Some Like It Hip Hop, Peacock Theatre, London
Tuesday 01 November 2011
This is glorious. Some Like It Hip Hop, the new show from streetdance company ZooNation, is a fizzing tale of love, gender politics, lost daughters and heroic librarians. The music and dancing are superb: everything in this show has wit, heart and magnificent energy.
Directed by choreographer Kate Prince, ZooNation made its name with Into the Hoods, a hip-hop retelling of Sondheim's Into the Woods that became the West End's longest-running dance show. With Some Like It Hip Hop, the company takes several leaps forward.
Prince and her team have created their own music and storyline, drawing gleefully on the cross-dressing comedy of Some Like It Hot and Twelfth Night. The setting is a cartoon dystopia, a city of corrugated iron where books are banned and women are oppressed. Thrown out of the city for insubordination, heroines Jo-Jo and Kerri sneak in by disguising themselves as men.
Prince, clearly disturbed by the strand of macho misogyny in hip-hop, creates a brilliant parody of it here. The men's crotch-grabbing swagger is a hairsbreadth away from the real thing – undercut by the way the two women pick up the attitudes, trying out straddle stances and aggression.
Prince's character comedy is wonderful. As Jo-Jo and Kerri, Lizzie Gough and Teneisha Bonner have moves so sharp you can believe they'd get away with it, while we can see their hearts quaking under the false moustaches. They're matched by Tommy Franzen as the bookish Simeon, the only man brave enough to defy the ban on books.
Though Prince and co-writer Felix Harrison provide a narration, spoken by Tachia Newall, most of the storytelling is in the songs and dances. The show can switch in an instant from ragtime piano chases to sweet love scenes. The music, by DJ Walde and Josh Cohen, swoops from hip-hop to soul and back again, with terrific live singers.
Every person in this big cast creates a distinctive character, a personal twist to the brilliant street dance tricks. Duwane Taylor has authority as the oppressive governor, with an unexpected streak of goofiness as the story turns happier. Natasha Gooden has explosive energy as his long-lost daughter.
Prince throws everything into the mix, and can risk overloading her story. But the overflow of energy here is utterly irresistible. Some Like It Hip Hop sweeps to a triumphant finale, wave after wave of dancing, each one more amazing than the last.
To 19 November (0844 412 4322)
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