Friday, 29 May 2015

Hot Stuff, Cut to the Chase, Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch

At the Queen's it was back to the 1970s: the era that high fashion forgot. As a result, I can't get through this review without mentioning the never-to-be-forgotten horrors for those of us who lived through the reality of flared trousers (male and female); tank tops (ditto); curly permanent waves (yet more ditto); ABBA; and of course - Disco music with its pounding beat rhythms and catchy tunes.
This cornucopia of familiar music and dance couldn't possibly function without recalling the classic music of the era: Saturday Night Fever; YMCA; Le Freak; Devil Gate Drive; Space Oddity; Nobody Does It Better; Bad; and I Will Survive to name only a tiny few. Artists remembered with delight include: Tina Turner in Nutbush; the amazingly original Queen; Michael Jackson; John Lennon and Imagine; Mick Jagger and his Honky Tonk Woman; and even our honorary Essex Girl Suzy Quatro. 
Costumes, created by the inhouse team gave them and Assistant Costume Designer Lydia Hardiman opportunities galore to go crazy with sparkle and bling at every change of outfit. You really have to admire just how they created so many costumes from the very economical use of expensive fabrics. As someone (possibly from the Dolly Parton school of dress design) once said "It costs a fortune to look this cheap!".
Many of the younger cast members are newbies to this theatre and to the acting profession. Yet despite problems that let to cancellation of one preview night, what we saw was a team which worked extremely hard in this technically demanding show.
Notable for their outstanding contributions were Richard O'Brien-style Narrator Cameron Jones who also revealed his devilish side; Matthew Quinn's humble local boy who longs to be a star to the dismay of his Tesco checkout girlfriend Julie, excellently played by Sarah Mahony who also had another arrow to her bow. This came especially true when her moving version of Midnight Train To Georgia earned her well-deserved audience acclaim.   The utterly uninhibited Hollie Cassar is the very naughty Miss Hot Stuff.
Presiding over the whole team is the so-called Lady Felicia as Lucy Fur whose acting pedigree is not a hundred miles away from that of Queen's regular Fred Broom. Her performance ticked off every drag queen cliche in the book including the virtually obligatory nun in spangles. It takes some chutzpah to come on stage in all the OTT costumes complete with outrageous wigs and make-up.
The simple all in red and black set with its horseshoe staircase was a very effective backdrop and Chris Howcroft must have upped the electricity bill with his staggering myriad light sources while Dan Crews sound design left our ears ringing after the show. Valentina Dolci not only appeared as an ensemble member but created the almost nonstop, high energy choreography. Musical Director of the long list of numbers was the highly musically-experienced Julian Littman.
Matt Devitt directed the show which ended Act 1 with a mini rock concert in its own right. So much so that I really wondered how they were going to follow that. Well with Tina Turner and David Bowie of course. Even Punk and safety pins appeared with giant photos of HM The Queen accompanied by Johnny Rotten's anthem and Mrs Thatcher watching hawklike as Money, That's What I Want filled the theatre.
Unfortunately, despite a standing ovation there was no getting over the fact that the show overran by at least half an hour, so hopefully Matt has been out with the hedgecutters since press night!  
Meanwhile the Cut to the Chase Company was honoured with a press night visit from its founder Bob Carlton. A happy return by an innately talented, genial person who was welcomed by scores of theatregoers.
Mary Redman
May 29 2015

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