Some Like It Hip Hop
London, Peacock Theatre
7 May 2013
Dave Morgan: ZooNation – Some Like it Hip-Hop (Finale) – 20 pictures
The title of Kate Prince’s latest extravaganza is way too modest. On the basis of the universal adulation pouring from this audience, not just at the end but throughout the show, it would appear that EVERYONE likes it hip hop.
The title, of course, is a pun on the name of the Billy Wilder film, Some Like It Hot, although it would be a mistake for anyone to believe that this is an interpretation of that plot. The only common theme is one of humorous cross-dressing although the genders are reversed: in “…Hot” the characters played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon disguise themselves as women in order to escape the Mob by joining an all-girl band (famously including Marilyn Monroe); whereas in “…Hip Hop” the same device has two girls dressing as guys to join the all-male staff of Governor Okeke, a man so embittered by the death of his wife that he has blotted out the sun and runs the City with an iron rule that bans books and relegates women to only the most menial roles. As an aside, as Okeke, Duwane Taylor’s two standing-on-the-same-spot-but-explosive Krumping routines are extraordinary.
I love hip hop audiences! At 7-05, I was alone in the Stalls bar, save for the staff on the other side of the counter. Asking if the start time was later than I had anticipated, I was told “No, hip hop fans always cut their arrival fine”. Sure enough, as the curtain should have gone up at 7-30, people were still streaming in. When it did get going ten minutes’ late, they were still arriving! At the other end of the show, the whole auditorium was on its feet (including some venerable, creaking dance critics) roaring approval and rocking away to the effervescent finale. But, the second the curtain hit the floor, it stopped and the fans were off, no doubt already late for their next engagement!
I saw Wicked last week – running since 2006 – and it strikes me that the musical theatre quality of Some Like It Hot is easily good enough to make the leap from a few weeks at The Peacock to a long run in a West End. Kate Prince’s last big show, Into The Hoods, did just that at the Novello Theatre and so let’s hope for a repeat booking. Many new populist dance shows might have memorable choreography but they fail to reach out beyond a specialist dance clientele on the quality of the musical score. Not so here, because the music and lyrics by DJ Walde, Josh Cohen and the multi-talented choreographer/director, Kate Prince, are well-balanced and contain some seriously infectious songs, notably the plaintiff Invisible Me and the rousing final duo of Light Up followed by the title song.
The dancing is absolutely superb at every level. Tommy Franzén (as Simeon Sun) and Teneisha Bonner (as the cross-dressing Kerri Kimbalayo/David Davidson) did the double for this show winning both Dancers Pro Awards for Outstanding Modern Performance in the 2012 National Dance Awards (the first street dancers to win an NDA) and these performances were again out of the very top drawer. This was even more amazing since Franzén sustained both hamstring and neck injuries over recent weeks but no-one could possibly have suspected this from his ebullient, stamina-draining work. I detected a few subtle differences in his choreography but overall it seemed as if he was adding extra difficulty into his routines rather than making them easier. Bonner is the sexiest “man” I have ever seen although in a certain light she bears a passing resemblance to a member of The Stylistics! Her macho walk is hilarious.
The role of Jo Jo Jameson, usually played by Lizzie Gough was taken with a zestful, fresh panache by Sarah Richards (who normally plays the supporting role of Tweets Sutherland) and there were a few other knock-on cast changes. Subtle changes have also been made to the production, as Prince and her team gradually hone it even closer to a perfect show. Judging by the reaction to this revival, it is already into the five-star class.