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Love Shack



Posted 13th July 2005

Love Shack is a brand new musical featuring three former pop idols and "25 of your all time favourite songs". The creative team – and its stars – explain how it’s something completely fresh.

When you hear that Love Shack is about ‘one hen night, one stag night and 25 of your all time favourite songs’ you’d be forgiven if your heart sinks. Is it just another excuse to lump a lot of popular songs together, somehow shoe horn in a plot - and hey – you’ve got a show?!

Well - we have been reliably informed that this will not be the case, that the story will hold up on its own as a comedy play and that the list of songs is an added bonus. OK - so maybe we were ‘reliably informed’ this by the writer, the creator, the producer and three of its stars, but as the writer concerned has a string of TV hits under his belt we will give them all the benefit of the doubt.

And as the three stars were all formerly in STEPS, S Club 7 and Hear'say, we were seduced by being in pop heaven and prepared to believe anything we were told! And there’s also the prospect of hearing a new song from Gary Barlow written especially for the show – what more could you want?

Love Shack is described as an "explosive night of great fun, great laughs and some top tunes including ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’, ‘Music To Watch Girls By’, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and ‘Go West’" all set around the build up to the wedding of Sam and Joanne. The creative team explained exactly what’s different about it.

"I’ve seen a lot of shows recently and didn't feel anyone was creating anything new" explains creator Kim Gavin (‘Oh What A Night’ and choreographer of Take That and Pop Idol arena tours). "I wanted to create something that could be pacey, that was fun and that music could fit into, but was strong and could stand up on its own without the music. So I sat down and worked through some songs and worked through an idea. Most musicals fit the songs and there's a format to it" he added, confirming my own thoughts. "But this will make you surprised with twists and turns along the way."

One of those surprises is an original song, from none other than ex-Take That singer/songwriter Gary Barlow.

"He added one original piece to it" explains Kim. "So you go three quarters of the way through the show hearing old hits then you hear a new one and it makes it much more prominent."

Mostly though, this show is about fun.

"I wanted it to be about young people and fun and relationships and I think that that's what Danny's done" adds Kim.

Danny is Danny Peak, who won the BBC Talent Sitcom competition in 2002 and has since become one of the hottest comedy writers in the UK with shows like ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’ and ‘My Hero’ to his name. Kim gave the synopsis of his story to Danny who wrote the first scene. Kim liked it and they got cracking.

"Kim wanted the songs to fit the story rather than vice versa so although I think he had songs in mind to begin with he didn't tell me what they were" explains Danny. "I've been to shows where in between the songs you can see people opening their Maltesers and flicking through the programme waiting for the next song to come along.

"But with this, Kim decided not to use some songs in the end because the story just wasn't going in that direction" he adds.

"Yes" agrees Kim. "I said write the story so we know it works first, then we won’t be trying to leap fences in order to crowbar in a song, and then find it difficult to get from one song back to the story."

So what is it about? Sam and Joanne are getting married – what could possibly stop them? Five friends, a stag and hen do – sounds like an excuse for cliché. But as Danny explains there’s far more to it than that!

"It's about five people who've been friends for a long time" he says. "But you know how you get to a certain age and you don't know why you're friends with people and you've got nothing in common with them apart from the fact that you've known them for years and years."

"Relationships break down and you try to put them back together – that’s what it’s about. But there’s still a music fest at the end where people will all be up and dancing."

Producer Tristan Baker agrees with his creative team. "They came at this musical from a completely different angle and both are very keen to make sure that the story works and that's what's so wonderful about it.

"You've got these five characters and you actually care about them and you want to know what's going to happen. Then you've got 25 fantastic songs that come at all the right points and make sense. I think that's very important.

"I'm extremely excited. It's great to work on a new show and it's great to work with the talent we have assembled."

The team went through an audition process but again you could be forgiven for thinking it had been contrived because the cast is a producer’s dream – especially if their aim is to attract a younger audience to the theatre. And let’s face it – there’s nothing wrong with that.

Headlining this show are three young stars who all made their names in pop bands – and I’m sure they won’t mind us being more specific and saying ‘manufactured’ pop bands – but have since all been making a name for themselves in musical theatre, something they all started out wanting to do before being sidetracked.

