Review of Bad Girls

“I knew very little about this show until coming to see it tonight. I was not a fan of the TV series, although I did see one or two episodes. However, I certainly enjoyed what I saw tonight.”

Set in a wing of a women’s prison, Bad Girls – the Musical is tough, brutal but also at times very funny. It has songs staged with panache and excitement and there are great performances from this very talented group.

Previous experience of the popular TV show on which it is based is not necessary. This musical has its own bold style. Not exactly camp, not exactly bad taste, but gloriously audacious.

Kath Gotts’ songs range from a Blues lament to a Garland/Astaire inspired duet, to a Busby Berkeley type routine. All Banged Up, a raunchy ditty lamenting the girls’ lack of sex, was fantastic – funny and frank with delightfully outrageous choreography. The Two Julie’s played by Carrie-Anne Corner and Claire Farrand-Preston, are brilliant throughout, but particularly excelled during this number.

The entry of glam gangster’s wife Yvonne, played by Alex Tavener, is an event in itself. She takes over and decides to have a boozy party, so the inmates- and the audience- have a rip roaring time.

Chris Collington, as scheming prisoner officer, Jim Fenner is as Machiavellian as he should be, excelling in his song and dance numbers. In contrast is Kevin Chatten, well known at the Duchess, playing the gauche Junior Officer, Justin Mattison. He wants to do good, despite being constantly teased and undermined by the inmates. He plays the part very well, with a cleverly understated charm and often very amusing diffidence.

Heather Weaver plays the part of the dominating Shell Dockley, the wing’s tough nut, with a gritty realism and engagingly saucy flair. Her tough but vulnerable sidekick, Denny Blood is played beautifully by Kathi Ludlow. Playing Nikki, a lesbian prisoner, is Emily Harris. She gave a great performance and has a powerful and expressive singing voice.

Gina Coventry, who plays the virtuous Wing Governor, Helen Stewart, sang and acted well, as did Emily Corner who plays the young new inmate, Rachel Hicks. This was not easy for a young actress, as she has to play the role of a scared and exploited teenager. She excelled, however, and received a substantial ovation from the enthusiastic audience at the end. Rachel Brown as the “bible bashing” Crystal Gordon gave a sweet and poignant rendition of Freedom Road.

I particularly liked Mina Machin, who plays the Senior Officer, Sylvia Hallamby. She combines some excellent comedy with a ruthless disdain for the prisoners. Adding considerable comedy, but also great acting is Lawrie Trott, as the old timer and professional prison inmate, Noreen Biggs. She has some short but pithy lines throughout the show.

John Maddison, as the upright but unprincipled Prison Governor, convincingly portrays a man who only cares about appearances. The principals are very well supported by an excellent ensemble, who are engaged in the action throughout.

I suspect that few in the audience at the Duchess tonight will have seen or maybe even heard of this musical, but will have gone home with a smile on their faces and a desire to hear the music again.

The director, Rob Corner certainly captures the essence of this musical and as a result has produced a show of quality and depth. His production is slick and goes at a good pace. The use of some exceptionally good back projection gives many of the scenes a realistic feel.

Once again, Dave Dallard directs a good band, which accompanies the cast in a sympathetic and supportive way with quality musicianship.

The set, costumes and sound effects are just right and the sound balance between band and the cast is good. Rachel Brown’s choreography is witty and well executed.

The prolonged applause and cheering from the almost full house at the Duchess underlined the quality of this performance.

If you like a musical with good songs, saucy humour, a gritty story and a tear or two thrown in, go and see it before it ends on Saturday evening.