Review: Some Like it Hip Hop - Peacock Theatre
Reviewed: 25 September
It’s hard to imagine a shape or movement of the human body that did not cycle at top speed through the well-toned physiques of the ultra-enthusiastic cast of Zoonation’s Some Like It Hip Hop at Tuesday night’s performance. The show is now in revival at the Peacock Theatre after a successful run last year. On one level it’s a rather puzzling creation; a sort of amalgamation of a musical fable and a contemporary version of a dance revue, but it basically boils down to an excuse for a bunch of prodigiously talented young dancers to show off their breakin’, b-boyin’, street, pop music video, acrobatic ambitions. And this they do with enough energy to power a small city for at least a week.
Some Like It Hip Hop is definitely a dance extravaganza first and a book musical second. Although many of the songs are real toe-tappers, they sound suspiciously similar to the pop chart toppers of recent years, and the story, well, I kept getting confused. The story purports to be a cross between Some Like It Hot, the Marilyn Monroe classic directed by Billy Wilder, and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but despite some undercover cross dressing, thematically I didn’t see all that much of either. It seems that the governor of a kind of post-industrial fairy tale city got grumpy one day and in a move of seriously totalitarian megalomania extinguished the sun, burned all the books and banished all the women in his jurisdiction to either exile or humiliating subservience to the men folk.
The evil consequences of this were narrated by an everyman figure (Ross Green), and expressed through angrily executed, snappy breakdance moves and a sort of swiftly angular sign language reminiscent of voguing. But underdogs abound in this cartoon dystopia and we are soon introduced to a gaggle of plucky protagonists who both defy and perpetuate stereotypes as they boldly protest the regime and dance their way into getting kicked out of the city, dance their way back in again, and then do it again. It seems that to like books and be smart you must wear a cardigan and thick-rimmed glasses, and as a girl you might be plenty clever and gutsy but still go all dumb and gooey when a good looking fella comes along. Serious social commentary this is not.
But in an interview in the programme, Zoonation leader and creator of Some Like It Hip Hop, Kate Prince says that entertaining her audience is her number one priority, and this she surely did with the help of her exuberant proteges. The individual and group numbers were so dense with lightning fast movement that the dancers would have seemed a blur had they not been nailing right on the head and with exacting precision, every shape and tricky combination. The whole group is remarkable for this, but Tommy Franzen of So You Think You Can Dance fame, is such a magnetic performer that he nearly stole the show right out from underneath the rest of the crew. Even in the big group numbers he shone as though he was veritably lit up from within, making it almost impossible to watch anyone else. I don’t know what he has for breakfast but we should all be on it.
There seemed no other option but to stand up during the protracted and bubbly curtain call, and the encores just kept coming as audience members danced out into the aisles and the cast all aptly sang the phrase “Don’t let me hear you say you can’t dance!” on joyful repeat. In fact not dancing was practically impossible, so infectious was their energy. I found myself grinning and bouncing, the ten-year-old friend I was with was gleefully drumming the air with invisible drumsticks, and both of us danced down the aisle and out into the street. In short, don’t go to Some Like It Hip Hop for the story or a critique of social injustice; you’ll be disappointed. But the feel-good factor and the super fly dancing, are well worth the price of admission.
Some Like it Hip Hop, Peacock Theatre until 13 October
Jeffrey Gordon Baker is a New Yorker in London studying for a PhD in Aesthetic Theory at Birkbeck College, University of London.
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