Zizi Strallen, Angela Marie Hurst & Carly Bawden in CFT's Rock Follies. Photo Johan Persson

Rock Follies at Chichester Festival Theatre – Reviews

Reviews are coming in for the world premiere production of new musical Rock Follies at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre.

The show is based on the ground-breaking 1970’s British TV series written by Howard Schuman, based on an original idea by Annabel Leventon, Diane Langton and Gaye Brown. Rock Follies has a book by Chloë Moss and songs by Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay.

The cast includes Carly Bawden (Carousel, My Fair Lady) as Anna, Zizi Strallen (Mary Poppins) as Q, Angela Marie Hurst as Dee, Tamsin Carroll (Hex, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) as Gloria/Kitty, Samuel Barnett (The History Boys, The Lady in the Van) as Harry, Sebastien Torkia (Matilda The Musical) as Stevie/Bernard/Carl, Fred Haig (Tammy Faye, A Christmas Carol) as Jack/David, Stephenson Ardern-Sodje (Hamilton) as Spike, and Philippa Stefani (Wicked, Rent) as Roxy/Secretary.

The ensemble includes Harriet Watson, Peter Houston, Matthew Malthouse, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Bella Brown, and Collette Guitart.

Fed up with the male-dominated entertainment industry, Anna, Dee and Q take the future into their own hands and form a rock band – the ironically named ‘Little Ladies’. And so begins the musical helter-skelter ride of a lifetime. Can principles and ambition co-exist? And can their friendship survive in the dog-eat-dog world of rock?

The musical s directed by Dominic Cooke (Follies) with set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Kinnetia Isidore, choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, musical supervision and arrangements by Nigel Lilley, musical direction by Toby Higgins, lighting design by Paule Constable, and casting by Pippa Ailion CDG and Natalie Gallacher CDG.

Rock Follies is playing in the Minerva Theatre in Chichester until 26 August 2023.

Read reviews from The Stage, Guardian and more, with further reviews to be added.

Read more about Chichester’s new season for 2023

Rock Follies reviews

The Guardian

"Girl power pioneers earn their encore"

"Based on the 70s TV drama, this musical depicts patriarchal power structures in the music industry which haven’t changed much in five decades"

"Directed by Dominic Cooke with a book by Chloë Moss, this is gig theatre at its most exuberant, with original songs by Howard Schuman and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay, and no less fabulous all these years on."

"The three central performances each carry charisma and actors have big, strong singing voices: Strallen is magnetic and brings a touch of Absolutely Fabulous’s Patsy to her Q"

"There is a low-rent, pub-gig vibe to the blasts of sound and lighting, as well as the scaffold stage."

"Once they are selling out stadiums, they can “tell the men to take a jump”, the band agree, but until then “we have to play the game”. The production subtly dissects this idea and asks if a female-led band can ever organise itself differently in terms of power."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
Read the review
More reviews by Arifa Akbar
More The Guardian reviews
The Observer

"The wit and sharpness of the 70s TV series about a pioneering all-female band is partially captured in a spirited stage adaptation"

"Chloë Moss’s new stage adaptation, with songs by Schuman and Mackay, is a skimmed version of the TV series, staged with vivacity by Dominic Cooke"

"Moss’s script is neither as funny nor as hard-hitting as the original; the over-crammed action is less fluent and there are fewer touches of period weirdness."

"The numbers are mostly fragmentary. Still, the lineaments of the marvellous original gleam through: in the spoof of niminy-piminy blandness in Broadway Annie; in the lovely croon of Glenn Miller Is Missing (with the women dressed in boxy WAAF uniforms); in the gritty aspiration of Stairway; and in what now looks like a wave to punk in the ferociously undeferential royal anthem Jubilee."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
Read the review
More reviews by Susannah Clapp
More The Observer reviews
The Stage

"Turns the fun factor all the way up to 11"

"1970s TV hit becomes a galvanising new musical in this female-led story of rock’n’roll rise and fall"

"This new musical based on the TV series, with a book by Chloë Moss wrapped around Schumann and Mackay’s original songs, follows a familiar stardust-sprinkled, rise-and-fall narrative arc; shades of Me Too and 21st-century activism are superimposed over its spirit of 1970s socio-political subversion. In a vivid, galvanisingly rough-edged production by Dominic Cooke, it is a great rollercoaster ride, even if it is rickety enough to be in danger of flying off the rails."

"In a musical about music, it is vital that the numbers are strong, and although Moss integrates the Little Ladies’ set list skilfully into the storytelling, neither the tunes nor the lyrics are robust enough to supply much dramatic ballast."

"Still, Carly Bawden as married middle-class graduate Anna, Angela Marie Hurst as Black working-class socialist firebrand Dee, and Zizi Strallen as pragmatic sometime soft-porn artiste Q sing them all so scorchingly, against a live band so thrillingly punchy, that it doesn’t matter too much."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
Read the review
More reviews by Sam Marlowe
More The Stage reviews
The Times

"A Seventies reboot misfires"

"The cast deserve better than this. Perhaps my memories of the 1970s TV series about three women who form a pop group in a male-dominated business are a tad rose-tinted, but I remember Howard Schuman’s scripts being bold, brash and unpredictable. This reboot by the book writer Chloë Moss and the director Dominic Cooke is oddly unengaging, especially in an interminable second half that drifts down one dead end after another."

"Part of the problem with this version is that it tries to cram in far too many songs on Vicki Mortimer’s unalluring open-plan set."

"While the singing is strong, the main characters never acquire much depth."

Clive Davis, The Times
Read the review
More reviews by Clive Davis
More The Times reviews
The Telegraph

"The cast sound as good as Abba, but ultimately this is a cut-price Mamma Mia"

"This take on the 1970s cult classic at Chichester sorely lacks its maverick spirit"

"Half a lifetime later, playwright Chloe Moss has adapted Howard Schuman’s original scripts to forge a compact version of the ‘girls’’ rags to near-riches story. This revisiting could, in theory, be a chance to grapple with all that contextual material, and more broadly fill in the fraught socio-political backdrop of the era. But erring on the side of straight down the line entertainment, Moss and the creative team (headed by director Dominic Cooke) give us a by-numbers account of the rise of “The Little Ladies”, as the trio ironically dub themselves, and the bitter-sweet taste of success, as drink, drugs and dissension take hold."

"Zizi Strallen, Angela Marie Hurst and Carly Bawden each shine - and sing to lusty perfection - in roles made famous by Rula Lenska, Julie Covington and the late Charlotte Cornwell."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
Read the review
More reviews by Dominic Cavendish
More The Telegraph reviews
Sign-up for booking alerts, offers & news about Rock Follies and other shows:

📷 Main photo: Zizi Strallen, Angela Marie Hurst & Carly Bawden in CFT's Rock Follies. Photo Johan Persson

Related News

More >

Latest News

More >

Leave a Review or Comment

Comments and reviews are subject to our participation guidelines policy, which can be viewed here. Our policy is for readers to use their REAL NAMES when commenting.