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Review: Rehab The Musical (Neon 194)

Review by Daz Gale


After a brief stint at the Playground Theatre in 2022, new musical Rehab returns for another stay in London, this time checking in to the brand new theatre space Neon 194 for their debut production. Having personally loved the show in its last iteration, I was keen to see how it’s evolved in the years since, but would this latest version leave me as addicted as the first time, or would I find it a habit I could easily break?

Taking place in 1999, Rehab is set in the Glade Rehab Centre focusing on the guests residing there including 26-year-old pop star Kid Pop. While he thinks his 60 day sentence there will be a holiday, it turns out to be anything but as we get to learn about the various addictions his fellow guests are attempting to beat in this musical which doesn’t shy away from serious topics, all with no shortage of humour.

With a book by Elliot Davis, Rehab features a variety of styles which show moments of brilliance but don’t always blend together seamlessly, sometimes creating a tonally inconsistent show. With some genuinely affecting moments and, at times, a sensitive look at the serious issues prevalent in the story, it also suffers from introducing us to too many characters, all of whom suffer from being underwritten. The glimpses we see of what makes them tick and their personal struggles whet your appetite for more but this never delivers. The closest we get to a well-rounded character is in Phil (Oscar Conlon-Morrey) which shows the potential is there, it is just not always utilised effectively.

While it tackles serious issues with an abundance of heart, this is a comedy first and foremost, with no shortage of laughs. Some of the lines are wickedly funny, with all of Jane Killy’s (Rebecca Thornhill) references about her past conquests and unexpected dalliances with newsreaders providing some of the biggest laughs. Not all of the jokes land, however, with some ill-advised punchlines and certain elements that may have been expected to get laughs but get anything but. It should be stated though that this is a show whose development process is nearing its completed stages and may not be the finished product as yet. The frustration is in how good certain aspects and moments of this show are, and how that in turn shows up the underdeveloped and weaker moments in the writing.

The biggest strength Rehab has going for it is in its cast. While most suffer from being side-lined too often and not giving the opportunity to maximise what are, on paper, a fascinating group of characters, they do the best they have with the tools they have been given and almost manage to create theatre magic. Christian Maynard leads the pack as Kid Pop, tapping into the eccentricities and exaggerated nature of the troubled star and allowing for a more complex character to emerge as the real Kid comes out. Christian shows great promise in a character that while may not be as fleshed out as it should, still makes a captivating watch.

Maiya Quansah-Breed delights as Lucy Blake, with a real vulnerability that transforms into warmth in a stunning characterisation. Jodie Steele is woefully underused in her turn as Beth Boscombe, but manages to wow whenever she is on stage, stealing the scene every time in her double act with Keith Allen who on this occasion didn’t have the greatest night in his portrayal of Malcolm Stone. While I recall being impressed by his comic abilities on my first visit in 2022, this time around it didn’t quite land for one reason or another, with certain lines that should have brought the house down eliciting a far more muted response.

A legendary soul diva has been recruited for this production d as Mica Paris MBE lends her distinctive vocals and phenomenal talents to take on the role of Martha Prosser. She perhaps suffers more than anyone else at the hands of an underwritten character though her limited stage time is among the greatest moments of the show, thanks in part to the blessing that is her vocals. John Barr strikes a beautiful and tender balance between sensitivity and comedy in a note-perfect portrayal of character highlight Barry Bronze while Rebecca Thornhill delights in her brilliantly over-the-top Jane Killy – a portrayal made all the more impressive as she steps into the large shows of the late Annabel Giles, who blew me away with her portrayal of this character in the previous production.

Perhaps the standout performance of the night belonged to Oscar Conlon-Morrey in his turn as Phil Newman. What starts as a fairly one-dimensional character reveals itself to be full of complexities as we witness the inner turmoil Phil goes through, lending itself to the more emotional and, in turn, strongest moments of the show. With Oscar’s expert performance, he manages to tap into the characters providing some of the biggest laughs all the while tugging at our heartstrings.

At the heart of any good musical should be its music and, for the most part, this is where Rehab excels. Written by Grant Black, Murray Lachlan Young, highlights include the solemn ‘Poor Me, Pour Me Another One’ gorgeous ‘Two Broken People’ and Maiya Quansah-Breed’s stunning solo ‘Through His Eyes’. Jodie Steele gets one big musical moment herself in the addictively catchy ‘Die At 27’, Mica Paris brings the house down with undoubted standout ‘Museum of Loss’ and Oscar Conlon-Morrey melts hearts with the sweet and sorrowful ‘Still Here’. Closing number ‘Just For Today’ ends the show on a high with its euphoric nature demonstrating the very best this show has to offer and the huge potential it has going forward.

Not every musical moment is a triumph though with ‘The F*** It Switch/Everyone’s Taking Cocaine’ a huge misfire in contrast to the striking numbers that precede it. Early number ‘Wanker’ may be as subtle as a sledgehammer but will remain in your head long after leaving the theatre, for better or worse, thanks in part to its seemingly endless reprises.

Gary Lloyd’s direction makes full use of the intimate and fully surrounded new space at neon 194, creating a no-holds-barred intimacy. Expect cast members eyeballing you and even calling you a “wanker” – just an ordinary day for me. His choreography also offers some fantastic moments with Rob Jones’ costume design making Rehab a visual feast. The show did suffer from sounding far too quiet regularly, whether that was just on the night or an ongoing occurrence. This lessened the impact of certain moments, particularly in musical numbers which felt underplayed and in need of a bit more energy.

A quick side note to mention what a lovely new space Neon 194 is. To have a brand new theatre in the heart of the West End is always a delight but its spacious and welcoming bar upstairs, theatre space downstairs and, most importantly, its accessibility were a breath of fresh air, creating a welcoming new addition and one venue I look forward to visiting repeatedly.

This was a tricky review to write. I loved Rehab two years ago and still thoroughly enjoyed my return trip. Its strengths are plentiful but its inconsistency and several weaker moments let it down slightly. While it may not be perfect, the imperfections actually add to the charm of Rehab with the way this show is working on itself to become the best possible version and overcome its weaknesses mirroring the journey of their characters and the message of the show itself. I have no doubt with a bit of rehabilitation themselves, Rehab could go on to take the world by storm. Even in its current form, it is definitely worth checking in to the fabulous Neon 194 and checking this show out.

Rehab stays at Neon 194 until 17th February when it will be released from the venue. Tickets from

Photos by Mark Senior

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