This production’s done the rounds. After starting life at Leicester Curve in 2014 and flying around the UK several times with several casts, it’s been touring again since last summer. Through all that it remains an incredibly polished, effervescent show, a big, joyous outpouring of colour and top-notch singing.
Rebecca Mendoza is a thundering presence as Tracy, playing up the character’s comic doltishness and the naivety that ultimately helps her succeed in de-segregating the Corny Collins dance show.
Mendoza plays with the extremes of her voice, mouse-squeaks one minute and lascivious growls the next. Although her singing loses its assuredness in some of the quieter moments, considering this is her professional debut it’s an incredibly accomplished performance.
In fact that’s true of the whole treasure trove of a cast, each excelling individually and all in complete sync as an ensemble. Tracy’s parents’ song, You’re Timeless to Me, allows Matt Rixon, drawing on his extensive experience as a panto dame and adding a Harvey Fierstein rasp, and Norman Pace a sweet little duet with some character-breaking corpsing. They’re clearly loving being on stage and (sometimes literally) bouncing off each other.
But it’s when the four young leads sing together, particularly at the end of Without Love, that the show really flies: Daniel Clift, stepping up as understudy Link, makes a great pair with Mendoza, and, as Penny and Seaweed, Annalise Liard Bailey’s strong voice is a great complement to Layton Williams’s extraordinary acrobatics.
Four years on Paul Kerryson’s directing, Drew McOnie’s choreography and Takis’ designs combine – along with the fantastic cast – to ensure the show feels a fresh as ever.