Stuart King

Review: REHAB THE MUSICAL at Neon 194

It’s the late 1990s and an arrogant pop bad boy is caught snorting by the paparazzi and gets lippy with the judge, earning himself 60 days at a rehab facility. It’ll be a doddle, right? But will the young upstart be learning life lessons from his mixed band of fellow recovering addicts, or the other way around?

Rehab the MusicalThe company, Rehab the Musical. Photo by Mark Senior

Grant Black and Murray Lachlan Young’s music and lyrics (worked from a book by Elliot David) shines the spotlight on what happens when those who have fallen through the cracks brush up against those who have steered their own path towards self-destruction. But the end result as directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd is a lot lighter and more playful than the headline subject matter would suggest. This is musical theatre after all and whilst the songs aren’t always the most accomplished lyrically (and occasionally take narrative detours e.g. with one bizarrely incongruous section in praise of cheese), there’s a clutch of strong pop ditties for the extremely accomplished and energised cast to sink their teeth into, and they do so with commitment and gusto as they take us on a whirring journey which encompasses fame, addiction, love, mental health, betrayal and the media.

Headlining the cast are one-time bad boy himself Keith Allen as a manipulative small time king-pin, with renowned songstress Mica Paris who adds weight and experience to a cast composed of West End stalwarts and fresh faces - most notably Christian Maynard in the lead who snarls, grinds and growls his way through the first half and then (surprisingly quickly) assimilates redemption, kindness and compassion into his arsenal — this is a 2 hour musical theatre show after all. Each member of the cast has a moment to shine (with notable contributions coming from Maiya Quansah-Breed, Rebecca Thornhill, Simon Shorten, John Barr and Jodie Steele) with the ensemble sections registering strongly - particularly in the second half.

Staging this busy production in the round at this particular venue, will have presented the director/choreographer and his team with some particularly hairy moments in terms of exits and entrances, but to their credit, the playing area rarely appears overly cluttered, primarily due to the requirement for keeping the set as simple as possible. It begs the question, what could be achieved in a larger, performance-specific venue?