The Thunder Girls is an adaption of Melanie Blakes best-selling novel of the same name. It is currently having its world preview at The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays, Manchester, it broke box office records at The Lowry and is sold out. Last night we got to witness “the reunion dinner from hell.”
The play directed by Joyce Branagh focuses on hugely popular girl band from the ’80s The Thunder Girls, reuniting 30 years after they split. The setting is their reunion dinner.
From the youngest member of the band Carly, played by Sandra Marvin, opening solo number as she arrives at former bandmate Chrissie’s mansion we know we are in for a rollercoaster ride.
Carly out of all four of the ladies it seems has the most perfect and together life, happily married, nice house….but appearances can be deceiving as we found out as the evening progresses. She feels trapped in her marriage and what’s to find herself again. She has an axe to grind with bandmate Chrissie she wants her fair share of the writing credits for the songs the band sung, that Chrissie has stolen as her own. She quickly resumes her role as the peacekeeper of the and trying to make everyone get along.
Next, we are introduced to Roxanne (Beverley Callard), who hates Chrissie and knows Chrissie’s secret, and why they’ve all been invited to the dinner. Roxanne has her own fair share of secrets and problems which all spill out as the evening progresses. But it’s her hatred of Chrissie for stealing her boyfriend and the bands then-manager Rick (Gary Webster) that is driving force of her animosity.
Anita played by Coleen Nolan, doesn’t appear till the end of the first act, walking into the dinner to see Chrissie and Roxanne, trying to beat the hell out of each other in a spectacularly dramatic and over the top catfight, choreographed by Kaitlin Howard. As the second act unfolds we find out what happened with Anita, she basically disappeared off the face of the earth after an unfortunate and humiliating incident representing the UK at Eurovision in Vienna, not long after the band split, and is now very happily married to her wife for ten years and is living in Spain. This comes as a shock to the rest as she was known as “man-eater” in the band. She tells the band that Rick encouraged to her hide that part of her during the band, which is why she developed the reputation she did.
Then there is Chrissie( Carol Harrison), the “star” of the Thunder Girls, the one who has it all and is still popular. Except she really doesn’t. After conned by her toyboy husband Scott out of all her savings, she has nothing less and will lose her house. Chrissie though believes her own hype, and think she’s better than the other ladies. Which when the reason for the reunion is revealed, a one-off gig at Wembley Stadium, she finds it difficult to see whey the other ladies don’t want to do it.
The Thunder Girls is an absolutely delicious bitch fest. It’s full of humour and pop culture references that have the audience laughing, applauding and sniggering throughout the entire show. The dialogue is spot-on, Melanie Blake knows her audience.
The chemistry between all four actresses is clear to see, with some of the ad-libbing they do seeming to be seamless. Each is able to show the journey their characters go on, Sandra makes Carly instantly likeable from her first line, whereas Carol does a stellar job of showing how unlikable Chrissie is, to at the end showing her vulnerable side, in an emotional scene with Roxanne, which both her and Beverley delve deep to convey the strong feelings that both characters have held on to for 30 years. Anita delivers some brilliant one-liners, in a captivating performance from Coleen Nolan, in her first “proper” theatre role, outside of doing panto. It’s something we hope to see her do more of, as she appeared just at home on stage as an actress as she does singing.
The finale, “We are The Thunder Girls.”, was a fitting end to the show, it had the entire audience giving the cast and much deserved standing ovation, even singing along to the song, which is so catchy it stays in your head long after you’ve left the theatre. This one show we cannot wait to see go on the road!
Let us know at @CelebMix if you hope to catch The Thunder Girls goes on tour!