REVIEW: 20th Century Boy at The Kings Theatre, Southsea
'˜Will anybody ever care?'
That was the question being posed in one of the final songs of last night’s 20th Century Boy musical, the first of three shows at the Kings Theatre celebrating T Rex in general and Marc Bolan in particular.
As cast members beautifully sang the line from Dandy In The Underworld, the overwhelming answer was a breath-taking ‘yes’.
It’s been over 40 years now since Bolan – the glam rock superstar who always wanted to be bigger than The Beatles – died in a car crash just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday. His last ever UK concert had been in Portsmouth a few months earlier, at The Locarno supported by punk outfit The Damned.
He left behind a back catalogue of foot-tapping pop-rock classics such as Get It On, Children Of The Revolution, Jeepster, Metal Guru, Ride a White Swan and, of course, the song the musical takes its name from.
All were gloriously showcased last night as a cast of just nine – plus a backing band – led us through Bolan’s life, from growing up as a ‘street punk in Hackney’ (to quote his own words) to UK chart topping status (four number ones, 11 top 10 hits) in the early 1970s.
Though all eyes throughout were focussed on George Maguire as Bolan, the three leading women in the singer’s life – mum Phyllis Feld, wife June Child and lover Gloria Jones – all delivered some stunning vocals to breathe fresh life into some of the 26 songs.
Two stood out for me. The first was a stunning, haunting, rendition of Whatever Happened To The Teenage Dream as the star, high on drugs and drink, saw his life start to spiral out of control after the realisation that the days of ‘Bolanmania’ were long gone.
The second saw all three women take it in turn to sing a highly emotional, evocative version of Dandy In The Underworld following Bolan’s death, in September 1977 in London.
It was a ‘hairs standing up on the back of your neck’ moment and wonderfully performed.
More so, it provided vivid proof that there was so much more to Marc Bolan’s music than just classic glam rock tunes and the electric guitar producer Tony Visconti introduced him to.
If you love Bolan’s music, you can’t fail to enjoy this show. And as the man himself used to say, it helps to keep a ‘little Marc in your heart.’
So yes, a lot of people still care...