Category Archives: REVIEWS

REVIEW: Nashville: The Farewell Tour – SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Season six marks the end of the road for the much-loved TV hit Nashville. Spreading contemporary country music to the masses, it has captured the hearts of its viewers. So, it was a bittersweet goodbye to the actor/musicians who have made the show such a hit, at the filled-to-capacity Hydro Arena last night.

Favourites Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Chris Carmack and Jonathan Jackson delivered a greatest hits of the six years of the show with some unexpected twists too: Jonathan Jackson’s rendition of Simple Mind’s Belfast Child and Unchained Melody, and Charles Esten leading the 13000-strong crowd in a roof-raising rendition of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger, to name a few.

This contemporary country music is easy on the ear, the tone is well-judged to delight every section of the crowd, and each performer gets their chance to shine. There’s a well balanced variety of songs from ballads to all-out rock numbers.

There’s a sincerity to the evening’s festivities and a genuine thankfulness conveyed for the reception from the crowd and the opportunities that appearing on the show have given to each performer.

An emotionally charged farewell and a fitting end to a show that has given pleasure to many and as much as this is a goodbye, the phenomenal demand for these performers and this music means that it will undoubtedly not be long until we hear from them again.

The tour continues at selected venues around the UK.

Image contributed.

 

REVIEW: Art – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub.

An almost universal hit on its debut in the 90s, French playwright Yasmina Reza’s Tony, Olivier and Moliere Award-winning Art, has embarked on a multi date revival tour of the U.K.

Serge (Nigel Havers), a divorced dermatologist, Marc (Denis Lawson) an engineer and Yvan (Stephen Tompkinson) a stationery salesman’s friendship is well and truly tested when Serge buys a large, expensive, entirely white, piece of modern art. Rational Marc is horrified, Yvan tries to placate the pair, but, when they turn on pacifier Yvan, their 25 year relationship implodes.

Packed with witty, wry, well-observed, razor-sharp dialogue, Art remains as funny as it ever was and the rapid-fire verbal gymnastics, delivered by the sure-footed trio, is an absolute delight. While the piece retains its philosophical, Gallic feel, the rumination on modern art may have lost some of its impact over time. The Brit-Art movement has pervaded popular culture and is less divisive than it once was. What it still does wonderfully, is examine the nature of long-term friendship and the ties that bind. It is brilliantly clever, and beneath the laughs, it poses important questions that we could all ask of our friendships.

Havers, Lawson and Tompkinson are hugely experienced actors and the aplomb and speed with which they tackle Reza’s complex dialogue is laudable. Tompkinson’s seven minute monologue on the politics of wedding invitations receives loud, well-deserved, spontaneous applause. In fact, there are bursts of applause throughout the piece, such is the quality of the work. Comic timing is also key and each actor can raise a laugh with the mere raising of an eyebrow.

At around 80 minutes, Art is short but perfectly formed. This is a class act and an extremely entertaining evening of theatre.

Currently touring the U.K. | Image: Contributed

 

REVIEW: Gary Lamont Dropping The Soap – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

It’s hard not to love Gary Lamont. From the moment he walks onto the stage with a giant wedge of cheese on his head – yes, no typo, singing This is my Moment in tribute to his spirit animal Martine McCutcheon, there isn’t a minute he doesn’t have the audience eating out of his hand.

Hugely likeable and hugely talented, Lamont takes the audience on a break-neck journey on life after soap (operas), musing on the somewhat rocky path many much-loved actors have trodden since stepping away from small screen fame. Roping in his showbiz pals, there are mascara ruining sequences with Claire from Steps, Claire from Stepps, Graham Norton, Juliet Cadzow (his mum in the soap River City), Martine McCutcheon and a belly-achingly funny duet of I Know Him So Well with best buddy Michelle McManus. There’s no lull for the entire running time – a feat many so-called comedians would be hard pressed to achieve, this is a show that genuinely has you leaving the theatre, feeling the world is a happier place.

As he says in the show, in Soapland you either leave in a hearse or in the back of a taxi – Lamont left in a silver limo – hopefully a portent for his future career. Lamont has a gigantic gift for comedy, a fine voice and an irresistible personality – Lamont’s brand of joy should be available on prescription. Do yourself a favour and catch this if you can.

