‘WILL anybody ever care?’ That was the question being posed in one of the final songs of last night’s 20th Century Boy musical at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.
As cast members belted out the line from Dandy in the Underworld, the overwhelming answer was a breathtaking ‘yes’.
After all this time – almost 37 years since T Rex singer and glam rock icon Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash in London – people still care.
Thousands still care, and last night – the first of five nights at the theatre – showcased all the reasons why.
Placing Rolan Bolan (Luke Bailey) at the centre of the narrative, the son Marc (Warren Sollars) never met takes the audience on a journey through his father’s career after travelling to London to meet his grandparents for the first time and one of Marc’s former roadies.
We meet the three leading women in Marc’s life – mum Phyllis Feld (former Brookside star Jackie Corkhill), first wife June Child and the mother of his son, Gloria Jones, in an often emotional journey.
We see Marc as an ultra-ambitious London Boy, watch him take his first steps as a folk-inspired singer, before producer Tony Visconti introduces him to the electric guitar.
No 1 hits, Top of the Pops, fame. They all follow in a blizzard of headlines and screams.
The seedy underbelly of fame catches up with Marc on tour in America, and only the birth of Rolan forces him to re-evaluate his life.
Underpinning the whole story, of course, are footstomping classics such as Metal Guru, Jeepster, Get It On, Hot Love and Ride a White Swan.
For me, the two highlights of the show are two ballads.
A haunting, beautiful even, Cosmic Dancer – some readers might remember the song from Billy Elliott in the late 90s, the film that introduced me to Bolan’s music – sees Rolan and his father brought together in a remarkable duet.
Then, as Marc’s fame starts to go to his head, the three women in his life and Rolan perform an epically poignant Whatever Happened To The Teenage Dream – the four of them stood at the front of the stage, barely bathed in light, is a hair-tingling moment.
There was more to Marc Bolan than the chart-topping rockers, and those two songs perfectly illustrated it.
His life ended in September 1977, when a car driven by Gloria careered into a tree just a few weeks after Elvis Presley had passed away.
Growing up, Marc said he wanted one day to be ‘bigger than Elvis.’ That wasn’t possible, but 20th Century Boy last night brought roaring back to life a character that remains one of the most endearing of the last 40 years of rock and pop.
A few years ago, Mama Mia! brought Abba’s phenomenal back catalogue to the attention of a new, younger audience. A smash hit film, it was later made into a successful West End musical.
It is unrealistic to expect 20th Century Boy to have the same worldwide impact.
But in terms of introducing some fantastic music to a fresh generation, the musical does justice to a story well worth telling.
Get. It. On.
Go and watch this.
- 20th Century Boy runs until Saturday. Click here for tickets>>