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Bronco Billy | Charing Cross Theatre

A little cowboy show with big heart, Bronco Billy is testament to the brilliance of feel-good theatre; it may not be groundbreaking, but if you're looking for an evening full of laughs, great music, an impressive set and a fantastic cast, the Charing Cross Theatre is the place to be.

Some shows are emotional, some shows are intellectual, and then some shows just want to be a fun time; Bronco Billy is the most fun I've had at the theatre in a long time, and a masterclass in how to entertain. With a lightning fast pace and strong characterisations brought to life with a brilliantly talented cast led effortlessly by Emily Benjamin and Tarinn Callender, the slick production doesn't miss a single beat as it throws its audience into a thrilling adventure full of heart and action. Whilst the show may leave one desiring a little more comedy - humour is found more in the campy silliness of the show's plot and tone, rather than belly-laugh lines - the tone of the show is so impeccably crafted, one struggles to find fault: this is a show that knows what it wants to be and succeeds in delivering it in the most joyous way.

The cast here are an absolute joy to watch, full of familiar faces and charisma. Callender and Benjamin make for a brilliant leading couple, sharing a charming chemistry and a believably entertaining double act. Callender in the title role manages to bring a multifaceted depiction of the showman; he balances the superficial yet loveable cowboy act while revealing a volatile and broken human in the centre. The same can be said for Benjamin, who shines in this star turn she has been long deserving and delivers both a powerful and sweet vocal performance.

The dynamic duo are supported by a colourful cast of characters, and the show succeeds in giving its ensemble compelling arcs and identities, truly cementing the importance of family within the narrative. The show troupe also impress with their circus skills - juggling, nifty magic tricks and impressive lasso skills truly sell the talented bunch, and sprinkles of magic throughout their scenes. One of the greatest praises however, has to go to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who gives a deliciously wicked performance as the show's antagonist as Constance Lily. Her 70's disco inspired number earned the loudest applause of the night and provided plenty of laughs and brilliant comedic performances. If we had a cast album it would most certainly be on repeat!

I was thrilled to find that Amy Jane Cook's innovative set packs the show with genius surprises and manages to make the limited space feel expansive. Being a cross-country adventure, the ability to portray a variety of locales was necessary to bring the story to life, and Cook does this with ease and fluidity, breathing further energy into the show with a turntable and ever-evolving centre set piece. Paired with John Bulleid's illusions which genuinely shock, impress and dazzle, Bronco Billy stuns its audience with a production design which lives up to the theatricality of its titular character.

A lively score by Chip Rosenbloom, John Torres and Michelle Brourman drives the show with orchestrations by David O fittingly in the style of country, spaghetti-western soundtrack and 70s disco. This variety makes the music a very easy listen, constantly engaging and thematically immersive, and while the show may lack a detailed and intelligent score, its upbeat joy and strong lyrics carry the show, while infusing moments of delicate emotion within. Director Hunter Bird stages these numbers inventively, ensuring the stage never feels too crowded and never allowing for a static moment.

Before seeing Bronco Billy, I would have never thought that London was so in need of a campy, silly cowboy show with disco balls, clowns and sword fights, yet Bronco Billy earns its place in the heart of London by sharing a brilliant heart of its own. As silly as the prospect of the show may be, through an excellent production team, the dream of this show is realised perfectly: if you're looking for escapism, Bronco Billy is most certainly the answer.

Bronco Billy is running at the Charing Cross Theatre until 7th April. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by The Other Richard


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