Category Archives: REVIEWS

REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

The panto-going citizens of Glasgow raised a cheer when the cast of the SEC Armadillo’s pantomime Snow White was announced. The almost universally adored Greg McHugh – he of the much-missed Gary, Tank Commander would star as court jester Gary, his TV co-star Leah MacRae would play Nanny McWee his mother (not sure the lovely Leah should be best pleased at that!), River City’s Frances Thorburn would be our heroine Snow White and a doyenne of British comedy acting, the wonderful Doon Mackichan would be the evil Queen Lucretia.

The quality cast, coupled with the sheer scale of the spectacle, add up to the city’s most fabulous, funny festive offering. There’s a camaraderie from the cast that just radiates to the audience, who are on-side with the high jinks from the start. McHugh is undoubtedly the star and his antics as the cheeky but naïve Gary are the highlights of the show, but there are star turns a-plenty, especially from Mackichan who is an absolute treat as the evil queen.

The only negative notes are a troupe of mildly horrifying looking woodland animals whose costumes look like they’ve been culled from the leftovers of the abattoir, all the more incongruous in such a spectacularly glitzy show and the auditorium itself, whose vast size does tend to engulf any audience reactions.

Definitely the most spectacular panto in town and certainly the most star-studded.

REVIEW: Cinderella – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Glasgow Academy of Musical Theatre Arts (GAMTA) have teamed up with Eastwood Park Theatre to present this year’s festive pantomime, Cinderella.

The set and costumes are a feast for the eyes, the glittering, decorated proscenium adds to the wonder before the curtain even rises. There’s glitz, glamour and special effects, all adding to the magic of the production.

While the youthful cast win in the energy and effort department, it is however, a dance-heavy, slow to get going, take on the traditional tale. There are some baffling additions to the story which seem to have been shoe-horned in to showcase GAMTA’s dance credentials, unfortunately they only add to an already over-long run time. It also suffers from the fact Buttons is being played by a young child and the object of his affections a clearly mature teen, it all adds a creepily uncomfortable element which will no doubt go over the heads of the children in the audience, but feels a tad uncomfortable for the adults.

Where it succeeds is in its comedy elements, Ciara Flynn and Rebecca McComb are a perfectly matched comedic double act as Ugly Sisters and provide the majority of the true highlights of the show.

The cast can’t be faulted for their skill or talent, however, they suffer from an over-long and overly-dull script that dilutes the magical potential the show could have had.

REVIEW: We Will Rock You – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

From a rocky start in 2002, We Will Rock You has defied critical backlash to become one of the UK’s best-loved musicals. Seen by over 6.5 million people it ran for 4600 performances at the Dominion Theatre in the West End, where the famous gold statue of Freddie Mercury guarded the patrons from his perch high above the entrance. This revived, re-designed and re-energised new touring production is even better than the original and boasts a cast of such quality, it is impossible not to be completely won over.

Set in a dystopian future, it’s 2310, and music has been outlawed. All thought is controlled by Globalsoft Corporation, and life is lived entirely on the internet. There’s no place for originality or free spirit. A rag-tag band of free-thinking ‘Bohemians’ set out to find the last surviving musical instrument on the planet and bring back the mythical ‘Rock and Roll’. That the subject matter is treated with complete knowingness, with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek, is one of its greatest strengths. The laughs in Ben Elton’s script come thick and fast.

However, it’s the music and in particular, the spectacular cast’s delivery of it that makes this production unmissable. As our hero Galileo Figaro, Olivier-nominated Ian McIntosh is an absolute standout, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe his outstanding voice and stunning range. As Scaramouche, Elena Skye is a wise-cracking wonder with fabulous vocals. TV regular Michael McKell provides the lion’s share of the comedy, bringing genuine belly laughs and impressive vocals as Buddy Holly, Amy Di Bartolomeo is also a memorable Oz. One small crimp in the evening is Jenny O’Leary as Killer Queen whose vocals are quite frankly messy, only exacerbated by the fact that these songs are world famous and her co-stars are at the top of their game. That said, the positives overwhelm any negatives.

If it’s an uplifting, feel-good night, with the music of Queen, a crazy, fun story, delivered by a world-class cast you want, then I’d beg, borrow or steal a ticket to this warm-hearted wonder of a show.

Runs until 28 December 2019 | Image: Johan Persson

Originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Overtones Christmas Party 2019 – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

It has become a sign that the festive season is approaching when The Overtones land in town. It’s been a decade since they burst on the scene and they’ve honed their craft over the years, with five top 10 albums, nine sold out UK tours and despite a rough few years personally, they manage to deliver the perfect pre-Christmas celebration.

