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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Daddy Cool
Shaftsbury Theatre       2006-2007

Another musical built around the back songbook of an old pop group, Daddy Cool isn't as good as Mamma Mia or We Will Rock You (mainly because the songs aren't as good), but it still provides a happy evening out for those who come in already loving the music.

In this case the songbook is of Boney M, the Caribbean-flavoured dance music group manufactured in the 1970s by German producer Frank Farian, who specialised in acts whose visual presentation masked the fact that they didn't all do their own singing.

Along with the Boney M songs are some from other Farian groups like Milli Vanilli and Eruption.

The plot into which the songs are slotted is straight out of Romeo and Juliet by way of West Side Story. A lad from one rap group falls for the sister of the leader of another, the rivalry of the two groups escalates to violence, but love and music conquer all.

(The title character is the long-gone disco king father of the boy, seen only in a flashback.)

Setting scenes in a recording studio, a dance club, a rap competition and a flashback disco makes it easier to plug in such songs as Daddy Cool, Ma Baker and Brown Girl In The Ring, while other fan favourites like Mary's Boy Child and Sunny are worked into the plot.

Along with scenes in Trinidad, Camden Market, and the Notting Hill Carnival, they also allow for the colourful over-the-top visuals that are part of the Farian style.

And it is all very colourful and very musical, and fans of the original songs are quickly clapping and even singing along (especially after the interval, when they've had a drink or two).

To one like myself who did not come in already a convert, the songbook seems decidedly weaker than the Queen numbers in We Will Rock You or the Abba score of Mamma Mia.

In purely theatrical terms, only the big Camden Market version of Sunny builds into an impressive production number (choreography by Sean Cheesman).

The rap duel generates some energy and Melanie LeBarrie as the boy's mother gets the one show-stopper with a bluesy I Can't Stand The Rain.

In keeping with what seems a current fashion, some of the best songs and best dancing are held back for the extended post-curtain call encores.

Dwayne Wint and Camilla Beeput are attractive as the lovers, though star billing goes to Michelle Collins as the girl's mother, Shake as the boy's buddy and Javine as the bad guy's girlfriend, all giving more-or-less generic performances interchangeable with any understudies you might see in their roles.

In the genre of theatre-for-people-who-don't-normally-go-to-the-theatre, Daddy Cool is miles better than Dancing In The Streets, but well behind Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You or Footloose on almost every point.

Still, it rates a solid B grade, rising to a B+ for those who come in humming the songs.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Daddy Cool - Shaftsbury Theatre 2006