Saturday, August 28, 2004
"Hi. It's Your Friend here. It's Madonna's last night in London tomorrow, and I really want to see her. I will get tickets on eBay - fancy it?"
"Ooh, yes please!"
"Hi. It's Your Friend here. Again. I've decided that Madonna is an expensive old slag and we're better off without her. Can we go and see H from Steps in Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor™ Dreamcoat instead?"
"Ooh, yes please!"
And so it was that the lowculture party found itself in the front row at the New London Theatre waiting for the curtain to rise.
Last time we saw H on stage, he was in the middle of the Steps farewell tour, and performing to considerably more people than the couple of hundred who had dragged themselves to the theatre for a night of catchy musical pastiches and biblical parables.
A half-full, small-ish theatre should, you might think, hold no fear for our "Ian". But when he appeared centre stage, he was trembling so much we briefly thought he must have attached to one of those comedy vibrating belt machines. (He wasn't).
On the face of it, there were several similarities to the old Steps tours. The audience was full of children and gays, for a start, and H was partnered with a girl singer, playing the Narrator, who took care of all the high notes.
We were pleased that the score did not seem to offer any potential for the star to constantly shout "c'mon" and the "ooh, ooh" bit from Let's All Chant like some kind of twat, so we would be able to judge his performance on singing merit alone – and not be unduly distracted while trying to look up his loincloth.
And, much to our surprise, he wasn't bad at all. Probably no Darren Day or Phillip Schofield, but he gave a spirited turn, and didn't seem out of his depth – the shaking stopped after the first couple of songs.
The show was quite good fun too, although we would have felt slightly more comfortable had we been accompanied by a gaggle of small children, as it's very much a family-friendly affair, with lots of audience participation and comedy "business" that nobody over the age of about three would find amusing.
It's quite short too, so the evening was padded out with overtures before each act and a 15-minute encore where the whole cast ran through the best-known songs once again, except slightly faster and with more clapping.
It was during this segment that, much to our secret delight, Ian "H" Watkins magically transformed into "H from Steps", running around, waving to fans and shouting "c'mon" and the "ooh, ooh" bit from Let's All Chant like some kind of twat.
(He also mocked the two of us from the stage for refusing to get up and dance at his command. The shame!)
If you find yourself in London on a Thursday night without anything much to do, you could do a lot worse than this. You won't want to tell your friends the next morning where you've been, but it'll be lots of fun at the time.