Creator and Performer: Paul O’Donnell
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Paul O’Donnell, who brings his one-man jukebox musical, featuring the songs of Bon Jovi, to the third week of the VAULT Festival, is literally livin’ on a prayer. No actors, no band, no dancers, no pyrotechnics: instead just an empty stage, and a whole lot of imagination. We’ve Got Each Other may be the best West End musical you’ll never see.
In lieu of the vital components of a musical, self-effacing O’Donnell talks the audience through the main scenes of his Bon Jovi tribute. He sits down, with the script in his hand, and sets the scene for us. The band are introduced, and then the main protagonists, Tommy (who works on the docks) and Gina (who works the diner all day). The two are in love, but Gina is betrothed to another man.
Fortunately, O’Donnell has a soundtrack and a technician who can work the lights in the theatre. But the rest is up to us. We can only imagine the dockers’ tap-dancing routines, choreographed, we’re told, by Strictly’s Bruno Tonioli, or the busy diner where Gina and Tommy first meet over bowls of paella. Sometimes O’Donnell will give us glimpses of what we’re missing like the Paso Doble flourishes of the villain Julio, or the dialogue of the Spanish characters, who have moved to New York from Torremolinos. With the lights off, O’Donnell also describes the interval for us, the money we’d spend, the quotidian thoughts we’d have, while we waited for the action to resume.
O’Donnell’s approach is postmodern, camp and arch. And it’s also very funny. It’s quite easy to believe that The Guardian will proclaim that We’ve Got Each Other is this year’s Hamilton. Never has an empty stage proved so thrilling, and O’Donnell’s performance is so assured that you’ll be dancing in your seats. Like the lyrics suggest, you should give it a shot.
Runs until 10 February 2019 | Image: Alex Brenner