Love Me Tender (UK Tour) – Sunderland Review
Sylvia – Mica Paris
Jim – Shaun Williamson
Chad – Ben Lewis
Natalie – Laura Tebbutt
Mayor Matilda Hyde – Sian Reeves
Dennis – Mark Anderson
Miss Sandra – Kate Tydman
Lorraine – Aretha Ayeh
Dean Hyde – Felix Mosse
Sheriff Earl – Chris Howell
Show Date – Saturday 18th July 2015 (Matinee)
A brand new musical which is inspired by Elvis Presley using many of his greatest songs and maybe a couple you have never heard before (there was certainly some that I was introduced to during the show). All put together with a story and plenty of engaging characters and many twists and turns to follow along with.
Set in a small town in the middle of no-where that you have never heard of. Yes really it says that in the background at the start of the show. Just to set the scene a little bit after we see a jailhouse and a man being released from the prison. That man is Chad and as soon as he arrives in the small town he turns it upside down.
He’s charming a womaniser and loves to dance. He pretty much starts off a series of events with a lot of love flying all over the place between well pretty much everyone! It does get quite complicated in the end, but that wasn’t a bad thing it worked very well for the show and being able to fit so many incredible Elvis songs in. But this is not a tribute to Elvis in the sense of the way the songs are used. It is using and respecting his music but placing them in a story and the way some of them have been put together really was impressive.
A particular highlight had to be the mash-up of Teddy Bear and Hound Dog that worked very well. As well as the closing to act 1 with Can’t Help Falling in Love with You with all of the main cast having lines and singing together it was a very powerful way to close the first act, I mean I love that song it has some amazing lyrics.
The performances were brilliant from every single member of the cast. As soon as Chad came onto the stage I recognised Ben Lewis, but had to wait until the interval to read the programme and see that I had seen him in the incredible Forbidden Broadway in the West End last year. He is an incredibly talented performer and really proves that in this show as well. Straight away as he arrives in the town Natalie who is a mechanic falls in love with him. Her father Jim is concerned as she is acting differently and he cannot handle the thought of losing her.
Mica Paris and Shaun Williamson are the two biggest names that are in the show and both look like they are enjoying their roles in the show and were lovely at the stage door after the show, very appreciative of the support and coming along to watch the show. Something like that is always nice to have happening! Shaun Williamson is most well-known for being Barry in Eastenders but he has now appeared in a lot of different shows and had a very good American accent and his singing fit in well with the character. Mica Paris has an incredible voice and totally owned the stage every single time she was on it.
I won’t give too much away in terms of the different stories and love as I don’t think it would be possible to get it all right. So many people falling in love with another person and plenty of triangles being formed. I could not help but enjoy the Shakespeare references with a sonnet but then linking to Twelfth Night with a gender undercover swap. Parts also remind you of Footloose and Rock of Ages, in terms of music and dancing being illegal. I am not saying it’s a copy just some similarities which make this show really something else.
It also features some very talented young performers who I am sure we will have to watch out for in the future as well to see what they will do next. When Aretha Ayeh (Lorraine) first started singing I actually found myself saying “wow” what an incredible voice she has, certainly a one to watch out for. It is a very fun feel good show, which has you wanting to sing along (don’t worry you get a chance at the end). But it also has some harder hitting moments as well, looking at interracial relationships as well as gay relationships, although the latter isn’t exactly what you may think.
Laura Tebbutt as Natalie is another to watch out for and puts in a terrific performance as the more tom boy style girl to begin with and showing how she changes for a man. But then also pretending to be a man which leads to some very funny moments. She is another with a great voice, I really think they have managed to put together such a talented cast.
It seems to be very hard now for a new musical to make it and last very long, I really hope that this one manages to stick around after the current UK Tour is finished. It really does have a clever story, makes you laugh and feel good all at the same time. Just proving how good Elvis’ songs were and still have so much relevance. I also think it could introduce younger people to his music, as I did not know all of the songs which I think is a good thing in finding new ones out!
So please give this show a chance if it is still to come to a town/city near you as it really is worth the money for a ticket!