When I heard about this show, my reaction was something along the lines of, ‘a Madonna musical? Give It 2 Me’.

So, it’s not a jukebox musical as such, just as the name suggests Live To Tell is a proposal for a Madonna jukebox musical. Writer and performer Brian Mullin, takes us on a semi-autobiographical journey as a gay man, living with a diagnosis of HIV. The show is structured into two different pitches for the musical, songs are not directly performed (apart from one), the rest of the time Madonna’s music is played in the background or alluded to. Dan de la Motte takes on all the other roles within the show, at times changing between 3 or 4 roles seamlessly, within a single scene.

Credit: Harry Elletson

The staging design is minimal, and this is no frills storytelling. Alex Thomas’ lighting changes signify when Brian is pitching an idea or interacting with others in the ‘real world’. Although the distinction between reality and imaginary becomes more difficult to identify as the show progresses. Josh Anio Grigg’s video designs are projected onto the stage’s back wall – most of these are quite difficult to make out, as the wall isn’t white, the projections are quite dim and dark.

The script is filled with Madonna lyrics and jokes for Madonna superfans, I do feel that many of these jokes go over the heads of those that aren’t huge fans. Some of the lyrical lines of the script also felt slightly cheesy and not in keeping with the overall tone of the production. There is a performance of ‘Cherish’ in the middle of the show, in which the audience are encouraged to sing-along, this is the only part of the show that has a jukebox musical feel.  

Mullin is an enthralling, energetic storyteller. I could have simply listened to him speak for the run time. He kept my attention throughout and powered the performance with a range of emotions. I did feel that his performance at times was over the top, there were moments where he could have simply stripped it back slightly and maybe his point would have been better conveyed. De la Motte managed to make each character distinctive, giving them different voices and accents, the transitions between roles is faultless, and he is a joy to watch.

Credit: Harry Elletson

Live To Tell provides insight into living life with a diagnosis of HIV, the medications prescribed, their side effects, and feeling a loss of control, that you must take your meds no matter what, and how this impacts you psychologically. This is a story that should be told, as the awareness it brings is essential, and the emotions Mullin powers the performance with give authenticity to the story. This shows a perspective we don’t often see in media, which is usually clichéd and just shows what life used to be like for people with HIV, not what it is like in the present day, when people can live with the virus and it can be undetectable.

But, Live To Tell doesn’t quite know what it wants to be yet. I understand that Madonna has played a role in combatting the stigma of the virus and educating people, but the incorporation of Madonna into this story doesn’t work as well as intended. I feel this show would work best as a play about Mullin’s life – the Madonna part could be scrapped completely, as currently, it doesn’t add much to the material, and just creates a rather disjointed production, that makes you wonder why Madonna’s name is in the title at all.

A star rating for this show is difficult, as to judge it based on what it is currently calling itself, ‘a proposal for the Madonna jukebox musical’, it would be a 2-star rating. There isn’t anything about this show which resembles a musical. But to judge it as an honest, raw play about a man’s experience, it works much better, and is a story which should be told – I’m just not sure that Madonna needs to be in it.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply