Bristol Hippodrome


Love Me Tender - June 2015


I'm lovin it


Love Me Tender the musical rocked up to Bristol Hippodrome on Monday night and got the audience all shook up.

With a soul sister mixed with soap stars this production sorts the boys from the girls, metaphorically speaking.

Say What You Will this show has cross-dressing similarities to Twelfth Night coupled with Shakespearean sonnets and some seductive love songs.

Particularly poignant were the freeze frame moments when lovesick soloists in the spotlight blast out the lyrics of ‘one night with you’.

The principal players could all be potential candidates for a new dating site called mismatch.romcom!

On our way into the theatre we met a larger than life Mica Paris standing outside the stage door happily chatting to fans.

The television and stage performer who first made the charts nearly 30 years ago was completely unfazed that it was less than 10 minutes to curtain-up.

No-one was quite sure what to expect from this show and wondered if it would just be another excuse to string a succession of Elvis hits to a weak storyline ... wrong.

This show has got rhyme as well as pitch perfect singing, big dance routines (even when the troupe wore blue suede shoes) and some wonderful comedic timing.

It opens with gyrating jailbirds in the county gaol and moves swiftly on to a small town with no name where Sylvia (Mica) runs the local bar for ‘alcohol enthusiasts – not drunks’.

The wild one on the motorbike - described as ‘a caveman with the libido of an Italian football team’ - is played by chisel-chinned Ben Lewis as Chad.

His Herman Munster jaw line drops when he rejects the Suzi Quatro-style tomboy Laura Tebbutt (Natalie) only to fall for her ultra ego.

It is lovely to watch a show with imaginative, unobtrusive scene changes and sound clarity as opposed to previous multi-act productions where the actors are continuously rolling bits of the set back and forth.

Creating movement using props like the swinging saloon doors with human hinges was so amusingly imaginative.

And all’s well that ends well in the poignant deserted fairground finale.

This is when theatre erupted with thunderous applause to rock ‘n’ roll in the aisles.

This new musical featuring the music of Elvis Presley opened at Manchester's Opera House before heading for Bristol.

Reviewers gave it four stars but I’ll give it five.

Written by Memphis The Musical writer Joe DiPietro, the show is ‘inspired’ by the King of Rock 'n' Roll, and includes more than 25 of his songs.

Renamed for its UK premiere - Love Me Tender – it played Broadway under the title All Shook Up.

Love Me Tender is directed by Karen Bruce (Dance 'Til Dawn, Saturday Night Fever), with set design by Morgan Large, lighting design by James Whiteside, costume design by Vicky Gill and casting by James Orange.

Shaun Williamson, best known as Barry in EastEnders, plays Sylvia’s sidekick and Natalie’s father Jim while Aretha Ayeh is her daughter Lorraine.

The poet loving geek Dennis with the Martin Clune ears who wears trousers up to his armpits is aptly played by Mark Anderson.

This is a stellar company and all the principals and supporting cast should surely soon be taking a West End bow.

The show plays Bristol until Saturday, June 20.

Comic Eddie Large and his wife Patsy, who live at Portishead, were in the first night audience.

Eddie said: "It is magnificent - we have loving this show."

Now retired former Brunel Ford Bristol executive Roy Penney and his school secretary wife Helen, of Nailsea, also were raving about musical.

Helen said: “We went to the Hippodrome to see Love me Tender not really knowing what to expect.

“It turned out to be a wonderfully entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable musical using songs made famous by Elvis Presley. 

“The cast were superb, dance routines lively and energetic and the music speaks for itself.

“Our evening was made even more special by meeting the star of the show Mica Paris who was happy to pose for a photograph.

“A great night all round.”

Carol Deacon