Paul Emelion Daly’s new musical Soho Boy has given newcomer Owen Dennis as Spencer a chance to shine. As soon as he comes on to the stage and opens the show with the title number “Soho Boy” Dennis is out to make this work; grabbing this opportunity with both hands, putting his acting skills and vocal ability to the test to push himself as he makes his professional debut.
Director Matt Strachan has been quick to harness Dennis’s potential and gets out of him a performance that is erudite and not clumsy.
Owen plays a young man who is dreaming big and wants to achieve something with his life, and arriving in London and finding a studio flat in Camden then getting a job in retail, the night life beckons. He meets Jonny who he thinks will be the love of his life, who introduces him to pills, but this is not a crash and burn saga.
Daly’s play has an edge to it that can be described as consistent and the dialogue between numbers is kept to the minimum, but in general it’s a very good comment on the perils and pitfalls that a young man can encounter; that a big city like London can destroy you and become a very lonely place if you allow it to do so.
The songs have a strong narrative quality to them and range from pop to swing, disco to moody ballad and even a touch of “Torch Song” that Dennis handles well, as he does with on stage costume changes and props.
As the story unfolds Dennis gets a job in the Pink Piano Bar, experiments with drag then busks during the day. A very poignant and touching moment in the show, and actually one of the best numbers in it, is “Hey Mum” where he comes out to his mother over the phone. The story does have an urgent pace to it that is at times racey and when Dennis “to see what the fuss is about” goes to a party and gets involved in chem sex, the outcome is not a surprise.
As the musical comes to the end and there is the reprise of “Soho Boy”, the emphasis that Dennis puts into the delivery of this song adds a certain quality to the show that actually demonstrates very clearly what a new talent he is and that Soho Boy makes a relevant point and statement.
Photos: Brittain Photography