Book: Ben Elton
Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Reviewer: Pete Benson
Unless you are already a Rod Stewart fan this show is going to remind you just what a talent the man is. Tonight’s the Night is really an excuse to string together a selection of Rod’s many hits and given that, you might expect the plot to be wafer thin. Actually it has a little more plot than some shows in the jukebox genre, after all it is written by the supremely talented Ben Elton. The show reworks the well-trodden Faustian plot. Shy nerd Stuart who loves Mary from afar and is bullied by his garage work mates in Gasoline Alley makes a pact with the devil to swap souls with Rod Stewart in order to get the girl.
Ben Heathcote’s nerdy Stewart complete with ticks and big geeky glasses arguably sounds the most like the actual Rod when he sings an acoustic version of You’re in My Heart than he does after his Faustian transformation.The cast quickly show themselves to be excellent singers and we know that Rod’s songs are in safe mouths.
The title song, Tonight’s the Night, is used to seal the pact with the devil in a nice routine complete with sexy demons. ‘Sexy’ is a reoccurring theme of the show but then it is a reoccurring theme of Rod’s music.The now transformed arrogant, driven wannabe rock star, in a nice plot twist, is picked up by Rod’s promoter because the real Rod Stewart now has our hero’s sensitive, shy soul and has lost his mojo.
Jade Ewen as Mary’s consoling friend Dee Dee demonstrates a fine voice in a lovely duet rendition of, What am I Gonna Do?, and consistently does the most justice to Rod’s music. While Michael McKell provides the shows comic relief as aging Rocker Stoner.McKell appears to be an amalgamation of Rolling Stone’s impersonations and as you would expect Elton has put some marvellously funny lines into his mouth.
In the second half we hear some of Rod’s most famous romantic songs, ‘Maggie May’, ‘This Old Heart of Mine’, ‘Every beat of my Heart’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It.’ It is during these song that you can’t help but remember what an aesthetically unique voice Rod Stewart had. The more the cast pour emotion into the lyrics to make plot points the more we realise what a sublime delivery Rod gave these songs. At times the emotion is trowelled on a little too thickly. These are good songs, let them do the work and do these excellent singers need quite so much reverb added?
This cast have undeniable energy and they play out the show against an ever morphing set. The main set piece, the two story Gasoline Alley garage becomes various club venues, bed sits, dressing rooms and has one nice surprise moment too. The show’s most excellent band are permanently housed above the proceedings on the second floor level.
It feels as if the cast have been chosen for the voices rather than their dance ability as the choreography for the most part isn’t that challenging but none the less does the job.
There was one poor moment when Stoner was made to corpse by the entrance of an actor and the scene came to a halt while they recomposed themselves. (Hopefully a one off and not an opportunity for a bored cast to amuse themselves!) Otherwise this was a strong, hardworking cast with good voices.
Surprisingly Elton’s witty script paints a relentless picture of women as compliant sex objects to be used and discarded. Having created an excessively debauched version of Rod in the satanic pretender he gives Rod’s promoter these words of comfort for the real Rod Stewart,
“Rod never treated a girl Like that in his life.”
A fun, uncomplicated night at the theatre and we even stood up and sang and swayed along at the end to ‘I am Sailing’.
Runs until 8th March 2014