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Stranger Sings! by Jonathan Hogue at Southwark Playhouse

Not having seen a single episode of the Netflix series Stranger Things, my only pre-knowledge of this very successful science fiction horror show was seeing the not-very-scary West End stage adaptation the night before coming to Southwark Playhouse to see this parody musical. Stranger Sings! – the exclamation mark is apparently important – had much of the audience laughing uproariously on the evening I attended as they recognised miscellaneous scenarios and characters being almost relentlessly lampooned.

Stranger Sings! by Jonathan Hogue
Stranger Sings! by Jonathan Hogue

Ten actors are all listed as ‘Cast’, which is just as well, as they all, if my recollection serves me correctly, play various characters. Telling them apart was occasionally tricky, at least for newbies to the world of Stranger Things like yours truly, because of the wigs sporting identical hairstyles. The lack of familiarity on my part with the show being parodied didn’t stop my enjoyment of this production, which proved to be an educational experience as much as it was an entertaining one. I’ve no idea, for instance, whether Winona Ryder, who plays Joyce Byers in the Netflix series, really took umbrage at David Harbour, who plays Jim Hopper, getting nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, instead of her. (Never let the truth get in the way of a good story and all that.)

All of the reservations I had about Stranger Things are explored, and it was interesting (if not unsurprising) to discover there are oddities and weaknesses that I hadn’t even considered. I chortled at one character’s inability to understand how a property they knowingly destroyed had somehow or other been completely restored, or indeed if there even is a narrative purpose to the said restoration. The pointing out of stereotypes in the series, of which there are many, was insightful.

Hopper (in this production, Howard Jenkins) has his reasons for wanting to sing modified lyrics to ‘Waving Through A Window’ from Dear Evan Hansen. This was far from the only musical theatre reference in the performance, and those who know the musical genre well will easily pick up on nods to shows like Wicked and Gypsy, amongst several others. On the night I attended, a technical issue caused a substantial delay to the start of the second half, with a largely supportive (and already energised) audience willing the show to go on. Good things come to those who wait, as an advertising campaign for a certain brand of stout once put it.

Lucinda Lawrence’s choreography suited the venue and the performance space well, and the music had a very consistent 1980s synthesiser and drum machine feel throughout. This was, at least for me, a far superior experience to the West End prequel show, delivered by an enthusiastic and hardworking cast – pure brilliance.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Tune in, Children of the 80s!

The Upside Down returns, as The Vaults presents award-winning, smash-hit parody musical Stranger Sings!

Following a sell-out run underground and extensive UK tour, Stranger Sings returns to Southwark Playhouse Borough for Christmas. This five-star sci-fi spoof is a wild, irreverent twist on the hit Netflix series – in all its hair-raising, blockbuster glory.

Take a trip with your favourite gang on a night of indulgent pop culture references, heavy synth, poor parents, dancing demogorgons and maybe – just maybe, you might find justice for Barb along the way.

THE VAULTS PRESENTS
STRANGER SINGS
BY JONATHAN HOGUE
13 DEC 2023 – 6 JAN 2024
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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