BOOGIE Nights was one of the very first of the recent spate of 'jukebox' musicals that have been drawing audiences in to theatres all over the world, in the last few years (Mamma Mia, Our House, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert to name a few). It was written for now EastEnders star Shane Ritchie, to continue his success in stage musicals, having had a successful run in the revival of Grease in the 1990s. As with most musicals in this genre, Boogie Nights has a paper thin plot, terrible script and is basically an excuse to shoe-horn in popular songs, in this case, all our favourite hits from the 1970s. Sounds terrible, right?
Well actually, not really. For a start it was really refreshing to see a youthful Southampton Musical Society trying to break tradition and new ground by taking a bit of a gamble on a new show - and overall I think the gamble paid off. Yes the jokes are bad, yes the songs are old and yes, it's as cheesy as gorgonzola, but who cares, it was lots of fun, and it did exactly what it says on the tin!
David Humphries put his years of experience directing variety shows to good use here, focusing on the big numbers and putting together a flashy, well costumed show that flowed well. His cast were disciplined and professional, and understood the meaning of putting on a show, while choreographer Chris Magdziarz set fun and slick routines, although think that the famous Will Rogers Follies clapping routine might have been best placed in another show! It was nice to also see these two gents flashed up on the screen at the beginning of the show in their youth (although, of course, it was very hard to believe that they were actually old enough to remember the 70s!).
It takes a certain type of cast to be able to pull off a show like this, and in Michael Kurn, this company has an ideal leading man. Michael was confident, likable and cheeky in the part of Roddy and paired beautifully with the fabulous Naomi Morgan as his Debs. Naomi gave the show an emotional centre, and used her triple threat skills to great advantage with some of the more challenging numbers. Support was also strong from Ryan Saunders as Terry (great falsetto and comic timing) and Kimberly Wren as Trish (again proof that you can take a smaller role and make it huge!). Paul Rogers and Natalie Baker were also on good form. Unusually, I must also give a nod to the ensemble - they too were focused, in the moment and again giving it some razzle dazzle!
A few technical issues did plague the flow on opening night, although I am sure that these will be ironed out as the week goes on, and I think the band could have been pumped up a bit to give the music and vibe of the show a bit more energy, and the cast a bit more support.
Overall, Boogie Nights was a good fun night out. As you can probably guess, it has never been (and probably never will be) a favourite show of mine, but this energetic, well costumed and good hearted show delivers a feel-good evening, and in my opinion has allowed Southampton Musical Society to show its critics that they can still get down and boogie with the rest of them.
25th May 2011, Scene One
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