20th Century Boy
20th Century Boy at the Orchard Theatre
20th Century Boy is the story of Marc Bolan’s rise to fame and his untimely death at just 29 years old. For those, like me, who weren’t really sure about the back story of Marc Bolan he was a London lad who grew up determined to be a star. He tried with a number of different songs before T-Rex was put together and he had his first smash hit. Success in America always seem to evade him but he was huge in the U.K however his personal life suffered and asides from leaving his wife he left his bandmates and his producer. All of these aspects of Marc Bolan’s life are covered in 20th Century Boy.
Marc Bolan’s life makes for a perfect storyline, the rise and subsequent fall, the rock and roll and the messy love life however the show did take a while to warm up and Act 1 could have been 15 minutes shorter without loosing any major story arcs. It was only when Marc met his wife June that the story began to pick up pace and have added depth. Act 2 however was a lot stronger and the birth of his child and the car accident not only added more dramatic interest but were staged cleverly.
Playing Marc Bolan himself is George Maguire. Whilst Maguire has big shoes to fill in this role, he is more than capable of doing so. Maguire’s voice suits Bolan’s music from his rockier hits to his soothing earlier numbers and is a a joy to hear perform the songs. Onstage with Maguire is Sarah Moss as June and Ellana Vincent as Gloria. Whilst these actresses both play the women in Bolan’s life they manage to capture their individual essence nicely. Vincent’s vocals are a powerhouse to behold and Moss captures some lovely tender moments in her numbers with Maguire.
Although I have praised Maguire, Moss and Vincent the cast is only 9 strong and they all deserve recognition. Many of them play numerous parts from band members to producers to groupies and do so seamlessly. The only downside to such a small cast was that in some of Bolan’s bigger hits I would have liked to see more of a production around him with more choreography but often that just wasn’t possible.
The set was simple but effective, made up of a video screen which moved to reveal the onstage band for the moments that the band were part of the action. The screen was used to good effect and helped quickly change location or mood throughout the show.
Finally in a show about Bolan’s music legacy the band must get a mention. They rocked out to all of Bolan’s biggest hits and to a T-Rex novice like me certainly sounded spot on. The sound balance was also mixed well and I could hear the vocals above the music whilst still maintaining that rock vibe.
Whilst the show could do with some trimming and a bit more focus in Act 1 when it got going it was a well crafted, rocking night out at the theatre. The T-Rex fans in the audience were going wild by the endm with ushers struggling to keep them in their seats from the start of act 2. For shows of this kind, performing to a Monday night audience, that speaks for itself!!
20th Century Boy plays at the Orchard Theatre until 13th June. To find out where it visits after that visit their website.