Theatre Review: Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights
Boogie Nights

You know that when your husband sitting next to you at a theatre show looks at you with a “help, please let’s escape” look in his eyes that you are in trouble.

But no, I did not obey his request to flee the ‘70s musical Boogie Nights last night at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton, but I stuck it out, instead obeying my commitment to cheesy nostalgia.

In one way that was a good decision and in another it wasn’t.

The show revolves around the story of bad boy Roddy O’Neil (Shane Richie Junior) whose love of women and boogie-ing gets him into trouble with his girlfriend Debs and ends up changing the course of his life.

Describing the tale in this way gives the illusion that this is the kind of musical that depends greatly on its storyline, but the plot comes across as fairly incidental to the show.

What greets the audience is a chaotic mass of ‘70s songs, some performed in full, and some just snippets, delivered one after the other with loosely linked dialogue in between.

This may sound like a criticism, but I didn’t actually mind this. The story was so cringingly unrealistic, poorly characterised and, in my opinion, not terribly well acted, that I yearned for the entertaining musical interludes.

The show really turned itself around for me when three of the Osmond brothers, Jimmy, Merrill and Jay, made their way onto the stage. These three are real stars, giving fantastic vocal performances of hit after hit, including their own Crazy Horses.

I was particularly impressed when they started speaking to the crowd and asking for requests, spontaneously bursting into harmonious song in perfect unison without the support of any backing music. I realised quickly that these brothers are famous for a reason.

At one point singer Gareth Gates, as Dean, gave a performance of Puppy Love with the brothers (taking Donny’s place) and he rose to the challenge brilliantly. Former X Factor finalist Andy Abraham, as the soul singer Spencer, also belted out some excellent vocal numbers.

If this show had simply dedicated itself to being a humorous ‘70s concert I think I would have preferred it, but the badly woven passages of storyline seemed to interrupt the brilliance of the show...its music.

As an added point, in my view, Louisa Lytton as Debs could do with working on her vocal performances to appear in a musical of this kind as, although she hits the right notes, her voice seems to fail to pack the punch needed to fill a theatre.

Having said this, the performers work really hard to generate a lot of audience participation and energy and, despite the weak story and dodgy outfits, Boogie Nights spreads a lot of joy and definitely inspires audiences to sing, dance and have fun; a trait which has to be commended.