Tag Archives: George Maguire

REVIEW: 20th Century Boy – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Four decades after his untimely death, 20th Century Boy aims to shine a light on the man once dubbed “The Electric Warrior”, the “King of Glam Rock” and the “Godfather of Punk”, Marc Bolan. Setting out on a path for fame since childhood, the story takes us from young Marc Feld’s early years in Stoke Newington to stardom as Marc Bolan.

Bolan’s untimely death a few days shy of his 30th birthday, almost assured him a legacy as the glittering epitome of an era of excess, but it’s to its credit that 20th Century Boy is more docu-drama than jukebox musical. It shows Bolan’s failures and flaws equally as it does his triumphs and talent.

We never got the opportunity to see the ageing pop star, to see where his career trajectory would eventually take him, to see what happened when the effects of his life of excess finally took their toll. However, this musical certainly gives us a glimpse of what might have been. You see a cock-sure, but ultimately nice guy, become consumed by the self-created myth he wove around himself. To see the rise of Punk on the horizon, the uncertainty creep in as to where he could go next.

Last seen in 2011, this new, touring version of John Maher’s show has been re-written with new material added by Nicky Graham and Colin Giffin. The first act covers the early 50s to early 70s, the second, takes a darker turn towards the inevitable tragic end.

The set is simplistic but utterly effective, enhanced by projections that move the timeline along, but it’s the music that’s key and boy, is it utterly, utterly brilliant. The live musicianship is astonishing, it’s pure rock concert, not a watered-down musical theatre version of these tunes, and as a result it stands head and shoulders above its peers.

The cast is headed up by Olivier Award-winning George Maguire as Bolan. Maguire is a star, a magnetic presence in any role he tackles, and it’s no different here. A fine musician as well as actor, he manages to perfectly capture Bolan’s idiosyncrasies, as well as his distinctive voice. He achieves what every actor playing a legend dreams of doing, he makes you forget this is an actor playing a role, he IS Bolan in this show. There can be no compliment greater than to say he utterly convinces. Ellena Vincent is a strong presence as Bolan’s lover Gloria Jones as is Sarah Moss as Bolan’s wife June Child and Derek Hagan as producer Tony Visconti. But, there’s not a weak link anywhere. The choreography by Cressida Carré and its execution are faultless, neither parody or pastiche, it is utterly evocative of the eras it represents.

As with any show with a tragic ending, there really has to be an uplifting musical encore, a celebration where the audience can dance away the tears, and so we are treated to a roof-raising medley of Bolan and T-Rex’s greatest hits, so enthusiastically received, it makes the famous dress circle at The King’s Theatre literally bounce.

“Will people remember me?” a ghostly Bolan asks after the car crash that ends his life and starts this show. That this production is touring the UK 40 years after his death, filling theatres, and having people quite literally dancing in the aisles and singing every lyric, answers that question resoundingly.

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: Billy Elliot Live! DVD

You would be forgiven for thinking that Billy Elliot is the much-loved but tired old workhorse of the West End: still pulling in the crowds but maybe lacking a little of its previous magic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a musical with enormous heart and soul, one that still has the power to move an audience and remains as thrillingly alive as the day it bounded on stage, almost ten years and 10 million ticket sales ago.

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Ruthie Henshall, Deka Walmsley and Elliot Hanna Image © Adam Sorenson

More serious and therefor ultimately more satisfying than the usual musical theatre fodder, it resists the urge to sanitise the issues it touches upon, not least the effect of the miners’ strike of the 80’s which is at the heart of the tale, but it also features: Alzheimer’s, alcoholism, feminism, the loss of a parent, the class system, domestic violence and missed opportunity.

Based on Stephen Daldry’s 2000 film, it is, of course, the story of 11 year old Billy from a beleaguered mining village in the North East of England and his battle with his striking miner father to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer.

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Deka Walmsley and Elliott Hanna Image © Adam Sorenson

Lee Hall’s raw, vivid and expletive filled script is as uncompromising as the times in which it is set. It is written with a sharp wit and an even sharper intelligence, and takes the audience on a genuine emotional rollercoaster ride. There’s no schmaltz here: every laugh wrought or tear shed by the audience is heart-felt.

The music by Sir Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall are a veritable smorgasbord of musical styles: there’s a glitzy show tune beside a powerful anthem next to a jaunty folk tune next to a heart-wrenching ballad. There’s much to delight and keep the ears pleased throughout. A particular stand-out is the stirring “Once We Were Kings”.

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Liam Mower and Elliott Hanna. Image © Adam Sorenson

Ian MacNeil’s set design evokes life in a beleaguered mining village in the 80’s and is cleverly ragged around the edges.

The choreography from Peter Darling is inventive and energetic, and is a clever balance between the rough edged: in the burgeoning talent of Billy and the burly miners and police and the refinement of the big show stopping numbers. Darling’s originality is particularly well showcased in the astonishingly clever “Solidarity” sequence.

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Ruthie Henshall and cast © Adam Sorenson

Elliot Hanna is an outstanding Billy, his beautifully judged acting matching his sublime dancing skills perfectly. It’s easy to forget that this is a child carrying the weight of this show on his tiny shoulders, the maturity with which he pitches his performance is astonishing and is no better demonstrated in the touching relationship between Billy and best pal Michael and in the interactions with Granny. Deka Warmsley is particularly menacing as Billy’s dad and his transformation from prejudice to acceptance of his gifted son is touchingly done. The ensemble, rare for a long-running musical are of a particularly high quality, it would be churlish to single out any particular member as they are all first rate. The only gripe with the cast would be Ruthie Henshall, a West End veteran of many years standing, who is a tad vocally underpowered and has one of the dodgiest accents onstage (only to be surpassed in dodginess by the horrific attempt at a Scottish accent by one of the ensemble). One delightful and moving touch though, is the casting of the first ever stage Billy Liam Mower, now one of the country’s most highly regarded dancers with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, as the older Billy. The scene between the two has the audience weeping on their droves.

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Original ‘Billy’ Liam Mower returns. Image © Adam Sorenson

This is a musical that leaves an impression long after the curtain has fallen and it certainly leaves you with no mascara by the end, it is real and relatable and this DVD release is a perfect representation of a perfect show.

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The ‘Billy Mash Up’ Image © Craig Sugden

The DVD comes with a charming backstage introduction from Elliot Hana and there’s a behind the scenes ‘making of’ video too. There’s also the magical and moving ‘Billy mash-up” where 25 of the actors who have previously played Billy, including the original trio Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire dance together.

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The three original Billys: James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower. Image © Craig Sugden

The Billy Elliot Live! DVD will be released on Monday 24th November 2014

Title image Adam Sorenson