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!
Posted by Robpop at Saturday, August 01, 2009