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Rehab the Musical | Neon 194 Piccadilly

There's certainly potential within REHAB the Musical with an energetic score, a cast of strong actors and fleeting moments of heart, yet so much is lost within a muddled tone that clouds the musical's intentions; whether this is supposed to be a caricaturist mockery or a well meaning drama is entirely unclear.

A song titled Wanker and a near suicidal overdose aren't two things that you would naturally expect to be correlated, and yet in REHAB the Musical they coincide in an ill-fitting concoction that feels less like a drug-induced trip and more of an attempt at infusing low-brow humour into a sensitive subject matter. While one could forgive the occasional misplaced song, the show has confusing choices - a man named Barry Bronze who has a tanning addiction, a song about loving cheese and an utterly bizarre villain side plot. What incurs is a plot that, if about a less serious subject matter would be ridiculous if not entertaining, however when paired with the seriousness of drug rehabilitation, feels distasteful and insensitive.

There are some positives within the show and it does hold potential that is close to being realised, yet it is undermined by the desire to trivialise the show's subject matter. The greatest strength comes in the form of the character Phil, played touchingly by Oscar Conlon-Morrey, who steals the show with its two strongest songs, Ordinary Girl and Still Here. If there's any genuine warmth and sincerity to be found in this show, its within Conlon-Morrey's performance, and a duet sung with his wife in the second act held the show at its most triumphant point. But sadly not even the character of Phil could escape the writing of Elliot Davis, who pens Phil as a cheese obsessed food addict who becomes the butt of jokes within the second act. This cumulating with The Cheese Song, a supposedly 'funny' song in which the characters liken their situation to the joys of cheese. Jodie Steele also gives a fantastic performance with a magnetic stage presence, yet leaves us desiring so much more with the little amount of material she is given to work with.

Jodie Steele's character is relegated to the side (although in some respects the main) plot of the show, which sees singer Kid Pop stitched up by his two music managers who form a devious plan to maintain the economic success of his image. If REHAB the Musical was to be a touching collage of people's stories from within rehab, then the show would score success with a story about humans at heart. Instead, writer Davis thrusts this plot into the centre of the narrative, rupturing any potential for this to be an authentic story from the heart. Instead we're forced to watch Keith Allen admittedly have a wail of a time as a deliciously evil villain and the fun is infectious; Allen's scenes are a joy to watch, the problem is they don't fit within a story about the triumphs and losses of overcoming addiction.

The final issue of REHAB the Musical comes in the form of the central protagonist 'Kid Pop', or rather Neil as he eventually chooses to go by. If not a strong plot, a show desperately requires compelling characters, and our protagonist seems slightly one dimensional. While there was potential for the character to evolve, the punkish and frankly detestable attitude the character holds at the start of act one continues to linger until the close of the show. There may be change, but it is so slight, and so egregiously unpleasant to begin with that that very little can warm us to Kid Pop. Surrounded by an array of far more compelling characters, one can't help but wish that the focus was more on the community of the rehabilitation centre rather than Kid Pop's frivolous shenanigans.

It's important to note that REHAB the Musical isn't entirely bad. There's so much heart and potential lying just beneath the surface, yet the uneven tone and misjudged narrative entirely undercuts the piece's ability to speak authentically and sincerely on the topic of rehabilitation. It's an unfortunate shame, as the topic has so much that begs to be musicalised, yet when approached with the intent to find cheap humour within the struggles of others, what is left is a musical that feels more insensitive than the wholesome uplifting quality it seeks to attain.


REHAB the Musical runs at Neon 194 Piccadilly until 17th February. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Mark Senior


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