Infectious 70s disco classics, 80s and 90s pop warblings, hip hop battling, big dance routines, dumbfounding break dancing, outrageous beatboxing and a whole lot of soul; that’s what new musical Daddy Cool brings to the Shaftesbury and the West End. Matthew Amer attended the first night of the Boney M musical and soaked up the carnival atmosphere.
On the Shaftesbury stage, Trinidad is a brightly coloured paradise, all blue skies, orange palms and a house as you would have imagined it aged five. This is where we meet Sunny, who is living with his grandmother… but not for long. He’s whisked off to a much drabber London to be reunited with his mother.
As he grows up his love of music grows with him and he joins the Sub Sonic Crew, a West London urban music collective. Everything gets a bit Romeo And Juliet as Sunny falls for the daughter of East London club owner Ma Baker, whose son runs the rival Blade Crew. As you can imagine, things get worse before they get better.
The production is nothing if not fun, and a hefty dollop of humour runs right through the show, especially the costumes. The eponymous Daddy Cool – disco king and Sunny’s late father – looks like the uber-pimp in a wide-brimmed hat, bright blue outfit and shimmering silver trenchcoat, while Michelle Collins’s outfits as Ma Baker tread the line between glamour and camp queen.
The show’s numbers spring out of scenes both when you least and most expect them. And when they do they often bring big dance routines with them. A rendition of Brown Girl In The Ring sees a London market come to life, with punks, goths, policemen, a giant rainbow dress-wearing transvestite and an acrobatic tramp joining in. Club scenes, too, provide fodder for scintillating ensemble choreography.
It’s not all giggles; the second half’s opening scene sees the musical battle played out between the Sub-Sonics and the Blades, possibly the West End’s first real taste of urban music in a theatrical setting. The beats, base, spat lyrics and street dancing serve to pack the scene with tension and fight.
Harvey, a former urban music star himself, revels in this environment, looking brooding and menacing as the Sub Sonic Shake. The statuesque Javine, also better known for her chart hits than her previous theatrical roles, along with Melanie Le Barrie (Pearl) and Donovan F Blackwood (Rasputin – funny name for a music producer) stands out with smooth, unforced tones. Michelle Collins blends her previous incarnation, Cindy Beale, with a touch of Cruella De Ville to produce the double-crossing, double-hard Ma Baker.
Daddy Cool begins and ends in Trinidad, where everything is bright, colourful, carefree and happy. To mention too much about the finale would be to spoil its surprise, but it’s big, infectious, camp and left the first night audience with a smile on its face; much like the rest of the show.
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