Love Shack - Manchester Palace Theatre - 28.2.05

Like all the best musicals, Love Shack is based on a simple story, the flimsiest of premises if you like. It's then fleshed out with a strong musical direction and enough laughs to drag you in further. Love Shack is a musical very much of the zeitgeist taking 3 former popstars (S Club's Jon Lee, Step's Faye Tozer and Hear'says Noel Sullivan), the writer of the "it's so shockingly bad, it's bloody fantastic" cult comedy Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps and the musical director behind programs such as Pop Idol. If "Oh What A Night" is the musical equivalent of OK, then Love Shack is most definitely for the Heat Magazine generation.

Starting off with the title track from The B52s, Adam Linstead (who plays 3 characters in the show) introduces us to the main characters. The loving / hating couple Sam (Jon Lee) and Joanne (Natalie O'Donnell), the high fallutin Bonnie (Faye Tozer) and pseudo shag meister Will (Noel Sullivan). As the show goes on it's clear that the underdog, Noel Sullivan, is Love Shack's trump card. Playing an exaggerated version of himself he comes across as a dim Welsh boyo jealous of his friends engagement and impending marriage.

The crux of the musical is simple. Sam and Jo's separate group of friends, the bands that tie them, the trial and tribulations of the hen and stag night in a latino bar and what follows (ED: You'll have to see the show to see if they get married or not). The girls sing Madge's "Express Yourself" while flicking through Wedding Magazines, two minutes later Will is trying to persuade Sam from getting married with The Specials "Too Much Too Young".

Never ones to take themselves too seriously, the guys self depreciating sense of humour about their previous bands is a joy to watch. Similarly the Pop Idol phenomena takes a twist with, deep breath...former Hear'say man Noel playing a character called Will, singing an easy listening version of the Doors "Light My Fire" ala Will Young. Most of tonight's show is knowing nods and tongues firmly placed in cheek.

The much touted Gary Barlow song "Sometimes Never Always" is everything you'd expect it to be. Smaltzy, utterly ridiculous and the most poignant moment in the show where the star crossed lovers realize they can't live apart.

With a sing along finale including "Time Of My Life", "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart", "It Takes Two", "I'm Still Standing" and "I'm A Believer" Love Shack proves why it's going to run and run. With a great cast, most notably the Kerry Katona alike AJ played by Rachael Wooding, the Postman by Neal Wright and the hilariously camp Julian (Adam Linstead). It's a musical as much based round the personalities as it is around the 35 storming pop songs.

Manchester should be proud to have hosted the world premiere of such a great production.

Alex McCann

Click here to leave your Love Shack comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)