Book: Ben Elton
Music: Rod Stewart
Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Reviewer: Paul Jones
Tonight was certainly the night for scores of Rod Stewart fans who gathered at The Palace Theatre to watch The Rod Stewart Musical Tonight’s The Night. Ben Elton’s script tells the story of Stu, a hapless garage mechanic who unlucky in love, makes a deal with the devil to swap souls with Rod Stewart. Believing that Rod’s soul will make him more confident and able to declare his love for the girl of his dreams, Mary. The new found confidence takes our lead beyond the walls of the garage and on to the road as a new rock god. As the tale unfolds our hero forgets his reason for the deal and soon realises in this world, there can be only one Rod Stewart.
Ben Heathcote plays the lead character Stuart superbly. The rasp in his voice has a Rod Stewart quality which gives the audience the impression that he really has swapped souls with the man himself. Heathcote’s acting background leads the scenes well and his change in character was well pitched. The swagger he has on stage oozes charisma that Rod himself would be proud of.
Jenna Lee-James has a voice reminiscent of the great Stevie Nicks, a strong, powerful belt in the up tempo songs, heartfelt and pure in the gorgeous “Reason To Believe” as love interest Mary. The audience is blown away during her reprise of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”. Her talent is so big it’s a wonder any theatre can hold her.
Strong support comes from Andy Rees as Stu’s friend Rocky and Sugababe, Jade Ewen as Mary’s friend Dee Dee. Rees’ rendition of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” was sublime, and Ewan’s pop background was evident when she sang “The First Cut Is The Deepest”. Each of their songs slowed the pace down just enough to stop the evening becoming too frantic.
But it was the performance from Michael McKell who completely steals the show as British rock lothario, Stoner, part Ronnie Wood, part Russell Brand thrown together and given the moves like Jagger, he commanded every scene and his comic timing was spot on. His singing was just as strong as his acting skills and he had the audience literally on their feet!
Director Caroline Jay Ranger has done a fantastic job of letting the vocal talents and acting skills shine through in what is an otherwise cheesy and choppy script. The story has been told before by others, and much better. Some of the references to songs has been squeezed into the show tighter than a pair of Heathcote’s leather pants, but all that can be forgiven when the cast are driving the songs so well. The 6 piece band on stage gave a great sound, the familiar intros to songs gave a collective gasp of anticipation to the audience, and the new arrangements of pieces are managed well.
Denise Ranger’s choreography was high energy and brought new life to some of the songs which now are over 40 years old. Even if you only know a handful of Rod Stewart songs this cast will soon have you tapping your toes and singing along. The sheer talent of the cast deserves to be seen far and wide, and their performances will, as Rod himself once sang, stay with me.
Runs until 25th January 2014