Cunard has announced an eclectic-sounding line-up of shows for the new Queen Elizabeth, which launches in October. We’re particularly intrigued by ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’, a big production that uses all 29 actors, singers, dancers and musicians in the newly-formed Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company. It’s one of those shows you’ve sort of heard of, but not quite a headline-grabber like ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Chicago’ have been for Royal Caribbean’s two newest ships.
So we’ve done a bit of digging and present you with ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ – The Facts:
- The show was written in 1989 by the Heather Brothers, four London-born brothers who were songwriters before they turned to musicals. They’ve adapted the production specially for Cunard.
- After Saturday Night, they wrote ‘Lust’, which played at London’s Haymarket Theatre, and ‘Blood Money’, which enjoyed a run in Philadelphia as well as the UK.
- The plot of ‘Saturday Night’ is essentially a group of seven love-struck teens (‘birds’ and ‘blokes’) flirting and fighting in a provincial disco, Club A Go-Go, in the 1960s, egged on by the club’s owner, Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ De Vere – perfect fodder for Cunard’s baby-boomer demographic.
- The show was first performed in a pub in Brighton in 1989 but made its West End debut shortly afterwards in a sell-out run at London’s Arts Theatre. It hit the big time with a 12-week spell at London’s Strand Theatre in 1993, with pop star Sonia as Sue, the main female lead, and Dennis Waterman as Eric, the lead ‘bloke’.
- Time Out gave it a glowing review: The Heather Brothers’ musical spoof on the Saturday night rituals of pubescent 17-year-old delinquents in the 60s is full of such clever, self-mocking charm that it’s difficult to come away feeling anything but thoroughly entertained … the real pleasure comes from the Brothers’ shameless poaching of an eclectic cross-section of famous 60s numbers — Cliff and the Shads to Bob Dylan via the Beatles — superb comic pastiche and sharp, cuff-link humour.
- The show has been translated into nine languages and there have been more than 300 productions since, as well as four national tours of Britain, two European tours and intriguingly, two of Japan.
- ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ also had a run off-Broadway, billed as ‘Café A Go-Go’, receiving critical acclaim.
- The cast started rehearsing in London and Northampton in mid-June and will move onto the ship for the launch in October.
Hats off to Cunard for trying something so ambitious; even if we’ve heard plenty of sixties material on cruise ships before, I like the fact that this is a full production with a plot and most importantly, proper musicians, not taped music. SJB