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Walliams' Billionaire musical is a rich treat

February 22, 2019

Billionaire Boy: The Musical, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, to Feb 23.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, so Jesus told his disciples.

  Yet, not so long ago, billionaires could apparently do no wrong - remember Michael Jackson's  million-pound spending sprees that we all gawped at?  Or Roman Abramovich writing cheques for a Boeing and Chelsea Football Club? Sir Philip Green of Topshop fame, so vilified now, was knighted back then.

  Fast forward to today and post financial crash, the conspicuous consumption people like that revelled in seems not glamorous but tacky, selfish and even immoral.

  Len Spud, the eponymous billionaire of David Walliams's musical at the Belgrade, is cut from the old cloth. Well-meaning but crass and insensitive, Spud (Dean Nolan), believes any problem can be solved by chucking wads of cash around. His son Joe, played by Ryan Heenan in the doe-eyed manner of an X-Factor hopeful, is hardly better, bribing playground bullies the Grubbs (Jared Leathwood and Natalie Morgan) to stay away from earnest best friend Bob (Lem Knights).

  Finally, though, the Spuds learn what is truly valuable after a scandal strips them of their millions, forcing them to reassess what means most to them.

  In true David Walliams style, the song and dance routines are spectacularly over the top. Created by composers Miranda Cooper and Nick Coler – the duo behind pop classics by the Sugababes, Girls Aloud and Kylie – the music is high-energy and camp.

  But underneath the sparkly exterior lies a truly post-modern message. Would-be glamourgirl Sapphire (Avita Jay) renounces the glitterati and becomes a radical communist. Headteacher Mr Darrow sells his motorbike to shore up his failing school. And ultimately the Spuds learn true happiness cannot be found when searching through a fog of banknotes.

  “We’re in a play,” the Grubb twins tell us. “We can’t say what we’d normally say.” "This is real life,” sings Bob’s working class mum and she returns from work to be greeted with a pile of never-ending chores. “There are no happy endings.”

  Yet in this case there is. Walliams, by his own admission, is a "bargain basement Roald Dahl" and the story is flimsy in places. But the energetic performances sweep the show along, leaving us with the sense that even though life may hand you lemons, there will always be people around to help you make lemonade.

  For tickets call 024 7655 3055.

 

 

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