TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT SHEFFIELD LYCEUM
It’s unlikely Ben Elton scratched his head many minutes before coming up with the flimsy storyline that serves to showcase a couple of dozen Rod Stewart hit songs in Tonight’s the Night first staged in 2003. Some thin, largely unconvincing romances plus a pact with the Devil that has shy, sensitive, boring Stuart gaining temporary loan of Rod Stewart’s heart, soul and balls just about covers it.
Add to that a generosity of sweat, energy and decibels, plenty of wriggling, writhing female thighs and buttocks (sometimes ungainly choreographed), broad sets, coloured lights and imposing, sexy costumes – and Rod’s your uncle!
From the dull grime of the Gasoline Alley auto repair shop, mechanic Stuart tours the US in his reincarnation as Rod Stewart, hoping to win the heart of pure, sweet Mary, but, at the same time putting it about something rotten here, there and everywhere until ultimately learning it’s always best just to be yourself.
An American shouty-style school of acting is embraced throughout this jukebox musical, shoving realistic, convincing characterization and interactions well down the agenda. Avid Rod fans, though, are thoroughly delighted, while special moments and solos bring enthusiastic whistles and cheers all round.
As guitar-playing, nerdy Stuart turns into fluffy-haired Rod Stewart, Ben Heathcote manages, remarkably, to reproduce the unique Rod Stewart gravelly gargle at least some of the time as in Gasoline Alley and Maggie May, though the emanating the Stewart charisma is, not surprisingly, beyond him.
With the seven-man band and all those generic singing voices pounding out full-on decibels much of the time, quieter moments in the Rod Stewart repertoire tend to have more emotional connection and impact. The fiddle and mandolin in Maggie May, some acoustic guitar, a masterful and moving solo of The First Cut is the Deepest from Sugarbabe Jade Ewen as Dee Dee and of I Don’t Want To Talk About It from Andy Rees as Rocky warrant whoops and powerful applause.
Favourite and most engagingly warm character is Stoner, the only non-American role. In a Caribbean Johnny Depp cum Mick Jagger mould, Ricky Rojas’ stoned, smiling, staggering, quavery-voiced, inanely giggling Cockney rocker keeps laughs and smiles coming throughout.
For the big finale, the true Rod Stewart worshippers in the audience take up the white paper rectangles left on their seats (which turn out not to be airline sick bags, after all, but jaunty sailor hats) and, putting them on their heads, get their arms waving and swaying in true Sailing tradition. They seem to be having a pretty good time, it must be said.
Eileen Caiger Gray
The show tours next to Glasgow, Nottingham, Bristol, Oxford, Norwich, Woking and Canterbury.