Review: No More Mr Nice Guy at Broadway Theatre ★★★★★

Review: No More Mr Nice Guy at Broadway Theatre ★★★★★

A head-bopping, feet-stomping, melodic musical odyssey through a schoolteacher’s dream of music stardom.

Through the haze, the low, red lights start to brighten as the crowd quiets. A low, thrumming bass note fills the room. The lights rise, and a drum-kit and synth keyboard float into view, just as the first few percussive hits ring out. The music swells, the lights rise and strobe, the room fills with energy, and just when you think it can’t build anymore – a man in a red toque strolls onto the stage, filling the room with applause before carrying us away into a bombastic opening to the show.

Review: No More Mr Nice Guy at Broadway Theatre ★★★★★ 1

No More Mr Nice Guy is the story of Keloughn Douglas, a British-Caribbean music teacher juggling his dreams of a music career with success in his teaching day job, along with his upcoming marriage to his fiance. Written by and starring Cal-I Jonel, directed by TD Moyo, and produced with Nouveau Riche, the show never stops moving, carrying us through Keloughn’s increasingly tense struggles with microaggressive co-workers, family pressure, and the fear that he’s too old to succeed as a musician. Jonel tells us the story through a mix of live music, spoken word poetry, and one-man dialogues, backed by Hannah Ledwidge on drums, and Terry Smiles on synth and bass guitar.

From its opening bassy thrum, the show roars with passionate life. Jonel’s performance is virtuosic, jumping from fast-paced rap, to physical characters, to soulful melodies, to passionate, sometimes heart-breakingly soft monologues. His ability to switch between Keloughn and the characters around him is especially impressive, and each role feels completely different physically and vocally. This leads to some great comedic moments built around the one-man dialogues Jonel navigates while jumping between Keloughn and the people that make up his life, building out these other selves in hilarious performances that always stay just shy enough of cartoonish to hit meaningfully (and sometimes brutally) when they need to. The dialogue is captivating, jumping between funny and stressful and giving us just enough time to sit with it before whisking us off to the next challenge Keloughn faces.

Review: No More Mr Nice Guy at Broadway Theatre ★★★★★ 2

As feels fitting for a show about someone dreaming of a musician’s life, however, the music is the real star of the show. Jonel’s raps, backed by Ledwidge’s percussion and Smiles’ thrumming synth hit us fast and hard, calling out all of us to bop along and shout back to the performers. The lyrics are cleanly executed, and fit brilliantly within the show’s plot and themes. Jonel also isn’t afraid to show off his singing chops, and absolutely nails the slower songs with beautiful, crooning melodies accompanied by his own piano and guitar-playing. You can check out a version of one of the show’s slower songs, Cheesecake and Wine, here – though I prefer his performance in the show, so catch it live if you get the chance.

All told, No More Mr Nice Guy hits everything you’d want from a great solo-ish show. At a little under 90 minutes, it jumps in to grab you and pulls you along through its highs and lows, leaving you wanting just a little more when it’s all over. Check out this show before it flies out of London to tour the UK – it’s a night out you won’t want to miss!