The Thunder Girls explores what happens when a girl band decides to reform thirty years after fiery arguments and disagreements led to a stormy break-up.
Written by Melanie Blake and based on her bestselling novel of the same name, the play uses her experiences as a former Top of the Pops runner and celebrity agent and added Dynasty-style catfights and histrionics that would be fitting for Eastenders back in the day, when every episode would end with Peggy Mitchell shouting: “Get aaht of my pub!”
The big draw for the audience are the famous names playing The Thunder Girls.
Chrissie, a diva with an expensive home and a reputation for stealing Roxanne’s man, is played by former Eastenders actor Carol Harrison. Corrie star Beverley Callard plays Roxanne, who still hates Chrissie for what she did and the fact that she has had to bring up her son alone.
Anita, who fled after a disastrous Eurovision performance that ended with projectile vomiting, is played by Nolan sister and Loose Woman Coleen Nolan.
Finally, Sandra Marvin, a regular in the West End and recent Emmerdale star, plays Carly, who has never received royalties for the hits she wrote when she was in the band.
As these women meet up and decide if they are going to go ahead and play on a bill at Wembley Stadium that includes Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, we are taken back to the 1980s through their long conversations about the past.
The problem is this is that the play consists of lots of arguments and chats about the past and what they are up to now. It needs breaking up as it feels like TV, not theatre. It would work better if there were scenes with younger actors playing the band when they were girls. The reunion scenes when they appear as jaded and angry older women would then have more bite and fire.
The musical scenes are strangely odd for a show about a girl band. Some songs are mimed whilst others are purely in the background. Only Sandra Marvin who has the real vocal chops to belt out a song like she means it. The show needs a Mamma Mia moment when these women perform at a gig within the show. But it never happens, apart from a cringeworthy karaoke style moment at the end.
Thankfully, the performances are better than the thin material they are working with.
Beverley Callard is great as the angry heavy drinker who has a great deal to feel miffed about and Sandra Marvin is the star of the show as Carly, a woman who loves to laugh which masks how she really feels. When she arrives on stage alone and sings, you are left wanting more.
Coleen Nolan was nervous about making her stage debut but she need not have been. She has great comic timing and a brilliant entrance.
Carol Harrison is lumbered with a one note character so it is difficult for her to do anything but scream and shout. She shows heart in act two but she does not look as comfortable on stage as she does on television.
The script has a few funny lines and some clever swipes at the notion of celebrity and these get bigger laughs because they are said by celebrities.
Although it is also littered with lines about female empowerment, they take orders from a man called Rick which are delivered Charlie’s Angels style via Alexa, as he negotiates their deal. This makes the play look dated but also rather phoney when it comes to the message that these women can do it alone.
If The Thunder Girls is to return, it needs a rewrite so that it feels like a piece of theatre. At the moment, it is a series of very long conversations about the past which lasts almost three hours.
The cast are committed but they need more to work with and more to do. The concept is fine. It just needs less chat and more zig-a-zig ah.
The Thunder Girls has sold out its limited one week run at The Lowry and there are plans for the play to tour.