But as Faye Tozer (Steps), Jon Lee (S Club 7) and Noel Sullivan (Hearsay) are first to admit, that early career has definitely given them a bunk up – so to speak – and again they are all quick to confirm that the script is great!

"It's completely different to anything else that's out there at the moment" says Noel. It's more like a sit-com with music for the stage, so I thought it would be quite interesting to have a go. I've also heard that there's a couple of Andy Williams songs in there which I'm quite keen on - those old croony style numbers!" he continues.

Jon agrees about the script and says that not only is it very funny, but that it will appeal to all ages. "If you had no music in it, it would still stand there on its own - it's a great script" he says. "I laughed out loud when reading it on the train home - I had to put it down" he continues. "It will take you through every other emotion as well but it WILL make you laugh - no matter how cold hearted you are!"

"Obviously with the music in there, the older generation are going to love it because it's going to take them back but the younger crowd are going to love the characters and I think everyone can relate to something or someone in the show."

Faye backs up everything the others have said assuring us that the songs aren’t squeezed in.

"I've seen lots of shows like that and it's not like that at all" she says. "I think the story is the main part and the jokes in the script are also very good. I'm not one to laugh out loud but I did!

"I think the way it leads into the songs is like in Mamma Mia, where the sentence rolls into the song and you think ‘of course - I should have seen that coming’!"

"I also think it's going to be very interesting visually" she adds. "The scenery is going to be very stylised and like a work of art that moves round. I hope that people see its originality through that as well.

"With great, up-tempo, pop, disco songs, it’s a very good night out. I think even the youngsters who know us from our old pop days will be very happy to see it as well - so I think it's an all round thing."


Edinburgh Guide

Posted 13th July 2005
Written by Pat Napier

This new musical could well be subtitled Let's have a party! for that's what it was all about. On the first night, the vast majority of the audience arrived in party mood, if not party mode, and rarin' to go. Large groups of them were geared up (obviously using this as their own real stag or hen nights) and ready to sing their hearts out. Lots had also travelled from down south, having caught the show already.

The flimsy plot is a prime example of yesterday's and today's culture. A couple, having lived together for some years, decide to tie the knot in the time-honoured way. This is the story of the time around their last night as 'single folk, a night organised along the impromptu, do-what-we-fancy-on the-night lines for the girls and a bit more organised for the boys. And, yes, you've guesssed it. Both groups are in the same club for a time, unknown to the boys.

The stags and lasses fall in and out with each other, as they do at this time, causing short-term panics about how the big day would go - or not - as the case may be. Excessive drinking and partying is ratcheted up during this rite of passage and the atmosphere is hyped up with a lots of favourite party songs woven into the story. Every song (25 of them!) was chosen both for its terrific quality and for its integral part in telling the story of the greatest possible night out.

B-52's Love shack was the obvious song to kick the whole thing off. It was also the first pointer to the music's place in the story; by using some elements of B-52's own story. This band, formed in Athens, Georgia, in a Chinese restaurant became the foremost alternative, punk rock band operating out of one of the most important alternative centres. Excessive behaviour and trends were adopted and developed with enthusiasm.

So, this greatest party hit song, a star-studded cast and a determined party mood should have made the musical fly from the first bars. The audience certainly played their part to the full but the first half of the show didn't quite take off. Throughout, the music was great and the heavy beat rolled things along but the amps were up too high and could have benefitted from a better theatre balance. Love Shack is very funny with good tight dialogue and unforgettable, OTT characters, especially Neal Wright's larger than life Postman.

Hugely popular S Club 7's Jon Lee appeared a little tired and listless but drew on his vast experience as a child star of earlier stage musicals to rally himself and ended up by giving a great performance full of good memories such as sending up boy bands with Hear'Say's Noel Sullivan. And there was Sam's unwise enthusiasm for the scantily, scarlet clad vamp at the night club tothe music of Sway (mucho mambo), totally ignorant that his bride-to-be and her party had dropped into the same club in time to see his behaviour. The inevitable end of the night - maudlin drunken boys being flung out to Go west, was very funny.

Joanne and her close friends petite AJ and leggy Bonnie, happily planning the night out and the wedding, find their friendship disrupted by arrival of the beautiful, well-spoken Alice (great dancer, less good voice) and tensions develop. That's made worse by the groom's skeptical friend and flatmate Will falling for Alice who responds with enthusiasm. Their Light my fire was memorable.

