Some Like It Hip Hop sails back into the West End on wave after wave of brilliant dancing. ZooNation’s irresistible comedy is a whirlwind of hip hop dance, bright storytelling and boundless energy. It makes me happy just thinking about it.
Created in 2011 by Kate Prince, ZooNation’s founder, the show has gone on to win awards and tour nationally; this is its third London run. It’s a gender-bending tale of rebellion, with nods to both Twelfth Night and Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. The Governor of a cartoon dystopia has banned books and turned women into second-class citizens. Our heroines, Kerri and Jo-Jo, disguise themselves as men to get back into the city, helped by heroic bookworm Simeon.
Prince and her co-writer Felix Harrison weave romantic sub-plots around this central thread, piling up exuberant setpieces. There’s a swashbuckling joy to the storytelling, complete with chase scenes along the gantries and ventilation shafts of Ben Stones’ set. The music, by DJ Walde and Josh Cohen goes from soul to beatboxing, sung by strong voices and danced up a storm.
Tommy Franzén’s superb Simeon falls for Sarah Richards’ out-of-disguise Jo-Jo in a gorgeous laundrette scene. As the dancers swoop from smitten to bashful in witty, sensuous dancing, the backing singers keep popping up with a chorus of “oohs”, peeking out between sheets or from inside washing machines. On the other side of the stage, the Governor’s daughter Oprah (Natasha Gooden) falls for Teneisha Bonner’s dashing Kerri. Music and dance keep switching tone, following the characters’ hearts.
The show has fun skewering hip hop misogyny from within. There’s a terrific number for the macho blokes of the city, performed at full swagger by the very strong men of the company. It’s a perilously convincing display – and then Prince pulls the rug out from under it, sending Kerri and Jo-Jo through the same very masculine moves.
Sometimes Prince piles too much in – a dance too many, perhaps, too much back story. Even that feels like part of the show’s generosity, an overflow of energy in dance and storytelling. The big cast of singers and dancers are all so charismatic that we do want to see more of them, from Tachia Newall’s bright narrator to the line-up of sexy secretaries.
And at the end, we get it. Some Like It Hip Hop ends with a triumphant victory lap of finales, giving every dancer a solo spot before driving on to an exultant closing dance. It sends the audience out giddy with delight.
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