Back to the Eighties, by Rob Bishop and Steven Greenwood, Lincoln Drill Hall 19 February 2020
If you are looking for a feelgood show, full of cheese and singalong hits, then "Back to the Eighties" is the show for you. It arrived at the Lincoln Drill Hall with a bang, this is the first date of a tour that wends its way around the country, through until November. Devised and scripted by the two principal males in the show, Rob Bishop and Steven Greenwood, this show got the audience up on its feet, with a smile the length of Cleethorpes Prom. This is a definite pick-me-up for anyone feeling the effects of the winter, sapping their soul away.
The aesthetic of the show is clear from the outset, with a chrome and neon vibe perfectly reflecting the excesses of the era. Two illuminated Rubic’s Cubes adorn the edges of the stage, constantly changing colour, and the use of back projection is perfect. It is used to set the scene and to enhance the experience, but never feels gratuitous.
A few sound issues marred the opening number of the show and obscured some dialogue, but the compact cast of four worked hard to overcome it and carry on, unaffected. We find ourselves in a slightly dodgy nightclub, “Electric Dreams”, owned and run by the effortlessly, villainous Jessie De Lorean, as portrayed by Rob Bishop. Jessie clearly stole his fashion sense from Miami Vice’s Don Johnson - from his mirrored shades and rolled up jacket sleeves, down to his loafers, replete with tassels. He is every inch the sleazy club owner from the 1980s. Jessie’s love interest is Melody Maker, a powerhouse of a singer and the club’s main attraction, played by Sarah Larder. Its clear from the outset who wears the trousers in their relationship, and its not Jessie. Larder gives a ballsy performance of girl power, before it was ever “a thing”.
Her counterpart in the club is the timid waitress Kimberly Houston. Ellie Butler very nearly stole the show for me, with insanely powerful vocal capable of handling any hit from the 80s . We watched her rise to fame, as waitress became a star and we rooted for her all the way. However, the star of the show had to be the loveable, yet lovelorn Benny King - played by one the show’s creators Steven Greenwood. His vocal range is astonishing; he handled every number thrown at him and gave us a character to get behind and will on to success. His interaction with the audience, his characterisation and vocal brilliance made it a pleasure to watch him. He really got the crowd going with his rendition of Erasure’s "A Little Respect".
Musically, everyone’s vocals were on point. The harmonies were glorious, and the blending of voices was rich and rewarding. It is almost unfair to pick out a favourite, but I have nailed my colours firmly to the mast for Greenwood and I feel he has earned that, well and truly.
Yes, the gags were cheesy. Yes, they were often telegraphed in advance, but that never prevented the humour from gaining its intended response and hearty groans from the audience. It can also be argued that the plot of the show was utterly predictable, but it all works, and the audience love it. After all, they came because they want a really good night out listening to the hits of the 80s performed with power and great humour. The plot is charmingly incidental. Each of the cast is well-known on the local music scene in and around Lincolnshire, as solo performers or in bands. Sarah Larder has even performed at Glastonbury, but they come together as a tight unit and nobody seeks to outshine anyone else during the show. It’s a total team effort.
All your favourite 80's pop hits found a home in the narrative of this show. Its such a simple, yet effective means of bringing a story together. Whether its "Footloose", "Take My Breath Away" or "Don't You Want Me (Baby)", they all just work. You get treated to hits from Wham, Whitney and Bonnie Tyler, among a host of showstoppers. And as if that weren't enough, you get treated to 80's videos during the interval too.
To be picky, the choreography could be a little tighter and one or two entrances could be slicker, but overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable night out and I suspect it will only get better as the tour progresses. I would absolutely recommend this nostalgia-laden, cheesefest but not to the lactose intolerant!
For further details - https://www.facebook.com/backtotheeightiesshow/