★★★ | Rip it Up
The 60s are back in the West End, and add a lot of dancing, throw in a few handsome pop stars, and what you have is an evening of very very light theatre.
Rip it Up, now playing at the Garrick Theatre, throws into the mix the best songs from the 60’s with beautiful choreography (by Gareth Walker, who is also the Director), and starring four former Strictly Come Dancing Contestants, and heartthrobs.
Louis Smith MBE (former Olympic gymnast and all around hunk), Aston Merrygold (former member of the X-Factor group JLS), Harry Judd (drummer in the worldwide famous pop group McFly), and last but not least Jan McGuiness (from The Wanted). These men, along with a bevy of young and sexy backup dancers, give it their all with fancy dance moves and upbeat music. But the best part of the show is the amazing singing by Jill Marie Cooper and Ant Brant. Cooper wins the audience over in her renditions of songs from Dionne Warwick to Jefferson Airplane, which lifts this show up a couple notches for without them this would’ve been just another jukebox musical without the jukebox.
All of the four male leads are fine, but they are not allowed to individually shine that much. Merrygold only gets to sing a couple songs, while we are treated to an all too short gymnastics routine by Smith (though luckily for he spends most of the time in the show either topless or wearing tight clothes). He is also a very graceful dancer. Judd is allowed a one minute drum solo (the audience wanted more), while McGuiness really doesn’t seem to offer much, though he tries his darndest to keep up with the dance moves.
Emcee Cavin Cornwall does a fine job guiding the audience through the different musical sounds of the 60s, though he wobbles horribly through ‘Heard if Through the Grapevine‘. Videos of Lulu, Tony Blackburn, designer Zandra Rhodes and the indelible Dionne Warwick tell us what is was really like in the 60s – show us don’t tell us! And Lulu actually comes on a few too many times.
But ultimately Rip it Up will only appeal to fans of the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing (of which all four stars have danced in). I can see this show selling out on the UK tour, but for a West End stage, it doesn’t quite feel right.
Rip it Up plays at The Garrick Theatre until June 2, 2019
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.