Richmond Theatre, London – until 2 November 2019
Reviewed by Serena Norgren
David Walliams books are woven into our literary fabric, the movies have become a Christmas television staple and now they hit the stage again in the form of Billionaire Boy, in this musical adaptation. Walliams humour, gentle irreverence and charm are at the fore of this morality tale which is firmly aimed at a younger audience warming up for the panto season.
The story centres on Joe Spud, the son of billionaire “Bumfresh” inventor Len Spud, as he persuades his dad to move him from his exclusive private school to the local comprehensive in search of a friend. David Walliams cheeky playfulness is brought to life by Neal Foster’s adaptation with clever nods to school and teachers from the opening “cross country” scene to the musical number, “Walk don’t Run” which will resonate with every child in the audience. Dressed up in slapstick and stuffed full of gags, this is nevertheless a touching cautionary tale.
The key to the success of this show is the nine person cast which brings Walliams array of quirky and colourful characters to life. With slick set and character changes from the flossing robot butler at the start to Raj the shopkeeper, the impression is one of an entire ensemble at work. Matthew Gordon does a fine job as Joe; Davy Bell in his professional debut is lovely as Joe’s earnest new friend Bob Evans. Jason Furnival, as Dad, portrays both naïvety and vulgarity in a tender way. Emma Matthews is excellent as Mrs Trafe, the school cook; almost Victoria Wood-esque in her dinner lady characterisation.
Jacqueline Trousdale’s set also deserves a special mention and not just as an homage to loo roll. “Bum Towers” is literally a tower of toilet paper which is then cleverly transformed to the school via Mrs Trafe’s café and back again. There were audible “oohs” from the young audience when the set opened up to allow Dad’s helicopter to take off and then land to deliver Joe’s homework.
In parts a bit hackneyed and over cooked for our grown-up taste maybe, but this is a colourful, warm and fun adaptation and as a half term treat for the youngsters, spot on!