If you’re after some festive season panto-style entertainment with a bit of a twist, you could do a lot worse than come out for Frank’s Closet at Hoxton Hall Theatre, as a colleague and I did last night…
We were welcomed to the theatre – an old-style music hall in London’s East End – by Pearly Queen Sheila Blige. In a pre-show warm up in the theatre bar, Sheila sang a rousing tune about a pair of Royal con-artists, The Faking Kents (say it out loud). By the time she led us into the auditorium, we were all joining in with the chorus, which made an excellent start to the evening.
Once settled, a loudly enthusiastic audience greeted the Gaiety Girls and main character Frank to the stage for their first number. The show is a night in the life of Frank, who is about to leave behind his gay bachelorhood to tie the knot with his boyfriend, Alan. But in order to begin his newly married life, Frank must get rid of some truly spectacular costumes and put his past to rest.
His past does not go quietly though – rather, each outfit in Frank’s closet conjures a gala farewell performance by the diva it once belonged to. We get Julie Andrews going from Sound of Music to S&M, Judy Garland complete with Ruby Slippers, ABBA’s Agnetha and a chunky can-can from Ethel Merman (my personal favourite).
The divas were all played brilliantly by Russell Whitehead, who managed to capture the essence of each different performer while putting his own finesse on the tunes. Frank was the talented Gary Amers, a very deft mover on stage and impossible not to like. The rest of the cast were also great – the Gaiety Girls were cheeky and entertaining and the two dancers very fit.
With lashings of innuendo, London references and luvvie theatre in-jokes (I live in London: this outfit’s never seen the sun, only the limelight!) the show itself is funny, camp and clever. The cast is incredibly good, and the combo of cabaret, drag, and music hall is perfectly suited to the venue. By the end, judging by the cackles, screams and whoops from the audience, and our smiling faces, we all thoroughly enjoyed rummaging through Frank’s Closet.