Updated: May 26, 2021
Written by Kate Prince and Felix Harrison, music by DJ Walde and Josh Cohen
Co-produced by ZooNation:The Kate Prince Company and Sadler's Wells
The Lowry, Lyric Theatre
11 October 2019 - 12 October 2019; 2hr
In my day, a school outing to the theatre involved best behaviour, awe-struck silence and much gratitude for being allowed into the grown-up world. So I am thrilled every time I find myself at the theatre with young people who are ready to leap to their feet and cheer at the power of dance and great music.
Some Like It Hip Hop has just this effect, with its tight, disciplined choreography melded with the exhilaration and energy of street dance and powerful storytelling.
The show is back after a six-year break, with at least two members of the cast reprising roles they danced in 2013 – Tommy Franzen (also choreographer, with Kate Prince and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille) as the break-dancing polymath Simeon, and Natasha Gooden as the governor's estranged daughter Oprah.
Does it feel dated? Not according to the almost-teenager who came with me. She knew the names of the moves and shapes and loved it all – but added: “I think dad would have enjoyed it, he likes old-style hip-hop”.
The music delves into Blues and soul, pays respectful homage to Aretha Franklin and the Blues Brothers, tips its hat to Stevie Wonder and drops a sly nod to Don McLean. So plenty for those who go back a little further than hip hop.
The fable of the city whose ruling governor hides the sun when the light goes out of his life, then shores up his position (and masculinity) by banning books and reducing woman to servitude, is a complex one that skates on rather thin ice today. While its cross-dressing and mistaken identities do reference the Tony Curtis/Jack Lemmon film and Twelfth Night, for today’s audience there is much more to consider.
Are issues of gender, equality and sexual abuse simply too big to be addressed and resolved so light-heartedly? Can the oppressor be forgiven so easily? And why couldn’t the girl have got the girl, rather than a stepmother?
For my young audience there was no dilemma. They booed and hissed at the treatment of the women, they gasped at the reveals and cheered the happy endings.
But mostly we were bowled over by the sheer force of talent on stage. Singers Anelise Lamola, Sheree DuBois and DJ Walde, along with narrator Dwayne Nosworthy, integrated seamlessly with the dancers as they belted out their numbers.
(A prize for the person who can name another show in which singers perform from the inside of washing machines).
The acrobatic skills of the dancers are extraordinary – and the casually competent way in which the cross-dressed women (Lizzie Gough and Jade Hackett) mimic the stereotypical male dance moves is a very clever put-down.
Chris Alozie as the governor wore the sharp villain suit very well, and was truly terrifying as he and his horror-movie shadow raged across the set.
Aside from a slight dip in pace in the middle of Act 1, and a well-handled break for a cast substitution (due to a minor injury) we barely paused for breath. A fabulous family show with wit, excitement and jaw-dropping energy:grab some young people and go.