Music: Rod Stewart
Book: Ben Elton
Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Reviewer: Naomi Stevens
From the lively opening number set in a garage, Tonight’s the Night starts with a bang. The audience are immediately introduced to the main characters and there is a wall of sound as the curtain goes up. The plot involves Stuart, a rather introverted and somewhat geeky mechanic (played by Ben Heathcote) who doesn’t know how to go about telling Mary (Jenna Lee-James) of his feelings for her. In order to impress her, Stu trades his soul with the devil and his is replaced with Rod Stewart’s. Heathcote rocks out throughout and has suitably gravelly tones to sound similar to Stewart and Lee-James is a vocal powerhouse. Sadly, despite the skills of the aforementioned and the addition of some extra characters the plot is really rather thin and predictable. It seems that it is really only there to set up the numerous hits from Rod Stewart’s career. That said, there are some comedy moments and the cast are extremely talented.
Noteworthy characters include Baby Jane (Tiffany Graves) and Stoner (Ricky Rojas). Graves gives a delightfully confident performance and has a powerful set of lungs. Rojas is the comedian and he shows excellent comic timing (not least when he very nearly fell over due to a small set malfunction). He provides a light hearted, slightly annoying yet very likeable character for this production. Both Rojas and Graves have super voices. Additionally Dee Dee (Rosie Heath) and Rocky (Andy Rees) have small parts but once again both are fabulous singers and it would have been good to hear more from Heath in particular.
The show does what it is designed to do, that is that it showcases Stewart’s hits through the years – everything from ‘Maggie May’ to ‘You’re In My Heart’ to ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’. Some have been given new arrangements and others slowed down in order to turn them into big ballads – these work well and sound fantastic though at times Lee-James seems to be straining her voice in order to make it ‘rocky’. Although at times the first act in particular is a little slow and loses some momentum, the songs come thick and fast. Choreographer Denise Ranger includes a variety of styles within her routines, even giving the audience a hoe-down at one stage, keeping the dancing lively and entertaining. For a relatively small cast they make a lot of noise, the dance numbers are enjoyable and there are some talented dancers among them.
Though simple, the set – designed by Andrew Howe-Davies – is effective with part of it opening out to create a bedroom and another part incorporating a fireman’s pole to offer a quick and interesting change between levels. The on-stage band are a decent rock ensemble and they flawlessly belt out hit after hit with some cracking guitar work. By the end of the second act the audience are on their feet and rocking (or should that be ‘Sailing’) out with Heathcote leading the way, sailor hats and all. Fans of Stewart will no doubt thoroughly enjoy this whistle-stop visit to his back catalogue, theatre goers looking for something more meaty than a jukebox musical maybe not so much, but they too will most likely be unable to resist joining in by the end.
Runs until July 5th 2014