I was lucky enough to be living in London when my passion for theatre developed. With the West End just a short tube journey away from my previous home, I had some of the country’s – and world’s – finest shows within comfortable reach.
Having moved out of the city several months ago, I’m now dealing with the fact that my obsession is just that little bit harder to feed; I’m also preparing myself to dabble in productions outside of London, hopeful that there are shows just as incredible as the ones that grace the West End stages.
Last week, I went to see Coventry-based musical Godiva Rocks at the Belgrade Theatre in the city centre. Despite being fully aware that it wouldn’t have the same production values and high-calibre cast as the shows I’ve seen in recent months, I was impressed with Libby Watson’s set design and lighting from the moment I stepped through the door. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of few things I admired about the show.
Set in the 1980s, Godiva Rocks focuses on a family of four; the father, Leo Freeman (Ross Gurney Randall), is slowly taking over the city with his redevelopment plans, much to the disgust of the people of Coventry. His daughter, Nell (Georgie Ashford), meets Patrick (Lejaun Sheppard) at a party and soon learns that he’s in search of who he believes to be his estranged father. The pair soon develop feelings for each other, but Leo fiercely opposes the match. With some cheesy duets and angst thrown in for good measure, Nell’s and Patrick’s stories soon wind together in the strangest of ways.
Frequent flashbacks to the 1960s show a trio of female singers – one of whom is Rosa (Alexia McIntosh), Patrick’s mother – and an on-going dispute over who is the most deserved lead singer. I’m sorry to say, this wasn’t the most coherent of storylines. It isn’t clear from the outset that the characters in the flashbacks are also characters from the show’s present day.
Alexia was without question the strongest performer in the show. Her voice was powerful, her solo was impressive and she was a joy to watch on stage. Judging by the cheers and applause in the room after she performed her solo, I wasn’t the only person of this opinion.
Other notable performances came from 2007 X Factor contestant, Niki Evans, playing the role of feisty singer, Bev, and Lejaun for his portrayal of Patrick. Both had good voices, although Lejaun’s didn’t quite gel with Georgie’s during their duets. And while Georgie had a good, yet unremarkable singing voice, I found her acting wooden and was surprised so learn that she’s appeared in the West End.
While there were aspects of the show I liked – the showcase of and passion for homegrown musicians, and seeing a city I’ve previously struggled to connect with brought to life on stage – Godiva Rocks felt more like a poor imitation of Dreamgirls than it did the ultimate Coventry musical.
Approx. running time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Understudies: none named