A clever concept, fantastic technical elements and Paul O’Donnell’s infectious energy carries the audience through We’ve Got Each Other, a one-man Bon Jovi musical that has its audience laughing from start to finish.
Paul O’Donnell enters the stage somewhat apologetically, ‘admitting’ that he was rather over-ambitious when pitching in his Bon Jovi musical endeavour to VAULT Festival’s programmers. A cast of 30 (including C-list celebrities), foreign language vocal coaching, multiple set changes and choreography by Bruno Tonioli turned out to be slightly out of budget. What proceeds is an hour-long, one-man performance shaped by O’Donnell’s incredible storytelling skills, spot-on technical and sound design and the pure imagination of the audience as he describes ‘what would’ve happened’ in his West End version.
This concept is always in risk of getting ‘old’ quickly, especially with so many variations on Living on a Prayer (the only Bon Jovi song rights O’Donnell seems to have managed to obtain). However, he carries the show with smart commentary and analysis of the ‘jukebox’ musical genre. There’s nods to the hammy nature of these types of musicals, as well as references to classics like Les Miz and West Side Story. O’Donnell’s comedic timing – with these continuous asides to the audience – keep the audience laughing throughout. A highlight has to be the five-minute blackout to demonstrate a classic West End ‘interval’ – where O’Donnell keeps up his monologue in the darkness, articulating humorously about expensive glasses of cheap wine.
In addition to O’Donnell’s concept and performance, credit has to be given to the creative and production teams for their design and finesse. I’ve never been so mesmerised by strong overhead spotlights following a character who isn’t there, or pink disco lights and non-existent confetti canons signalling an Act One finale dance number. Conversations between Paul and ‘the techie’ also give the audience a little chuckle, especially those with previous experience in theatre with the dynamic playing on common stereotypes in the industry. Watching the lighting queues fast-forward tenfold as O’Donnell decides to skip ahead multiple scenes is another highlight.
Overall though, it is O’Donnell’s inspired energy and charisma that really elevates We’ve Got Each Other. His involvement on stage increases throughout from simply sitting in the corner and narrating – to singing and performing some of the major dance numbers. He jokes about his status as a ‘triple threat’ performer, but really he is so much more – both creating and performing in something incredibly special.
It’s the only show I’ve been to which has had the audience on their feet and clapping along to a curtain call of non-existent cast and an empty stage. And the standing ovation was for good reason.