Jukebox musicals in the West End have come in all shapes, sizes and colours -- whether presented as biographical accounts of the lives of songwriters from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys) and Carole King (Beautiful), or as new stories folding the songs into them (Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You). But never before has a jukebox show been presented by the filthy-mouthed teenage members of a Scottish convent school choir, heading to Edinburgh to participate in a singing competition from their native Oban, as they do in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. Here, they will sing celestial versions of Mendelssohn, Bartok, Bach, Handel and Vaughan Williams -- but most of all, the songs of Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra.
Lee Hall, who also previously wrote the musical Billy Elliot, folds that music -- sourced, arranged and supervised by Martin Lowe -- into the fabric of an adaptation of Alan Warner's novel The Sopranos that tells an often bawdy, boisterous back story of the performers' lives and a day in Edinburgh where they are quickly thrown out of the singing competition, but manage instead to get comprehensively drunk and, for some of them, explore their sexuality as well. "Fuck the singing, we’re just gonna go mental," they declare, and they do.
Vicky Featherstone's production manages the tonal shifts between the outrageous and sensitive with deep feeling. The girls are frequently raucous to be sure; but there are also reservoirs of pain, not least in the portrait of one of them who has survived a cancer diagnosis.
The show is part concert -- some of the audience join the party seated at tables on either side of the stage -- and part play. It is performed with wonderful warmth, zest and feeling by a powerfully voiced ensemble of six, backed by a three-piece onstage female band.
Though the over-ripe language may prove too much for some traditional audiences, the show provides an electrifying shock of female energy to the West End.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour tickets are on sale to 2 September
What the Press Said...
"A highly experimental, potassium-in-water mixture of the sacred and profane."
Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph
"Sublime singing and an exhilarating blast of female agency."
Fiona Mountford for The Evening Standard
External links to full reviews from popular press