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26th October 2023

Review: Wong Foo The Musical at Hope Mill Theatre

To Wong Foo: The Musical is a drag-tastic sensation, where the performances are as fierce as the runway and the laughter reigns supreme
Review: Wong Foo The Musical at Hope Mill Theatre
Photo: Wong Foo The Musical @ Hope Mill Theatre

To Wong Foo: The Musical, inspired by the beloved 1995 film, offers a glitzy and campy ride through the lives of three drag queens: Vida Boheme (Peter Caulfield), Noxeema Jackson (Gregory Haney), and Chi Chi Rodriguez (Pablo Gómez Jones). Set in the vibrant backdrop of ’90s New York, the show channels the iconic humour and heart of its source material. The plot revolves around the unexpected detour of three drag queens on their way to the Drag Queen of the Year finals in Hollywood, promising an entertaining evening filled with memorable moments and unforgettable one-liners.

The cast is lauded for their spirited performances, with each actor bringing authenticity and charm to their respective characters. Caulfield’s portrayal of Vida is a mesmerising highlight, exuding depth and vulnerability that draws the audience into the character’s journey. His chemistry with Carolyn Maitland‘s Carol Ann is electric, adding a layer of authenticity and emotion to their scenes. Jones, in the role of Chi Chi, delivers a performance that seamlessly combines humour and heart. His interactions with Alexander Kranz and Emily Ooi are nothing short of delightful, infusing the production with a dose of genuine charm and emotion. Haney’s Noxeema, initially presented as enigmatic and distant, undergoes a captivating transformation, skilfully taking the audience on a heartfelt journey of self-discovery. Haney’s vocals are not just noteworthy but exceptional, with each note adding emotional depth to the character’s arc.

The supporting cast, including Samantha Bingley as Rose of Sharon and Susie Fenwick as Clara Paul, adds depth and richness to the overall ensemble. Their performances contribute significantly to the musical’s strength, forming a well-rounded and cohesive ensemble. The creative team, including Dan Light‘s video design, should be commended for their contributions. Lewis Flinn‘s original score is mesmerising, setting the show apart from its peers.

The show’s music, a blend of club vibes, country twangs, and musical theatre pizzazz, is catchy and sure to have you humming along on the way home. The production’s visual elements, including eye-popping costumes (by Gregory Gale) and energetic choreography (Jane McMurtrie), capture the essence of the characters, adding to the overall experience.

Throughout the show, the cast’s collective performance in songs like  ‘Strawberry Social Rave’, ‘Roadtrip’, ‘Don’t Mess with Snydersville,’ and ‘Red and Wild,’ truly shines, showcasing their talent and enhancing the overall impact of the production. Each actor brings a unique element to the stage, making Wong Foo a dynamic and memorable theatrical experience.

Despite its entertainment value, Wong Foo may not quite reach the depth of some other notable productions, such as Priscilla Queen of The Desert and Kinky Boots. However, it compensates for this with a fair amount of wit in the script, delivered excellently by Haney as Noxeema. The ending reaffirms the musical’s message of unity and tolerance.

To Wong Foo: The Musical is a fun and idealistic show with significant potential. Its thematic backdrop addresses themes of acceptance and growth, which remain relevant today. For those who enjoy a dose of glitter, humour, and heart, this musical beckons with open arms. It is undoubtedly a production worth seeing before its run concludes at Hope Mill Theatre on 17 December 2023.

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