20th Century Boy
Peter Rowe in association with Gary Lloyd with music and lyrics by original glam rocker Marc Bolan
20th Century Boy Productions in association with Bolanic Productions and Fine and Dandy Musicals
New Wimbledon Theatre
Marc Bolan died in a car crash on the 16 September 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. A man of many talents, he left a legacy of both music and fashion, which has inspired countless musicians and performers since. It was a life lived to the full and one of great highs and lows.
This production aims to give a wider glimpse into Bolan’s life than just his stage performances and as such is told through the eyes of his son Rolan Bolan (Luke Bailey) who was only two when the accident occurred. He visits London on a quest to learn more about his famous father and meets many characters from the past along the way.
For the most part this approach is appropriate and certainly gives a fuller picture of the life of a rock star struggling to make it and then faced with the stress of success. In places though, it does feel incredibly contrived and occasionally slows the pace as scenes of tension and emotion make way for the songs.
However when it works it really works. The movement from studio to stadium is effectively created with lighting and projection and both "Cosmic Dancer" and "Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream" are poignantly performed as group pieces. "Easy Action" captures the energy of the time period whilst establishing Bolan’s relationship with wife June Child (Lucy Sinclair) and "Children of the Revolution" sits perfectly within an alcohol-fuelled party scene in which Child confronts Bolan and girlfriend Gloria Jones (Donna Hines).
The real strength of this production is the excellent casting of actor-musicians. The lead cast offer assured performances and a supporting cast, who morph through time zones and cameo roles, ably surround them. I particularly enjoyed Katia Sartini’s turns as singer Helen Shapiro and PA Chelita Secunda and also Matthew Ashcroft’s deadpan musician characters.
Sinclair and Hines both create strong feisty women and both clearly relish their roles bringing fantastic energy to the stage. And as Marc Bolan? Well Warren Sollars captures the arrogance, childlike wonder and charisma of this complicated man with ease.
With a variety of costume (and wig) changes to suit the moods of each time period and a set that provides a versatile playing space allowing for sitting room and stadium scenes, this is a well thought out show that largely avoids clichés and aims to have a bigger heart than the average jukebox musical.
With a concert set at the end that whips the audience into a frenzy and strong performances throughout, this is a feelgood musical despite the plot leading to such a tragic conclusion.
Reviewer: Amy Yorston