Tag Archives: Noel Sullivan

Good Clean Fun


New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 5th May, 2015


Opening night of the tour of this West End smash hit; I feel like a bit of a scoundrel myself for reviewing the show before the official press night (tomorrow) but then I can only talk about the performances I see.

I remember the Michael Caine/Steve Martin film from years ago only dimly: the Ruprecht scene, and the denouement – rest assured you need no foreknowledge of the movie to appreciate this adaptation in all its glory.

And glorious it is. There is a lightness of touch throughout – we are never invited to take any of it seriously. Even the supposedly more emotion numbers are tongue-in-cheek, and involve duplicity at some point. David Yazbek’s catchy tunes and witty lyrics are in keeping with the humour of Jeffrey Lane’s book, and there is a casual break-the-fourth-wall approach to the staging that adds to the fun.

Set on the French Riviera, this is the story of conman Lawrence (silver fox Michael Praed) who pretends to be a European prince in need of funds to save his country. Enter Freddy (Noel Sullivan, better than he’s ever been) a low-rent American trickster – the pair team up to fleece a Oklahoman heiress (Phoebe Coupe making a lasting impression as the bullish Jolene). When ‘soap queen’ Christine arrives in town, the pair become rivals, competing for both her money and the right to stay in town and ply their trade.

Carley Stenson is a powerful presence as the American target of the two conmen, belting out her songs in a good, old-fashioned musical voice. Noel Sullivan is spot on as Freddy, displaying a fine line in physical comedy, while Michael Praed is smooth and debonair and just as swoonsome as he was in Dynasty as European Prince Michael of Moldavia, managing to remain suave even when he’s swanning around in disguise as a German psychiatrist.  This talented and enjoyable trio are supported by the excellent Mark Benton as Andre, the crooked chief of police, and Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Muriel. It is clear from the off that the cast are enjoying themselves – without being self-indulgent. This enjoyment transmits to the audience and so we enjoy the performances rather than admire the reprehensible behaviour of this unscrupulous, immoral characters. It’s not even a morality tale. No one is reformed at the end.

The story flourishes in its new theatrical medium. Peter McKintosh’s elegant set hosts a lively ensemble of dancers for the production numbers. Jerry Mitchell’s choreography and direction give a flavour of the South of France, tempered with some Latin American moves and music.

It all adds up to a cracking night out – a superior example of a film-to-stage adaptation, a toe-tapping, laugh-out-loud fun ride performed by a stellar cast, company and band.

dirty rotten


Back on the Bus


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 27th January, 2014


What a treat to catch this bus again!  On the road again, Priscilla brings its blend of pop music, coarse humour, dry wit and feel-good sentiment to Wolverhampton.  Heading the cast this time out, taking the Jason Donovan role is Noel Sullivan (from HearSay).  Sullivan’s in good voice, having developed a rich warm tone that tickles our heartstrings from the get go with his touching rendition of Say A Little Prayer.  His character goes through the most poignant arc as he comes out to his companions as a husband and father, before meeting his son for the first time and negotiating a relationship with him.  Here the show makes one of its important points: kids won’t grow up homophobic unless you bring them up that way.

Richard Grieve continues to please, filling the stage with grace, elegance and acidic one-liners as Bernadette, striking up a touchingly tentative relationship with Aussie bloke-cum-man of the world Bob (Giles Watling).  The fabulous Graham Weaver’s Felicia is the most flamboyant of the trio, fearlessly doing his thang in the face of some brutal homophobia.

There are some hilarious and grotesque moments courtesy of Ellie Leah as the disturbingly breasted barmaid and munter, Shirl, and from Cynthia, (Frances Mayli McCann) Bob’s startling wife who stops the show with a ping pong ball.

The score is packed with familiar pop and disco hits, pleasingly apropos rather than shoehorned in like some jukebox musicals I could mention.  Musical director Richard Weeden leads a tireless, hardworking band who keep energy levels high and underscore some of the more reflective moments.  Special mention must go to the three divas: Emma Kingston, Laura Mansell, and Ellie Leah (without Shirl’s breasts) suspended high above the stage and singing live so that others may lip-synch.

This life-affirming show is for everyone.  The middle-aged women in the audience cackle and clap in delight.  In the interval a straight man tells me he hasn’t seen the film but he’s loving it.

Like its movie predecessor, the show puts gayness in all its glory centre stage.  In this day and age it’s a clarion call, a blare of defiance against the rising tide of homophobia and discrimination around the world.  Camp and colourful as any gay pride march and just as political, Priscilla has an importance outside itself showing as it does that non-heterosexual ways of living are just as valid and just as human.