Boy George’s Greatest Project – The Musical “Taboo”
Boy George is responsible for bringing on stage a musical that brings the magic of the 1980s, but also the less-than-happy consequences of these years to the attention of the public.
The Revival of the 1980s
As it often happens, the years that set trends are, after some time, revived. This is the case of the 1980s. Starting with the fashion industry, where punk and romanticism devour the fashion shows of various designers, to the streets where fashion descended under its various forms, the 80s are remembered as a magical time, when people and bands were discovering themselves and all censorship was breaking down. Even the 80s bands are going back on tours, mesmerized by all this importance given to the 1980s.
Therefore, the 80s were bound to come back to life in art as well, music and movies included. The Pet Shop Boys anticipated Boy George’s move last year, when they put in motion the musical “Closer to Heaven” focusing on the same flamboyant era.
The musical, with its story taking place against the background of a club, deals with issues that were of notoriety at that time, like love and drugs, but also HIV and homophobia. Although the music and the lyrics were written by Boy George himself, “Taboo” is based on a book written by Mark Davies.
The plot follows the life of Billy, an aspiring photographer, who lives a dull life in the London suburbs, hoping to have his big break in the city. Falling in love with Kim, a vulnerable character, he starts frequenting places like the Blitz club, a legendary location where trend-setters like Steve Strange and Philip Sallon could be seen all the time.
The musical also tackles the politics of the era, making reference to that time’s British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and to the high rate of the unemployment, but only in the beginning, as the play focuses, mostly, on the four already-mentioned problems.
Seen also a sign of nostalgia for the 1980s, the show’s shortcomings of the script are allowed to go unnoticed due to some quality songs, witty-lines and to the great performances of the comedian Matt Lucas on the London scenes and of Euan Morton, who plays Boy George himself.
Is It Way Too “Taboo” Or Not?
Overall, at least on the British scene, the musical represents a great source of entertainment, lingering less on issues like HIV and drugs and ending the scene with the crowd-pleaser “Karma Chameleon”, by Culture Club.
This is one of the main reasons why Rosie O’Donnell agreed to back the production up, investing $10m in it, as she was completely mesmerized by it when she saw it in London last year. The US version of the musical was rewritten, in order to appeal to the US mass, with the Broadway version having George himself playing the role of Leigh Bowery, a performance artist.
Although quite well received on the London scene, the musical is considered a disaster by various USA reviews, such as The New York Times, The USA Today, and The Washington Post, all of them describing it as a show which makes you forget what is happening and how, and whose only good part is the first act.
But, since the critics and the public do not always agree, it is best to see the show for yourself and make a decision later.