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Rip It Up The 1960s at the Garrick Theatre | Review

Rip It Up The 1960s - Photo Credit Fiona Whyte for the TCB Group
Rip It Up The 1960s – Photo Credit Fiona Whyte for the TCB Group

It would have been too handy, I suppose, for a list of songs to be included in the programme for Rip It Up – The 60s, but they do pack them in and stack them high, higher even than Motown the Musical. But I didn’t feel nearly as frustrated about truncated melodies as I did when I saw Motown.

This is essentially a song-and-dance extravaganza and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Two of the four ‘allstars’, as presenter Cavin Cornwall repeatedly called them, Olympic gymnast Louis Smith MBE and Jay McGuiness (The Wanted) had done the 1950s incarnation of Rip It Up, and for the 1960s version they are joined by Harry Judd (McFly) and Aston Merrygold (JLS). A 1970s Rip it Up is apparently already in the works.

There’s a common denominator that links the quartet, which I suspect practically everyone else in the theatre had realised before Cornwall announced it. It may even have been a reason for some to have purchased tickets in the first place. The lads had all, at one time or another, participated in BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing, and in this production, their primary focus is very much on taking to the floor. Perhaps more could have been made of the ‘Strictly’ thing – not being a dance specialist, I wouldn’t know ‘cha-cha-cha’ from ‘Charleston’, and it would have been nice to know what the many and varied dancing styles on display were.

It’s good that the lads – all of them – get opportunities to sing, though the bulk of the singing is done by two singers, Jill Marie Cooper and Sam Hosier at the performance I attended (the roles are shared with Amy Diamond and Ant Brant respectively). Cooper was the stand out performance for me, which is quite some achievement given that she was sharing a stage with people whose collective sales of chart music singles and albums are in the millions. Some video recordings, each introduced by Cornwall with the instruction, “Roll VT!” intersperse proceedings, giving the likes of Lulu, Tony Blackburn, Peter Daltrey, Zandra Rhodes and Dionne Warwick opportunities to say a few words about the Sixties, putting some context to all the music.

The second half is better than the first, though there were people in the audience that loved pretty much all of it – a gentleman in the row in front moved and bopped along so vigorously the seats adjacent looked as though they would buckle under the strain. But I barely recall what was covered before the interval aside from a few Beach Boys numbers: after we’d had an interval drink, a crowded schedule included, amongst other things, songs from The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, the musical Hair, Aretha Franklin and the tunes of Motown Records.

The production doesn’t quite stretch to putting a pommel horse on stage but there were nonetheless opportunities for Smith to demonstrate some gymnastics. Judd takes to the drum kit either side of the interval (quelle surprise). The video projections were a little overkill for me personally – I found it refreshing when Cornwall specifically called for a ‘time out’ from the near-relentless moving images and kaleidoscopic patterns.

Perhaps I’m too much of a theatre dinosaur, but I felt slightly uncomfortable with the encouragement to take photos and videos during the performance. Most of us (we were a matinee crowd, mind you) couldn’t be bothered. The ‘interviews’ (inverted commas mine) that Cornwall with each of the four leads are quite hilarious, really – these guys are wonderful dancers but (aside from Cornwall) it’s Smith who does best at making a script sound convincingly authentic.

This show falls firmly in the category of Extremely Light Entertainment: a briskly-paced and entertaining show whose leading men provide both technically splendid and emotionally engaging routines with their dance partners. Its target audience, judging by their reactions afterwards, were impressed with what they saw.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Aston Merrygold (JLS) and Jay McGuiness (The Wanted) sing, while Harry Judd (McFly) is on drums and Olympic champion Louis Smith performs amazing gymnastic feats. But what shines through the most in this spectacular show is the fab four’s phenomenal dancing talent!

One of the most energetic shows to ever hit the West End stage, just watching will leave you exhausted.
Dance the night away with music from the legends who shook a generation including: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Dusty Springfield, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and many more.

Thursday 7 February 2019 – Sunday 2 June 2019
PERFORMANCE TIMES: Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm, Wednesday – Sunday 7.30pm and Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 2pm
RUNNING TIME: 2hr 20mins including one interval
Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH.

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