This year, HOME’S Orbit Festival explores the ‘prevailing divide’ between people and how it can be conquered. I doubt that there’s a show in the programme that could be more joyfully effective at bringing an audience together than Paul O’Donnell’s imagined Bon Jovi musical.
In an age when musical theatre seems more popular than ever, ‘We’ve Got Each Other’ is a brilliantly timed satire of the genre. It’s a witty, yet fond parody of the ubiquitous jukebox musical, full of references to odd conventions in the world of musical theatre: working class characters are always cockney, even in ‘Les Misérables’; villains wear head-to-toe black; heartfelt death-bed solos are commonplace. Bon Jovi fans be warned: this is not a tribute show featuring the band’s back catalogue – ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ their signature hit which inspired the show’s title, is in fact the only song used (to great comic effect).
O’Donnell’s show is a clever twist on the usual comic parody format. Source material for these productions is normally Shakespeare or another well-known literary work, rather than a new musical, and it’s also very unusual to see this style of show performed by just one person – but O’Donnell makes it work.
Addressing the audience directly, he appears like a stand-up comedian, with a self-deprecating, deliberately awkward persona that immediately wins the audience over. He narrates and part-performs the cheesy, cliché-ridden plot with energy, bringing the love story of Tommy and Gina to half-life; whether putting on ridiculous accents, singing different parts of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ bursting into dance routines or narrating full-scale numbers in perfect synchronisation with music and lighting cues, O’Donnell makes this a fun and hilarious experience that has the whole audience singing, clapping and dancing along as instructed. It’s among the most natural, non-threatening audience participation I’ve ever encountered.
★ ★ ★ ★
As his darkly comical, existential monologue during the ‘interval’ blackout section makes clear, this show is a celebration of musicals as escapism. His alleged original vision – “the new Hamilton,” an epic West End production complete with full band, cast of 35 and choreography by Bruno Tonioli – would be nowhere near as enjoyable.
Please note, this production has an age recommendation of 12+ This show contains mild swearing, smoke and flashing lights.