Monday 26 September 2016

Musical: I was all shook up

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

Stars: Mica Paris and Shaun Williamson in Love Me Tender. Photo: Johan Persson
Stars: Mica Paris and Shaun Williamson in Love Me Tender. Photo: Johan Persson

Elvis definitely hadn't left the building. I'm of an age where I remember him well. My older siblings had his records and I became a fan at a very early age. In fact, In The Ghetto is my party piece. I do the Elvis bit and I pick on three unlikely male candidates to do the falsetto backing. Drink is always involved.

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So to see the musical Love Me Tender at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley was a wonderful trip down memory lane. Based on the music of Elvis, with a fictional plot and containing 25 of his songs, it's a happy, feel-good show.

'Welcome to a small-you never heard of it-town somewhere in the mid west' was the opening scene and we quickly became embroiled in the dynamics of the inhabitants - namely their love lives. Nothing much is happening until Chad, played by Ben Lewis, strolls into town. His hip-swivelling causes havoc amongst the town folk and Mayor Matilda Hyde, played by Sian Reeves, describes him as 'The Devil in Disguise' in a wonderful rendition of the song.

Natalie (played by Laura Tebbutt) , a greasy mechanic who has lost her mum and lives with her dad, Jim, played by Shaun Williamson, falls head over heels in love. Of course the love is unrequited, otherwise the show would have been over after two songs, but she dresses up as a boy and becomes his sidekick.

Ben Lewis is brilliant as Chad. He only has to look at a broken juke box and it's fixed. It's the music within him. He has great lines like "You're the spark plug that makes my engine go purr". The costumes are great - 1950s brightly coloured dresses, cinched-in waists and ankle socks.

The set is ever changing, aided by the very busy cast. One minute, they are holding windows and doors, the next they are belting out Elvis numbers with aplomb. All fast-paced and never boring.

Mica Paris, as the bar-owner Sylvia, is outstanding. Talking to her afterwards, she told me that she loves the part because Sylvia reminds her so much of herself. Out there and ballsy but ever caring. She grew up with Elvis music, her mum was a great fan and her favourite Elvis song is There's Always Me which she belted out with her amazing soulful voice. Although Mica has done lots of television, including What Not To Wear, Strictly Come Dancing and, more recently, Celebrity Masterchef, her first love is music and when the tour is finished she will be back in the recording studios. She had her first Platinum album at the age of 19 and had her first top ten hit So Good from this album. She has a huge stage presence.

Shaun Williamson, widely known both for his role as 'Barry from EastEnders' in Extras and as Barry Evans in EastEnders (he played that role for nine years), is superb as Jim, the rather hapless widower who also finds love. He too grew up with Elvis. His dad, who hailed from Enniskillen, had an Elvis box set with 10 albums and he had played them all extensively when he was younger, so much so he knew nearly all the words of the songs beforehand, even the lesser known ones.

Shaun has been seen in many quizzes on TV, including the celebrity version of Pointless, Celebrity Chase, where he was part of the winning team which managed to win £64,000, and he won an episode of Celebrity Mastermind.

Clever and talented, he has starred on stage in Saturday Night Fever, Guys and Dolls and The Ladykillers, to name but a few. He is delighted that Dublin is the city where the tour will finish. He enjoys a good party.

From the producers of Hairspray, Jersey Boys and West Side Story, Love Me Tender is a slick, fun-filled production to cheer anyone up on an autumn evening. My only issue was the absence of In the Ghetto. I was nearly overcome with a yen to jump up and do my party piece. In that instance, just about everyone would have left the building.

Love Me Tender runs from Monday September 21 to Saturday September 26 at Bord Gais Energy Theatre. Tickets from €25 are available now through Ticketmaster. (Direct booking line 0818 719 377).

www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie for further details.

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