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July 1st Saturday Matinee review

Posted by:
RemyH 07:39 am MST 07/02/17

Hey up all,

I'd guarded myself from most reviews before the show so I'm certain many things have been stated many times already, but here it goes! Jotting this down mainly to help myself remember. This is obviously full of spoilers.

Just to put it out there first, I did have a great time! (Unfortunatelly my train home hit "a large animal" and was 1,5 hours late. Doncaster Station at Midnight shall be my new single release, oh boy oh boy.)

Sitting in the auditorium of the lovely Coliseum Theatre, with the looping projection bats on the gauze and the Obsidian "newspapers" with the backstory littered around the seat rows, I did get a pleasant pang of anticipation. Clearly the show wants to do a bit of extra for the audience. The teaser-version synopsis which looped for the last few minutes before show start was a tiny bit annoying (yes, we get it) but hey ho, maybe it helps some people understand this deep and complex show (snort).

Like the 10 year old kid sitting behind me? Someone apparently decided the show is suitable for kids, which it ain't. Pleanty of f-works and talk about the muscle of love, not to mention base to base action and more complex teenage emotions. Or maybe I'm just showing my age, when I was that young all I had was a sandbox, not 95 stalls seats to a hit musical.

Anyhow, show start. Ladies and gentlemen, set your pacemakers! A bang, very handsomely made gauze disappearance trick and the much beloved "Love, Death and an American Guitar" monologue. Not the first Steinman musical to start with a speech, The Dream Engine (which I love to bits) was there first with the 15 minute long "Ketchup or Blood" rant. Sadly for me, but probably for the enjoyment of other audience members (not to mention Box Office), BOOH The Musical does not follow the example of the DE and dive into the Beckettian deep end. You don't have to give a flying bat about politics to enjoy the show, although the Falco Empire does remind me of a current self-made statesman blowing stuff up. Spooky how the show is politically relevant after all!

To talk more about the Dream Engine influence in the show, obviously we have the gang of The Lost (Boys and Girls) led by a handsome lone wolf leader. From Baal to Strat, the names are not getting any better. This all rises from the Peter Pan deep in Steinman's soul, and while someone might say he never made a musical about Peter Pan, I'd say he's done at least three of them, including my much beloved Tanz der Vampire (still waiting for the decent English version). All sexy outcasts frozen in time and eternal youth. There's also a good spicing of West Side Story (read: Romeo and Juliet), the warring gangs being The Lost and Falco Corp., Tony and Maria played out by Strat and Raven.

While the world of the Dream Engine is dark and violent, BOOH is much more innocent and jubilant. Strat, played very well by Mr. Benjamin Purkiss (pro tip to Coliseum theatre - ditch the comic sans font from the notifications, it's not selling the guy very well. Snobbery, I know, but comic sans?!), is a mutant boy fixed in the age of 18, both body and soul it seems, although he is supposed to have been 18 "for a while now". He is nothing like the manipulative sick kid Baal. Not specifying the time frame was a good move, it gives your brain something to do. 10 years? 50 years? How long does it take that even the daughter of the most powerful man in town has her bedroom wallpapers mouldy by age in a semi-collapsed society?

What happened? Why is Manhattan "Obsidian"? War? Pollution? Was it heavy industry which started mutating the kids which led to a revolution that never ended? Was it all Falco's fault or was he just a man grasping his opportunity? Later it becomes obvious that our baddie is not really a villain at all, but early in the show I did break out in light sweat imagining The Orange Leader naming New Yourk "Onyx" and privatising the whole world. The horror.

To make one more show comparison before moving on to detail, did anyone else have very strong flashbacks to Repo! The Genetic Opera? Families Falco and Rotti? Falco Industries and GeneCo? Genetic mutations? Isn's Raven just like Shilo from Repo! With her notebook, not being able to leave her room, playing her guitar, strangers outside her window (also brings Tanz der Vampire Sarah to mind). I'm not sure if this has been intentional or not, but I would not be one bit surprised if Steinman would be a fan of Terrance Zdunich, whom I consider to be the be the best thing since... well, since Jim Steinman.

Anyway, long story short, it's a short story made long. It's the story Steinman has told all his life, and bless him three times over for it. It's a good story. It's an old story. It's a story we all know. To my endless delight, the plotline wasn't as bluntly simple as it's advertised as. The main side characters, while serving an obvious purpose of making the plot move forward, proved to be the best thing the show has to offer. Strat and Raven play out the obvious part of (slightly) star-crossed lovers and have plot-wise little interest (we all know how it goes), but Raven's parents and the dynamics within The Lost group beefed the story up very well.

Take Raven's parents. Her dad Falco is a Big Family Man who is only Protecting His Family by not letting them outside or do anything. He does nasty things when he manages to catch some of The Lost, but doesn't seem to hurt anyone badly enough to stop them from singing "Objects in the Rear View Mirror". He decapitates an ugly baby doll and smacks the head offstage with a baseball bat. Talk about cheesy villainy, but it went together with the song (In the Land of the Pig the Butcher Is King). A lot of hot air and pomp but no slaughter. Rob Fowler who plays him is about perfect for the part, the casting is very good all around anyway.

