Tonight’s The Night – Review

February 20, 2014 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Ooh La La

Ben Heathcoate as Stu & Michael McKell as Stoner

Ben Heathcoate and Michael McKell

Edinburgh Playhouse
Mon 17 – Sat 22 Feb 2014
Review by Paul Johnson

It’s fast and furious fun, featuring one hit after another for the Rod Stewart jukebox musical, Tonight’s the Night, which is at the Playhouse until Saturday.

Yet you can’t help feeling the show lacks content, even by jukebox musical standards.

Think of Maggie May, The Killing of George or You’re In My Heart and it is clear Rod Stewart knows how to write a story in a song. No surprise, then, that his works should be up for the jukebox treatment. Particularly considering the continuing commercial success of a singer whose first solo album came out in 1969 and whose star is as strong as ever.

And so 2003 saw 25 of Stewart’s hits linked together by Ben Elton, who already tasted success within the genre, providing the book for the Queen musical, We Will Rock You. And if you thought that had a weak storyline… this one sure ain’t Faust either.

Well, actually, it is – kind of. Mild-mannered hero Stuart is so shy he can’t profess his love to Mary, the girl of his dreams. Something of a singer-songwriter when he’s not working as a mechanic, Stuart sells his soul to Satan in exchange for the confidence and swagger (and heart and soul) of… you guessed it, Rod Stewart.

Then he goes and leaves Mary behind to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of excess, but eventually realises he’s become a not very nice person, which makes him unhappy. Of course, because of his pact with the devil, he’s stuck with it.

While the Stuart character isn’t a Rod Stewart impersonation, actor Ben Heathcote has a similar bluesy gravely voice which more than does justice to the songs. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t quite have is the presence of a rock star to justify the character’s rise to stardom.

And with every scene moving along at breakneck speed he never gets the opportunity to build sympathy for a character who goes off the rails.

Exceptionally sassy
Jade Ewen as Dee Dee

Jade Ewen as Dee Dee

Jade Ewen who plays Dee Dee, actually is a bona fide rock (or at least pop) star, as a member of the group Sugababes. Her rendition of the nicely reworked What Am I Going To Do? is one of the highlights and it seems a pity her character doesn’t get more to do.

Not that there is any shortage of female talent in this show with Tiffany Graves being exceptionally sassy in her dual roles of Satan and Baby Jane. Playing the latter with a real Southern twang makes her sound very Dolly Parton and it is surprising how many of the songs have been re-imagined with a good ol’ country feel to them. She also delivers the funniest – and rudest – line of the night.

Michael McKell – the ill-fated Dr Nick West in lunchtime soap Doctors – gets all the other funnies and plays them for all they are worth as the suitably-named Stoner. His character is a cross between Rod Stewart’s guitarist sidekick Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards of The Stones.

However, the star performance of the production is Jenna Lee-James who, despite playing Stuart’s cast-aside love interest Mary, never allows her character to become wishy-washy. And what a voice! Powerful with a rock edge, yet retaining quality of tone, she takes it to wonderful places – and then goes beyond even that.

All told, a nice-enough production with a good-looking set and lighting, and a really good cast backed by a tight band. The ensemble might not be called upon to do much but still look the part, although the dancers are woefully under-utilised in some incredibly naff choreography, especially during Sailing and the inevitable megamix ending. And the creative reworkings of Rod’s songs are well enough done to entice those who aren’t fans, too.

And yet, as this speeds by, dialogue pared right back, there is hardly any time between songs. Of course this isn’t Goethe, or anything other than a piece of puff musical theatre, yet even a little more dramatic input would help audiences engage more with the characters.

Oh, and if anyone can work out quite how the story suddenly develops a nautical theme to shoehorn in that song, please leave your theories in the comments box below.

Running time 2 hrs 10 mins
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Run ends Saturday, 22 February 2014.
Daily 7.30pm, matinee Wed, Sat, 2.30pm.
Full details on the Playhouse website: www.atgtickets.com

Tonight’s The Night on tour 2014:

17 – 22 February 2014 Edinburgh
Playhouse
0844 871 3014 Book online
24 Feb – 1 March 2014 Birmingham
New Alexandra
0844 871 3011 Book online
3 – 8 March 2014 Aylesbury
Waterside
0844 871 7607 Book online
10 – 15 March 2014 Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
17 – 22 March 2014 Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
24 – 29 March 2014 Stoke
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
31 March – 5 April 2014 Sunderland
Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
14 – 19 April 2014 Bromley
Churchill Theatre
08448 717 620 Book online
21 – 26 April 2014 Milton Keynes
Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
28 Aprril – 3 May 2014 York
Grand Opera House
0844 871 3024 Book online
12 – 17 May 2014 Derry
Millennium Forum
028 7126 4455 Book online
19 – 24 May 2014 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s
01224 641 122 Book online
27 – 31 May 2014 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
2 – 14 June 2014 Glasgow
King’s
0844 871 7648 Book online
16 – 21 June 2014 Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
23 Jun – 5 July 2014 Bristol
Hippodrome
0844 871 3012 Book online
7 – 12 July 2014 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
14 – 19 July 2014 Norwhich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
21 – 26 July 2014 Woking
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
28 July – 2 August 2014 Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787 787 Book online

ENDS

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