BWW Reviews: 20TH CENTURY BOY, Wolverhampton Grand, June 30 2014
I was fortunate enough to see 20th Century Boy on its debut outing at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry back in September 2012 and it was probably the best show I had seen that year. The production is the perfect balance between a jukebox musical and a biography detailing Marc Bolan's rise to fame until the tragic car accident that killed him in 1977. Peter Rowe's writing is superb and brings in the added element of Marc's son Rolan trying to find out about his father who died when he was only two.
The original creative team has been assembled again for this tour and there are definitely differences in this production, both in physical form and direction wise, to adapt to the touring venues. Diego Pitarch's set is not quite as slickly manoeuvred as I remember it being but this is primarily an operational fault. There are sliding flats which - in theory - could be a great transitional tool but unfortunately appeared clunky and hesitant in places. Ben Cracknell's rock'n'roll style lighting is excellent but some of the locational lighting did fall a bit short in some scenes. Will Duke's projection is still brilliant and had been modified incredibly well to fit the Wolverhampton Grand's stage. Nine times out of ten the sound was very good; there were just some teething problems with Warren Sollars' microphone early on in the show and infrequently the band mix was louder than the vocals but this seemed to be ironed out quickly.
Sollars as Marc Bolan is extremely good. He had incredibly big shoes to fill and George Maguire who played the icon in Coventry gave one of the best musical performances I had seen in a long time. Sollars has the character down to a tee and the inflections in his voice are spot on. Occasionally his performance felt a little bit too polished and sometimes slightly uptight but on the whole he was truly great. Original cast members Lucy Sinclair (June Child) and Donna Hines (Gloria Jones) return and are as powerhouse as I remember them being. Sue Jenkins as Marc's mum Phyllis and Luke Bailey as Rolan also give proficient performances in their respective roles.
The musicianship shown throughout from the band is truly inspired, although I would have liked to see Sollars' play a little more himself but understandably this is a mammoth task in itself! The T-Rex repertoire is jam packed and many of those songs are realised. Personal favourites include 'Dandy in the Underworld' and 'Metal Guru'. The megamix at the end of the show really gets the crowd going and the production is very audience-focused.
20th Century Boy plays at the Wolverhampton Grand until 5th July and continues to tour until 19th July 2014.