The Thunder Girls is a new show, premiering at The Lowry, that sold-out way before its opening night.
It is inspired by Melanie Blake’s book of the same name, of which the action in the play is just a small taster.
The novel follows the fortunes of four members of a girl band, 30 years after their chart-topping hey-day. Here we meet them as they reunite for the first time since an acrimonious split. Has time mellowed them or will sparks still fly? Yes, you’ve guessed it – put these four back in a room together and the result is explosive.
The band’s stars have faded but the careers of the actors who play them are as bright and crowd-pleasing as ever. We first meet Roxanne (Beverley Callard – Coronation Street’s Liz McDonald) and Carly (Sandra Marvin – Emmerdale’s Jessie Dingle) in a reception room to Chrissie’s enormous and showy mansion. Chrissie too is played by a well-known former soap star – Carol Harrison who played East Enders’ Louise Raymond.
On the surface, Chrissie has it all. She was the one who left the band to carve out a successful solo career and later kept her celebrity value high as a judge on a TV talent show. Gold discs line the walls along with Andy Warhol style prints of her face, and numerous trophies sit on every surface.
What starts as a nostalgia fest with popular 1980s references like ‘Girl’s World’ hair descends into a nasty pit of venomous sarcasm, as the frenemies scratch and tear at each other’s insecurities, sometimes literally. Only the promise of a Wembley performance and a £500,000 cheque in the bank keeps them in the same room.
It is fair to say this is the reunion dinner from hell, into which steps a smiling Coleen Nolan as the long-lost presumed dead Anita, bringing down the curtain on the first act to a true Loose Women welcome.
Thankfully the second act loses much of the stereotyped, catty bile that fuels the first, as Coleen plays to her strength of everyone’s best friend. Her presence tangibly lifts the mood, and her well-honed, comic timing brings some audience pleasing ad-libs.
Like any good girl band, each member gets a solo, but it works best of all when all sing together, ending on a catchy anthem that will leave you with an ear-worm.★ ★ ★
The Thunder Girls is at The Lowry, Salford Quays from 24-28 September 2019.