If Andy Warhol had decided to make a musical about English women in the swinging 60s, he might well have come up with “Shout! The Mod Musical.” This off-broadway hit, created by Philip George and David Lowenstein, currently being produced by Verdant Productions and Do R Die Productions, features readymade songs from the 1960s being recycled like images on a Warhol print. An exercise that, at best, wants to play with the image of the 1960s while interrogating the plight of women. At worst, wants to recycle popular songs from the 1960s to make a quick buck on the nostalgia circuit. Yet perhaps what "Shout! The Mod Musical" really wants to do is just to have some serious good fun. In truth, “Shout! The Mod Musical" probably falls somewhere in between all the above, but with extra lashings of fun just for good measure.
Performed on a simple set by Vincent Bell, featuring the word SHOUT written in large, coloured letters with a small, square box placed before each, five women take to the stage, each looking like a hopeful at a Scooby Doo audition. Brightly coloured costumes by Pauline McCaul cleverly evoke the plastic flashiness of the 1960s, looking as if they’ve been modelled on cut outs from the back of a Bunty comic. Like Power Rangers, each of the five women is designated by a different colour; orange, blue, green, yellow, and red, with signature expressions, tones and characteristics. Together they blast out solos and medleys of 60’s classics by female singers, along with one or two originals, frequently punctured by some humorous and occassionally insightful observations on life for women in the 1960s. With songs and scenes loosely connected by the imaginary women’s magazine Shout! (not to be confused with the teen magazine of the same name) “Shout! The Mod Musical’s” feisty and vibrant women explore their relationship to make up, fashion, sex, drugs, James Bond, and Beatlemania. Meanwhile agony aunt, Gwendolyn Holmes, dismisses their desires for orgasms, lesbian lovers, or escape from abusive husbands as the years pass, offering an endless tirade of beauty tips instead, as the decade finally closes and the 1970s come calling.
Throughout, director Daniel ‘Cheech’ Maguire keeps pace moving and choreographed sequences tight, even if the underlying energy sometimes feel flat and untapped, and doesn't always ignite. This is partially due to the singalong nature of the songs not being fully exploited, as a show stopping rendition of Mary Hopkin's classic Those Were The Days makes painfully obvious, bringing the audience to life and hinting at what might have been. Yet it’s also partially due to an overbearing and underwhelming backing track, sounding like it was recorded by an exhausted pub band in a run down studio following a late night gig that ran over, often failing to do full justice to either songs or singers. With weak arrangements bleeding into one another, songs often begin to sound alike, which often overpowers and undermines the singers. Something the extraordinarily talented Fiona Carty (Orange), Jodi Ennis (Blue), Emily Carroll (Green), Amy Penston (Yellow), and Keila-Marie Ni Cheallaigh (Red), respond to with gusto. If some struggle with the upper register at times, all exude presence and personality in irresistible abundance. It’s all plastic of course, but that’s half the fun. With very little to work with, relying on signature exaggerated gestures, playing cartoon characters singing classic songs, this fabulous five are never less than energised and captivating as they sample their first joint, contraceptive pill, or James Bond theme song.
Evoking Rock of Ages, A Slice of Saturday Night, and Hairspray, "Shout! The Mod Musical" is an unapologetic, feel good, songfest of original 60’s classics. It may be as shallow as an episode of Glee, but in its shameless desire to entertain it is far more honest than many productions aspiring to loftier heights. Making fun of, as much as poking fun at, the 1960’s and its attitude to women, "Shout! The Mod Musical" delivers the 1960s in all its plastic fantastic glory, making for a delightful night of guilty pleasures.
"Shout! The Mod Musical”produced by Verdant Productions and Do R Die Productions is currently on national tour.
For more information, visit Verdant Productions