Opening Night Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If Shakespeare did rock ‘n’ rock musicals I’d imagine they would look a lot like Teddy. Penned by award-winning writer and actor Tristan Bernays this new musical is full of lyrical verse (synonymous with Bernays work) bringing melody into the spoken word and not just the songs around them. It’s a genius production as it rethinks the musical genre and takes risks not just with the content (setting the action in a gritty 50s post Blitz East End rather than presenting the era as the sugar coated ‘dreamboats and petticoats’ dialogue we are used to) but also by having just two actors onstage throughout performing a number of different roles.
Molly Chesworth plays Josie, a ladette, decked out in her best ‘teddy boy suit’, red lipstick slicked on, ready to tear up London town for a night to remember. Chesworth fizzes with energy from the moment the spotlight shines on her, portraying Josie as a sassy, fired up, passionate East End girl. She is mesmerising to watch and you can’t help but get drawn into her desire to live life to the full, whatever the cost. Equally impressive is George Parker as the aptly named ‘Teddy’ who strives to live up to the subculture ‘teddy boy’ persona of the era. He’s a wide boy with wide eyes for Josie and together the two anti-heroes are like a watered down version of Bonnie & Clyde, willing to risk anything for each other, driven by the excitement and thrill of doing no good.
It’s like witnessing a masterclass in acting from the duo as they morph into a number of different roles during the production. From gangster heavies, to an old fragile pawn shop owner, their physical and vocal characterisation conjures up images in the audiences’ imagination without the need for a costume or set change. In fact, the majority of Max Dorey’s set design is minimal for this reason I imagine, with just the use of some corrugated iron for the backdrop, a ladder which takes the actors up to an upper level and a number of advertising posters from the 50s up on the wall.
Not only will the acting impress you but the onstage live band will get your toes tapping too. Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts provide the soundtrack to the musical with a plethora of original songs which suit the mood perfectly and sound like they have just come out of the jukebox. The band gets the party started early on with a short set before Teddy starts and also goes on after the production has finished, resulting in you leaving the theatre wanting to rock ‘n’ roll into the small hours. They are an integral part of the show as Johnny provides the focus as the music idol of our two protagonists as they spend the night trying to get close to him.
Teddy will leave you breathless, not just from watching the vigorous performance on display from the actors (which includes an incredible jive that wouldn’t look out of place on the Strictly dance floor) but also because the dialogue and action is so fast paced it is like taking a ride on a rollercoaster.
So, strap yourself in, get yourself down to The Lowry theatre before the run finishes on 17th Feb, this is one musical you would be a fool to miss!
For more tour dates see: http://snapdragonproductions.com/productions/teddy/