It is, as always a mix of classic golden oldies, album favourites and a few less expected tracks, but most of all it’s a spirit-lifting evening where you can dance the night and your troubles away. There’s a warmth to each member of the band, they genuinely look as if their having a ball, and new member Jay James has seamlessly transitioned into the gap left by the death of Timmy Matley and the departure to pastures new of the much-loved bass vocalist Lachie Chapman.

Their greatest gift as an act is the ability to pick their set list, it’s all killer, no filler. These classic tunes are floor fillers, instantly recognisable, the audience are on their feet and singing along from the first few bars. Among many highlights, some standouts are their joyous version of Earth Wind & Fire’s September, Womack and Womack’s Teardrops, Dion’s Runaround Sue and old favourite Gimme Just a Little More Time from The Chairmen of the Board. There’s also a freshly arranged version of Walking in the Air, the contemporary twist has breathed new life into a twee festive tune.

The Overtones are a timeless band whose modern-vintage style has wide appeal, but it’s their endearing personalities, effort and energy, love of what they do and devotion to their fans that stands them head and shoulders above their contemporaries. Their ability to fill auditoriums up and down the country, proves that there’s still a place for class and quality. Here’s to many more years.

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

If it’s a big traditional panto with plenty of glitz and sparkle you’re looking for, then Glasgow King’s certainly delivers year on year.

This year’s offering is Jack and the Beanstalk, starring local panto treasures Elaine C. Smith and Johnny Mac, and save for these two local favourites, it’s a minor TV celeb-free zone and all the better for it.

The story largely follows the traditional tale: there’s a huge furry cow, some magic beans, a growing beanstalk, a fabulously realised giant and the requisite evil baddie, some familiar tunes – mostly oldies, there are no new pop hits. It’s re-set to Glasvegas with some familiar local references thrown in and most of the usual panto tropes intact. There’s no slapstick, a tiny bit of audience participation, the dame is a woman, the princess doesn’t need a man to vanquish the foe and proposes to her beau – all a refreshing move in the right direction. It needs mentioning though that a sequence between Mac and Smith incorporating the names of famous chocolate bars, was seen last year almost exactly in Cinderella at the SEC Armadillo.

Elaine C. Smith is much-loved and a solid pair of hands for a production as big as this and Johnny Mac is entirely loveable and endearing as Jack, the audience is onside from his first wide smile. Less effective is Anne Smith as the panto baddie Mrs. Blunderbore, an unfortunate visual joke from Jack about her performance being a bit flat, is unfortunately accurate, and in contrast to her co-stars her costumes are utterly lacklustre – more Poundland than Pantoland.

All in all, it’s exactly as you would expect every year from the King’s – big, bold and beautifully executed. A fine night of traditional entertainment.

Runs until 5 January 2019

Image: Richard Campbell

Originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Jinkx Monsoon and Ben DeLa Creme – All I Want For Christmas is Attention – Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Ben DeLa Creme and Jinkx Monsoon are back in Glasgow at the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket with their all-new seasonal spectacular, All I Want For Christmas is Attention.

The two Seattle Super-Queens make for an unlikely, but absolutely perfect pairing. DeLa is billed as ‘all sugar’ and Jinkx ‘all spice’ but their two very different Christmas/Holiday ideals provide plenty of laughs.

All I Want for Christmas is Attention marks DeLa’s first producer credit for an international tour, and there’s a lot at stake, but, if the full auditorium and the audience reaction is anything to go on then she has nothing to worry about.

Presented like a 1950s Holiday TV special, but with 21st Century sensibilities and content. There are sketches and songs, and plenty of bickering, and of course, lots of glam costume changes. There’s an undeniably warmth, and feel-good atmosphere about the whole evening and the fact that these are two of the most accomplished queens on the scene means that they know how to structure a show. For all the crazy content this is as professional as it gets.

A masterclass in polished, elevated drag, that plays to the special talents of its stars, this is a pairing not to be missed.

REVIEW: Iris – Scottish Opera at The City Halls, Glasgow

Iris, Pietro Mascagni’s little seen third opera, is presented in concert form at the City Halls in Glasgow, by Scottish Opera. Originally intended to be semi-staged, almost universal cast illness means that this is a little more no frills. However, the music is so glorious, nothing more is required.

