REVIEW: Puttin’ on the Ritz – Playhouse, Edinburgh

The appeal of music from the golden age of movie musicals would seem to be endless.With shows like Top Hat, Singin’ in the Rain and 42nd Street currently or recently completing tours, it’s no surprise that Spirit Productions have launched their self-proclaimed ‘song and dance extravaganza’ Puttin’ on the Ritz.

Utilising the music of the big three; Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, the show features six vocalists, a troupe of sixteen dancers and special guest star Lorna Luft. Taking the form of a musical review, the action moves along at a brisk pace, each classic hit segueing into the next on a whistle-stop tour of the greatest hits of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’.

Whilst each featured vocalist is entirely competent, the dancers adept, the choreography inventive and the costumes and set suitably glittery, the whole affair is lacking a certain sparkle. The singers appear under-amplified in the cavernous auditorium, the sound failing to reach or make any impact on the circle where this reviewer was seated. The projection screen titles and flat introductions by the cast members also fail to build any rapport with the audience; a bit of chat would have gone a long way to drawing the audience in.

Special guest star Luft, the daughter of arguably the greatest movie musical star of all time, Judy Garland, appears briefly in each act singing a selection of her mother’s most famous songs. Her presence on the bill, undoubtedly the major draw, adds a direct connection to the songs we are experiencing here, and she endeavours to conjur up a rapport with the crowd, sharing some Hollywood anecdotes and revealing that Garland’s ancestors were from Aberdeen to curry a bit of favour with the locals. But it just isn’t enough and her appearance is all too brief.

There is no question that the raw material is all here, the music of the great American Songbook is amongst the greatest ever written, each of the performers undoubtedly talented, but on the whole Puttin’ on the Ritz is lacking that certain something that makes for a truly great night at the theatre.

Runs until 20 September 2014