Set in the 70s, with a story loosely based on the story of Faust – making a deal with the devil, exchanging a soul for worldly pleasures - the show was simply bursting with a catalogue of classic 70s hits. And when I say bursting, I mean bursting at the seams! There are 25 songs listed in the programme, some of which were medleys of songs, every single one of which was performed superbly. The company numbers were full of enthusiasm and fun, and the solos and duets were sung with depth and power.
The principal line up were all strong and included BOS seasoned performers such as Juliet Thomas playing the powerful Lady Marmalade, Emily Walker as Kathy, who ranged from moody and henpecked to sultry, Martin Harris as the all seeing Duke and Allister Smith as Terry the DJ. Jamie Fudge’s performance as the nerdy Tom stood out and included some great comic timing and played well against the sensible character of Maggie, played by Jennifer Bell.
But for me, Hannah Brent stole the show in her role as Jane. She threw her heart and soul into the performance. Both Hannah and David Gillett, who played the lead role of Jack, clearly connected with each other and in turn the audience, establishing and holding eye contact during emotional moments. Hannah has a powerful voice and her rendition of I Will Survive was simply breath-taking and would not have been out of place on a West End Stage. I loved the slower arrangement of the start of this song. David’s performance of Could It Be Magic and Starman were also highlights for me, along with Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting sung by Ben Martins and Juliet.
There were 11 named characters and I thought each was superbly portrayed, well executed and each person deserves praise for their work. However a special mention has to go to Jon Keeler for his portrayal of the luscious Lily which was played with panache and to Iain Johnson for his wacky Nick Diablo.
Company numbers I enjoyed included the Village People Medley and the Groove Medley. Both were high energy and full of fun – I was exhausted just from watching them! I would also like to praise the talent of the cast and the vision of the musical director who allowed them to sing A cappella on several occasions during the show. This is always risky and I was mightily impressed with the sounds produced. While I am talking of the music, hats off to the musical director and band for producing an authentic 70s sound.
The dancers were a delight to watch - those who stayed in character throughout the tricky dance numbers stood out positively. I like to watch the chorus / ensemble, even when the focus is intended to be on the principals and was impressed at how well everyone took on and stayed in their characters throughout the show. I enjoyed lots of the mini-stories that were being played out by the ensemble.
The set was, in some respects, minimal yet the additional elements that came on from the wings (generally on time) were well thought out and clearly differentiated, with the changes in lighting, between the different places.
The costumes were a mix of genuinely authentic looking 70s clothing and 70s fancy dress, although this did not detract at all.
What did detract, and it's minor thing really, were the empty plastic glasses. There were cocktail glasses with something in on the bar, why could this have not been done with the rest?
All in all, Disco Inferno was a thoroughly enjoyable show, full of great music, powerful performances, cringe-worthy but well delivered comedy and spirit lifting singing. It was clear that the entire cast were genuinely enjoying themselves. This was abundantly apparent given the energy displayed during the finale at the end of what was a longer than usual show (approx. 3 hours including the interval).
My compliments to Claire Carr, Director and Choreographer, Jamie Bell, Musical Director and to everyone else involved with the production, for putting on a splendid show.
Brentwood's next show is to be Little Shop of Horrors!