Guilty pleasures: they bring us unlimited joy but can be seriously damaging to our social standing! Over the last few years, however, musical guilty pleasures have come into their own, particularly for those of us whose teen years collided with the ever- questionable quality of 90s pop. For the most shameless chart music champions among us, Upstairs at the Gatehouse provides a safe haven where guilty pleasures can proudly roam free!
5,6,7,8 – A Steps Musical is a new work based on the songs of 1990s dance-pop group Steps. Unapologetically cheesy and openly tongue in cheek, the show is a tribute to the much-loved band who achieved two number one singles in the UK and 14 consecutive top five hits.
The Jukebox musical is a love it or loathe it genre and some critics would claim such productions sacrifice plot and substance for cheap nostalgic thrills. They’re sometimes right, but these pieces don’t struggle to fill theatres and satisfy fans, including my companion who danced all the way to the tube station afterwards! For Steps’ enthusiasts, this is a show not to be missed – think all round grins and singalongs.
Shaun Kitchener’s script is witty and clever, a fitting framework for the tunes with ample opportunity to bring each character to life. Despite the short duration, a little over an hour, the audience are able to reconnect with the band and establish a relationship with each character. There’s no need here for challenging character journeys and detailed plot lines – in place of complexity we have comedy, fun and multiple 4th wall moments to ensure the audience are kept in the right frame of mind.
The company as a whole couldn’t be more enthusiastic and it’s clear that their passion and belief in this piece is its strongest asset. That said, the quieter moments would gain intensity if there were clearer distinctions between moments of comedy and moments of sincerity. The notable exception to this is Amber Muldoon who carries a grounded edge in her performance which tethers this pop-laden delight to the underlying story.
Visually, the production is quirky and utilises a smattering of colour to bring life to the stage. Simple, but well orchestrated, the scene with the red ribbons is particularly striking and adds an innovative edge to ensure this number stands out from the rest.
The biggest downfall of this piece is its sound production. Serious thought needs to be given to the levels within the room and the mixing of vocals. There are some gorgeous voices on stage but they are rarely heard to their full potential and even when they are audible, the mixing does them few favours.
Funny, heartwarming and a bucket load of fun, 5,6,7,8 – A Steps Musical is unlikely to become the next Les Misérables, but you don’t need to be a diehard fan to get a kick out of it. Be aware that it’s a short running show, be prepared to forgive a few technicalities, and you too could be ‘boot-scooting’ with the best of them!
Review by Cassandra Griffin
Stomp all night with the premiere of a new musical comedy – featuring the hits of pop giants Steps.
Out for drinks after work, four colleagues realise they have something in common: their love lives all suck. So they make a pact to sort themselves out – whether that means asking out a certain someone, cutting ties with Mr Wrong, or learning to fly solo… belting out the likes of One For Sorrow, Better Best Forgotten and Deeper Shade of Blue along the way.
Written by BAFTA Rocliffe winner Shaun Kitchener (Hollyoaks [Channel 4], Positive [Park Theatre]) 5, 6, 7, 8 is a laugh-out-loud treat; paying tribute to proper pop legends.
14th – 19th August 2017