Reprinted with permission from David's Daily Dramas Blog
It is being performed in arenas rather than theatres and on entering the MEN arena it was easy to see why. The set was a life size replica of the famous terrace placed lengthways across the arena floor. I took my seat in the 3rd row outside No. 11 and waited for the action to begin.
Corrie has been broadcast longer than I have been alive and over the five decades I have followed the ups and downs and big storylines of the famous cobbled street. Paul O'Grady is a famous fan of the Street and he opened the show and took the role of narrator leaping across the decades to the various storylines now being presented in song. He was joined by current character Julie Carp (Katy Cavanagh) who was playing the Angel of Death picking off some of the many characters who had died in the show. This to me was a mistake, she made it all veer towards panto with her ridiculous outfit and the jokes between her and Paul O'Grady were a bit childish and unnecessary to the story.
The first two numbers were Ena Sharples from the opening episode in the corner shop ("I said no eclairs") and Martha Longhurst dying in the Rovers, both done really well. There was an orchestra on the rooftops and then a huge screen showing the original footage from the story lines.
Next came who I regard as the queen of the cobbles, Elsie Tanner! Kym Marsh played Elsie from the 60s and looked fabulous - and to me was the star of this show. She has leading lady written all over and had the best voice of the night. Elsie left The Street but returned in the 70s in colour and was played by Jodie Prenger, fuller figured, red haired but still as feisty. The best moment in the whole show was a song between the two Elsies.
Famous for its ballsy, blousey women who come back fighting no matter what life throws at them we next met Bet Lynch. With her blonde beehive, leopard skin and short skirt she sang Just A Bit Of Lippie and was joined with a whole chorus of Bets dancing on stage. As the song reached the last chorus the set opened to reveal Julie Goodyear, who played Bet Lynch, to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. It was fabulous that she did it but looking like a 90 year old drag queen in a panto outfit and not a singer she was obviously there just as a name to sell tickets.
As famous for its comedy moments as its tragedy we were treated to Jack & Vera and the Vince St. Clair story and Stan & Hilda's second honeymoon: "What does that lipstick taste of?" "Woman Stanley, woman." My only criticism of Hilda was that we should have been introduced to her in her curlers and mac with the dirty collar as she only had her rollers out half a dozen times in her Corrie carear.
Fast tracking to more modern times there was a great number from Becky McDonald, with a number of Beckys in her different signature outfits including both wedding dresses. This worked really well but the scene with Sean was a complete disaster. He sang a song at his sewing machine about sewing gussets and dreaming of a more glamorous life. Cue two Priscilla-type drag queens and a butterfly costume as he was hoisted over the audience. With Canal Street being a tram ride away he could get a taste of that life any night of the week, it just didn't make sense.
The show ended with the tram crash and the Angel of Death going into overdrive killing everyone. Great effects with the street bursting into flames but being so close I could feel my eyebrows singeing. For some unexplained and unknown reason in the big finale number with everyone on stage Russell Watson appeared and sang the last song. This also didn't make any sense.
All in all I enjoyed it but more so because I am a fan of the show. The plot had more holes in it than Ena's hairnet and it could and would need to be a lot better to ever make it to the West End, which it could easily with some more work.
With some really outstanding moments and strong songs it definitely wasn't the tram crash it could have been, but it did try too hard to be funny which was just not necessary. I clocked a number of Brighton & London A gays there, along with the coach loads of pensioners so there is an audience for this show and I'd give it a 7 out 10, boosted mostly by Kym Marsh's outstanding portrayal of Elsie.
David McDonagh, May 2012
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