Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Choreographer: Denise Ranger
Musical Director: Griff Johnson
Reviewer: Rhiannon Lawson
Jukebox musicals…you know the deal. Option the first – a musical based around the life and times of the artist, AKA Jersey Boys. Option two, a night of songs by the artist with some vague biographical thread such as Thriller. Or finally, a wonton thin story with the songs of the chosen artist contorted around it like We Will Rock You, Leader of the Pack, Rock of Ages, Mama Mia – oh goodness does the list go on. Tonight’s the Night is sadly added to this list – Ben Elton has managed to twist Rod Stewart’s songs around this tale into positions which Cirque du Solei would have struggled to achieve.
Set in a gas station/ garage in Detroit, geeky and shy Stu (Ben Heathcote)is in love with Mary (Jenna Lee-James). Unable to tell her how much he loves her, he makes a Faustian pact with Satan to switch his soul with Rod Stewart’s in order to become the sexy, confident man of Mary’s dreams. Unbeknown to him, the old version was what she really wanted. Unfortunately, in gaining Rod Stewart’s soul, he instantly becomes a womaniser and rock ‘n’ roll star – going on the road to search for fame and fortune and as many women as he can.
Just like We Will Rock You, Ben Elton has created a terribly thin story, which bytomorrowwill have easily have been forgotten, in order to shoehorn Rod Stewart’s songs into a “musical.” The difference with We Will Rock You, however, was that the set was incredible, the costumes outlandish and exciting, the cast sexy and filled with energy and, most importantly, it was about Queen, whose music is beyond incredible. Yes, some of Rod Stewart’s songs are good, but there isn’t quite the breadth and variety of songs to fill a musical.
Most of the cast try their best to carry the show but some of them fall a little flat. The sexy, soul-of-Rod-Stewart-Stu is anything but. Strutting and thrusting around the stage, Heathcote has little stage presence and struggles to get the audience riled up in the way which was intended. However, his voice is good and has the slight husky, raspy tones of Rod Stewart, which fans may appreciate.
Meanwhile. many of the dancers look a bit bored, not really putting their all into it. In a show like this, which has more than a hint of panto about it, you expect every movement to be over the top but instead, much of it was rather lack lustre.
There were some positives – Rosie Heath as Dee Dee, has a stunning voice and it is unfortunate that you don’t see more of her, while Ricky Rojas as Stoner- a Russell Brand/Keith Richards/ Bill Nighy-in-Love-Actually character, gives some light relief. The songs are played brilliantly by the live band. However, the solid brick wall of sound when the entire cast are singing and the band playing full pelt, means that any wisp of a story which featured in the song lyrics are lost.
Proved by the difficulty in getting the audience to even clap along at the end of the first half, Tonight’s the Night requires more than a jump start to get it or the audience going. Other than a couple of good singers and a competent band, there is so little which can redeem a show with such a terrible story – even for a die- hard fan.