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Eternal guilt: Dorian The Musical @SWKplay

Dorian is a new musical that updates Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel from the uptight Victorian era to an undetermined period of gender fluidity and glam rock. On paper, musicalising the Picture of Dorian Gray to a period of glam rock, social media, and cheap shoes seems like a good idea. After all, Oscar Wilde’s gothic story is very adaptable. It has been the source of countless adaptations for the stage, television or movies. I was half expecting a trashy Dorian, similar to the early 1980s telemovie that shifted Dorian’s gender to a woman. This version falls into a so bad it’s good category with Anthony Perkins in a lead role, who as he ages under makeup starts to look like Andy Warhol.  And while it’s great to see a new show, a strong cast can’t compensate for such an earnest production with underpowered songs. There’s no sense of fun, and some curious staging and costume choices  -mismatched dresses, crocodile boots and furry suits - serve as a distraction. It’s currently playing at th
Theatre: Billy Elliot

A chance lunchtime meeting near the Victoria Palace Theatre meant that I snapped up one of the few remaining tickets to Billy Elliot tonight. Now the critics have been raving (well some at least) that this is the greatest British Musical ever. Well, I don't know about that (I may have found it more enjoyable than Mary Poppins but that was pretty good too) but whatever ranking you give it, it certainly was an entertaining time. I was suspecting that they surely must have broken child labour laws given how heavily the show relies on its young male star. And of course no musical is complete nowadays without its star flying through the air (no matter how preposterous this may appear). But all that aside, tonight's Billy (there are three that rotate through the role) was quite good and you get the impression the adult cast are quite protective and supportive of their young stars which gave a great dynamic to the show as well.

As for the music, there actually are some very good songs in this show, along with some great dance sequences. The songs the individual cast members sang I thought were the best, but there were some rousing anthem-like union songs, and an interesting song that marked the class divide between the police officers and striking miners (now that's something you don't always get in the West End).

It's not all ballet but I guess it is a musical so these things shouldn't be argued about too much. Unlike the film there is even stronger focus on the miner's strike and matters of class warfare. I sat next to an American who loved the show but wasn't so sure about how the union struggle would translate to the US. But I wondered more about how the Geordie accents would translate outside of London. Actually I could have done with surtitles at times as who knows what they were saying, but that's probably just me.

Given the full house (interesting for a Monday night) this show looks like it will be destined to run for some time. The punters tonight loved it. And for three hours it was a great story that transported you back to the heady days of 1984...

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