Licensed to Ill review at Camden People’s Theatre, London – ‘irresistible tribute to the Beastie Boys’
Tumbling over itself in its sheer eagerness to rock and to please, Licensed to Ill is the story of the Beastie Boys told in the only way it should be: a gawky air-punch of a musical that hides its smarts and talent under a bushel of bone-headed good times.
Tracing the boys from their meeting on the New York hardcore scene, as they abandon punk for pranked-out hip-hop, the cast throws itself at the stage, pulling off some impressively convincing recreations of Beastie classics and dragging the audience into the party.
There’s an ocean of love for the material that spills across the auditorium like a ruptured keg, but also a wealth of ingenious ideas and witty staging. Producer Rick Rubin becomes an enormous goggle-eyed puppet the colour and texture of the mogul’s legendary beard; the Fight for Your Right video is recreated onstage with a frat party of audience members, sipping from red cups as the boys raise hell around them.
It’s a total ensemble piece, but Tope Mikun, as onstage DJ and dozens of subsidiary characters, consistently steals the show.
Performed with explosive energy and such raw positivity the room practically shakes with it, Licensed to Ill is an irresistible tribute to the masters of rap-rock. If you’re not a fan of the Beastie Boys you might not have the best of times, but then if you’re not a fan of the Beastie Boys you’re probably used to that.
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