Roll Over Beethoven at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Roll Over Beethoven can simply be described as a fun musical delivered enthusiastically by talented musicians. An attempt to go any deeper would rapidly become confusing. The play itself attempts to juggle a myriad of themes, the multitude of which causes it to become lost in itself from its early stages. The story is, in essence, an adaptation of Hamlet set in 1950s London amidst the burgeoning rock ’n’ roll cultural revolution. However, the themes that writer, Bob Eaton, has decided to include in addition to the original narrative include the generational conflict between classical music lovers and rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts, attitudes towards homosexuality, numerous Beethoven tributes and as many 60s references as 90 minutes of stage time permits.
It is not hard to imagine how easily an audience could lose track of what is actually going on. The changes made to the original plot, the erratic thematic variance and the oscillation of the dialogue between Shakespearean English and Essex slang make it difficult to follow, even for those familiar with Hamlet. For those unfamiliar with the tale, keeping track of the general trajectory of this play must be like trying to keep track of a fruit fly in a grocery.
It is difficult to describe the changes made to Hamlet by Bob Eaton without using the word mutilated, but those who enjoy their Shakespearean tragedies devoid of anything sad will have an excellent time at Roll Over Beethoven. Musically though, the performance is very hard to fault. Granted, the cast have obviously been chosen for their musical rather than acting talent but the musicians’ skill at blending iconic rock ’n’ roll tunes with Beethoven’s classics is very enjoyable.
Cameron Jones plays the leading role of Johnny Hamlet and, overall, does an adequate job of driving the show. The best thing that can be said about his acting is that it isn’t terrible and the less said about his Elvis impressions the better, but he is a strong singer and infuses a likeable energy into his performance.
The first half of the show is confusing but, after the audience relax into its disjointed nature, they are able to ignore the baffling narrative and just enjoy the music. The second half is more entertaining as the plot deviates almost completely from its original, becomes very lighthearted and builds to an energetic finale where the audience are encouraged to stand up and have a dance. It is in this ending that the show finally admits to all that it is: a bit of fun.
Roll Over Beethoven is on at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 21st August until 12th September 2015, for further information or to book visit here.