Tag Archives: Andy coxon

Hair Bare Bunch


The Vaults, London, Thursday 11th January, 2018


I am lucky to catch this 50th anniversary production just before it reaches the end of its run and I can only kick myself for not going sooner and allowing time for return visits.  Ground-breaking back in 1967, in terms of sound and format, the show comes across as fresh as a daisy you might wear in your hair.  Members of the ‘Tribe’ make observations of society: civil rights, pollution, war, while the ongoing plot involves handsome Mancunian-wannabe Claude (Robert Metson in fine voice) wondering whether to burn his call-up papers and stay with his hippy friends, chiefly Berger – the excellent, nay perfect, Andy Coxon.  Berger, king of the tribe, is a charismatic figure, sexy, funny – Every time I see Coxon perform I fall in love with him all over again, and that’s before he gets his bum out.

Shekinah McFarlane’s Dionne gets things off to a searing start with her powerful vocals in ‘The Age of Aquarius’; she also plays a mean saxophone later on.  Liam Ross-Mills’s Woof gets carried away with a Mick Jagger poster; Patrick George’s Margaret Mead has fun recruiting an audience member to be her ‘Hubert’ – in fact, everyone gets their moment to stand out: Laura Johnson’s Sheila, Jammy Kasongo’s Hud, Jessie May as barefoot and pregnant Jeanie… The strength of the solo singing is matched by the beauty of the ensemble’s harmonies.  Galt McDermot’s rock-informed score is rich with variety and contrast, while the lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado (and William Shakespeare) range from witty to hard-hitting.  The show is one big highlight.

The cast is not the only thing stripped bare.  The staging is kept minimal, keeping the performers to the fore.  Director Jonathan O’Boyle makes simple but sophisticated use of parachute silk and the occasional prop, keeping us in the Tribe’s trippy world.  An extended tripping sequence is chock-full of striking imagery.  Obviously, the lighting (by Ben M Rogers) helps tremendously with creating atmosphere and a sense of place, but I want to make special mention of the sound design by Calum Robinson and Max Perryment:  aurally, the show is magnificent. Solo voices, ensemble singing, the band and sound effects are all blended to the utmost clarity.  It is a real feast for the ears.

The band, under the musical direction of Gareth Bretherton, is kept behind a fence in an upstage area, but the sound fills the Vaults.  The choreography from William Walton avoids 1960s clichés and exudes an invigorating energy.  The music, the performers, the message, are all irresistible.  The show’s social conscience has resonances with today’s messed-up world just as much as in the 60s.  But beyond all that, it’s an exuberant celebration of life.

Let the sunshine in!  Peace, love and understanding, man.  Etc.


What a whopper: Andy Coxon’s Berger leads a love-in

Private Moments


Charing Cross Theatre, London, Wednesday 16th August, 2017


With music by Joseph Zellnik and book and lyrics by David Zellnik, this World War II love story has a timely relevance its creators perhaps did not foresee.  A young man finds a journal in a San Francisco junk shop.  In it he reads the story of journalist Stu (Scott Hunter) who reported for Yank, the army’s in-house magazine during the War – after having met handsome Mitch (Andy Coxon) while undergoing basic training.  The pair strike up a friendship that develops – thanks to long periods without female company – into something more.  Mitch is far from at ease, confused by his love for Stu, and the pair split until events conspire to reunite them and also threaten to finish them off for good.

The pair are so appealing, the playing so tender in contrast with the barrack room banter of the rest of the squad, you can’t help rooting for them.  What these privates do with their privates has to be kept private.  There is also an underlying dread that things will not end happily for these stars-and-stripes-crossed lovers.

Scott Hunter is marvellous as our sensitive and vulnerable narrator, gaining strength in his sense of identity and confidence in his sexuality, while Andy Coxon both looks and sounds bloody gorgeous as hunky heartthrob Mitch (I want one!).

