Cycling home this evening, I was informed by the bus shelters of Oxford – always my arbiter of what’s hot and what’s not - that Rod Stewart’s stage show Tonight’s The Night is coming to the New Theatre.
What a grim evening that must be. The mere concept of a musical cobbled together from a performer’s disparate works is bad enough, but at least the two previous examples of which I’m aware - Abba’s Mamma Mia and Queen’s We Will Rock You - have in their favour a consistency of artistic vision afforded by the songs having the same compositional origin. Never mind that Abba are the most overrated band in the history of popular music, their trite and simplistic pap fully deserving of its ultimate place in the karaoke hall of infamy; never mind that Queen’s show was scripted by Ben Elton, a man whose last sitcom was so inept and exasperating that I had to leave the room before I put my foot through the television in fury. At least all the songs in these shows were written by the same people and can therefore be justifiably lumped together with an expectation of some sort of stylistic cohesion. That’s not the case with Rod Stewart. Even before his recent disastrous forays into the classic American songbook of the last century (has there ever been a less appropriate voice for interpreting that material?), his career has always been founded on other people’s songs. How on earth do you set about creating a fluid show while trying to cram in everything from Sailing to Maggie May to Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? And for good measure the Rod Stewart musical has also employed Ben Elton, a man who surely made a deal with the devil to get to write Blackadder in exchange for a lifetime’s penance of journeyman musical theatre misery.
However, it is none of these factors which has definitively dissuaded me that Rod’s show is the one for me. No, that honour goes to the uncredited reviewer from The Mail On Sunday whose quote adorns the advertising. ”Miss it at your peril!” cautions the poster. Well, I don’t like being threatened like that. The reviewer from The Mail On Sunday is explicitly warning me that if I don’t see the show I will be placing myself in danger, and I don’t think that I should buckle to that sort of intimidation. Apart from anything else I’m intrigued to discover into what sort of peril I might be placing myself. It’s a curious word, peril. I’ve noticed it cropping up on those oddly specific captions they put on television commercials for forthcoming films, usually kids’ cartoons - ”Contains scenes of mild peril”. If that’s what the reviewer from The Mail On Sunday has in mind for me, I’m willing to risk it. Scenes of mild peril in kids’ cartoons invariably end with the protagonists surviving unscathed, albeit occasionally a little bruised or singed. Well, I’ll take seeing a few stars or twittering birds over having to hear Baby Jane ever again any time, and I advise my fellow bus shelter passers-by to stand strong as well. Because bearing in mind that I saw the poster in two or three different locations, that’s a lot of people currently being imperilled by The Mail On Sunday‘s reviewer. You wonder quite how he or she is going to manage to execute peril on such a grand scale. The organisational side of it - keeping tabs on who’s read the poster, cross-referencing that with who’s crumbled and bought a ticket (possibly by means of one of John Venn’s diagrams - you see how useful they really are?), dispatching dedicated Peril Squads to exact whatever form of mildness is considered appropriate - is really quite a huge undertaking. You also have to question what’s in it for The Mail On Sunday. Perhaps there’s some sort of mutual arrangement between the producers of Tonight’s The Night and the publishers of the newspaper. Maybe when you arrive at the theatre the ushers, by means of payback for the coercion which has brought about miraculous full houses for a ragbag montage of mediocre songs, will have placed on each seat a copy of The Mail On Sunday for our perusal. With a Post-It note attached declaring ”Subscribe or else!”
If I am found dead next week, choked by a rolled up newspaper with a mocking copy of Atlantic Crossing tucked under my arm, at least evidence of the conspiracy will be here for all to see.