What do you get when you put four women, who used to be in an 80's girl group, together in the same room after a messy break and not seeing each other for 30 years? The reunion dinner from hell!
That’s the premise of brand-new play The Thunder Girls adapted from Melanie Blake’s bestseller of the same name. The plot description has certainly proved an attraction to the general public, breaking the record for the fastest ticket sales for a new play in The Lowry where it premiered with a five night run this week.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be part of a successful girl group then this is a warts and all account of what really goes on behind the scenes.
A quartet of TV’s best loved women come together to star in the lead roles of fab foursome – Carly is played by Emmerdale’s Sandra Marvin, Roxanne by Coronations Street’s Beverley Callard, Chrissie is played by Eastender’s Carol Higson and Loose Women’s Coleen Nolan stars as Anita. This is a refreshing play which puts women at the forefront and provides meaty roles for female actresses over a certain age (something still lacking in the theatre industry).
The Thunder Girls is primarily about betrayal and lost friendships, with the women coming back together after an offer on the table to make a huge amount of cash for a Wembley reunion performance. Cue the reveal of buried secrets, grudges galore and a double wearing of spanx during their two and half hour meet up.
The actresses give it their all throughout and really encapsulate the characters with Beverley Callard coming to the forefront as Roxy, the band member with the strongest axe to grind and gifted with some of the best one liners I’ve heard in a show.
Callard was a little shaky at the start (possibly press night nerves) but after ten minutes in she found her stride and by god did she pack a punch for the rest of it. Another surprise performance came from Coleen Nolan in her acting debut, pulling off the role of Anita with a huge amount of sass and believability (well supported by the mass of Loose Women fans in the audience who even applauded her entrance).
Kudos to Sandra Marvin for opting to sing live as she opened up The Thunder Girls, whilst the other three disappointedly opted for lip syncing their solos to tracks that sounded heavily auto tuned (but maybe this was a nod to the girl band world of the past where this was the norm).
The show is not short of plenty of laughs throughout as a result of the constant catty and frank lines, the biggest howl of the night going to Sandra Marvin’s character Carly as she replies to the question, ‘Did you get your boobs done?’ with ‘Nah it’s just cake…I owe everything to Mr. Kipling!’
For the most part this is a slanging match extravaganza, which despite being fun to watch (especially the hair pulling and rolling about catfights) does feel at parts a little laboured and over-long. It’s early days for the show though as this was essentially the preview run so here’s hoping that there’s some editing along the way for the first half which will keep the pace going.
Producer, creative and casting director, this is truly author Melanie Blake’s baby and she has given birth to a show which will appeal to the masses (just as much as her novel has). Blake’s own background in the music industry as an agent makes this even more of an insightful watch and in parts the cheekiness gets quite close to the bone with its references to real life pop stars such as Girls Aloud and Bananarama.
There’s also an in-house joke about Steps singer Claire Richards with the women saying she was ‘always the best’ one in the 90’s group (Melanie Blake was Claire’s agent and was sitting in the audience on press night so you can imagine the reaction that received).
It’s obvious all four actresses on stage are having a riot, you can see it in their eyes and at the end of the show they look as pumped up as a girl band after playing a real-life concert. They succeed at instantly getting the crowd on their feet, singing and dancing to the anthemic ‘We Are the Thunder Girls’.
With a few tweaks to the length and perhaps the risk of all the women singing live then this show could go far – it’s definitely a hit with the audience and has the feel-good factor to the max. You will leave with a good dose of ‘Girl Power’ and a huge smile on your face!
Runs at The Lowry until 28th September-a nationwide tour is to follow.