FAMILIARITY breeds contempt normally. In musical theatre, it lets you off a multitude of sins.
A lacklustre set, poor production values and ropey script can be overlooked when teamed with a talented cast who, quite simply, deserve better. Throw in a score of pop favourites, whether that be a back catalogue of rock n roll classics guaranteed to get the feet tapping or a good old-fashioned disco set that’s sure to have them dancing in the aisles and audiences can be very forgiving.
It’s the nostalgia effect. The only thing better than giving an audience what they know, is to give them something that they know which just happens to come wrapped in a big ribbon of sentimentality evoked by memories of their youth.
This thought crossed my mind watching Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story last week, and again during Tonight’s The Night this week. Buddy Holly and Rod Stewart - who could not fail to be transported by the hits of both? Unless, of course, you hate their music, in which case, this isn’t aimed at you.
Chart-topper after chart-topper feature in both shows, hence their designation as jukebox musicals.
Where audiences are being short-changed is in the production values.
Of course, touring productions take a battering as they travel from city to city, so some wear and tear is unavoidable. However, the evening I caught Buddy, clunky scene changes and random lighting cues were forgiven purely because of the strength of the performances. But really, two stage hands coming on stage to push scenery into the wings as an actor clings on for deal life, delivering his final lines as he grabs a stool, which also has to be carried off... apart from being quite hysterical, it was more amateur than the worst of church hall performances.
Such a shame that what has the potential to be a seven-star show is reduced to three or four simply because of its technical aspects. Not that the audience minded. But they should.