Stranger Sings
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Harlow Playhouse, Harlow
Cast: Verity Power, Anna Amelia, Howard Jenkins, William Shackleton, Alfie Doohan, Elliott Wooster, Jessie Jae Davis, Shannon Bourne, Ally Kennard and Philippa Leadbetter 

Straight from off-Broadway, to a UK premiere 3-month sell-out run in London, we’re now thrilled to announce the UK nationwide Theatre Tour of Stranger Sings! This award-winning sci-fi spoof is a wild, irreverent twist on the hit Netflix series - in all its hair-raising, blockbuster glory.

Take a trip with your favourite gang on a night of indulgent pop culture references, heavy synth, poor parenting, dancing demogorgons and maybe - just maybe - you might find justice for Barb along the way.

Stranger Things has taken the world by storm in the past few years, but more recently, the Stranger Things franchise has taken on theatre with two recent UK productions. The first being Stranger Things: The First Shadow - an intense look at the dark backstory of Henry Creel. The second being very much the complete opposite. A light-hearted, satirical look at one of the world's most popular TV shows.

Let's go back to Indiana, circa 1983. Stranger Sings is set in the 1980's, in a fictional town called Hawkins in Indiana. When our beloved puppet (yes, he's a puppet), Will Byers, goes missing, strange things start to occur in the town. It's here that we're introduced to our beloved Eleven, who takes us on a journey to the Upside Down - an alternate dimension that's connected to their town. Enter our three twelve year old heroes: Mike, Lucas and Dustin.

Jonathan Hogue's book, music and lyrics for Stranger Sings are utter genius. While keeping the storyline as close to the plot of Stranger Things as possible, he manages to make a dark, twisty drama both light-hearted and comical.

The set design from Justin Williams gives you easter eggs to take in wherever your eyes wander. From the infamous lights to which Joyce speaks to Will to the demogorgon roots wrapping their way around the edges of the set, there's nothing that hasn't been thought out. 

One thing I will say is that I think it helps massively to be both a fan of musical theatre and the 80's. The entire production is littered with references from both, and without previous knowledge of these topics, it may retract from the hilarity of the piece. For example, during the incredible "Barb's Turn", there are nods to musicals such as Mean Girls and Wicked, which you may miss if you're not familiar. 

An aspect I found really clever was the way they incorporated favourite characters and scenes from every season, while predominantly following the plotlines of the first two seasons. However, we still get to meet fan favourites such as Robin, and revisit moments such as Running Up That Hill.

While the cast is small, it feels much bigger due to the amount of characters that each actor tackles. A particular highlight was Alfie Doohan, who plays Steve, Jonathan and Dr Brenner. From simply changing the way he walks, talks and gesticulates, he's instantly recognisable as one of his characters.

The costume design from Ellie Farrow is exceptional. From El's pink dress and blonde wig, to Hopper's Hawaiian shirt, the costumes are instantly recognisable. And the choreography from Lucinda Lawrence is also worth a mention. If classic, cheesy 80's pop choreo is what you're looking for, then look no further.

Particular standout moments from the evening included the duet between Hopper (Howard Jenkins) and Eleven (Anna Amelia) - The Dad I Never Had was somehow heartfelt but hysterical. And the duet between Alfie Doohan (Steve) and William Shackleton (Dustin) highlighted the bromance between the character's perfectly. However, the peak of the evening was Verity Power's fever dream performance of Crazy. I never thought I'd see Heather Chandler, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands onstage together, but it worked incredibly. The entire cast can belt for days, and they do love to remind us of that throughout!

I think it's worth mentioning again that this is a parody and is very tongue in cheek. If Stranger Things is your favourite show, be prepared that it's going to be picked apart - but in the very best way. Stranger Sings is a rip-roaring night out, filled with iconic scenes and littered with more 80's references than you could possibly imagine. It's a light-hearted musical that makes for a very enjoyable two hours at the theatre.

You can book tickets to see Stranger Sings on its UK tour, here.

**photo credit: Southwark Playhouse Borough**

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