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Bronco Billy review (Charing Cross Theatre)


A couple of weeks ago I visited London’s Charing Cross Theatre for the UK premiere of the musical adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s 1980s film Bronco Billy. I’d seen snippets of the rehearsal process on social media, with the western theme and the opportunity to see a new musical capturing my attention. When I found out that various ticket outlets were offering seats for as little as £15.00, I jumped at the chance to see the show when I was passing through London. It’s a romantic comedy set in the Wild West, with lots of disco influences thrown in.

Bronco Billy programme and poster outside the Charing Cross Theatre, London

About the show

Based on the original film, writer Dennis Hackin has made some adjustments to the plot to make the narrative more palatable today. It’s a classic boy-meets-girl story with a cowboy twist. Set in 1979, the musical focuses on sweet company heiress Antoinette Lily (Emily Benjamin), who is about to inherit her deceased father’s business. Unfortunately her evil stepmother Constance (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) has other ideas, intending to take the company for herself. A legal clause states that if the beneficiary were to die within 30 days, the spouse would inherit the fortune. Concerned for her safety, Antoinette flees New York, taking refuge in the Wild West with the bankrupt Bronco Billy travelling show. Like any classic romantic comedy, will Antoinette and Billy (Tarinn Callender) be able to find happiness, with no money and Constance on their trail? This question is answered in approximately two and half hours of toe-tapping theatre.

Thoughts on the book

At face value, it is a fun and humorous production with some lively country and disco tunes that add a different sound to London’s musical theatre scene. Whilst the campness adds life to the show, I struggled with the combination of silliness and sincerity. The material zigzags between Constance’s evil entourage and an emotional Antoinette, who is desperate to escape the expectations that come with being an heiress. Consequently, it is difficult to take the emotionally charged moments and moving songs seriously, against the backdrop of satire.

Bronco Billy set and logo at the Charing Cross Theatre, London

Visual design

Sarah Mercade’s costumes and Amy Jane Cook’s set design are appropriate for 1979, with the bold outfits and dazzling ceiling decor helping to recreate the era. Whilst the colourful lighting, disco balls and foil curtains transport audiences back to the days of disco, the extensive glitter definitely makes it harder to fully appreciate the underlying themes of the piece. I found myself a little distracted by the stars which are constantly in view and would have preferred to have seen these decorations only appear in time for the glitzy finale.

Music and lyrics

Chip Rosenbloom, John Torres and Michele Brourman’s music features some sweet country songs about dreams, aspirations and facing your past, specifically ‘Ride With Us’ and ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’. Unfortunately I wasn’t wowed by the music as a whole though, with the latter being the closest to a standout track. Tarinn Callender’s tone really excels in the song, especially as the number climaxes and the character’s emotions seep through. I only wish we could have experienced more songs like this!

Bronco Billy bows at the Charing Cross Theatre, London

Commendable cast performances

Emily Benjamin brings a sense of innocence and mischief to the gentle Antoinette. They also have really believable chemistry with Tarinn Callender’s Bronco Billy, whose strong vocals suit the country genre. However, the standout vocalist is Karen Mavundukure in their role as Doc Blue. These world-class, powerful vocals are a highlight of the show.

In terms of the antagonists, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is fantastically wicked as Candace, supported by the brilliantly funny Alexander McMorran in the role of Sinclair St Clair, Silas Wyatt-Barke as John Arlington and Chris Jared as Edgar White Lipton (the lawyer and Constance’s love interest). The parody nature of the production makes these characters come across as funny over evil, but they manage to steal every scene that they are in. The eccentric personas are incredibly fun to watch.

Bronco Billy curtain call at the Charing Cross Theatre, London

Is Bronco Billy – The Musical memorable?

For me, it is a thoroughly enjoyable production, but it fails to have a long lasting impact. Led by a fantastic cast, I could not connect with the musical on an emotional level and hence found it a little flat. There are various ticket offers on for Bronco Billy, which make this off West End production affordable in the current cost of living crisis. Whilst it isn’t the most amazing show I have seen, the cast performances and comedy elements are definitely worth the ticket prices.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx



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