Taboo – The 20th Anniversary Concert at The London Palladium
20 years ago Taboo hit the London stage in a new venue. Taboo is a musical by Boy George, Mark Davis Markham and Kevan Frost which tells the story of Boy George before and during his rise to fame and based in part on the New Romantic scene including the likes of Phillip Salon and club promoter Leigh Bowery. 20 years later members of that original cast, along with cast members the revival at Brixton Clubhouse have come together on stage again to perform a concert version of the show.
There is no denying that Taboo has had some huge names in the cast, Boy George himself has played Leigh Bowery along with others such as Julian Clary and Sam Buttery in that role. Other stars that have been in the cast on were the likes of John Partridge as Marilyn, Dianne Pilkington and Niamh Perry as Kim and Sally Ann Triplett as Josie. In many ways it is therefore the ideal show to put on in a concert and bring these names together.
The cast were all brilliantly talented and the energy in the room when Boy George walked on stage was on another level. Sam Buttery was also playing Leigh Bowery and he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Whilst there were hiccups along the way with dropped lines it made the show even more entertaining.
It wasn’t just the role of Leigh Bowery that had numerous people playing a single role. Marilyn also had 2 people playing the role, both Mark McGee and John Partridge. Partridge just oozed charisma from the stage and strutted his stuff wonderfully. Next to Partridge, McGee didn’t look as at home in the role and the costume choices for McGhee didn’t immediately place him in that role, unlike Patridge. Paul Baker was the only choice to play Philip Salon and the man himself was in the audience and his vocals during ‘Petrified’ meant you could hear a pin drop.
There were also others who had great stand out vocal moments, Gail McKinnon blew the audience away with Il Adore and I See Through You was a beautiful duet between Declan Bennett and (on screen) the original Billy, Luke Evans.
Whilst the Concert format brought the music to the fore it does mean that the story took a backseat. This was a shame as there are some really moving moments in the show itself such as Il Adore and Petrified. These moments that normally see me sobbing, failed to move me in the concert as there was less time to invest in the story and characters behind it.
The set itself was kept simple, with the band itself across the back of the stage and there was a raised platform across the side and back of the stage to accommodate the alumni ensemble as well as to allow for multiple entrances and exits. The lighting was also kept simply save for a huge mirror ball at the end. I would have liked to have seen a bit more colour and movement with the lighting, especially in the bigger, flamboyant numbers such as ‘Give Me A Freak,’ or ‘Everything Taboo.’ Whilst I appreciate it was billed as a concert, it is still the London Palladium so production value expectations are high.
Whilst it was wonderful to see the likes of Boy George performing the musical he penned and many of the previous cast return to their roles and the music itself was fabulous the show itself felt a bit rushed, and emotionally flat at times. I’m desperate for the show to make a return but a more intimate, engaging and heart wrenching version than we saw at The Palladium.