Review: Love Me Tender, Grand Opera House

Ben Lewis as Chad, with the cast. Photographs: Johan Persson
18 Aug 2015 @ 2.52 pm
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Love Me Tender

Grand Opera House, York

Till Sat Aug 22 @ 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees on Weds & Sat

£14.90-£41.90

Grand Opera House website

Love Me Tender rocked into York to a riot of applause and laughter.

Like many of the audience I hadn’t quite known what to expect. I knew that it wasn’t an Elvis tribute, or even about him, unlike one very disappointed audience member I spoke to. That was the only negative comment I heard all night.

What I did know is that it’s a story told using a playlist of classic Elvis songs, that was enough for me.

I cried with laughter at some of the cheesiest lines I’ve ever heard, and made my hands sore from clapping.

The choice of playlist had won me over before I set foot in the theatre, but the incredibly clever way they were woven into the hilarious plot was fantastic.

‘Had me in stitches’

The story is about love, and in most cases unrequited love. There are references to Fifties culture, some of them quite taboo really like the Ku Klux Klan and racism, but the overriding theme was following your dream.

I’ve never seen the cast become such an integral part of the props before, from swing doors at the bar to holding mini houses to depict a journey.

The humour that came from some of them, like the standing exercise bike, had me in stitches.

When you first sit down you’re greeted with a stainless steel toilet and some bars depicting a jail cell.

What you don’t expect is someone to come on stage, drop his trousers and sit on it. From that point on you’re hooked.

The use of spot lights and the chorus to One Night With You herald the start of a love interest, and they’re not always a conventional relationship, causing yet more laughter.

Sandra, the museum curator, has some of the best lines– “Peel me like a banana” and “Throw me to the ground and start me like a chevy” almost causing me to spit out my drink a couple of times. She also has the moves to accompany them.

Great performances

Feisty mechanic Natalie (Laura Tebbutt) meets leather-jacketed jailbird Chad (Ben Lewis)
Feisty mechanic Natalie (Laura Tebbutt) meets leather-jacketed jailbird Chad (Ben Lewis)

How do I pick out cast members when they all put on such a great performance? It’s so hard.

My favourite all the way through was Natalie, played by Laura Tebbutt. Absolutely stunning voice.

Several audience members at the interval were singing the praises of Felix Mosse as Dean.

Honky-tonk bar owner Sylvia, better known as Mica Paris
Honky-tonk bar owner Sylvia, better known as Mica Paris
Barry Williamson comes into his own as Jim
Barry Williamson comes into his own as Jim

Mica Paris had top billing, yet for me her character Sylvia didn’t really get a chance to show off her amazing voice until the second act, but when she did… Wow.

Shaun Williamson, who I know and love as the hapless Barry from EastEnders, played the role of hapless Jim, Natalie’s father. Typecasting I thought at first, but he won me over with his blue suede shoes transformation.

Ben Lewis came to his own, again in the second half with his version of I Don’t Want To. His interactions with Natalie brought most of the tears to my eyes, particularly the scene that preceded that song.

Miss Sandra, played by Kate Tydman, definitely had the best lines and dance moves. She also had the voice to back them up.

Chris Howell was excellent as Sheriff Earl, although his voice deserved much more exposure than his role allowed.

The whole cast were buoyant, enthusiastic and talented. The show was an absolute pleasure to watch and is one I would heartily recommend. And no… I’m not giving the plot away 😉