CHARACTERS don’t come more colourful than Glam Rock god Marc Bolan, and now his life is being told in a new musical.
20th Century Boy explodes onto the stage nearly four decades after the iconic star’s tragic death.
It features pop songs that still strike a loud chord today, while celebrating some of the founding fathers of the Glam Rock era.
Warren Sollars is donning a feather boa and more glitter than you can shake a stick at to step into the vertiginous platforms of Bolan.
Taking on the portrayal of a man who defined an era is no mean feat.
“I absolutely felt pressure. You don’t get asked every day to play someone so liked by everyone, a legend from the Glam Rock days. It’s such a special thing,” he said.
“It was a big challenge when they first asked me to do it, but one I was really thankful for. This isn’t just a character in a show, this is a real person.
“I happened to be a big Marc Bolan fan before and I spent weeks and weeks watching videos on YouTube and listening to his songs every day in preparation for the role.
“The film Born to Boogie, which was directed by Ringo Starr, was a great one to watch as it gives you a real insight into him as a person, there’s vignettes of him doing speeches and interview footage. You can really absorb yourself in it.”
Rocker, poet, electric warrior, king of glam and godfather of punk, Bolan was arguably the biggest rock star of that time.
Before his tragic death in 1977 in a car accident, just days short of his 30th birthday, Bolan lived life to the full, creating a series of iconic images, a string of number one hits and an army of fans. This new musical looks into some of the myths surrounding his flamboyant life at the helm of T. Rex and features some of the band’s biggest hits, such as Ride A White Swan, I Love To Boogie and Get It On.
Warren says the show touches upon many aspects of Marc’s life.
He explains: “He was an incredible performer. In the show we do a lot of recreations of him. When he first started in Tyrannosaurus Rex it was a folky style, just him sat on a carpet cross-legged with his acoustic guitar, but when it became T-Rex they changed it up. It’s great, as an actor, to do those recreations.
“He was a word player, he thought of himself as a poet in his younger days, and you can see that in his lyrics as well. He was very ahead of his time in the ’70s with his lyrics. He had a magical mind.”
Warren says the show is more than just music.
“With this show, even if you took the music away, it would stand alone as a play. The script is really great. Then when you put the music on top of that, it comes alive even more.
“Sometimes songs are shoe-horned into jukebox musicals. It happens that way because it’s difficult to get them in, but with this one the songs happen naturally.”
He added: “It features Marc’s son’s story, it’s him looking back and wanting to know more about his dad, him searching and speaking to people who knew him. It’s a great concept, to tell it in that way instead of just Marc’s story from A to B.
“Marc’s son, Rolan, has given his consent and shown his support for us. He’s happy because he thinks his dad’s music deserves to come back and it does deserve to come back.”
Tracks featured in the show still have a resonance today.
Warren said: “Marc and T-Rex have so many fans and we still hear a lot of their music today in films like Billy Elliott. And songs like We Love To Boogie and Children of the Revolution are used in so many adverts. Their music is timeless. It has a real groove to it, a real kick.
“Like Michael Jackson and Elvis, who people still listen to all these years later, Marc was a special kind of performer. He changed the face of music. He started Glam Rock, before people like David Bowie. He was the first guy to wear glitter and make up on stage.”
Marc’s originality meant he inspired a legion of fans who still hold him close to their hearts.
“People come along with feather boas and Marc Bolan T-shirts and it’s great to have them singing the music back at you,” he said. “But even people who weren’t T. Rex fans have come away wanting to know more about their music.”
•20th Century Boy is at Sunderland Empire from Monday until May 24. Tickets are £22 in person at the Box Office or £25.90 when calling 0844 871 3022 or booking online at www.ATGtickets.com.
•We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets to Twentieth Century Boy for the performance on Monday evening.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these is a T. Rex song?:
A) Get it On
B) Get it Out
C) Get it Right
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon tomorrow.