Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Stoke Review of Can't Smile Without You

Theatre Review: Can't Smile Without You – The Regent, Hanley (PICTURES)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 09:20

THE thought of one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes starring in a show based upon the music of Barry Manilow could be either a dream come true or the worst nightmare – depending on taste.
Thankfully, Bill Kenwright's production ensured Can't Smile Without You enjoyed a hugely successful first night at the Regent Theatre.

Chesney Hawkes as Tony With Siobhan Dillon and Jade Steele in Can’t Smile Without You at The Regent Theatre.

The story follows the fortunes of Tony Lowiman, played by Hawkes, and his band, the Romantics.

Their search for fame takes them to the U.S. where Tony falls for the conveniently named Mandy (Siobhan Dillon), but remains true to his fiancée Lucy (Francesca Jackson), who is meanwhile enjoying an illicit romance with Tony's best friend Steve. This love tangle is given a twist when Tony acquires a head injury and forgets about his romantic interests – both old and new.

The script is very much written around the music, resulting in an amusing, tongue-in-cheek introduction to the songs. For example, on their return to the U.S., the Romantics are faced with a crisis as cabaret singer Lola had ran off with Rico leaving the club Copacabana
in a bit of a fix.

Performances, all supported with a live orchestra, were consistently strong. Mandy (Dillon) sang with clear harmony throughout the show, including a poignant version of Could It Be Magic.
Hawkes also showcased his talents well as a solo artist in, for example, I Write The Songs, and as a band member in upbeat numbers such as New York Rhythm. Howard Samuels's portrayal of loud-mouthed talent-show host Jeff also stood out as he delivered an alternative version of the title song relating to lost profits rather than romance.

This contrast of styles provides diversity and a fresh edge to Manilow classics. However the production stopped short of being hilariously funny or as fully credible as a romantic drama. This was of little consequence as the audience clearly loved it.

Cheerful and cheesy, Can't Smile Without You provides a night of pure escapism, and is not just for Manilow fans. The show runs until Saturday. Call the box office on 0870 060 6649.

Fern Basnett


Clairey. said...

Great review. (:

I went to see it in Hanley last night also, & totally agree with you!

I saw it on 1st October at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, but yesterday's performance was even better. Maybe due to a combination of a bigger audience & better atmosphere. Fran was the star of the show once again! Claire. xx

Sara said...

Glad you enjoyed it again Claire don't suppose you managed to get any more pics for us? Or any Sories to Tell us.......