and props, designed by Morgan Large, appear at first to be a simple generic backdrop giving the feel of an old-fashioned American town for the action to unfold in front of. However, it transforms, seemingly with ease, from bar to garden to disused fairground with great effect. The scene changes are conducted by the cast before the eyes of the audience; smoothly, slickly and at incredible speed so the pace of the show is never lost because of a pause to change scene.
The script, by Joe DiPietro, is full of humour and Large’s design, combined with the direction of Karen Bruce, makes the most of every opportunity to have some fun with this show – a show that would not work if it tried to take itself seriously. They do their utmost to keep you smiling throughout and it works.
This tour presents an incredibly strong cast and the power behind the singing is amazing to behold. Special mention has to go to Laura Tebbutt as Natalie and Aretha Ayeh as Lorraine who wow with their vocal performances. Shaun Williamson’s character acting as Natalie’s father, Jim, is an absolute joy. Mica Paris, as Sylvia, provides one of the standout moments of the show in her rendition of There’s Always Me – a beautifully heartfelt contrast to the full-on high energy of the rest of the show.
You do not need to be an Elvis fan to enjoy Love Me Tender. Yes, it is a jukebox musical based on the songs of Elvis Presley but it has a strong storyline with every song carefully chosen to make sense within the plot. Even if you have never heard an Elvis song you can still enjoy this show. However, if you are a hard-core fan looking for a tribute to Elvis then this probably is not the show for you, as the man himself has nothing to do with the story and is never mentioned.
Well worth seeing for an evening of high energy, smile-inducing musical theatre.
Runs until Saturday 19th September 2015.