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REVIEW | Bronco Billy the Musical - Charing Cross Theatre

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Tw/Cw - Smoke & Haze, Pyrotechnics & Flame Effects, Replica Firearms, Flashing Lights, Loud Sounds including Gun Shots

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

In a theatre in London…(Charing Cross Theatre) there's a West Wild show that is making its UK Debut. Bronco Billy the Musical is a Wild Western musical that is silly, fun and crazy and is performed by one talented cast and it is making its UK Premiere at the Charing Cross Theatre

With a book by Dennis Hackin, music and lyrics by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres, with additional lyrics by Michele Brourman, directed by Hunter Bird and choreography by Nick Richings

Bronco Billy (Tarinn Callender) is based on the same plot as the Warner Bros Clint Eastwood Motion Picture. Set in 1979 Bronco Billy follows a travelling show, and a set of Wild West performers who are wanting to live the Hollywood dream, but when leader Bronco Billy unexpectedly meets Antoinette Lily (Emily Benjamin), who is on the run from her stepmother, after the tragic death of Antoinette's father, all their lives change. Antoinette joins the crew and finds out she is a part of a whole lot more than a Wild West Show. Bronco Billy has themes of love, family reinvention, grief and a whole lot of disco. 

My initial thoughts for this show was mainly about the set and look of the show, due to seeing a rehearsal of this show back in early January, and it was hard to picture the set and the look of this production as a whole when described, so I was worried about how the creatives vision would come to life on stage, and also how this show would be received by a UK audience. But after seeing the set I don’t think I need to worry!

Bronco Billy runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes including an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback, and my opinions are my own. 

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Written by Dennis Hackin, Hackin gives you a fantastically comedic script that lays down the main tones of the show, while also balancing the themes of Family, Love and Grief, whilst contending with a disco sound. Hackin does this perfectly well, with not overstepping markers where it could have been over stepped. Hackin sets up characters, and the story quite quickly in the first 15-20 minutes of the show. One thing that Hackin is great at doing is writing the themes, you can see this for example with the family theme which runs through the whole show and the love between characters. Hackin writes great characters too, from a comedy villain in Constance (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) and a great heroine and hero roles in Bronco Billy and Antoinette. Hackin writes a show that A: doesn’t take itself too seriously and B: you get what you see which is nothing short of a show full of silliness and craziness throughout. I feel that if this piece went down the serious route it would be a different story. Hackin’s writing is enjoyable and is full of enthusiasm which allows you to go on a great rodeo ride. 

Directed by Hunter Bird, Bird has the challenges of directing tricks, which involves plate smash, fire and also knives, when you have to tackle everything like this you need a round of applause firstly. With that being said, Bird tries to manage them in the best way possible resulting with tricks that worked brilliantly well that leaves you pleased and some that had a few mishaps or didn’t go to plan, which with so many tricks unfortunately can happen. Bird directs some great comedy scenes between Constance, Edgar White Lipton (Chris Jared) and John Arlington (Silas Wyatt-Barke) which were laugh out loud moments. But I did feel Bird also slightly pushes the comedy a tad too far, as when we discover that Antoinette's father Sam Lily (Jonathan Bourne) has passed away, we are presented with a beautiful song of Antoinette remembering her father, with a duet section within the song where in Bird's direction choice goes slightly to comedic, as we see Bourne's character behind a painted photo which is lowered, that got laughs, for me felt to far over the comedy line as with the song being about missing someone, I felt this choice was little bit to comedic in the direction that resulted in slightly losing the heartfulness of the song. But aside from this being directed to comedic, all the comedic scenes landed with laughs from the audience. Bird's direction is not all round perfection but don’t get me wrong having to contain fire and tricks in one show when it is done well it is received well with the audiences, and any Director having to contain with the space of the stage and all that, you do see some very careful but also tricky choices to present a Wild West Piece of theatre.

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Music and lyrics by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres, Bronco Billy songs range from fun to ballads. Rosenbloom and Torres’ music has a rhythm that continues throughout, a couple of songs we first hear in Act 1 bring the rhythm about family and this continues into songs about family and love, so it’s pleasant to hear it throughout more and more songs. Rosenbloom and Torres' music and lyrics are quite catchy with you singing “You can ride with us” over and over in your head. Rosenbloom and Torres’ music is a blend of Country, Disco and Musical Theatre and all these genres result in some quite hilarious, heartwarming and upbeat songs which fit themselves well to the characters personality and traits who sing them and they also work well for this show! Rosenbloom and Torres bring all the disco feels to the music and lyrics that makes Bronco Billy an individual western musical that could create a following.

Bronco Billy has choreography by Alexzandra Sarmiento, Sarmiento creates some very good choreography which is full of joy and liveliness. Sarmiento provides visuals of what a Wild West musical choreography should be all about, Sarmientos’ choreography is full of energy and puts a smile on your face, and blends, and suits, the disco feel this show is all about.

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Bronco Billy is performed by a stellar cast, which are marvellous throughout the whole show. 

Tarinn Callender, steps into the title role of Bronco Billy. Callender is terrific as the title character by showcasing some great vocals and likeableness. Callender delivers a great characterisation through voice and facial expressions. Callender plays alongside the rest of the cast really well, and performs with such good skilled quality. Along with Callender's whole performance being delightful to watch, Callender is a pleasure to watch with a performance that has skill and so much talent!

Emily Benjamin, plays Antoinette Lily, Benjamin is absolutely awesome and is brilliant as Antoinette. Benjamin shows a range of emotions and displays them really well and is very believable. Benjamin shines on stage, and is funny and heartwarming. Benjamin stuns you with a profound vocal performance, and takes the role of Antoinette brilliantly to another level in front of your eyes.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt steps into the role of Constance, Hamilton-Barritt shows off an over the top villain-esque character really well which isn’t taken into panto territory. Hamilton-Barritt still makes the performance likeable and funny which is impressive, not only does Hamilton-Barritt have character but also wonderful vocals with some great acting through song ability. Hamilton-Barritt has some terrific comedy timing which gets so many laughs. I think we can say Hamilton-Barritt is an excellent all round performer!

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

With Scenic Design by Amy Jane Cook, Cook delivers a very impressive set design. With Charing Cross Theatre not having a big stage, getting a turntable on there is a brilliant achievement that needed to be called out. Cook’s set design was multi-purpose, a truck centred and span round showing locations from backstage to on stage to a home, plus with other areas being accommodated such as a prison! Cook's design is excellent and as I previously said, I couldn’t visualise the design in the rehearsal room, so I was very surprised at how well executed it looked and how the design worked really well! Working really well with the set was Lighting, the Lighting Designer, Nick Richings, Richings gives you a colourful look that really suits the style of the show and Cook's set design of this show, both of which work really well together throughout the show! 

Bronco Billy is a silly, fun and crazy musical that with a few slight tweaks, in my opinion the directional side of the show, could create a new following of fans. This piece of theatre feels like there's something quite special deep down in its core. Bronco Billy is a bright quirky Western-Disco Musical that is performed by one truly talented cast! It is one show that will put a smile on your face and make you feel-good, which makes it a Wild West show that has a whole lot of heart!


Bronco Billy the Musical is at Charing Cross Theatre until 7 April 2024

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

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