Thursday, 6 July 2017

"Boogie Nights" by Erewash Musical Society Youth Group.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
"Boogie Nights" is one of those "jukebox musicals" where the plot comes second to the music. That in itself isn't a bad thing when the musical soundtrack is as good as this. You'll know every single song in "Boogie Nights".
The story is fluffy and goes as follows.....
We open the scene at a wedding and Roddie is being told by Debs that this is the happiest day of her life. Flashback a few years and Debs and Roddie meet and Roddie, as part of the truth/dare game is dared by his best mate, Terry, to ask Debs out, and the rest is, as they say, history.
The thing is, Roddie is a jack the lad and has an eye for the ladies and soon is distracted by Lorraine, who is going steady with Spencer, who is Roddie's boss, well Roddie is roadie for him as Spencer is a singer i a disco band.
Well, all must have turned out OK in the end as they were at their wedding, weren't they?.....
This isn't Shakespeare, more Shake Your Body Down, and that's OK by me because nit has great entertainment value and a soundtrack that defies you to keep your feet still, and fails.
Charlie Pierson plays Roddie and what a performance he gives. Charlie is a confident comedy actor. He plays up to the audience and Roddie's sexist pig attitude attracts some reaction from the audience, all in the best possible taste though, lapping up the audience's response with great fun. He has a good bassy voice and in a few years will have trained that voice to be a useful asset in musical theatre. A good fun performer.
Debs is played by Holly Pilgrim. At first being the under the thumb, know your place woman but soon gains the strength to break that image to turn things around after she miscarries Roddie's baby. A lovely confident performer.
Terry, Roddie's mate, is played by James Christian. Another fun character who is there at the start for Roddie and Debs and gets to double date with Trish, but unlike Roddie and Debs only get as far as "fiddling", and we ain't talking Stradivarius here! Great ending for these two though. James also gets to sing all of the falsetto songs like "Sugar Baby Love", a nice contrast to Charlie's lower register.
Trish is played by Rebecca Groombridge. These EMUS are packed with confident actors and Rebecca is yet another one. She has been let in to Debs's secret but soon lets the secret slip, but is still a faithful friend to Debs throughout.
DJ Dean, who has the hots for Debs is played by Ethan Fletcher. As a former 1970's mobile jock, I loved his interpretation of a 70's mobile jock, and he looked the part as he whipped the dancers up into a Disco Inferno.
The disco band singer, Spencer is another one to keep your eye on. Reuben Gotts is a young actor who can pull off the older character swagger, well when I say older, he's not that much younger than the character himself. Some good emotional outbursts of sexist pig (were all males in the 70's sexist pigs?). Reuben can move well in the choreography stakes and he looked totally at ease in this field.
Lorraine, who is Spencer's woman aka his property, is played by Jorja Foster. What can I say about Jorja's voice? Only that it's one of the strongest on stage last night. Some of the songs that she had to tackle weren't the easiest, especially the Donna Summer songs like "Last Dance" and "No More Tears", but she took these difficult songs and sung her heart out.
Roddie's Dad, Eammon, is an Elvis disciple and when The King dies in 1977, he is distraught and takes his anger out on his son. Joe Langley plays Eammon with a lot of passion.
It takes a large ensemble to fill out the disco scenes and they all capture the feel of 1970's night clubs really well. they embraced the different dances of the era really well and filled the stage with some great backing vocals.
With this being a musical about disco music, in the words of 80's funk band Imagination, you gotta have music and lights, and both these help make this musical the exciting success it was.
Partly backing tracks and part, but mostly live orchestra, under the guidance of Martin Lewis. I was quite surprised that there were only four musicians involved in creating that wonderful 70's music vibe. Luis Orgando (guitar), Marcus Cain (bass) and the flying sticks of one of the best drummers I've heard at The Duchess, Will Raybould.
From the very first scene in the disco, the lights transformed that stage to a place you wanted to shake your groove thing down to. Thanks to Matthew Cook who, I have on very good authority has only just left school and this is his first lighting gig at The Duchess. Well that is the way to make your mark. a case of not hiding your lights under a bushel. Brilliant atmosphere.
A nice clear sound mix by Dave Martin.
The costumes will also take you back in time. Leathers and flares a plenty, wide collared shirts and Saturday Night Fever suits, lycra and crop tops. it could even be my wardrobe they raided, but no, the costumes were all provided by the committee and family and friends.
Choreography is by Carol Lawson and what an amazing job she did. I wanted to be on that stage as they looked like they were having so much fun. So many classic 70's disco moves, and when you think that all of these moves and the music would have been quite new to many of these young actors, they did Carol proud with their energy and enthusiasm.
Produced and Directed by Chrissie Oakden, she kept the all important energy going throughout.
I noted as well that Erewash Radio got a mention from Roddie. i wonder whose decision it was to include that in the script?
I now have a couple of gripes which, i imagine aren't anything this group could change.
This musical was released for youth groups to perform but there are certain words and phrases which I personally thought were not suitable for some of the young actors and came across as a bit embarrassing.
I have a feeling that when the script and the musical is released, the group performing has to stick to the script verbatim, being unable to change anything, not even odd words. I feel that by changing some of the more adult words and turn of phrases, the delivery of phrases like "tossing" could have been removed or changed to something less explicit. I am by no means a prude but for such young actors, it may be that they were not even aware of the meanings within this script. This I feel may be in the contract in leasing the rights to perform not to change or alter the script and not with the theatre group performing it.
Secondly, and again nothing at all to do with EMUS, the year the musical is set is 1977 and a couple of timelined years prior to 1977. You'd have thought that Shane Richie, Jon Conway and Terry Morrison may have done their musical history as several of the songs featured weren't even written until later that decade and some not until the 1980s.
That aside, the music is like being at the best disco in the world, "You Sexy Thing", "Celebration", "Disco Inferno", "YMCA", "Can You Feel It", "The Hustle", "Sugar Baby Love", "Lady Marmalade", "I Will Survive", "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", "Play that Funky Music" as well as some nice 70's ballads "Sorry Seems To be The Hardest Word", "If You Leave Me Now", "Yesterday Once More" and "Always On My Mind".
A few issues with mics but nothing that could mar this celebration of all things fun and 70's, plus spotting all of those 70's references including a comic segment of Simon Bates' "Our Tune" with Roddie's story.
Being involved in radio i happen to know that this segment in Simon Bates' show didn't start until 1979 and the song that was played wasn't recorded until 1981. Shane Richie if you need any music research done for your next musical, give me a call!
"Boogie Nights" is night of fun with some of the best music from the 70's and 80's and a wonderful cast with boundless energy and great enthusiasm throughout the whole show.
You can see this show at The Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 8 July 2017 and don't forget to take your boogie shows with you, because you should be dancing by the end of the last dance.

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