They are supported by a talented and versatile squad, among whom are Kris Marc-Joseph, who adds a touch of humour as Czechowski, Bradley Judge as handsome Italian Rotelli, and Waylon Jacobs impresses as a tough-talking Sarge and as the effeminate, drawling ‘Scarlett’.  Ostensibly the villain of the piece, Lee Dillon-Stuart’s redneck Tennessee is the ugly face (no offence) of homophobia – although, of course, the real baddie is the institutionalised discrimination against gays in the military (and society as a whole).  Sarah-Louise Young appears in all the female roles (there were lesbians in the US army!  Who knew?!) and she gets to knock out some of the show’s finest torch songs.  Chris Kiely is also in great form as photographer Artie, who opens Stu’s eyes (among other things…)

The melodic score is heavily influenced by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, with some 1940s touches for added authenticity –  at times the harmonies are very Andrews Sisters.  The lyrics are witty and sophisticated, and the plot engages us emotionally at first and then intellectually.  We must remember those who fought and/or died to preserve our freedom as well as those who paved the way for civil rights.  How depressing then to live in an age when the Bigot-in-Chief at the White House bans trans people from the armed forces!  Homophobic attacks are on the rise.  The fight for equality and against oppressive shitheads continues.

This beautiful, poignant, funny and rousing show touched my heart, drained my tear ducts and made my hands sore from clapping.  A real pleasure to see (thanks to Chris Cuming’s lively choreography) and to hear (take a bow, MD James Cleeve and his unseen band).  Director James Baker balances tension with humour, tenderness with menace, to engage us with this powerful story.  Small in scale yet immense in scope, Yank! is a strong contender for my favourite show of the year.


Lip service: Andy Coxon and Scott Hunter (Photo: Claire Bilyard)

Rockin’ and Rolan


New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Monday 28th April, 2014


I was a bit young for Marc Bolan. I was aware of him and some of his songs and I definitely remember when he died – this new musical, a biography, brought all that back. You can’t deny the nostalgic appeal of shows of this type and I think some members of the audience were expecting a tribute act rather than an actual drama.

Bolan’s story is framed around the device of his son, “Rolan Bolan” (Luke Bailey) now grown-up and hungry to learn about his famous father. Mum, Gloria Jones (Donna Hines) is tired of his probing and sends him off to London (or “London, England” as she calls it) so he can find out for himself. Rolan rocks up at his gran’s place, in Walford it sounds like, and meets both Gran (Sue Jenkins in Catherine Tate mode) and Uncle Harry (Pete Manchester) and as they pore over the family album, young Marc appears in school uniform and Davy Crockett hat, his main preoccupation before rock and roll took hold of his imagination. We see teenage Marc with a D.A. giving Helen Shapiro (a splendid Katia Sartini) the elbow because she gets a record contract before he does. A succession of wigs brings us to the familiar corkscrew mop of hair that was his trademark.  It’s the stuff of bio-pics: the rise of the single-minded artist, although Bolan is depicted as a bit of a drip. The show seems to poke gentle fun at him, or rather this version of him that fits the mould of this type of story. The script is humorous but it’s the music that keeps the piece alive and kicking. The hits keep coming: Metal Guru, Ride A White Swan, Jeepster... and you realise what a rich back catalogue T.Rex had. The change of eras and fashions is marked by the energetic choreography by director Gary Lloyd.

There is a shortage of drama. The bitterness and resentment of Bolan’s mother towards Bolan’s widow, who was driving the car in which he was killed, is emphasised, but during Bolan’s life, there seems to be very little conflict. He argues with producer Tony Visconti (an excellent Andy Coxon) about shortening the name of the band, and capitulates after half a minute. He argues again about having strings in the arrangement of a new song, and again, thirty seconds later, gives in. It makes Bolan seem petulant and silly, rather than egotistic. With that wig it’s like Dennis the Menace having a strop.

We know it wasn’t Bolan’s ego or lifestyle that brought about his premature demise. We know there’s an encounter with a tree in his near future. Rolan contrives to get his mum and his gran at the accident site for a reconciliation to bring closure to the story – it’s a bit hard to stomach, whether that moment happened in reality or not. Sue Jenkins is a formidable stage presence and Donna Hines’s rich singing voice is marvellous to hear.  I also enjoyed Matthew Ashcroft as two of Bolan’s collaborators, Steve Took and Mickey Finn.

At the heart of the show is an electric performance from Warren Sollars as Bolan, who gets the singing and the posturing spot on. Despite the script’s shortcomings, the show is ultimately a celebration of a life and a glorious opportunity to be reacquainted with some of the best music of the 1970s.


Warren Sollars IS Marc Bolan