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Sue Knox for This Stage Ltd presents:

 

Bright Lights, Big City

 

Book, Music and Lyrics written by Paul Scott Goodman

 

Direction and design by Christopher Lane

 

Hoxton Hall

 

 4 – 25 November 2010

 

 

 

 


 

 

A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

It’s 1984 in New York City and some guy’s lost his morals and is taking loads of drugs. What’s the twist? Well, it’s actually 2010 in London Town and we’ve heard it all before. I’d love to say that if you love Bret Easton Ellis and cheesy American musicals then here’s the show for you, but even then I don’t think you’d savour this pallid jaunt.

The obscured and disfigured plot tracks the not so clean cut American all-star Jamie whose model wife (or is it ex-wife?) Amanda has ditched him for a French photographer. While he laments, he’s tormented/comforted by his pearl-and-cardigan clad deceased mother, sharply enacted by the neurotically composed Lori Hayley Fox. Concurrently, his shoulders are occupied not just with the burden of losing his job but with the angel/devil pairing of his cocaine revelling playmate Tad and his small-town, self-righteous brother Michael. What relation, sorry? Oh, you must have missed the song ‘Brother’ which opens with the not so deceptively simple lines ‘Brother (pause) calling my brother’ [repeat until nauseous]. If you’re feeling confused, then you’re getting a fair impression.

With songs like ‘I Want Sex Tonight’, ‘I Hate the French’ and ‘Happy Birthday, Darling’ you can be forgiven if you’re hoping for some irony – we are in Hoxton right? No dice. The songs are like Sesame Street for adults, but without the educational value. The lyrics are uninventive and unmoving and because there is no dialogue between songs, we’re never liberated from the chained melody which strangles any possible conversational insight. To blame this failure on Christopher Lane’s direction would be like blaming a builder for failing to recreate the Taj Mahal using toothpicks.

It might be boorish to be so prescriptive, but for me theatre must either educate or entertain – preferably both. This show does neither, which is a shame considering the quality of the actors. Oliver Roll’s snazzy Chuck Bean shimmered, and Paul Ayers held the lead role of Jamie with strength. The actors do well to salvage anything from the dated script, with Jodie Jacobs the blooming best of the bunch with her piercingly American Vicky.

The music is efficient and of the time, the buzzing Springsteen guitars follow a soft rock drum throb, but the sound system struggles to penetrate the depths of Hoxton Hall. This is a shame considering the inventive effort put into hiding miniature microphones in the back-combed barnets of the cast, and the fact that each actor sings just as well solo as they do in the choral ensemble. There’s some real talent on stage in this performance, and that fact irks me further with the question of why this show was chosen. Where are all the savvy, satirical British musicals ripe with song and choreography which these musical actors could shine in?

The set was Ikea and the costumes, although ‘80’s, were a little too close to current trends to set a period, especially when accompanied with the characters’ hipster hairstyles. The lighting was compelling as it could be in the emotional scenes, with the drug baron’s fortune spent on dry ice failing to add any lasting drama. The minimal set perhaps aims to focus attention on the actors, but its insipidity feels a little under-thought.

If you love all things American, and can bear reliving a ghoulish 80’s drug fuelled nightmare, then perhaps you’ll trot through this show without too much clock-watching. But even you might be wondering why you’re watching a musical which adds nothing to the over-populated American drama circuit and why you didn’t just stay home and guzzle ice cream in front of Glee.

 

 

 

Box Office: www.blbclondon.com or on the door

Hoxton Hall
130 Hoxton St
N1 6SH

4th – 25th November, Mondays – Saturdays (no Tuesday performance) at 7.45, Sundays at 2.45

Tickets: £10 (front row obscured view), £25 elsewhere

 

 

 

 

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