Raven's mom Sloane, played by Sharon Sexton, stole the show for me. She is a slightly aged party girl who just wanna have fun, ends up teaming up with the rebels and basically, in her way, saving the town and the family. Brilliant. More realistic and strong female characters in theatre, please. Her interaction with her husband is very well directed and emphasises the more realistic aspects of the otherwise over-the-top show. This is very wise, considering the average age of the audience and the fact that many of them have lived the songs with their own teenage loves and later family troubles.

Their first song together is the iconic song "Who Needs the Young", which is making it's third trip to the theatre, first featured in the Dream Engine, then in Tanz der Vampire and now BOOH. Always a duet between a man and a woman, the song serves its purpose beautifully in the context of a married couple who have lost the oomph from their union ("Is there anyone left who can screw? Fuck them!).

At times Falco and Sloane have a good old gut-chilling family row and I feel myself shrinking in my seat with empathy. These scenes are alterated with laughing-with-tears-down-my-face reconciliation scenes of rowdy and clumsy make-up sex or just plain real adult talking "She's all we have ". "We have each other." "She is all we have!")

Dialogue in general is briliant when Steinman has his tongue in cheek, and cringeworthy corny when he tries to be seriously romantic. Take the "our bodies rhyme" thing from Strat to Raven, which first appeared in the unfortunate case of Dance of the Cheeseballs on Broadway, "our hearts beat in the same rhythm". Shudder. Gag. Maybe I'm an old cynic but it does not work for me. However bits like "My dad told me a lot about sex." "That must have been awful!" are pure side-splitting goodness.

My favourite joke, which was not in dialogue but very much in action, was when Raven surpised her half-naked parents arguing, and as a revenge for the humiliation pushed their car down to the "orchestra pit", which was followed by a crushed trombone flying on the stage. The trombone was followed by a smashed cello, the musicians and the MD holding a bent baton, angrily walking across the stage with an air of "I feckin quit". This is EXACTLY the correct way of breaking the fourth wall. I almost died laughing. The band is very good by the way, although front row is not the best place for sound quality. A13 is a very good seat though with no monitors in front of your face, but sitting right behind the conductor. Michael Reed (what a name!) does a very good job and he seems to enjoy the music.

The car in the pit was only one of the many, many amazing tricks of the set. Whatever they've paid Jon Bauson for the design, it ain't enough. If it wasn't the car, the end of act 1 slow-motion exploding motorcycle would take the prize. The. Parts. Of. The. Bike. Formed. A. Heart. Flying. In. The. Air. It. Was. So. Cool.

The large element back of stage left which started as a monstrous guitar neck, turning into the Falco tower and Raven's bedroom, The Losts bike garage/bar, doubling as a projection screen and about 7 other things was by far the most enjoyable stage element I have ever seen. I also let out a grunt of delight when one square bit on the other side of the stage, which had served only as a projection screen for the best part of the show, suddenly turned into a new room in the set. Throws you off with a very clever surprise! I enjoyed the live video projection (designed by Finn Ross), which gave the actors a chance to take down the acting and do stuff with their faces. It created a nice sense of intimacy on an otherwise large and deep stage.

I wasn't too keen on the costumes, which were a bit too polished and glittery for my taste. I was expecting a more raggedy gang, but it looks like you don't have to give up sequins and hooker heels even if you live in the sewer system. Eh. But I'm not one who understands fashion, maybe mixing animal prints is in in their time, and black feathers on a 70's porn star peach silk shirt is the very cutting edge in the far Obsidian future. Maybe they have raided an abandoned Gap.

The only other thing which didn't work for me was the choreography. I am not one who likes a lot of dancing in musicals (I know, it's my problem really). One of the reasons I love Tanz der Vampire is that there is always a reason for the dancing, it has a function and a purpose in the scene. In other musical theatre it's like with the singing, it's not supposed to be "real" but a reflection of the characters' inner feelings. That's where my problems probably start, I'm not sure what they are supposed to be feeling with that bobbing. Happy? The movement is avant garde at best, plain silly at worst. But again, maybe that's how they dance in the future, it's not worse than twerking. The ensemble does give it a good go, they are all fantastic dancers.

As the songs go, it's the work of Frankensteinman, all the good bits are there stitched neatly together. I couldn't catch one bar of music which would qualify as new material, but I knew it would be a jukebox musical. While plots of some jukebox shows manage to be about as relevant as a juice box, BOOH has the advantage of having the original composer who dunnit yielding the scalpel. The songs are considerably shorter, which is good, and they represent a wide selection of songs originally not made for Meat or the BOOH series, which is excellent. Original Sin and Bad For Good were very much there to my joy.

While there were slight changes to the lyrics, not all had been changed. At times it made no sense to have two familiar charactes sing "I don't know who you are" to one another (Dead Ringer), and Raven has to travel a bit from Obsidian (Manhattan) to experience that chilly California sand (For Crying Out Loud), but I don't want to be the person who bitches about minor inconsistencies. Especially since there were toe-curling good moments when the already existing lyrics fit the plot exactly, like Raven being "in the room at the top" (Out of the Frying Pan) and Sloane asking Falco if he "can build an emerald city with these grains of sand". And by the way, if you STILL don't get what THAT is in I'd Do Anything for Love after the representation in this show, you must be thicker than a yard or lard. Maybe think "lurve"?

All and all the show could have gone much deeper with the semi-post-apocalyptic backstory and analysis of the characters, but I don't think that would work with the existing songs, and good old Doctor Steinlove has made the best possible musical he can for the selected material. Hats off.

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