Oh, how the RZ loves Upstairs at the Gatehouse. This charming pub theatre is one of the few sites willing to take risks on new musicals, something always approved of on this blog. This year's Christmas offering, finishing its run earlier today, was an adaptation of the 1961 UK classic The Young Ones starring Cliff Richard.
Now, for most Americans, The Young Ones is known more as the 1982 TV series which shares the same name (and the only exposure besides Drop Dead Fred that a fair bit of us have had to Rik Mayall, though the RZ prefers Believe Nothing.) Chances are, in fact, that the RZ was the only person in the theatre who hadn't seen the film this show is based on, and suspects that he was better off for it.
The plot, thin as you'd expect, revolves around the members of a youth club in early 60's London who find their building is under threat from a property developer. Conveniently his son is a member and rallies the troops to save the club from his father's intentions by putting on a show for all the youths of London. On the score front, all the big songs from the movie are supposedly here, along with some addition Cliff Richard tracks. Being the alien that he is, the RZ only recognised three tracks (the title song, Living Doll, and Do You Wanna Dance, which Americans know via the covers by The Beach Boys and The Ramones).
Where The Young Ones shines, however, is in its choreograpy. Racky Plews fills his (her?) dances with energy, liveliness, and presence, lifting up some of the drier moments and pushing the best sequences to great heights. Unfortunately, Plews fails at directing for a thrust - the RZ was on the side and found himself facing sides and backs with only occasional sequences of action and choreography greeting a large percentage of the audience. Musical Director Dom Carter led the four piece band (also wisely in period costume) and made the wise decision to mike his singers for genre accuracy, although the theatre's sound design also punishes those on the sides, especially during ensemble numbers. The cast, listed on the website but without roles, did a fine job of channeling the youthful optimism of the era, but did little to overcome the limiting archetypes of their characters.
While The Young Ones isn't going to be heralded as a groundbreaker or masterpiece, it delivers what all pub theatre should: light, fluffy entertainment best taken with a pint or glass of wine.
Where: Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Cost: £10 (previews)/£12/£15 (based on day/time)
Concessions: Usual suspects can advance book for £10
RZ Unofficial Worth Paying: £7.50
RZ Other Notes: This was fun enough to watch, but rather forgettable after. No doubt the (mostly) older crowd lapped up the nostalgia and quite a few were singing along by the end.