The next day, with hangovers all round, bride and groom break up (she accusing and wanting to end it all, he having absolutely no memory of the night before is puzzled at the sudden seriousness of the situation). Three weeks, four days and nine minutes later, both miserable, they sing Gary Barlow's beautiful Sometmes, never, always. The friends' hilarious plot to get them back together over a meal in an Indian restaurant, one of them tasked with playing a sitar, was very, very funny. And, of course, it all ended as it should - the wedding with Joanne looking stunningly glamorous and very much the star of the show.

The wedding reception was the magnificent high point of the whole show. The clarion call "Let's have a party" was the starting gun for a riotous medley of favourite songs old and new, a music and dance extravaganza and the band playing their hearts out as well as finding time to join in the fun. This 20 minute romp really felt like a party. Most of the audience were on their feet singing and clapping and the stalls folk had crowded forward to sing their hearts out along with the cast. This Edinburgh audience let their hair down and partied along in the uninhibited way Scots do. And the cast loved it all. I'm a believer rolled round and round the Playhouse and got better every time.

Since its world premiere in Manchester at the end of February, it's toured to nine venues round the country, with very little time off before arriving in Edinburgh. A punishing schedule! By the time it gets to Glasgow on 4 July, they'll be very tired indeed. But the Glaswegian welcome and their love of partying should revive them.

A good show, lots of interaction, great songs, fun all round.

Posted 13th July 2005
Written by Katy Lewis

If the producers wanted to attract a new, younger audience to see Love Shack, then they certainly went the right way about it! The team says that they went through an audition process, but you could be forgiven for thinking it had been contrived because the cast is a producer’s dream.

Love Shack is about ‘one hen night, one stag night and 25 of your all time favourite songs’ and described as an “explosive night of great fun, great laughs and some top tunes including ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’, ‘Music To Watch Girls By’, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and ‘Go West’” all set around the build up to the wedding of Sam and Joanne.

Headlining the show, which comes to the Milton Keynes Theatre in July, are three former teen idols in the shape of Faye Tozer (Steps), Jon Lee (S Club 7) and Noel Sullivan (Hearsay).

All three young stars came to the public’s attention in pop bands but have since all been making a name for themselves in musical theatre, something they all started out wanting to do before being sidetracked.

But can they ever leave those pop days behind – and do they want to? Are they always set to have ‘from xxxxxx’ as a byline on every poster for every job they do now? They all say that they probably will, but they don’t mind because they owe those groups for where they are now. They all love musical theatre and they have all got to where they originally wanted to be – but with a bit of help from a pop career.

Noel Sullivan is best known for undertaking the gruelling televised auditions for ‘Popstars’ where he was selected to be a member of the platinum selling band ‘Hear'say’. They had the fastest selling debut single of all time in 2001 one with ‘Pure and Simple’ and a total of four top ten hits including two number ones and a number one album.

Noel has taken lead roles in Grease and Fame since leaving the band that made him famous and is delighted to be following his original dreams.

“Pre-Hearsay I'd been accepted to my six colleges to go and study musical theatre at degree level but the Hearsay auditions happened at the same time” he explains. “So that (musical theatre) was always my plan but I kind of got sidetracked for a little while and now I'm back to doing what I wanted to do in the first place.

“The luck of it is that now I'm being seen for lead roles that I probably wouldn't have been seen for as young as I am I suppose. So I'd never discredit the experience, it's done a lot for me and I'm very grateful for it.”

But because of the way the group was formed, he says it’s unlikely that his link to it will ever really disappear. “I don't think I'll ever lose the Hearsay tag completely” he says. “I think it's something that's going to be with me forever. And it's not something that I really want to lose” he continues. “I am proud of it. I beat off thousands and thousands of people to get my place in that band and we broke records and achieved a lot. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. But I've been out of it two years now and I've done other jobs so I'm really over it!”

And for Noel it’s very important to have started his musical career in the regions and gain his credibility the hard way. “When I came out of Hear'say I was literally thrown West End contracts to work in musical theatre” he reveals. “But coming from where I come from and the musical background I had I thought I'd rather go into out of town productions and earn my stripes. I wanted to let my name be known within the musical theatre circle that I can do it so when I do finally step into the West End I'll be there on my own merit and not because I was from Hear'say.”

