After the success of Into The Hoods, dance company ZooNation is back with a beautifully crafted piece of dance theatre which has a love story at its heart.
I can’t be the only one to have wondered, so let’s get this straight: ZooNation’s Some Like It Hip Hop has nothing to do with Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot. Yes, there is cross dressing in both, but that’s as much as they share. ZooNation’s writer, director and choreographer Kate Prince has, along with co-book writer Felix Harrison, created an original story with which to showcase the skills of her undoubtedly supremely talented dancers.
Echoing a fable, it’s set in a world presided over by a stern governor, whose personal tragedy has led him to ban all books and relegate women as second class citizens, resigned to being secretaries to the male office workers. Coupled with the retro styling of the costumes, this gives the show a 1950s feel, which, given the current Mad Men-fuelled appeal of that era, definitely puts the hip – ahem – into hip hop.
Into this scenario come our rebellious heroines, Jo-Jo and Kerri, who, frustrated by this male-dominated society, attempt to prove themselves by dressing as men and getting skilled jobs in the office where they once served as secretaries. But keeping up appearances proves trickier than they expected, especially when Jo-Jo falls for the nerdy Simeon.
Fans of ZooNation have come to expect a spectacular level of dance ability from the company members, and Some Like It Hip Hip does not disappoint. And it’s much more than just hip hop. The surprising diversity of the music – though that doesn’t detract from the cohesive whole – evokes blues, soul, Motown, gospel and even 80s synth, meaning the dance ranges from competitive breakdancing to fluid ballet. A scene when Jo-Jo tries to attract the affections of Simeon at a launderette stands out, as does the heartfelt ballad Invisible Me. Credit for the music goes to ZooNation regulars DJ Walde and Josh Cohen, while the multi-talented Prince has written the lyrics too; I can only imagine how many hours she’s put into crafting this show.
Lizzie Gough and Teneisha Bonner are on stage most of the evening as Jo-Jo and Kerri, and keep the energy up right to the end. Tommy Franzén as Simeon and Natasha Gooden as the governor’s daughter Oprah also impress. The quality of the moves is matched by the singing, particularly from Elliotte Williams-N’Dure and Sheree Dubois, who, as bystanders to the main story, lurk in the background or on platforms above the action, singing the thoughts of the characters below.
This is a slick, well-produced show which will no doubt be a contender for a transfer when its run at dance house the Peacock theatre comes to an end. With its title, the show is being modest. But I suppose All Like It Hip Hop doesn’t have quite the same ring…