Davd Hasselhoff, with Mandy and Jose

Tam Ryan as Jose, David Hasselhoff as Ross and Kim Tiddy as girlfriend Mandy. Pictures: Linda Lusardi 

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Wolverhampton Grand

**

THE credentials and ingredients for this show have merit. Director Jon Conway is a seasoned impresario for jukebox musicals, David Hasselhoff is an instantly recognisable name, Stephanie Webber, playing Hoff’s stage daughter, looked strong as a finalist in The Voice, and the club music of the 80s in Ibiza offers a feel-good nostalgic vibe.

Premiering in Blackpool barely a month ago, this is the debut tour of the production.

As child, I watched The Hoff avidly in his roles in Baywatch and Knight Rider, as a young adult the club music of the era is ingrained in my psyche, so I approached the show with affection and optimism. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm soon ebbed away as the curtain rose.

The technical and sound issues which delayed the start, and persisted in the first half, can happen, but the production shortcomings were wholly foreseeable.

Hasselhoff’s solos were of the genre previously only explored by Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia, while Shane Ritchie Junior simply did not have the vocal range to handle the songs he was given and the e ensemble singing was insipid with the harmonies pretty much non-existent.

Club music requires a driving bass beat. Two musicians, a drummer and an acoustic/electric guitarist played alongside arrangements which stripped the originals of their vitality. This was not musical supervisor Olly Ashmore’s finest hour.

Similarly, the choreography and dancing was authentic insofar as it portrayed inebriated youngsters partying, but failed to deliver to a standard required in a stage musical. However dancers Josephine Scammell and Barney Hudson shone by virtue of their talent, energy and commitment.

The narrative was awkward and clumsy. Ageing party DJ Ross (Hasselhoff) is joined in Ibiza by estranged daughter Penny (Webber) who falls prey to the drug culture in Ross’s club, but comes through it with the boy, Rik (Shane Ritchie Jnr).

Ross addresses the audience directly when faced with a drug dilemma by his daughter – should he try Ecstasy in order that he can comment upon it? The cod moralising is embarrassing, the moral itself confused when Ross accidentally takes the drug, and the show picks up.

Earlier the opportunity offered by a performance of Ebenezer Goode had been squandered when Ebenezer (Barry Bloxham) performed as a one dimensional Hackney drug dealer. The reason why the song originally was such a hit was that it was possible to enjoy the entire song, which has a fabulous beat, without knowing what it was about. That subtlety and ambivalence was wholly absent here.

So the kernel of this show is The Hoff playing some club classics from the eighties, stood behind a DJ platform and decks. It should be said that the audience, whilst laughing out loud at some of the shortcomings, enjoyed the music and stood to dance for the megamix finale. Two scenes alluded to his Knight Rider and Baywatch past, bringing a warm sense of nostalgia to proceedings.

Star of the show was Tam Ryan as Jose, the barman. Funny, nuanced, and with plenty of audience ad libs, his appearances always lifted the show, and he rightly took the plaudits of the audience for the curtain call.

Last Night a DJ saved my life runs until Saturday 21st November and continues on tour.

Gary Longden

17-11-15 

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