BWW Review: ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, 6 September 2016
Writer Bob Eaton had previous success with 2-Tone Musical Three Minute Heroes at the Belgrade Theatre in 2014. This time, he has put pen to paper to create a musical loosely based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Roll Over Beethoven boasts an original rock 'n' roll score against a backdrop of post-war England. Protagonist Johnny returns from National Service to attend his father's funeral, where he notices his mother and uncle acting questionably. This, teamed with his father revisiting him in various forms, further arouses suspicion surrounding his death.
Patrick Connellan's set design largely consists of a smaller platform stage with a projection screen behind it. Various set pieces fly in and out along with furniture and props to set the different scenes, including a nice fly piece to represent the musical instrument shop, complete with hanging violins, saxophones etc. Arnim Friess' lighting has good use of followspots, but the general design seems a little messy in places. The video doesn't particularly lend itself well to the scenes either and looks fairly amateur.
Eaton's direction uses the space well, although more time could have been spent on the characterisation of the company. Johnny's father or the Ghost is very panto-like and his mother, Gertie, is also overly theatrical. Beverley Norris-Edmunds' choreography uses well-known dance moves associated with the Forties/Fifties era, but is a little lacklustre in its delivery.
Ben Goddard's musical arrangements and Steven Markwick's musical direction are both very strong. Musically is where the show succeeds; just not lyrically, sadly. Tampering with classic rock 'n' roll numbers is not the best idea, as audience members hear the introduction to a song they love and begin to sing - only to find that the lyrics are different and they can no longer join in. Because of this, the audience seem reluctant throughout most of the show to engage.
Every member of the cast also plays an instrument, which needs to be acknowledged. Their musicality is very good and they are able to seamlessly transition from musician to actor. The company do what they can with the material given, but unfortunately the book ultimately lets them down.
Roll Over Beethoven runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 17 September 2016.