Review Roundup: Royal Shakespeare Company's THE BOY IN THE DRESS - What Did the Critics Think?

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Review Roundup: Royal Shakespeare Company's THE BOY IN THE DRESS - What Did the Critics Think?

Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) present a new musical, The Boy in the Dress. Based on the best-selling novel by David Walliams, The Boy in the Dress features sixteen original compositions by Robbie Williams and his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers.

This heart-warming comedy - telling the story of star striker and fashion lover Dennis - is directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, and adapted by former RSC writer-in-residence Mark Ravenhill.

The production is now running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 8 March 2020.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Charlie Wilks, BroadwayWorld: In the leading role, Toby Mocrei is superb as the confused teen. Incredibly playful and cheeky, he lands every single one of his jokes, whilst at the same time providing a side of vulnerability to the character. Vocally, Mocrei is wonderful and completely at ease in this role. It's brilliant casting. The young actor is supported by an equally strong company; Natasha Lewis is an energetically over-the-top Darvesh's Mum, Irvine Iqbal gives us the sassy and cunning salesman Raj, and Forbes Masson's Mr Hawtrey is every bit the pantomime villain, who we love to hate.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: But the show rests on the shoulders of its young lead and Toby Mocrei - one of four child actors playing Dennis - is astonishing. He sings and dances with total assurance yet captures Dennis's essential loneliness, which finds temporary relief when he dons a dress. Tabitha Knowles - one of three Lisas - radiates a natural gaiety that counterbalances Dennis's introversion and there is good work from the surrounding adults including Forbes Masson as the deeply suspect headmaster, Rufus Hound as Dennis's burly dad and Charlotte Wakefield as a French teacher. It's not a musical that radically advances the form but it's a warm-hearted show that, in championing self-expression, instantly enlists our sympathy.

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: Ultimately, the best thing about this show is its easy naturalness. All but two of the songs spring organically from the action and all of them feature lovely, loping, deceptively simple rhymes from Williams, his longtime collaborator Guy Chambers and Chris Heath. The opening number, Ordinary, is beautifully phrased. I Hate Kids, sung by Forbes Masson's angry headmaster, is wonderfully blunt, and the anthem You Can't Expel Us All sounds like Robbie in his pomp. A London run for this show surely beckons next year.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: The cleverness of the story is that it isn't necessarily about gender politics, or sexuality. It's about individuality, difference and everyone's right to be loved. The show's trajectory from shock to acceptance is marked with light touches so deft they are worthy of Lionel Messi. It doesn't plumb the depths - there's no real explanation of why Dennis's mum abandons her husband and two sons, and a late plot twist about the school's strict headmaster is not what you'd call convincing - but it has a speed of attack and a stamp of conviction that are positively elating.

Paul Taylor, Independent: The two worlds collide - and mischievously collude - with a delirious comic dynamism in this wonderfully warm-hearted and well-cast show, directed with verve by Gregory Doran. Of the four young stars-in-the-making who get to play Dennis on a rota, it is Toby Mocrei at the press performance. He's enchanting - whether laying bare his soul (which knows that maternal loss has left him feeling at variance with the tough-guy tropes of conventional masculinity) or glinting with just the right modest degree of glee as he swishes into the groove of a spangly, tangerine-coloured outfit. It was the shift into the second of these phases that caused the present writer to wrestle with a mysterious lump in his throat.

Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph: The result is reasonably and seasonably enjoyable, at times exultantly energetic and at points transfixingly transgressive (the production is directed by RSC chief Gregory Doran, choreographed by Aletta Collins). But despite the cluster of creative talents involved, which also include playwright Mark Ravenhill (providing the script), it's also frustratingly bland. Given the crowded field into which it aspires to push - not only Matilda but clear rival Everybody's Talking About Jamie, which broaches the same subject better, plus School of Rock - it needs strong distinguishing features. And these, in the main, it signally lacks.

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