Denise Van Outen In Blondes (see it)

I rarely do reviews of shows but anything that features Kylie's Better The Devil You Know and starts proceedings with the a glorious Mae West tribute naturally demands attention. The one woman show is a social narrative of the blondes that have shaped our musical and cultural history. On the way we also encounter how key blonde icons of pop have somehow shaped Denise Van Outen's life. There are times it seems certain singers and their songs emerge as crucial foundations in her life with the choruses of particular songs becoming its chapter headings. As Denise reveals life growing up in the ever glam Basildon, Essex we see just how particular pop stars sprinkled their stardust ensuring her modus operandi was always ever going to be music, lights, west-end wendy's and jazz-hands. Now, I've always known Denise had a fabulous voice. Ever since I was little gay kid I had her single back when she just out of stage school. Gloriously titled Wanna Make You Go...Uuh! Ahem (Sadly her debut single was not performed the night I attended...maybe next time).

If you thought Denise was the girl from TV who did one off music turns in ABBA specials & charity singles the performance in Blondes slaps that assumption to the curb. Denise the Diva emerges from the shadows. She has a wonderful voice. She even has the tenacity to do Dusty's I Close My Eye's & Count To Ten and actually gets away with it. For sure there are seriously fun moments like when she recalls her trips to L.A and meeting Bonnie Tyler at the Brits. Also embarrassing ones like where she gets an innocent member of the audience on the stage to do press-ups while she does a poptastic rendition of Olivia's Physical. Tonight that person was sadly me. I've never actually done press-ups in my life but under the spotlight I tried. I think I got to 2 and gave up. :-) Still, all for glamour of it all dears!

With the assistance of extremely talented Mike Moran Denise exposes not only the vulnerable side to pop blondes, but reveals her own unique narrative. The time when she was on Broadway: the Basildon girl done good it seemed. It wasn't to be. A broken heart was not resolved by the glimmer of the NYC spotlight and highkick's of playing a lead role in Chicago. It is these moments that Blondes really succeeds. For sure, we all know blond pop icons are brassy, fabulous and glorious. Whether its strutting around in golden hotpants, a red space suit, extolling the virtues of diamonds over men or conical bras blondes upstage the rest when the when the curtain comes up.

However its in the tragedy that they own the stage. Denise totally teases this fact out not only through her heartbreak but in her semi-essay on the singer Britney Spears. Britney, like many of the blondes under examination, wanted to be a popstar but with the break-up of a relationship and its public reconstruction by her ex (Cry Me A River), Ms.Spears discovered it was not only only her virginity that emerged as a product for consumption. In the said video, Justin critically stalks the blonde and symbolically replaces her with a brunette. Everything about Ms.Spears is materialized and reduced to her very fibre. Even down to the low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin in her hair. It is not surprising then that this blonde shaved her hair when the bough broke. That was her freedom. That was her middle finger to Justin Timberlake & his pretty shameful Cry Me A River video. With this in mind Denise performs the beautiful ballad Everytime. The song emerges as a song beyond its original meaning & the audience remains gripped to its narrative hoping that Ms.Outen truly does grab Ms.Spears and the two drive off into the sunset for a bit of laughter, a west end musical and the random chicken kebap.

Truth is, perhaps Blondes is on further consideration a statement about stardust, celebrity and society. Most of it all its a celebration of women and how fucking amazing they are (whatever the colour of the hair). By linking Mae West to Britney, Denise exposes how society loves to "own", construct and thus limit the freedoms of women. By breaking it down to the colour of the hair, society can get away with a lot of dubious things. However through the chorus of hits Blondes becomes a middle finger to any attempt of ownership much in the same way I am What I am has emerged as the anthem it became. All the while through a cheeky grin, knowing wink and thumping baseline. Blondes is utterly heart-wrenching, a total giggle and a brilliant thought-provoking essay on society. A full 5 outta 5!


Paul said...

I'm dying to see this ever since I saw her promote it on Chattyman. (and as i said on twitter, it's the type of show Elouise could do in 10 years time when she is taking a rest from being a global megastar with a las vegas residency). I may have to make a weekend of it and see the brillo sounding Dorian Gray at the same time. neat write up sir. I am in awe (osity)

(hideous word verification tho - cliitmen)

Robpop said...

haha!!! Paul! I missed that Twitter remark.

Yeah, totally. I can see Elouise do something like Blondes. Although Elouise would probably throw in Shirley Bassey. Thanks for the compliments sir paul.

Robpop said...

By the way, go to see this and Dorian! You'll have a blast.

Robpop said...

By the way, go to see this and Dorian! You'll have a blast.

Lance said...


I love that poster!!!!

Has she filmed this show for those who can't make it?

Fredrik said...

Awww, is this coming back to London?

Lene said...

Does she perform a Robyn song (I only ask because of the poster)

Love the Cry Me A River comment by the way.

Robpop said...

Lance I'm not sure...(I'm sure theres some intention to beef up the show with filmed content coming in somewhere down the line).

Fredrik: Not sure.

Lene: no she doesn't perform Robyn. Although considering the content of the show about heartbreak I'm sure a snippet of With every Heartbeat or Be Mine would understandably fit well.

No, I made that poster (its not official at all). It isnt from the show. Denise doesnt do Doris Day, Sarah Harding (girls aloud), Duffy, Christina Aguilera and (Princess)Grace Kelly yet they're all in the image. I just thought I'd make something up of my own. Although in actuality they all are probably involved in the social history of blondes even if Denise doesnt perform their songs. Indeed, Marlene fabulously rests on Denises shoulder despite not appearing in the show itself. She is of course she is perhaps, with Mae West, the queen of the film blonde bombshells.

By the by Denise also does Bonnie Tyler and she's not in there. I was gonna put her under DvO's left armpit but it didnt look right.


undisco_me said...

Mae West a bombshell? I'd argue Harlow, but Mae had no rivals for what she was.

Is this coming to the Edinburgh festival?

I've always been a fan of Denise: I'm so glad her Vanilla verdict from the Big Breakfast lives on in youtube land as it perfectly captures what was great about the show back then. Of course, it was holding her back which I can totally see now.