Rehab The Musical at Playhouse Theatre
Rehab is the newest British musical to hit London. The show takes us back to the cusp of the new millennium where Kid Pop, a ‘wanker’ of a pop star as the opening song tells us has been sentenced to 60 days in rehab due to being papped taking cocaine. However unbeknownst to Kid Pop it was set up by his manager, Malcolm Stone, to get him back on the front pages. Stone however refuses to stop there and he enlists Lucy, your stereotypical stripper with a heart of gold to join Kid Pop in rehab and get footage to keep Kid Pop relevant whilst he is in there. Despite the obvious redemption plot that comes along for both Kid Pop and Lucy the show takes a macabre plot twist towards the end.
Despite the unconventional twist towards the end of Rehab the Musical much of the shows book by Elliot Davis is predictable when it comes to the main storyline. Kid Pop is of course reluctant when he enters rehab but his fellow addicts win him over with their friendship. Equally Lucy is a stripper who is a single parent and doing it all for her son and develops a conscious when she gets to know Kid Pop. Many of these characters and plot points are stereotypes and character arks we have seen before however it is actually the supporting characters who are more interestingly drawn such as Phil, a compulsive overeater who has hidden depths or Martha, the group leader at the rehab centre who clearly has her own history and problems which are gently touched upon throughout the show. The show also builds up very little tension and for a show about rehab there is surprisingly little grit at the heart of it.
The show also feels like it has an identity crisis. There are some moments that are trying to be touching and others purposely loud and vulgar and even some moments of humour but they all struggle alongside each other with the audience unsure if it is ok to laugh out loud at one particular moment and cry at the next. The best shows encompass these ranging reactions and emotions so seamlessly that the contrast here simply jars leaving uncomfortable silences where laughter or tears should have been.
The cast do their best with some two dimensional characters. Jonny Labey is a convincing pop star turned drug addict and despite Kid Rock being a ‘wanker’ you can’t help but like Labey. Jodie Steele is magnificent as Beth Boscombe, Malcome Stone’s second in command. You never quite get to the bottom of how Beth arrived there and what drives her throughout the show but Steele’s stage presence alone is enough to captivate me whenever she is on stage.
Keith Allen is deliciously wicked and unapologetic as Malcolm Stone and delivers his numbers in the form of a spoken verse which he pulls off. I do however wonder why he was placed in a shiny grey wig which was so awful it was distracting when he was on stage. Lucy was played by Gloria Onitiri and despite the well trodden path of her character she was a delight to watch and in particular hear. The short reprise of Two Broken People between Steele and Onitiri was actually one of the highlights of the show due to a combination of its stillness and simplicity and these two women’s voices.
The music itself by Grant Black and Murray Lachlan Young is varied in style and success. There are some songs I would happily see cut but there are others such as ‘Two Broken People’ which work and stick with the audience after they have left the theatre. Other songs as Museum of Loss is a haunting reminder of what can be loss to addiction and Letters Goodbye confront the harsh reality and defiance it can take to fight an addiction.
Despite a few strong musical numbers and impressive performances from the cast the show is let down by a weak book and a resulting feeling that i cared more about the supporting characters that I did Kid Pop himself. Some shows I would be keen to overdose on but unfortunately Rehab The Musical is not one of them.
Rehab the musical is on at The Playground Theatre until 17th September. You can find out more and book tickets here.