The show Cool Hand Luke is based on the novel by Donn Pearce (about a real man named Luke) and was made into a very good 1967 film which starred Paul Newman in an electrifying performance as Luke.
In the new stage version, Mark Warren is Luke, a man who is caught by the police trying to steal parking meters (for the change). He is arrested, sent to jail, and soon is revered by the rest of the prisoners. Perhaps the one highlight of the show comes around the middle: Luke has been bet that he can't eat 50 boiled eggs in less than one hour. So he slowly starts to eat the eggs. If it weren't for the binoculars that my friend had, we would not have figured out how he actually eats all the eggs. It is excellently done.
However, after this bit, the show has nowhere to go but down. Luke escapes three times, and is caught three times, but it is difficult to care for him when the audience never really gets to know who he is. Some of his fellow prisoners are very likeable, including Lee Boardman as Dragline, who looks up to Luke and escapes with him on his third escape. Richard Brake is very scary (and very good) as the prison boss, whose eyes are hidden by very dark sunglasses. And Tom Silburn is both innocent and naive as Curly.
The most memorable and soulful moments of the show are the hymns sung by Sandra Marvin and Tania Mathurin in between and during scenes, which are beautiful. Also memorable are the sets. One moment we are in a field, the next moment we are in a prison yard, and then we are in the prison barracks. For the final scene we are transported into a church.
However, all of this does not add up to memorable show. We really don't get to know Luke, who he is, what he does, why he does what he does, and why the other prisoners look up to him. Warren is fine as Luke, but the show needs someone who is more than fine. Also, Lisa Eichhorn, who has starred in many A-list movies and is perhaps better known in America than here in England, is wasted, completely wasted, as Luke's mother. She has very little to do.
So don't bother seeing the stage show. Instead, see the movie with Paul Newman.