Ophelia and Hamlet

Chloe Edwards-Wood as Ophelia and Michael Fletcher as Hamlet. Picture: Nicola Young

Roll over Beethoven

Coventry Belgrade

****

ROLL Over Beethoven by Bob Eaton, takes the framework of Hamlet and indulges him in a nostalgic trip to the musical memories of his youth, and the emergence of the UK’s 1950s Rock and Roll scene.

Unlike other similar productions though there are no famous tunes as Mr Eaton has written himself a healthy set of sound-alikes to play out this story of Johnny Hamlet.

Johnny is haunted by his late musician father, who spookily brings to him all sorts of ghostly requests as he struggles with a sudden suspicious romance between his uncle and his widowed mother, while himself falling into a steamy romance with his childhood sweetheart.

While the excellent cast perform every song themselves with energy and accuracy to the genre, the songs themselves often feel a little contrived. Some however are great and even a number about the band playing a summer season in Clacton somehow works in this musical.

Eaton also doesn’t hold back in his direction which at times detracts a little from the core of his story There’s an assortment of references to Morecambe and Wise, vaudeville and aside gags that add a lot of humour to the production but take Jonny Hamlet’s story out of context at times.

Michael Fletcher is in the central role of Johnny Hamlet and showed his strong voice, especially with All Messed Up - one of the better songs on the night. Paired with Chloe Edwards-Wood as Ophelia, his young girlfriend, they both do a fine job of bringing the vocal styles and performances of the era to life.

Joseph Eaton –Kent as Larry and Niall Kerrigan as Waltzer sort of steal the show towards the end with a surprising duo called the Straight Pretender, a pastiche of Elvis’s The Great Pretender, where their forbidden attraction to one another is amusingly revealed.

Oliver Beamish as Claude on vocals and trumpet and Matt Devitt as the ghost and lead guitar also made a great impression with their musical skills. Patrick Connellan’s set is basic and somewhat budget restrained but with the use of projectors to change the backgrounds and some effective lighting it was more than enough to create the atmosphere where needed.

It’s difficult, with so many juke box shows like Dream Boats and Petticoats around to see how Roll Over will compete. But it’s quite possible, as this show parodies so many songs of the time, that it could become something of a cult classic, and in the future might enable lesser companies to have some rock and roll fun without the copyright bill.

If you can get past the corny jokes and at times the very simple derivative lyrics, you are guaranteed to have a great night of entertainment and that was demonstrated by the standing ovation this polished and highly professional cast received and deserved at the end of the night. To 17-09-16.

Jeff Grant

06-09-16

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