Taboo (musical)

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Music Boy George
Kevan Frost
John Themis
Richie Stevens
Lyrics Boy George
Book Mark Davies Markham
Charles Busch
Productions 2002 West End
2003 Broadway
2003 UK Tour
2012 Brixton Revival

Taboo is a stage musical with a book by Mark Davies Markham (extensively rewritten for the Broadway production by Charles Busch), lyrics by Boy George, and music by George, John Themis, Richie Stevens and Kevan Frost.

Set in an abandoned London warehouse, the partly imagined story of a group of club 'names' set in the location of what was the city's most fashionable nightclub, the now-legendary Taboo (1985–87) of the title, which was the creation of Leigh Bowery. Boy George is featured as one of the club's regulars, but in reality, George rarely attended. The show also focuses on George's life prior to and after achieving fame.


The show premiered in London's West End at the newly opened Venue Theatre on January 29, 2002. Comedian/talk show host Rosie O'Donnell was so enamoured with it that she decided to finance a Broadway production. After 16 previews, it opened on November 13, 2003 at the Plymouth Theatre where, hampered by mostly scathing reviews,[1] it closed after 100 performances. The cast, directed by Christopher Renshaw, included Boy George (credited under his real name, George O'Dowd), Euan Morton, Luke Evans, Dianne Pilkington, Raúl Esparza, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Jeffrey Carlson, and Brooke Elliott. O'Donnell reportedly lost her entire $10 million investment in the project.[2] O'Donnell said in an interview about Leigh Bowery that she will take Taboo back to Broadway in the future.

2012 Brixton production

In September 2012, Director Christopher Renshaw revived the show in a "site specific" form in Brixton Clubhouse in South London. The production was based on the original show with book by Mark Davies, but included several changes to the original storyline.

In this production, Paul Baker revived his Olivier Award winning role of Philip Sallon, and was joined by Samuel Buttery as Leigh Bowery and Niamh Perry as Kim. George was played by newcomer Matthew Rowland, and other roles were played by: Adam Bailey, Owain Williams, Michael Matus, Alistair Brammer, Alex Hammond, Zeph Gould, Jennifer Hepburn, Daniella Bowen, and Katie Kerr was Big Sue.

Most of the songs stayed the same, but Boy George and Kevan Frost penned a brand new song "No need to work so hard" to replace "Independent woman", and the show's finale was "Come on in from the outside", which had previously been part of the Broadway show.

The following characters were added:

Since the plot no longer took the company to India, the role of Guru Dazzle was dropped.

The show was such a success that it was extend to run beyond its initial Christmas deadline. This made the show require a cast change, so the second company included: George - Paul Treacy, Marilyn - Jordan Luke Gage, Billy - Alex Jordan Mills, Derek/Petal - Paul Kevin Taylor, Kim - Devon Elise Johnson, Josie - Julia Worsley, Janey - Sarah Goggin, Male Ensemble - Matthew Gent, all joining existing company members in their previous roles.

The production won the 2013 Awards award for BEST OFF WEST-END PRODUCTION

The second company continued its successful run, and eventually closed on Sunday 31 March 2013 after having done 213 performances.

3 Members of the company did all 213 performances of the show - Andrew Holton (Company Manager), David Morgan (Wardrobe Supervisor), Marcin Weber (Sound Engineer)


The show is based partly on the New Romantic scene of the 1980s. At its core is the life and career of colourful pop star Boy George (who rose to global prominence in the early 1980s with his band Culture Club) and his contemporaries, including performance artist and club promoter Leigh Bowery, pop singer Marilyn, Blitz nightclub host Steve Strange (later of the electro-pop group Visage), and Philip Sallon, punk groupie and Mud Club promoter. Although George was intimate with the central figures, artistic license around relationships and time frames was taken for continuity; for example, Bowery never attended the Blitz nightclub, as he was living in Australia at the time.

Characters, Original London Production & UK tour[edit]

  • Billy – the protagonist, Billy is an aspiring photographer. Frustrated with suburban life in Bromley, he runs to London ('Safe in the city') to make his fortune. There he meets Philip Sallon, who introduces him to Kim and George. He soon falls in love with Kim, and attaches himself to George's rising star. Not based on any one real life person. Played by Luke Evans in the original London production.
  • Kim – an aspiring punk fashion designer and George's squat-mate. Kim is fiery but insecure, rarely emerging from behind her makeup. She ran away from home at 15, and her mother was too drunk to come looking for her. Not based on any one real life person. Played by Dianne Pilkington in the Original London Cast
  • George – Artist, poet, singer/songwriter George O'Dowd is shown before and during his initial success, as a supporting role. He takes an immediate shine to Billy. Thrives on attention and shocking others, never appears dressed conventionally. Originally played by Euan Morton, who Boy George said was 'more Boy George than I am'.
  • Leigh Bowery – flamboyant Australian designer and performance artist. He delights in antagonising Kim, and is constantly surrounded by a gaggle of admirers/slaves. Absorbs Billy into his flock. Played by Boy George himself in both the London and Broadway productions.
  • Philip Sallon – the second person Billy meets in London, who takes him to Kim and George's squat. Opens the show. Character based on a real person. He was played by Paul Baker.
  • Josie James – Billy's mother, who later becomes Kim's best friend and business partner. Not based on any one real life person. Supposedly a part written specially for the performer Lyn Paul to play.
  • Marilyn – another of the Blitz Kids, Marilyn is first George's rival, then best friend.
  • Janey – a reporter for the Sun newspaper, who has a connection to George.
  • Steve Strange – doorman at the 'Blitz' club, and singer with the group Visage who achieved success with 'Fade to Grey'. Good-natured rival of George.
  • Derek – Billy's father. Violent, drunk and homophobic, he beats up Philip for verbally teasing him. Not based on any one real life person.
  • Petal – scary cross-dressing drug pusher. Not a convincing woman, just a violent man in a miniskirt. In previews Petal killed Billy near the end of the show. Based on a very real person.
  • Big Sue – Leigh's main assistant and confidante. Character based on Sue Tilley.[3]
  • Gary/Guru Dazzle – the bouncer at the 'Blitz' club, who becomes a Krishna devotee.


Original London Production & UK tour[edit]

2012 London Revival[edit]

Broadway production[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2003 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Euan Morton Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Paul Baker Won
Best Costume Design Mike Nicholls Nominated

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2004 Tony Award Best Original Score Boy George Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Euan Morton Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Raúl Esparza Nominated
Best Costume Design Mike Nicholls and Bobby Pearce Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Euan Morton Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Raúl Esparza Won
Jeffrey Carlson Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Boy George Nominated
Outstanding Music Nominated
Theatre World Award Euan Morton Won

London Revival 2012[edit]


Cast Recordings[edit]

Taboo is the name of two cast recordings for the Boy George hit stage musical, Taboo. The first, published in 2002, features the original West End cast, and a second album was published in 2004 featuring the original cast of the Broadway production.


  1. ^ Zoglin, Richard (November 18, 2003). "Rosie's Bum Rap: In Defense of Taboo". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  2. ^ "Taboo closing". www. cnn. com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  3. ^ Dowling, Tim (June 30, 2005). "The Ballad of Big Sue". guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 

External links[edit]