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Hot off the stage: Tonight's The Night at Liverpool Empire
3:38pm Tuesday 28th January 2014 in News
THE rock and roll / pop musical is a comparatively new genre.
They follow formulas - each with their own musical mission statement.
Some have actually lasted longer in the limelight than the careers of the people they immortalise.
Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and every Beatle dramatic tribute - all offer solid stories of the lives of legends inter-twined with classic songs from their respective back catalogues.
Bill Kenwright continues to offer these box office hits and long may it continue in the hands of the master.
The celebrated Mr K isn't involved in this show, but it would be interesting to see how he would present this latest musical-bio-fantasy.
This new touring production from ever-reliable Phil McIntyre Entertainments, Arnold Steel and the Ambassdor Group certainly gives the fans what they want.
This is a musical where the songs remain solidly as the crucial backdrop - using a novel, storybookesque approach as the plot.
Ben Elton has already given us We Will Rock You - a tale set in the future with the songs of Queen being the selling point.
The writer and former stand-comic stamps his own trademark gags in this show, with some poignant references to lost love in the process.
Rod's greatest hits are used to illustrate the life of a mechanic who sells his soul to the devil so he can be a rock and roll god (or should that be Rod?).
And that is where this musical has its weakest elements.
Surely Rod's own life story from North London grave digger to icon would have been a great chronological tale.
Elton's story is the glue that keeps the show racing along.
It features unintentional Benny Hill-style scantily-clad dancers and some rude Risque jokes inserted along the way from the one time Mr Motormouth.
At times it was like watching Top of The Pops and Pan's People.
If you let the script pass you by and concentrate on the singing abilities of the cast then you will enjoy this roller coaster ride down memory lane.
Set in a Detroit car mechanic garage we see our hero Stuart (Ben Heathcote) turn from bespectacled nerd to rock star and back again confronted by a satanic cat woman played by feisty Tiffany Graves.
He excels on the slower ballady numbers such as You're In My Heart but still gives gutsy versions of rockers including Stay With Me.
His love interest Mary played by an engaging Jenna Lee-James is magical on her version of Reason To Believe.
The shining star throughout is Jade Ewen of Sugababes plays delightful Dee Dee. She is not only a fine pop singer but a wonderful all-round musical star.
The First Cut is The Deepest is the absolute highlight of the production.
Director Caroline Jay Ranger and choreographer Denise Ranger keep things moving along with a nicely paced routines whether it is a rock number or one of the many well balanced duets or ensemble pieces.
There's a nice performance from Michael McKell as Stoner who resembles a guitar playing Jack Sparrow without the pirate gear.
An on-stage band on a clever two level set are superb showing great versatility on the many variations of Rod's timeless songs.
And what songs ... songs all crafted by Rod and his writing team over five decades of chart domination.
There's quite a jukebox selection: Young Turks, Baby Jane, Hot Legs and Maggie May to name a few.
On the way in we were all given sailor hats - all was revealed at the end when the wide age group audience donned the white paper crowns to wave their arms in a rousing version of Sailing.
The days of ciggie lighter torch accompaniments may be over.
Tonight's The Night promises songs from Rod Stewart and his amazing career and that is what is on offer in under three hours.
The individual singers certainly wowed the loyal Liverpool audience and most went home, no doubt, to put on the greatest hits album. The soundtrack to a lot of their lives.
8 / 10 Nostalgic
The show is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday, February 1.
Tickets are from the box office on 08448717613.
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