Set in Japan in the Edo period, innocent Iris (Kiandra Howarth, replacing the indisposed Helena Dix), the daughter of blind Il Cieco (James Creswell) lives a simple life. Her world is turned on its head when young Lord Osaka (Ric Furman) carries Iris off to Kyoto’s (Roland Wood) geisha house and a world so cruel she can barely comprehend.

Mascagni’s work pre-dates Puccini’s Butterfly by six years and is considerably more demanding – this is basically the tale of a young Japanese girl who is sold into sex-trafficking, and it makes no bones about it’s presentation of it, what Puccini glosses over, Mascagni and his librettist Luigi Illica, lay bare. The problematic nature of the story is only made more difficult by the fact that there is no remorse for the unpalatable actions of the men in the story and to add insult to injury, the males are inevitably handed all the best music.

The ominous bass solo with which the work begins, sets the tone for Iris’ fate, but it begins one of the most beautiful openings in opera, as the sun rises over Japan. This glorious opening is a precursor to a work filled with beautiful music, played faultlessly by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and accompanied impeccably by the chorus of Iris. The first rate singers, the icing on the cake.

While the subject matter may not be to many’s taste, Iris, is utterly hypnotic, completely beguiling, and in the intimate setting of the City Halls, with it’s world-class acoustics, a five-star, absolute highlight of the current opera season.

Image: James Glossop

REVIEW: Cinderfella – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

There has thankfully been a seismic shift in the Pantosphere in recent years to reflect the society we actually live in, and at the forefront has been the Tron Theatre, and more specifically those works from the pen of the wonder boy of panto fabulousness, Johnny McKnight. That said, this is the festive show I’ve attended since childhood and from the days of Peter Capaldi, Forbes Masson, Alan Cumming and Craig Ferguson, it has never felt the need to conform to Christmas norms or patronise its audience. It has a special place in my heart and year on year it never fails to entertain on every level and for every age.

The smashing of gender stereotypes features large in this year’s offering Cinderfella, and boy do they do it with tons of style and even more humour. Poor, orphaned Cinderella is fighting to keep her late parent’s vintage store afloat, her only hope is to meet fashion entrepreneur Princess Charmaine and persuade her to invest in the failing family business. However, the only way a poor pleb like Cinderella can get near the Princess is to get an invite to her annual ball. However, this year the guest-list is a male-only affair – so what’s a girl to do?…

The music is chart-toppingly catchy and composer Ross Brown has obviously caught West End smash Six, another celebration of female strength, there’s also a nod to You’ve Got a Friend in Me in Muttons big solo number.

The all-female cast is absolutely dynamite. Sally Reid, all wide-eyed innocence and guilelessness is the titular hero and her comic timing is masterful. Lauren Ellis-Steele doubles up as “Scotland’s answer to Beyoncé” (more an Adele look-and-sound-alike) and also the Wicked Stepmother – it’s a perfectly pitched performance and Ellis-Steele has a fine set of pipes, and as with all McKnight festive offerings, she gets to go full-on Mariah in All I Want For Christmas, the song that traditionally brings the shows to an end. Jo Freer as Cinderella’s loyal sheep side-kick Muttons is a scene stealer as are Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Daisy Ann Fletcher as Cinders’ hapless and hopeless step-brothers Harry and Larry in eye-popping male-drag. 

This ‘estrogen epidemic’ is so well conceived and so well delivered, you can’t fail to be thoroughly entertained and its message of female self-reliance will make your heart soar. I can’t praise it highly enough – a fantastic, five star, festive feast.

Image: John Johnstone

REVIEW: Jack Whitehall Stood Up – SSE Hydro Arena, Glasgow

The song The Greatest Show with sparkle-clad Vegas show dancers, a tumbling routine and fire canons, is not quite what you expect as the intro to a comedy gig, but this isn’t any old comedy gig, this is the first night of a 2-date run at the 13000-seater Hydro Arena and Jack Whitehall’s new show for 2019, Stood Up.

It’s a testament to Whitehall’s skill and affability that apart from the dazzling intro and finale (which we’ll come to later) that this isn’t an evening of comedy on steroids, it’s just Whitehall telling stories in such an engaging way that he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Such is his skill, that it’s all he needs. The act is tight throughout (there’s not a murmur of heckling) and Whitehall never wavers, never looses the thread, keeps the jokes coming and the audience firmly on his side and invested in what on earth is going to come next.

There’s the inevitable, but perfectly knowing schtick about how he’s just like you or I (he’s not) and the posho-references, but that’s what the audience comes for, that’s what he’s loved for.

