Georgia Lennon and Luke Baker, Photo Marc Brenner

Whoever it was that decided to turn this iconic “Chick Flick” into a stage musical was very brave indeed. It’s a great lumbering plot full of dark stories of prejudice, misogyny, disfunctional families, bullying, lies… hardly the stuff of musical theatre you might think. But somehow they pull it off.

In one sense this is a jukebox musical, stringing together a list of pop hits and weaving them into a flimsy story, but not here and not a flimsy story. Here the choices of pop hits contemporary to the story are placed for the most part with skill, and performed with equal skill and certainly with conviction.

The large cast, necessary to take on so many roles, on this occasion perform with two understudies, never an easy thing and especially on the first night in a new venue and on a stage that is famously smaller than many they will meet on this national tour, but Sid Worley  played by Danny Whelan and Lynette Pomeroy played by Julia Jones did a first class job and had we not been told we would be unlikely to have noticed.

Photo Marc Brenner

The stage at the Theatre Royal Brighton has never looked bigger either with a complex towering set and stunning lighting and the only time I was reminded that it is indeed small was in some of the dance sequences where the choreography felt confined and at times confused – but none of that detracted from the abundant energy.

Luke Baker’s Zack Mayo fizzed with anger then dipped beautifully into the softer moments demanded of the role, and boy can the man sing. Georgia Lennon is terrific as Paula Pokrifki, tough one minute and angry too, and again softening, and once again another great voice.

Jamal Kane Crawford is the tough Gunnery Sergeant Foley, barking his way through the role with force and at times so forceful that the lines, and the strong accent, made it difficult to follow, and in fact the diction, caused in part by the volume and the strong and varied American accents, did impair the clarity of the lines, but what the heck, we got there!

The choice of songs was skilful, most seemed appropriately placed in the story, not progressing the narrative as in a musical with original numbers, but certainly colouring the whole with period charm and a huge slice of nostalgia to boot.

The ensemble are excellent with some notable cameo roles, Olivia Foster-Browne is great as Seegar, and Tim Rogers as Byron Mayo excellent too although perhaps a little to youthful for the role.

Melanie Masson as Esther Pokrifki Photo Mark Brenner

But above all my heart was won over by Melanie Masson as Esther Pokrifki who blew the roof off at the start with a brilliant and punchy It’s A Man’s World, and later leading a rousing rendering of the iconic I Am Woman, stunning stuff!

If you loved the film, and a packed house proved that many do, then you will love this massive production. If you love the music of the era, you will love it too.

Andrew Kay 23 April

Theatre Royal Brighton


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