It’s a similar story for the other two.

Jon Lee joined S Club 7 in 1999 and enjoyed four years of hit singles, TV series and live gigs including performing for the Queen on her Jubilee. They won Brit awards for Best Newcomer and Best Single (‘Don’t Stop Moving’) and won the appreciation of a generation of pop fans (myself included!)

But more recently he has completed a run as Marius in Les Miserables for which he was highly acclaimed, and he says that, like Noel, he is now fulfilling his true ambitions. He was quite literally looking to train at a higher level when S Club appeared.

“I was literally looking through the Stage for a musical theatre college to go to when I saw the advert for S Club and I thought I'd give it a go” he reveals. “And it's changed the rest of my life! Before that I'd done musical theatre since I was 12. I'm now very lucky that I don't have to do the stand at the back jobs any more. I've kind of skipped in front a little bit which is nice. It's a bit of a cheat but I don't care” he laughs.

"S Club is always going to be with me, unless I join another pop group and get another name on my back but I don't mind it! I AM Jon - formerly of S-Club Seven - so it's OK!”

But for Jon, there have been signs that things are changing and he is being recognised for other things!

“About a month ago, for the first time ever, a woman stopped me in the street and said, ‘Are you the boy from Les Mis?’ and I said - YES I AM!!!” he says excitedly. “It was really, really exciting because it was the first time I’d ever been recognised as him! I was really chuffed.”

Jon also prefers taking the applause at the end of a show to hoards of screaming fans because it shows respect as opposed to blind adoration! “When you walk down the front there's nothing like it” he explains. “Especially if they've really enjoyed themselves. It's a respect thing as well - it's like ‘well done that was great’ whereas at a pop concert they scream from beginning to end and they can't even hear you singing! It's more like an adoration thing rather than ‘well done it was a great performance’!

With the phenomenon that was Steps, Faye Tozer had 18 Top Ten hits and four multi-platinum albums with record sales of over 18 million. But she has also become used to taking a bow in recent months as she has just finished her debut musical theatre tour of Tell me On A Sunday for which she received excellent reviews

“Yes, it was nice to get my teeth into that” she says. “It's nice to show you can do other things rather than smiling and jumping around!” I think I am constantly going to have ‘Steps’ tattooed on my forehead, but I'm not ashamed of where I come from, it's just nice to be seen in another light” she continues.

“I don't mind - it's my second surname, Faye Tozer ‘From Steps’, I wouldn't be here without it so that's the way it goes.

“I miss having the guys around me because we had such a good laugh but time moves on and I wouldn't want to be in Steps now. But it's nice to look back with really fun memories.

Like Jon and Noel she also knew that the stage was for her.

“It was definitely on my wish list when I left school, but how I went about it and how I ended up here I'm not quite sure because that kind of just happened” she says. “But I always wanted to do live theatre. I'd love to do some straight theatre next but hopefully that will progress on from here. But you need to do it slowly but surely, train yourself and move onto the next bit.”

It’s clear that all three, while paying homage to their old days, are keen to now move on and show the world that they have more than one string to their bow. They hope that this tour will give them a chance to show a wider range of people their talents, even if people are just coming a long to see if they really can hack it!

Faye says that regular theatregoers will have heard what they have been doing, but they need to show others as well. And just as the show is about five friends who have been through similar experiences, the three of them understand each other and their need to go forward with something new.

“Everybody's about the same age, everybody's been through similar things and we've all been on the stage already before so we know what's going on to a certain degree” says Faye. “I think everyone's just up for it because it's going to be a laugh.

“I’m really proud to be with Noel and Jon in this” says Faye. “If you're interested in musicals you'll know that we've all done it before, but your newspaper tabloid reader might not, so let's educate them!”

“There will also be some doubters that will come along to see whether these pop stars can pull it off” adds Noel. “Hopefully we'll be able to prove them wrong. I'm looking forward to that as well!”

But mostly everybody’s looking forward to having some fun!

“Everyone's excited and everyone wants to be here” says Jon. “I think it's going to be a really fun tour.”






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