The nation’s appetite for ‘jukebox musicals’ seems to show no signs of abating (unless you count Viva Forever...but we’ll gloss over that one eh?) and this latest one’s pretty much guaranteed to keep everyone entertained. Yes, we’re in swinging London baby, groovy...far out...shagadelic...etc. for a pretty much non-stop run through some of the era’s biggest hits. Carnaby Street, written by music agent Carl Leighton-Pope (who lived in London in the 60s and worked in legendary venue The Marquee) and directed by Bob Thomson (of Dreamboats and Petticoats and Blood Brothers fame) is pretty much a Now That’s What I Call The Swinging 60s bought to life by an endlessly enthusiastic cast who twist and shout through some of pop’s greatest moments.
The plot’s a simple one (boy finds fame, ditches his mates then realises the error of his ways) and the script’s as short as the miniskirts worn by most of the cast (including one of the chaps at one point) which leaves time for the bulk of this two hour show to include almost 40 hits songs, everything from DooWah Diddy through to Born To Be Wild. If there’s one major criticism to be levelled at almost all ‘jukebox musicals’ it’s that they only deliver snippets of songs and the best performances tonight left you craving for the full versions. There were plenty of these moments too.
Both Verity Rushworth (Penny Lane) and Tricia Adele Turner (Jane) were particularly impressive on pretty much every number, with Tricia turning in a show stealing performance of Anyone Who Had A Heart.
Paul Hazel camped it up quite brilliantly as Lily The Pink...Son Of A Preacher Man will never be the same again. Channelling his inner Meatloaf Mark Pearce also gave it some real welly as Wild Thing, growling his way through Born To Be Wild and Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.
It’s tricky to develop characters with so little dialogue and the male members of the cast, specifically Jack and Jude, had less to play with, emotionally speaking, than the ladies and that perhaps had an impact on believability at times. But let’s face facts here, this ain’t Shakespeare and it never pretends otherwise.
A cursory trawl through the internet reveals that reviews for this show have been a little mixed so far (then again some critics hate something as blatantly commercial as this almost by default), but you simply couldn't argue with the hundreds of people standing up and clapping along to the final number this evening. What Carnaby Street sets out to do is to deliver a feel good, leave your brain and troubles at home, fun night out for all ages. Does it do this? To borrow the title of one of the night’s bouncier numbers (courtesy of Mr Georgie Fame), Yeh Yeh. Go now...
Carnaby Street's on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 8th June 2013. Tickets here.