Satin ‘n’ Steel is a jukebox musical done the right way round. Author, Amanda Whittington, has started with a good story and added songs to it. The result is an unoriginal, but compelling tale of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl.
Done the other way round, with the songs leading and the plot struggling for justification, the result is often vapid nostalgia (Dreamboats and Miniskirts, for example).
The play revolves around a seasoned professional inducting a naive newcomer into the world of showbiz, with romance along the way. Acting space, plot and action are kept compact and on a very tight leash.
Teena, Kilka John, is entered for a talent competition by her mum. Enter conflicted Lothario Vince, who spots that her voice could add value to his own fading star and convinces her to form a duo with him.
Touring the Northern club circuit, Teena develops as a singer to the point where she is the show stopper and Vince the make-weight. The songs are carefully chosen to reflect the beer and fags atmosphere of the venues, a mixture of schmaltzy sentimentality and power ballads. Inevitably, she is spotted for a London venue, and has to leave Vince behind.Kilka John has been handed a dream of a role as the play offers so much space for development in acting and singing. She seizes the opportunity and the audience ride the wave of her enthusiasm as she succeeds in winning applause.
Tom Roberts’ Vince has a much darker path to tread as his past catches up with him and his life in showbiz continues to decline. Roberts has just the right mix of pathos and sleaze to keep audiences engaged with his half of the story.
Director Gareth Tudor Price, ably supported by lighting designer Graham Kirk, has done a fine job in pitching the downbeat set and lighting to a level many of us might remember from the dingier Northern clubs.
On the Thursday before seeing the compact Satin’n’ Steel, I had been to a big production with chorus, full orchestra and multiple soloists. I much preferred this intimate and affecting tale of love and endurance.
It’s at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on Tuesday April 7 at 7.45pm.
Review: Mike Tilling