What a pumping, high energy show Popstars The 90s Musical was … featuring music by the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Cher, the infectious explosion of pop was undeniable and we really Believe-d in this diverse bunch of individuals and empathised with their teenage trials and tribulations.
It was the decade of Buffy and the Big Breakfast on TV, hip hop and Britpop in the charts, grunge ruled the streets and we bet someone in your house was obsessed with their little Tamagotchi or bricky Gameboy, and this talented cast and vibrant band pulled the genie out of the bottle to reveal a punchy show with bags of charm and entertainment. Popstars The 90s Musical had come to Brooksbank and the troupe pumped it out. … Baby One More Time, Bye, Bye, Bye and Who Let the Dogs Out were some of the best in show breeds.
Early in Act 1, there was an inspired puppetry piece where mini Spice Girl puppets performed Wanabe (“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want”) on a tiny stage, barely two feet wide. The device piqued everyone’s interest, and primary school pupils giggling all over the place, at their special am performance.
The plot was simple enough: Mark and Shannon think their relationship is sound until a school talent show throws love out with the garbage. When a top pop promoter decides to judge the show, events take a heart-breaking nosedive for sweetheart Mark, as ambitious, alpha female Shannon shows her true colours. “But things change,” she tells him. “It’s like fashion.” With boyfriend unceremoniously dumped, Shannon bosses her two besties and swings her pop career plans into action.
Forceful Georgia Stansfield did a grand job as ruthless and arrogant Shannon, who was hell-bent on winning at all costs. “We’re entering and we’re gonna win,” she declared. James Bushnell, as Mark, played the sensitive card extremely well, pulling on our heart strings as he sang “This Romeo is bleedin’” in Bon Jovi’s Always.
Trouble was, although the Candy Girls could dance, they couldn’t sing and had to hold auditions to find someone who could. Amid some gloriously awful auditions Charlie, played by Lillie Barber, surprised and impressed us all with her gorgeous (Everything I Do) I Do it For You vocals.
Fortunately Mark regains his fire and decides to put his band in the competition too. But they also have a problem – their grungy look and clunky moves aren’t exactly ‘boy band material’. But resourceful Mark also has a plan. He seeks help from ray-of-light Ella, a hostess at the local diner. Emma Kershaw shone in the role of mentor to the boys, as she served up valuable life lessons like standing your ground and remaining true to your spirit. She sang bravely and beautifully, had bags of presence on stage, and left no doubt as to who was in charge, “You guys are all over the place. It’s kinda hard to watch!”
All of the cast members brought their own brand of individuality and were a joy to watch. We gasped at treacherous Shannon, empathised with soft-centred Mark, were inspired by self-assured Ella, and laughed at Ben Robinson’s jokey, over-the-top Patrick. When Ella asks, “What’s the most important thing in a boy band?” and Patrick quips “Chairs”, everyone laughs.
Big shout-outs too, to playful Tom Good as Vinnie, (“I don’t know – I have so many fight or flight mechanisms going on in my head right now.”) and Sarah Gargett, as sunshine kid, Shane. Well done to Simeon Quarmby as Tiny, for holding his own with the big boys and busting some cool salsa moves and homeboy antics. Lillie Barber fizzed as Charlie, Gracie Rudd beamed as Tina, Cheyney McCarthy popped as Steffi and Busayo Fatisin glowed as Amber Shui, the classical violinist who brought Pachelbel’s Canon to a stilled theatre. Popstars boasted some fantastic cameo role treats too from Molly Mills and Olivia Chrystal as the judge, Simone Austin and school principal. All were ably supported by a young ensemble of wanabes and sweethearts who had worked up their roles with skill.
The show culminated in a full-on megamix of hits which was crackled with electricity. Thanks to our music maestro, Mr Cooper, and our brilliant band of teachers and students and former students, Oscar and Theo, who returned to play lead guitar and drums.
Popstars was ‘Brooksbank first’ for show director, Mrs Simpson, who did a brilliant job. Suzie was ably assisted by sixth former, Jake Whitehouse, while another former student, Gemma Hollas, choreographed some wicked boy band dance routines. Massive congratulations to everyone for a brilliant show … it certainly had the WOW factor and was a superb step back to the 90s. Thank you to everyone involved.