Grant Black and Murray Lachlan Young’s Rehab is an entertaining musical that is full of potential. It’s heartwarming, has an incredible amount of whimsy and nostalgia in between the serious subject matter.
Has an incredible amount of whimsy
As part of his drug sentence, Kid Pop (Jonny Labey) is sentenced to 60 days in rehab, where he is joined by a host of colourful characters, all battling their addictions. Meanwhile, his agent, Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen), with the help of his assistant Beth (Jodie Steele) use a young mother called Lucy (Gloria Onitiri) to find ways to keep Kid Pop’s career alive. There’s a lot going on, both with the plot and the characters themselves, which makes some moments and relationships appear rushed or simply out of the blue, for example, the romance between Kid Pop and Lucy, and Beth’s character arc. Elliot Davis’ book does appear unfinished, as there are moments that are underdeveloped and too neat, as in there is a definite end point, but it is not always clear how it is reached. This is particularly noticeable in the penultimate scene where not enough tension has been built up to warrant any real feelings of shock or satisfaction from us.
Black and Young’s songs are incredibly clever, the lyrics are bold and filled with notes of humour and depth, that make this musical incredibly strong. The tech itself is beautifully simplistic and symbolically relevant, leading us to create connections and thematic relevance in Andrew Exeter’s set and Teatum Jones’ costume design. Jones cleverly uses colour to chart the characters’ emotional development over the course of the show, weaving in more yellow to create a brighter image as the show goes on. This stark contrast to the black and hot pink of the more morally dubious world of Malcolm Stone informs our assumptions as we see the action play out onstage, making every twist a little bit more surprising.
The cast is extremely colourful, switching between and becoming each characters with gusto. This show is certainly not short of talented performers. Labey plays the part of the self-satisfied, arrogant Kid Pop with a swagger, his voice taking on a rather gruff quality whenever he sings. There are some issues with Kid Pop's arc, as the development that the character goes through happens very suddenly and all at once, which makes the change quite sudden and jarring. It also means that there is nowhere for the character to grow in the second half, removing a lot of the conflict from the show. Acting like the cat who definitely has the cream, Steele shines as Beth. It’s incredibly enjoyable to watch her take on an incredibly morally dubious character and flourish in the role. Steele is an incredible performer, that goes without saying, but her Die At Twenty Seven And You’ll Live Forever is proof that her voice is on an entirely different plane from everything else. Onitiri is an extraordinarily strong actress, creating a lot of nuance in her performance, and leaving us constantly guessing about what the character might do next. Because of her, we see every side of Lucy’s character, all of the strength and pain that gives us reasons to root for her. Onitiri’s voice is earth-shattering, and everything about her performance of Museum of Loss is completely unbelievable, a sensation frankly.
Rehab has some issues, but these can be easily fixed. The combined talent of the cast’s performance and the score itself partly makes up for the weakness of the book. An enjoyable watch, it will be interesting to see how Rehab develops further.