Pros: A bright, enthusiastic cast sweating blood to entertain the audience.
Cons: A poor sound system failed to do justice to both the songs and the performers.
The jukebox musicals just keep on coming. Next up is Mad on Her, a homage to 1980s pop culture. The studio Above the Arts Theatre plays host with its tight, claustrophobic surroundings. It felt like someone had thrown a party and invited the street into their living room. It was also difficult to see the performance area as there was no tiered seating. But there was still a good vibe as the cast mingled with the audience. Like most jukebox musicals the plot is well hidden, but goes something like this: Donna, played by Sarah Watson, is a budding fashion designer who just loves to party with her friends Tina, Lynn, Brandi and Tiffany. She soon meets Ricki, played by James Colebrook, and falls madly in love. But then, shock horror: Ricki’s wife Cindi turns up and shatters Donna’s happy ever after.
You can guess the rest, but the point of a show like this is to hear some great songs presented with energy and enthusiasm. As much as I wanted to like this show, it was let down by a poor sound system. Problems were evident on the first song Dancing on the Ceiling, which would have kicked the show off perfectly. However, you could barely hear anyone’s vocals over a dense, almost clumsy, backing track which hadn’t been programmed properly. It was continually adjusted as the cast struggled with pitch and tone. It led to some ragged, shouty vocals; is that any surprise when they can’t hear anything? Sound faults dogged virtually every song including Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Take on Me and Never Too Much. Cast members discreetly shook the microphone as the sound system behaved like an unruly karaoke machine.
There were some surprising song choices: Sam Fox’s awful Touch Me was totally uncalled for, while Heart of Glass and I Will Survive weren’t even hits from the 1980s (they were both released in 1979). It’s a trivial point but both songs are indicative of the disco era, which is a completely different genre to the 1980s. Act II began with Gloria Estephan’s Conga; the most effective number in the set and one of the few occasions the erratic choreography came together. Heartbreaker and Private Dancer were an attempt to pull the narrative into focus but sounded out of place. All Night Long provided a rousing finale and a reminder of what the set list should have been like. The cast worked like Trojans to keep the show alive, but were fighting a stubborn sound system and losing the battle. I suspect the audience consisted mainly of friends and family, who were determined to cheer, whoop and holler every step of the way. Good for them, but it didn’t shield a poorly presented show.
Director/Choreographer: Ashley Luke Lloyd
Written By: Ashley Luke Lloyd and Koyann Stevens-Delves
Producers: BlackDeer Productions
Box Office: 020 7836 8463
Booking until: Every Sunday until 3rd December 2017