Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Music &Lyrics: Rod Stewart
Book: Ben Elton
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Tonight is the night at Milton Keynes theatre! Ben Elton, acclaimed comedian and writer of West End hit We Will Rock You, has penned the musical comedy Tonight’s the Night, inspired by Rod Stewart’s songs and life. The show was a huge hit in London and has since sold out across the provinces. Stewart has been entertaining us with his hit songs for nigh on 50 years and is still touring. This production affords us some nostalgia and an opportunity to hear many of his classic tunes, from the iconic ‘Maggie May’ to ‘Hot Legs’ to the soulful ‘I Don’t Want To talk About It’ and lots more.
This is the simple and amusing tale of a very timid and slightly geeky boy on a quest for lerv, a tale set in downtown Detroit and the chic Los Angeles clubs. Our young man is too shy to let his dream gal know just how he feels for her. (Definitely not the Rod Stewart character then!) In desperation he makes a risky pact with the devil in which he exchanges his soul for Rod’s in the hope that he might thus be able to talk to his true love but ……… such a Faustian deal was never really gonna be as easy as that! And there’s a moral here about turning into a ladies’ man and perhaps risking losing she who he genuinely loves!
It is a pretty flimsy story, especially in the first part of the show, with tenuous links to the hit songs, it is often quite cheesy but it never pretends to be anything else nor does it take itself too seriously, thankfully. However, any Rod fanatics will be delighted by the delivery and orchestration of his songs (and the great band) and no-one could fail to be impressed by the talented voices and energy of the cast. The second part of the show works much better and really holds together well, from the wonderful ‘Maggie May’ opener to ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ which is sung with superb harmonies by the love triangle that is Mary, Rocky and Dee Dee.
Ben Heathcote brings us the nerdy and agitated mechanic, Stuart, and what a transformation to rock star in the making! He has a very powerful voice, often gravelly like Stewart’s and a good range. He is very dynamic (rarely off stage) and charmant! Jenna Lee-James, who also sang in We Will Rock You, stars as Mary the loving and oh so loyal girlfriend. She too has real power in her voice and gives a wonderful rendition of ‘Reason To Believe’. Hers is a believable character.
Jade Ewen (ex Sugababe) performs Dee Dee convincingly and gives us a wonderful version of ‘What Am I Gonna Do?’ Her vocals are melodically resonant without being trilly. The same cannot always be said of Tiffany Graves when she sings as Baby Jane. She has a strong voice and does ‘Maggie May’ with Stuart well but can be somewhat over the top in her delivery. A solid performance of the two rôles however of Satan and Baby Jane. Andy Rees does Rocky with nice understatement. He doesn’t push himself on us either as an actor or as a singer, which is just what is needed, but he has a lovely voice as demonstrated in ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It’
Special mention must go to Michael McKell as Stoner bringing humour, sexy pizzazz and adding some depth to the whole story. His delivery of one-liners is spot-on and he is clearly having fun. He makes his Jagger/Richards style character utterly believable. It is he who helps to hold the first part of the show together.
Altogether a fun and nostalgic evening. You cannot help but sing along and dance as the majority of the audience did for the finale.
Runs until: Sat 26 April