Review of Bad Girls – The Musical

Well, it seems we have a very popular show on our hands! This review just in … Once again thank you to everyone who has bought tickets – for those still to come, we promise you a great show!

“Audiences at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton who saw the show Bad Girls performed by The Cast recently would no doubt agree on what an excellent evening’s entertainment it was.

The show took us into the lives of a dozen or more of the officers and inmates of Larkhall women’s prison in a show that was at times hilarious, at others shocking, but throughout utterly engaging. Loosely based on the TV show of twenty years ago, this stage musical version included both song and dance in a set of excellent numbers that showcased the talents of those on stage to a live orchestra under the musical direction of Dave Dallard, so an obvious feature throughout was how lively this drear situation could be… making life in prison look like fun!

Some of the stage characters created for the show added to this fun: – the time-serving oldster who knows no other life (portrayed by Laurie Trott), Crystal the bible-waving evangelist (Rachael Brown), the two Julies (Carrie-Ann Corner, Claire Farrand-Preston) as tarts-with-hearts… all performed with gusto whether acting, singing or dancing to make the most of every opportunity to lighten the mood.

Then there were the dramatic leads that drive the story along: the defeatist Nikki (Emily Harris) resigned to losing the appeal that so obviously should set her free; the prison hard-case Shell (Heather Weaver) and her muscle-girl sidekick Denny (Kathi Ludlow) who bully the ill-fated new arrival Rachel (Emily Corner); the gangster’s wife Yvonne (Alex Tavener) whose mere arrival shakes up the established order but ultimately leads to the inmates setting aside their differences and working together against the common enemy.

For equally fascinating as the prisoners are those who guard them, and the tensions between them that develop as the story unfolds. The world-weary ‘Miss’ (Mina Machin) is unwitting ally to the truly evil Jim Fenner (Chris Collington), contrasting with the upright young Justin (Kevin Chatten) and the idealistic Wing governess Helen (Gina Coventry), all under the sometimes watchful eye of the prison governor (John Maddison) who when the chips are down reveals that he’s only interested in protecting himself.

This gripping story really rattles along, almost causing us to miss the effort that has gone into making this work as live theatre, from the clever stage sets taking us from the claustrophobic intimacy of a cell to the glamour of a big production number featuring the excellence of the whole dance chorus. Everyone on stage seems perfectly chosen for the role they inhabit, the way the performers work together shows how much practice and time they must have spent together developing the dances, songs and drama all under the vision of director Rob Corner. “From the opening number on the first night, it’s amazing to see how well the whole cast has brought this together,” he commented afterwards.

Ultimately all prison dramas are fascinating for the way the situation dehumanises not only the guilty but those who guard them too. This makes the occasions when the human spirit breaks out so much more thrilling – Yvonne and the Julies’ hilarious song about frustration, Crystal’s freedom lament, the solidarity of all the girls leading to the justified riot. It also exposes the bleaker side of the human condition – Jim’s chilling rendition of The Key, a song about the abuse of power; Nikki and Helen’s hauntingly touching duet about the tragedy of their proximity yet separation; Shell’s climactic scene that finally produces Jim’s come-uppance and gives the chance of a happy ending at least. The way in which this show captured and portrayed all this for the audience was a reminder of how good live theatre can be an experience so much greater than any TV show.

The Cast should be applauded for this production of Bad Girls and recognised as one of the most consistently excellent groups performing in this region – previous shows the Hot Mikado and Eurobeat in addition to this one as testament to this. Their next show is to be Little Shop of Horrors in spring 2015…. I’d advise you not to miss it!”