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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Shout!
Arts Theatre      Spring 2009

An all-but-plotless collection of pop songs from the 1960s, Shout generically resembles the current Thriller. But its amiable charm and complete absence of pretentiousness make it a much more enjoyable entry in the theatre-for-people-who-don't-go-to-the-theatre category.

It is nowhere near the level of, say, Mamma Mia. But it's a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

A version of this show has been touring for a year, but its current form - based on a concept by A and B, book adapted by C - seems to have been reshaped mainly to fit in the always welcome and delightful Su Pollard.

There is a half-hearted stab at a plot - three girls come to London in 1960, stay with the auntie of one, and have a string of romantic and career experiences as the decade moves on.

But to call that outline skeletal is to exaggerate it - there are rarely more than two or three lines of dialogue between the almost 40 songs squeezed into the show, with each of the women taking a turn as lead singer while the others back her up.

There are also two additional back-up singers, and a male figure serving as the voice of their trend-spotting magazine and a string of comic adverts.

The song selection is certainly eclectic, ranging from C&W (Son of a Preacher Man) to Broadway (Big Spender), though most of it is mainstream pop - Downtown, Let's Twist Again, Alfie and the like.

And although the plot moves forward chronologically, the songs are slotted in where they best fit, even before they were written.

The leads - Shona White, Tiffany Graves and Marissa Dunlop as the lassies and John Jack as Every Man - are all attractive performers and fine singers in a manner that suggests that if you happened to see an understudy you probably wouldn't miss a whole lot.

Director-choreographer Bill Deamer's staging of every number tends to be pretty much the same - one of the girls up front, the others do-wopping behind her - so it is mainly the fact that they look a little different that makes a couple stand out.

Marissa Dunlop vamps her way through Big Spender, while Shona White gets a bare stage for a torchy I Don't Know What To Do With Myself, and Tiffany Graves belts out a take-no-prisoners You Don't Have To Say You Love Me.

Su Pollard is there throughout, adding her special brand of loveable comedy, and it is striking that she keeps right up with the kids in all the back-up singing and choreography.

She gets her big dramatic moment as, with considerable support from the sound engineer, she wrings all the tears out of You're My World.

And, as has now become virtually obligatory, the show ends with an everyone-up-on-your-feet singalong finale. Strictly for those who have already seen Mamma Mia and the other good-night-out shows, Shout is no masterpiece, but solid value-for-money.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Shout! - Arts Theatre 2009