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A CurtainUp London Review
Jailhouse Rock - The Musical
by Lizzie Loveridge
The movie Jailhouse Rock was Elvis Presley's third after Love Me Tender and Loving You. It was essentially a vehicle for Elvis to bring his image on celluloid to his many fans. It tells the tale of Vince Everett (Mario Kombou) who, after accidentally killing a man who is attacking a girl, goes from jail bird to famous rock musician in the spin of a 1950s 78 rpm. On the way he makes friends and loses them and confuses those who are true friends with those only interested in his fame. The story line is schmaltzy, predictable and corny.
The music sadly was not allowed to include the eponymous hit nor "You're So Square Baby I Don't Care", "Treat Me Nice" and "I Want To Be Free" as the composers and owners of the song rights, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, refused to release them to the musical's producers. However there is a good selection of classic pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s, songs such as "Suspicious Minds", "Pretty Little Angel Eyes", "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?".
Mario Kombou has a voice very like Elvis and his singing is excellent. From a distance he might only bear a resemblance to the King but he gyrates his pelvis in an authentically hip grinding fashion. However Mario is trying to be Elvis rather than Vince Everett! I was enthralled with Gilz Terera who has a fabulous voice, tons of energy and who, for my money, stole the show with his tuneful rendition of "Pretty Little Angel Eyes". The acting largely recreates that of the 1957 movie -- need I say more?
There is not as much choreography as you might expect for a West End musical but some jive numbers and a country ho down which opens the show. The prison set has a realistic metal netted balcony which allows the actors to perform at two levels, but there is no artistic justification for leaving this set onstage for all of the second half when Vince has been released from prison and is making his way in the rock business. The lighting provides some great sunsets; and the sound of a lone harmonica notches up the evocation.
The night I was there the crowd got to their feet to greet the final few numbers. They were having an excellent time. Many were old enough to remember the original but they had brought their children and grandchildren. An extended reprise followed and an encore was enlivened by a girl throwing her underwear onstage. A night for those into 1950s nostalgia!
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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