Tonight’s The Night is one of those cheesy, fun jukebox musicals that is a bit of a guilty pleasure.
It comes to Milton Keynes Theatre next Monday and, with a cast change, the New Theatre Oxford on July 7, but I already caught the show at an earlier venue on the national tour.
It’s billed as The Rod Stewart Musical so, of course, the biggest disappointment is that the perma-tanned Scots rocker isn’t in it (natch).
But there is an amazingly talented cast that blow the cobwebs out of the theatre auditorium and send you home humming your fav RS tune.
Actually there’s an overdose of talent. We have an ex-Sugarbabe who was a Eurovision entrant; rock chicks who have floored We Will Rock You and a string of top West End Shows; two musical reality TV finalists and one of the stars of the recent New Jersey Nights musical.
It also helps that Ben Elton has written the dialogue.
It’s very funny with some killer lines – though it’s a bit of a mystery why he decided to place the action in Detroit rather than across the pond in the UK.
The story is centred around a shy young man called Stuart who makes a pact with the Devil and borrow Rod Stewart’s soul to enable him to have the confidence to ask out a sweet little thing called Mary.
Unfortunately as soon as Stu gets the rock vibe he leaves Mary to go off on the road, bedding girls by the score and intent on becoming a big music star.
Don’t let the whimsical story get in the way of a humming playlist. They’re all here from Gasoline Alley, Stay With Me and Maggie May to a sing-a-long Sailing.
The show’s women are powerfully good with voices so mighty that they hardly need amplification.
Jenna Lee-James, as Mary, may look a bit of a goody two shoes but she’s a real blonde babe who plays the victim with heart.
She finds herself torn between two lovers and seemingly always on the losing end of Stu’s affections.
Tiffany Graves gives a great turn as the slightly jaded, done-it-all-to-excess, rock promoter, who is looking for the “next Rod Stewart” (she also appears in cameo as a pretty hot Devil).
But the man who snatches the show from under the noses of everyone, including the leading man Ben Heathcote, is Michael McKell as the ultimate axeman, Stoner.
It’s an incredibly well written role from someone who has no doubt observed many of the great rock musicians and McKell has a ball playing the ever so naughty guitarist in Stu’s band.
Think Keith Richards’ spaced out druggy voice mixed with a bit of Jagger-swagger and the bashful sauciness of Johnny Depp.
He looks like a young Ewan McGregor or Marc Warren and does a good line in cheeky grins and cocking an eyebrow while delivering a shambling line of dialogue, a drink in one hand and his guitar in the other.
At one point, and I couldn’t care less if it was scripted or not, McKell corpses, collapsing with the giggles when Ricky Rojas flies on in a miniscule cameo as a camp (very camp) caterer.
The audience lap it up. I think they’d all like to take him home. He’s the ultimate bad boy but he does it beautifully.
Heathcote makes a credible Stu but he’s a bit on the small side for a rock god. He had the same rasping voice as Stewart but there were times when the live band (Matt Bayne goes wild on drums) drowns out his vocals.
Ricky Rojas has appeared in two leading roles at the theatre (Grease and NJN) yet he barely got a look in, which is a shame for this charismatic performer.
But it’s hard when pretty much everyone in the ensemble is a major talent in their own right.
It’s a great night’s entertainment and not just for Rod fans.
Playing at Milton Keynes Theatre April 21-26 and, with a new cast, at The New Theatre, Oxford, from July 7-12.