A SLICK cast, dazzling production values and Rod Stewart’s sterling back-catalogue made Tonight’s the Night at The Churchill Theatre an enjoyable romp that largely masked a vapid and crack-filled narrative.
If you like Rod Stewart – and if you don’t, you’re a fool for buying tickets to this – then you will love this homage to the man.
Catford writer and comedian Ben Elton, who was magic in the 80s and turned Queen’s hits into the shudderingly successful We Will Rock You, appears to have been on autopilot when coming up with a script.
A few sharp lines reminiscent of his sitcom writing hey day lifted it beyond terrible, but the plot is a bit like a head-on collision between Rod Stewart and Bedazzled – the dire Brendan Fraser/Liz Hurley version.
To précis, over-the-top geeky mechanic (what?) Stuart is in love with Mary but is too scared to say anything.
He does a deal with the devil to swap his soul with that of his idol Rod Stewart and becomes a rock and roll ladies man overnight, but is doesn’t go as planned.
Mingled among this are confusing references like playing gigs six days a week in greasy spoons - I don’t know about you but I prefer to eat my bacon sandwiches to the sound of clanging plate (does America even have greasy spoons?).
It’s not clear when it’s set, either. There’s a confederate flag flying in a Minnesota bar and Stuart writing letters to Mary, but then there are references to the 80s as though they were history, MTV, and Stu’s bandmate making a call on a mobile. It doesn’t add up. Why couldn’t Stu Skype Mary?
Admittedly, tying the Rodster’s hits into a musical must have been tough and it is done fairly well.
There are gifts like the lead character starting the second half needing to wake up Maggie because he thinks he has something to say to her, but then there is also the clunky show-closer Sailing floating in through the fog from absolutely nowhere.
But, as I said, the production surpassed its script. The experienced cast and band put on an entertaining song and dance and were committed enough between the music to keep things moving.
Though Ben Heathcote was spunky in the lead role, Michael McKell stole the show as his Jaggeresque band mate Stoner, nailing the best lines and lightening the mood with some tongue-in-cheek delivery.
Designer Andrew Howe-Davis’s a stunning, set is versatile, changing from a garage-cum-cafe, night club, bedrooms and stages slickly and convincingly.
Tonight’s the Night is at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, until Saturday (April 19). Go to atgtickets.com/Bromley or call 0844 8717620.