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20th CENTURY BOY - Grand Opera House, York

Published by: Cameron Lowe on 29th May 2014 | View all blogs by Cameron Lowe

Review by Graham Clark

There have been musicals in the past about 1950's rock stars such as Buddy Holly, so it is only natural that in time there would be a musical based on rock stars from the late 60's and early 70's.
20th Century Boy is based on the life of the glam rock star Marc Bolan. It follows his rise to fame, how he handled the success and his death in a car crash (driven by his girlfriend Gloria Jones, who survived) weeks before his 30th birthday.
Bolan is played superbly by Warren Sollars. Sollars has obviously studied old videos of Bolan as he has the Bolan mannerisms perfected and at times you think you are watching the real Marc Bolan.
The musical starts in 1992 in America with Bolan's son Roland (Luke Bailey) asking his mother, Gloria Jones (Donna Hines) about his father. Roland flies to London to find out more about his father's career.
He goes to stay with his grandmother's house in London. Sue Jenkins plays a convincing part as Marc Bolan's mothe, Phyllis Feld. She still carries a grudge against Gloria Jones for killing her son in the car she was driving. She has some of the funniest lines too. When showing Roland a photo album they come across a photo of Cliff Richard, "Who is he?" asks American born Roland, to which Phyllis replies "That's Cliff Richard, mind you, you haven't missed much!"
The musical shows Bolan's early days as Tyrannosaurus Rex, how his sound changed from folk to electric rock when record producer Tony Visconti (Andy Coxon) discovers Bolan. Visconti suggests the name change to T Rex. Lucy Sinclar plays a leading part as Bolan's first wife June Child. His love for her was the inspiration for many of his songs.
After teaming up with Visconti, Bolan's career takes off and we see him headling Wembley stadium. Visconti introduces Bolan to a new backing singer; this is when he meets Gloria Jones. Bolan tries to replicate the European success in America but middle America does not take to an English glam rock star with Bolan sacking his band in the middle of the tour and he turns to drink and drugs.
He falls out with Visconti and starts an affair with Gloria Jones. The musical moves on to Bolan getting the health kick and him becoming the godfather of Punk as he asks The Damned to support him on tour.
His career seems to be taking off again in 1977 as he had his own TV show too but after visiting his favourite restaurant one night, Jones decides to drive him home with the story ending as the Mini car that Jones is driving hits a tree.
Bolan's songs such as Get It On, Ride a White Swan, Metal Guru, Hot Love and of course, 20th Century Boy feature in the show.  An entertaining show, sad in parts and happy in others. Surely a West End run is on the cards. A must see show. 

Tickets (until 31 May) : 

Tour details:


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Graham. Sounds like a great show ticking all the boxes for a good musical.
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