Jailhouse Rock, Piccadilly Theatre, London

1.00

Before the curtain rises on
Jailhouse Rock, the scene is set: we're in coach-party land, with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra crooning anodyne songs. This is a show for people who are ready for something a bit more daring than Cliff Richard but don't want to get carried away.

Before the curtain rises on Jailhouse Rock, the scene is set: we're in coach-party land, with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra crooning anodyne songs. This is a show for people who are ready for something a bit more daring than Cliff Richard but don't want to get carried away.

The plot is that of the 1957 Elvis movie: "Daddy, we love each other!" "Why don't you run back to your slum and sing to the niggers?" Biff, bam, crunch. "You have been found guilty of the crime of manslaughter." "I'm gonna be a singer."

On his release, Vince Everett becomes a star but Gets Above Himself and, when cut down, rediscovers his humanity and claims his girl. The days are gone when "You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see - come on and do the jailhouse rock with me!" could be taken as an invitation to dance, so authors Rob Bettinson and Alan Janes have added a smidgen of profanity and race hatred, and a few throwaway references to non-traditional sex practices.

The film's Leiber and Stoller numbers have been dropped, however, including the title tune. Instead, there are 23 songs of the period, a few Elvis-related ("Blue Suede Shoes", "Suspicious Minds"), but none with any sex or threat. Personally, my heart or anything else has never leapt at "This Ole House" or "Such a Night".

The star, Mario Kombou, keeps the temperature tepid. He bears a vague resemblance to Elvis, but lacks his vulnerability or insinuating sensuality, and his pretty-good Elvis impression is only so from the neck up. Kombou moves his legs with the uncertainty of a man who's just had them removed from plaster, and there is no spark between him and Lisa Peace, who looks like a dominatrix version of Annette Funicello.

Vince and his girl may be partners in their record company, but he does 100 per cent of the singing. Is there another musical in which the female love interest doesn't get a single song, or even a duet with the male lead? This doesn't only deprive the songs of any dramatic meaning - think how touching it would be if Vince gave his heart to a girl who shyly but gamely croaked out her love - it's ungracious. Less a book show than an interrupted concert, Jailhouse Rock has Vince use a song only once to express the emotion of the moment, rather than entertain a crowd, and then he's alone.

The evening ends on a note that may be regarded as either gracious or patronising. Kombou hands the closing number to Gilz Terera, a black actor who plays another singing prisoner, and who shows off his verve, musicality, impish humour and well-defined musculature in "Angel Eyes".

Why didn't the producers of Jailhouse Rock make the logical update and give us a sexy black rebel - especially since American prisoners, now as then, are disproportionately black. In Terera's earlier tune and in the finale, "Tutti Frutti", performer and song are perfectly matched. Otherwise, Jailhouse Rock is a case of Awop- bopaloolopalopbamthud.

To 18 September (0870 060 6630)

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk