CLOSETS THE MUSICAL Review: Sweet, heart-warming and fantastically camp, CLOSETS inspires the soul and warms the heart

Lloyd Daniels and Sam Ratford in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Lloyd Daniels as Ben and Sam Retford as Henry in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Sweet, heart-warming and fantastically camp, CLOSETS THE MUSICAL is a coming-of-age story that inspires the soul and warms the heart

With musicals like PARADE, YANK! and PIPPIN all making their debuts at Hope Mill Theatre, it’s easy to understand why the team behind new original musical CLOSETS decided to open their new show in Manchester. With Manchester Pride just around the corner, there couldn’t be a better time for the new British LGBT-themed musical to make its premiere – or a better reception from the audience.

Set in 1988, CLOSETS THE MUSICAL follows 16-year-old Henry who is struggling with his sexual identity. In an attempt to escape his daily battles with his mother, Henry goes inside his Closet and unexpectedly time travels to 2018 where he meets 16-year-old Ben living in his bedroom dealing with similar issues today.

Ben and Henry decide to run away from their lives and facing coming out as gay by time travelling in the Closet, taking them on adventures to New York’s Stonewall bar in 1969 and beyond. But how long can they run from their lives before their time zones catch up with them?

Sam Retford as Henry in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Sam Retford as Henry in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Sweet, heart-warming and fantastically camp, CLOSETS is a coming-of-age story that inspires the soul and warms the heart. Focusing on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community over time, as well as the pressures on young gay men today, writers Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely have crafted a colourful, fun and emotional story that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

The musical not only looks at coming out but also themes that almost every teen can relate to such as bullying, coming of age, suicide and relationships with parents. More importantly, great care has been taken with the writing to ensure the stories are told with sensitivity, humour and love. Real life events, such as The Stonewall Riots of 1969, are woven into the fabric of this fictional story to deliver an important and timely message about how LGBTQ attitudes have changed, but also how far we still have to go.

Hayley Tamaddon in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Hayley Tamaddon as Susan and Sophie Anne-Ellicott as Penny in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Sam Retford is captivating to watch as the charming, confident teenager Henry, delivering his musical numbers with real gusto. His chemistry with X-FACTOR’s Lloyd Daniels, the shy, quiet young man who keeps his emotions locked away, is well matched and their duet I KNOW certainly pulls on the heartstrings.

Elsewhere, EMMERDALE and CORONATION STREET star Hayley Tamaddon is strong as Henry’s mum Susan but it is Sophie Anne-Ellicott as Ben’s mum Penny who gets the biggest laughs with her comical musical number PROTECTION. Kim Tatum also delivers a powerhouse performance as Florrie, stealing the show with BOY’S TOY’S MISFITS AND YOUR LOVERS.

But the real star of CLOSETS is Ashley MA Walsh’s original score. Featuring 13 original songs from uplifting pop ballads inspired by 80s legends such as Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys to contemporary ballads, CLOSETS is a time-travel musical in every sense of the word. Here, the music not only travels with the story but also drives the narrative forward.

Kim Tatum aka MZZ Kimberly in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

Kim Tatum aka MZZ Kimberly as Florrie in CLOSETS THE MUSICAL

A special mention also must go to Joseph Thomas for his disco-sque lighting design and Rhiannon Clifford’s effective set design which makes the most of Hope Mill Theatre’s intimate space.

With a little bit of tightening up, CLOSETS certainly has the potential to follow fellow musicals HAIR, YANK! and PIPPIN to London, even if its heart will always remain in Manchester. An uplifting piece of theatre full of hope and love.

4 out of 5 stars

CLOSETS THE MUSICAL runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 23 August 2018.