top of page

Review: Wild About You - A New Musical In Concert (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

Review by Daz Gale


⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Launching a brand new musical with a world premiere concert production for two nights only on one of the biggest and most iconic stages in the West End is a bold move – wild even, so it is fitting that is how hotly anticipated new musical Wild About You makes its stage debut. With a cast full of legends of stage and screen, there is a lot of buzz about this show but would London audiences find themselves wild about it?



Having had workshop presentations in America in the past, the stage debut of Wild About You follows the recent release of an album featuring songs from the musical. It tells the story of Olivia who finds herself in the hospital with limited memories. As she tries to put together the pieces of her life and the various people she loved, she moves Heaven and Earth to reconnect with her greatest love.

 

Staging new musicals can be all about trial and error with few getting it completely right first time. Usually these take place behind closes doors or in front of an invited audience so airing it publicly to a paying audience is a huge risk, particularly in a theatre that seats more than 2000 people. In that respect, Wild About You is a little rough around the edges, but has something intriguing about it and no shortage of potential.



At the heart of Wild About You is the music, and what a stunning collection of songs they are. Chilina Kennedy’s music and lyrics feature a selection of instant classics which fall suitably into the realm of musical theatre while flirting with pop and various genres - the end result are songs that consistently impress. From the atmospheric ‘High’ to the rocky nature of ‘Take Us Down’ and beautiful act one closer ‘What I Leave Behind’, the songs tug at your heartstrings and leave a lasting impression. While these concerts tend to be dogged by sound problems, Adam Fisher’s sound design ensured this was kept to a real minimum with extreme clarity ensuring the cast’s vocals got to soar as they should.

 

While this was billed as a concert, that term has been left open to interpretation with director Nick Winston once more bringing as much staging as humanly possible for a show of this variety. His direction and choreography listen to the words of the songs and bring these stories to life through inspired choices. Gorgeous set design by Justin Williams beautifully reflects Olivia’s hazy memories in the first act with the remainder of the cast trapped behind frosted glass, only to be brought into clarity in her moments of lucidness, with Rory Beaton’s lighting being used to great effect to literally illuminate this – it is this connection to the story with the creative elements that lifts the story.



The one area of Wild About You that needs a bit of work in my opinion is its book. Written by Eric Holmes, it struggles at times to fill the gaps between songs resulting in some pacing problems and two distinctively different acts. The complete disparity between stories in act one and two feels like two separate shows entirely with Jamie Muscato’s character Billy not making his first appearance until act two, changing the narrative of the show. Feeling convoluted at times and lacking clarity, Wild About You does have a good story in there somewhere, but may need a bit of tweaking to find it. Slight spoiler but act two shifting to Olivia in the afterlife has been done to death, with obvious comparisons to It’s A Wonderful Life and Carousel.


While Olivia’s settings in both the hospital and the afterlife gave rise to two standout characters from Todrick Hall in Nurse Shae and Robin, I wondered if the show would find more heart had it been centred around Billy instead, looking in to his mother’s life and putting the pieces together. I felt this would bridge the two drastically different acts together and bring more depth and richness to the story, particularly that of Billy who lifts the story with his presence.



One aspect of Wild About You that can’t be faulted is in its sensational dream-like cast. Led by Rachel Tucker in the role of Olivia, she once again showcases her knack for an emotive performance with some comic brashness and a particularly foul-mouthed turn present alongside her distinctive and out of this world vocals. Though there are some gaps in the characters identity, Rachel delivers a performance in a way only she can, expertly navigating us through several inconsistent moments in the story.

 

Will & Grace star Eric McCormack makes his West End debut in the role of Michael, in a casting choice that is slightly leftfield but works fantastically. While he may not be able to match the dizzying highs of his fellow cast members vocal wise, Eric still does a fine job and more than makes up for it with his impeccable acting. Oliver Tompsett is underused but memorable as Thomas, shining in the brief scenes he has with Tucker’s Olivia and getting a musical highlight in ‘Take Us Down’. Olivia’s trio of past lovers is completed by Tori Allen-Martin who is an absolute revelation as Jessica. Though the character does feel reminiscent of RENT in certain aspects of her nature, Tori delivers a world class performance, elevating the stage whenever she is in the spotlight.



Jamie Muscato may be absent through the entirety of act one but he more than makes up for it with his dominating presence in act two as Olivia’s son Billy. Tapping into the darkness and complexities of the character, Jamie is at his absolute best here, showing an even more genius level to his voice in the musical highlight ‘Dangerous Lines’. The cast is completed by Todrick Hall in the dual roles of Nurse Shea and Robin – to call him scene-stealing in both of these roles would be an understatement. Fierce, funny and fabulous, he is a constant joy to watch with his exaggerated mannerisms and unrivaled ability for comic timing leaving us all longing for more.

 

It is always exciting to watch the birth of a new musical on stage and Wild About You has plenty to leave me excited for its future life. While it still needs a bit of work to really become the best version of itself, it has bundles of potential. Some great songs and some semblance of a decent story that just needs rejigging slightly means this is one to watch in the future as I see no reason why this won’t be sending audiences wild for years to come.



Wild About You played at Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 25th and 26th March. Keep an eye on www.wildaboutyoumusical.com for details on its future life

 

Photos by Mark Senior

Comments


bottom of page