Writer: Tim Firth
Music and Lyrics by: Madness
Director: Nigel Turner
Reviewer: Flip Miller
Young Joe Casey commits a crime to impress Sarah, a girl who is in truth his soul mate, although at 16 he is yet to realise this. At the point the police arrive the story splits and the fortunes of good and bad Joe intertwine. The story follows the highs and lows of Joe’s life until the twist at the end tells us which path he chose to take. It is a powerful allegory and it is hoped the young people taking part in the show appreciate that they are the masters of their own destiny and the choices they make today will affect their lives in the futures.
With a 30 plus cast to direct Nigel Turner had a gargantuan task ahead of him. He says that the show is “A fast moving action packed show that has been a real challenge”. If there have been challenges he has masked them very well and produced a very slick and professional show.
His direction has been enhanced by Sarah Franklin’s amazing choreography. Everyone of the cast on stage were in time to the music. She must have worked them really hard and with a rod of iron but the effort has paid off. The effect would put any professional show, be it at the Theatre Royal or in the West End, to shame.
The costumes and the numerous changes must have been an Herculean challenge for the wardrobe department. All the costumes were in the style of the period and most importantly – ironed. Again this attention to detail and effort by the team puts in makes this performance on the same footing as a professional show.
The technical department has a few loose ends that could be improved. A couple of times the mics didn’t work but a quick adjustment soon sorted that out. The lighting didn’t reach all the way to the edges of the stage and so at times some of the action was in shadow. Also, the orchestra, brilliantly led by James Recknell was a little loud and so drowned out some of the lyrics.
The pairing of Tom Mennary as Joe and Charlotte Palmer as Sarah was truly a joy to watch. The convinced us they were destined for each other long before the characters realised it themselves. Charlotte, despite being the stronger singer of the two, did not over power Tom’s voice and in fact complimented it. Her solos beautifully sung and acted and her duet with Joe’s Dad, James Barker really lifted her vocal talents to another level.
All the cast were very good both in their individual rôles and as an ensemble. There are far too many to comment individually but of particular note were Katherine Engall as Joe’s Mum. At first she looked too young to play the part but she had the depth of character to pull it off. Also, Max Welton as the evil Reecey and the Edward Pipe and Charles Brindley playing Joe’s best friends Lewis and Emmo.
Suggs and the Madness team should be proud of this wonderful musical and would be proud of this very professional performance of their music in this musical.