East AngliaMusicalReview

Stranger Sings! – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Writer: Jonathan Hogue
Director: Ellis Kerkhoven

In Hawkins, Indiana, nineteen eighty something nothing at all strange happens. Aside from a few missing kids and a government conspiracy.Stranger Sings,the award-winning and irreverent twist onStranger Thingsbrings a manic collection of eighties pop culture references, lots of synth, and several rather impressive dance moves for a reimagining of the TV show that no one expected.

The entire gang are brought to the stage by a seriously impressive set of performers, with most portraying more than one character, and all of them having some precision comedic timing along with unexpected vocal ranges. Philippa Leadbetter is a standout as Barb and brings justice to our poor forgotten girl #justiceforbarb. She’s hilarious in every scene, milks every moment for all its worth, and puts on a clinic in her solo number with a ridiculous number of key changes handled masterfully.

The number in this musical which no one in the audience will be forgetting for quite some time comes from Verity Power. She is genuinely exceptional throughout both puppeteering the young Will Byers, and as his mother Joyce, but it is when she steps out of both roles momentarily to become Wiona Ryder, indignant at her Oscar snub, that the audience get the performance of the night. The number is funny, of course, but also has some great choreography, and some high notes that are seriously impressive.

For a tour with single night stays in each location, the set is unexpectedly complex. It is a perfect homage to the Byers’ living room while also managing to be every other iconic location, including the pool Barb goes missing from and even the upside down. The onstage musicians are tucked away unobtrusively in the set, but are thankfully still visible as there is some serious talent on display to create all of the classic 80s inspired numbers with perfect timing.

It would be easy to dismiss this show as a silly parody because, well, it is. But it is also comprised of an extremely talented cast, performing some very catchy songs in between more jokes than it should be possible to fit in, which may well flip the way many in the audience watchStranger Thingsupside down.

Runs Until: 25 March 2024

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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