Rock Around the Clock is pretty much the kind of show that you know whether or not you’ll enjoy before stepping into the auditorium. It’s the ultimate nostalgia-fest jukebox musical: a slick assemblage of 1950s and early 60s rock ‘n’ roll hits strung together without anything as distracting as even the semblance of a narrative to get in the way of the music. Over the course of two hours, six hard-working singers (Jamie Capewell, Will Mulvey, AnDre Washington, Kelsey Cobban, Ben Fitzpatrick and Sarah Accomando) and a four-piece band rip through songs made famous by Elvis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Francis, The Crystals, The Shirelles and others, while eight colourfully-costumed dancers strut their stuff. The company’s energy generates an infectious enthusiasm throughout the evening and damned if the audience weren’t up on their feet, dancing, singing and clapping along by the end of the show.
Director/choreographer Neil Dorward keeps proceedings flowing smoothly with swift transitions between the numbers. Images are presented on a screen above the band and while this doesn’t always seem entirely necessary (clips from From Here to Eternity to accompany “Lipstick on Your Collar”?) it’s fun to see footage of the original performers. The director seems to toy with the idea of giving a potted history of rock ‘n’ roll in the early stages but abandons that idea fairly swiftly and lets the songs speak for themselves; if part of the show’s function is simply to serve as a testament to the enduring appeal and vibrancy of this music then it certainly succeeds in this endeavour. Highlights include Capewell crooning a memorable Buddy Holly medley and squeezing himself into fetching leather trousers for a dynamic take on Gene Vincent’s immortal “Be-Bop-A-Lula”; the baby-faced Fitzpatrick singing an adorably lovelorn lead on “Unchained Melody”; Washington tearing into Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”; a Platters medley featuring “Twilight Time,” “The Great Pretender” and “Only You”; and the wonderfully ebullient Mulvey throwing himself around with gay abandon during Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.” Unfortunately, the female performers are comparatively underused in terms of lead vocals, but Cobban and Accomando do well by “Stupid Cupid” and Etta James’s “At Last”; the latter is perhaps the show’s most tender and emotional moment.
You don’t feel that there’s a great deal of urgency or necessity about a show like Rock Around the Clock but this good-spirited entertainment proves pretty irresistible anyway, and was clearly delighting the very broad audience in attendance at Richmond Theatre last week. It’s an enjoyable feel-good evening that does, very professionally, exactly what it says on the tin.
Reviewed for The Public Reviews, .