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
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine