sings cast

Stranger Sings!

Wolverhampton Grand


As I approached the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on a freezing cold evening to watch Stranger Sings! I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for.

I merely hoped that as an avid viewer of acclaimed TV series Stranger Things, a musical parody would be right up my street – and as it turns out I was right.

It’s probably the only negative of the production that you really do have to be a fan of the show to get the full experience and benefit of the show.

Yes, without being an aficionado or generally knowing the story you could probably still enjoy it on some level (especially if your childhood was in the 80s) as the cast are great and the performances are really entertaining but to really get the whole shebang you need to be a fan.

The show is chocked full of in-jokes and references and the storylines are truncated, adapted and in some cases completely invented for stage. Without the context of Stranger Things it is likely you’ll not have a clue what’s going on.

The cast do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the TV show whilst also sending it up – this is mockery with great big dollops of affection.

flower power

Philippa Leadbetter, as Barb, takes a relatively fleeting and incidental TV character and makes her an absolute tour de force – it actually made you wish she had not met her premature end during the TV series (though you know their Barb would not be as good as this one). With sass and humour she said what we were all thinking about her relationship with Nancy – played by Anna Amelia and just helped us see this production for what is was – a production emanating from Stranger Things rather than one trying to simply be it but on stage.

Some of the cast played multiple characters and it is to their credit that it sometimes took a while to twig it was the same person. Anna Amelia as Nancy, Eleven and Robin is fabulous – each role really grabbing the essence of the TV persona via accents, speech patterns and mannerisms. It’s impressive to say the least.   

Alfie Doohan’s Steve and Jonathan are superb demonstrations of mimicry, such was the skill with which he affected and amplified the mannerisms of the two stalwarts. He also played Dr Brenner though I must admit that for me it didn’t land quite as his other two characters – this is probably more to do with how good his Steve and Jonathan were and the fact that Dr Brenner is a more elusive persona to tie down.

Of the ‘kids’ characters Elliot Wooster, William Shackleton and Jessie Jae Davis do an excellent job as Mike, Dustin and Lucas, with their bike scenes clever and their camaraderie believable. Jessie Jae Davis also does an excellent turn as the showbiz version of Demorgorgon – a really clever way of dealing with a baddie who, in the TV form, would definitely not fit the bill for a musical parody!


Scene chewing Howard Jenkin’s turn as Hopper is genuinely enjoyable as he hams up the swagger of the Hawkins police chief.

Special mention though must go to Verity Power who was both Joyce and, via a puppet, Will. As Joyce she was truly like Winona Ryder’s Doppledanger – it was something to behold to see someone that skilled and talented in both acting and singing. As if that wasn’t enough, as Will she then showed real breadth to make puppet Will an enjoyable and fun element  to the show – in lesser hands it may have fallen flat but in actual fact it worked really well – right down to some of the knowing jokes about him being a puppet.

The staging is clever – within a relatively confined space it actually seemed large and complex and managed to include many aspects of the show – what couldn’t be featured as scenery was implemented via props and clever additions. Set designer Justin Williams does an excellent job of parachuting us into the Stranger Things world whilst not terrifying us.

Musically there’s lots to love – not least the pianist on stage who worked tirelessly and was super – I have no idea how they managed to not get distracted by what was going on all around them. It gave it an almost homemade 80s feel which was the icing on the cake.

You can tell that creator Jonathan Hogue has an affection for Stranger Things and for the time in which it’s set and that affection shines through in his lyrics and his show. It’s even within the interval as 80s shows are played over the loudspeaker – classics such as cities of gold and Bravestar brought back some fond memories for this reviewer.

All in all, if you’re a fan of the TV show then I heartily recommend you seeing Stranger Sings. It is recommended as 14+ at the Grand and 16+ in other venues but, for me, if you’ve seen Stranger Things then Stranger Sings! Will be no problem. It is nowhere near as frightening and barring a bit of bad language and innuendo (and Steve mentioning boobs a lot) there is nothing of concern.

As part of it’s National run it runs for two more nights and if you’re a fan of the show then you won’t be disappointed – tickets starts from a bargain £17.50 and can be bought HERE

No mouthbreathers allowed!)

Theo Clarke


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