The RSC’s Christmas production is an ambitious new musical based on David Walliams’ children’s book The Boy in The Dress.
Move over Matilda, there’s a new RSC star in town and he’s wearing an orange sequin dress.
With music by Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams, it’s incredible to see the RSC branching into something fresh, contemporary and perfect for a 21st century family audience. Telling the heart-warming story of Dennis, a twelve year old boy who lives in a town where everything and everyone is ordinary. When he befriends the popular girl in school Lisa who dreams of being a fashion designer. His interest in fashion grows.
It’s certainly not the easiest to adapt from the stage, but Mark Ravenhill and the creative team have excelled in turning this well-loved book into an entirely magical production. The design is sensational as we are taken visually on a beautiful journey through Dennis’ story.
Robert Jones has mastered creating a world that feels authentic, yet is heightened as if it stepped straight out a children’s book. The scenes shift seamlessly from the school classroom, to the football pitch and even an out of this world fashion show – complete with bright lights and disco balls.
Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers’ score is a breath of fresh air on musical theatre. They bring classic britpop-style sounds to create musical numbers that have impact. Everything from Disco Symphony – a song that could go straight to number on in the UK charts. To the emotionally charged A House Without A Mum, and the girl-group vibes of A Girl Who’s Gonna Be that feels like a fusion of Destiny’s Child, Little Mix and SIX the musical.
Underneath the high-powered numbers and innovative design, is a story with real heart and importance. It’s about being who you want to be and accepting others for who they are. Jackson Laing who played Dennis is an exceptional talent. His performance feels real and sincere – making the story even more moving. With a remarkable voice and natural stage presence, Laing shines on stage.
As the prettiest girl in school, Lisa James is played by Asha Banks. With stellar vocals and charming character, her friendship with Dennis is beautiful to watch grow. Dennis’ father struggles to accept him who he is. Dealing with problems of his own, their relationship is complex. Rufus Hound plays the role exceptionally bringing superb humour to the show.
Natasha Lewis is tremendously funny as Dennis’ friend Darvesh’s overbearing mum, whose pride for her son gets a little out of hand. Forbes Masson’s animated portrayal of the evil headteacher exudes everything you imagine a storybook villain to be.
The Boy in the Dress is a sensational new British musical bursting with heart, passion and humour. It’s beautifully uplifting, full of theatrical flair and all wrapped up with a touching message about being true to yourself.
On at the RSC until the 8th of March, tickets and information can be found on their website.
Photo credit // Manuel Harlan