There are surprises aplenty throughout that would be churlish to reveal to anyone attending the tour and an eye-popping seasonal spectacular to end the show, that cleverly ties into an anecdote from the first half.

He may not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, but it’s a masterclass in comedy performance that keeps the laughs coming from start to end.

Catch it on tour if you can.

 

Reviewed on 19/11/2019 Jack Whitehall continues touring throughout the UK.

 

REVIEW: SIX – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.

Aragorn, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, Parr.

Six women, six British Queens, reduced to six words in a rhyme.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss give sassy 21st Century voices to these six Tudor queens.

Written in ten working days, Six the Musical has been an eye-watering, head-spinning success since its appearance in 2017 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it was performed by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Since then it has had a UK tour, several runs in the West End, been produced Off-Broadway, had a US tour, a run on Norwegian Cruise Lines that will continue to 2022, and will appear on Broadway, Australia, Canada and in Chicago and Minnesota in 2020. It is currently on its second UK-wide tour.

It is a sassy celebration of womanhood as these Queens get to reclaim their own her-story 500 years on. Long defined by who their husband was, it’s now time to tell their own tales.

Inevitable comparisons will be made with theatrical juggernaut Hamilton which also mixes 21st century music with historical subject material. However, Six manages to plough its own original and irresistible furrow. Staged like a mash-up between a stadium concert and a musical, it blends spot-on humour and cleverly delivered history with a refreshing dose of self-awareness. Each Queen gets her chance to stand centre stage and state her case in an X-Factor style competition to see who had it worse at the hands of the infamous Henry. These women are here to kick ass and tell all. This they do in an array of musical genres, a blend of pop, rock ballad, R&B, soul and electro euro-pop (the hysterical Kraut-rock/House mash up Haus of Holbein) and all backed by an all-female band, The Ladies in Waiting.

Each of the six women playing these six queens is thoroughly talented and shine equally, a rare and wonderful thing to see on stage and despite the competitiveness, it’s ultimately a show of sisterhood. This is a girl gang you really want to join.

After the defiant intro number Ex-Wives, Lauren Drew (Catherine of Aragon) starts the ball rolling with the sassy No Way followed by Maddison Bulleyment’s hysterical Anne Boleyn delivering the Lily Allen-ish Don’t Lose Your Head, including the lyrics: “I tried to elope but the Pope said ‘nope'” and “everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will”. Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour) tugs at the heart-strings in the power ballad Heart of Stone. Shekinah McFarlane (Anna of Cleves) gives us the Rhianna-like Get Down and delivers the laughs with: “I’m the Queen of the castle, get down you dirty rascals” when ‘exiled’ to a life of luxury and independence after her divorce from Henry. Jodie Steele delivers Katherine Howard’s All You Wanna Do, with defiance, the lyrics make you question (in light of the #MeToo movement) has anything really changed for women in the past 500 years? And sheds new perspective on how she has been remembered in history. Athena Collins brings the women’s stories to an end absolutely beautifully with Catherine Parr’s Beyoncé-like torch song I Don’t Need Your Love. Each of these woman has is a power-house vocalist and could tear up any stage. That said, the songs they are asked to deliver are hard not to love and as catchy as hell. The rousing Six and Megasix mash-up brings the house to its feet to get down at the end.

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is sharp, original and modern, and perfectly executed by the cast. Gabriella Slade’s costume design is Ariana Grande does Tudor and it works fabulously, as does Emma Bailey’s simplistic but effective, concert-style set design and Tim Deiling’s rich lighting.

The face-off between the women is definitely a twisted sisterhood, they each fling the other’s sob story back in their faces, but this show of fierce womanhood is utterly irresistible. The dawning realisation by each woman that they only claim their place in history because of the man they married, reduced to: “just one word in a stupid rhyme” is actually heart-breaking. Thankfully they get “five more minutes” to set the record straight and send the audience to the street on an absolute high.

The succinct story telling packs a punch and the compact 75-minute running time is audience friendly. Marlow and Moss prove again that HISTORY + MUSICAL THEATRE = HIT. They have successfully distilled 500 year-old history into a perfect piece of entertainment for the 21st Century. Having seen it several times now, Six remains one of the best things out there and stands up to repeated viewings (something this reviewer is never keen on).

It’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a fog of tired, relentlessly touring, mediocre musicals. Get a ticket while you can, you won’t regret it.

Runs until 10th November 2019 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

review originally published at The Reviews Hub

« Older Entries