On Tour:

Sat 24 Mar – Cumbernauld Theatre – 7.30pm www.cumbernauldtheatre.co.uk

Fri 27 Apr – Stirling MacRobert 7.30pm www.macrobertartscentre.org/

Sat 28 Apr – Paisley Arts Centre – 7.30pm www.boxoffice.renfrewshire.gov.uk

Fri 04 May – Adam Smith Theatre – 7.30pm www.onfife.com

Fri 11 May – Lochgelly Centre – 7.30pm www.onfife.com

Fri 25 May – Livingston Howden Park 7.30pm www.howdenparkcentre.co.uk

Sat 26 May – Byre Theatre St Andrews – 8pm www.byretheatre.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/G_aryLamont

Facebook: www.facebook.com/whatariddy

REVIEW: Back to Bacharach – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

The back catalogue of Burt Bacharach comprises some of the world’s most recognisable hits. In a career spanning six decades (that arguably reached its zenith in the mid-to-late 60s) there’s a rich vein of material to be mined here.

Bach to Bacharach – The What The World Needs Now Concert Tour, delivers not only the big hits: I Say A Little Prayer, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, Anyone Who Had A Heart, Walk on By, The Look of Love, Make it Easy on Yourself, 24 Hours From Tulsa, the list goes on and on, but there are a few surprises too: Keep Me In Mind covered by Elvis and Don’t Make Me Over from Dionne Warwick.

Backed by an eight-piece band, the principal vocalists Martin Neely, Chloe Du Pre and Arabella Rodrigo have a wealth of experience behind them from the West End stage to backing/session work and cruise/cabaret performance. There’s a warmth from the trio that transmits to the audience and they work hard to keep the energy levels up and the audience engaged throughout.

There’s plenty of bang for your buck here, the hits keep coming and the two-hour show is packed with familiar song after song.

 

The only issue the cast are fighting against is that these songs are synonymous with some of the most legendary vocalists in pop history: Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Cilla Black, to merely touch on a few, indeed Black’s trials and tribulations when working with control freak Bacharach, are vividly documented in the recent musical of her life Cilla. These are big shoes to fill and while there are some show-stopping moments, Rodrigo’s Anyone Who Had A Heart is a stunner, they never quite hit the heights of the originals. That said, this a top quality production with an on-point band and hugely talented vocalists, one could never tire of hearing these pop classics and the packed audience is testament to the enduring draw of Bacharach. Just sit back, relax and enjoy.

Back to Bacharach is currently touring the U.K. – details here: http://www.back-to-bacharach.co.uk

 

REVIEW: The Wandering Hearts – Broadcast, Glasgow

Having spent weeks at the top of the Country Artist Album chart, the talent and quality of London-based ‘country, folk-pop’ group The Wandering Hearts won’t be confined to intimate venues like Glasgow’s Broadcast for long.

Thirty minutes after uploading two demos to SoundCloud, the group, then called The Paper Hearts, caught the attention of Decca Records, who invited them to audition one month later, and signed them on the spot. A small name change, a turn supporting the Brothers Osbourne, an appearance at the C2C Festival and here we are on their first headline tour.

Having a band with four talented vocalists results in the most ear-pleasing, to-die-for harmonies and while each is a knock-out singer, it’s A.J. Deans’ outstanding voice that lingers in the memory. The interchanging of the vocal leads means that the interest never wanes throughout the set. Comparisons are inevitable with Fleetwood Mac but it is evident that this band have poured their hearts and souls into the creation of these original sounding songs, there isn’t a weak link in the entire one hour set. Standout among the fabulous tunes are the upbeat Devil and the contemplative If I Fall.

The quality of the sound, singing and song-writing is bigger than this (albeit) sold-out show. This is stadium filling stuff with a wide appeal. The current appetite in the UK for musical Americana remains undiminished and The Wandering Hearts will undoubtedly be at the vanguard of the British movement.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

 

REVIEW: Irit – Òran Mór, Glasgow

Irit Dekel’s life story is almost as colourful as her music. The Tel Aviv native has been an Israeli Army sniper, actress, TV host, film-maker and comedian and is in Glasgow with her three-piece band to showcase her debut solo album Happy.

Her sun-soaked sound transports, instead of sub-zero Scotland, it’s the sound of Parisian pavements, middle eastern rhythms, Astrid Gilberto, Buena Vista Social Club, and a dash of Piaf.

There’s a bite to the lyrics behind the catchy melodies, and Dekel describes some of the life experiences that have influenced the songs, one particularly affecting is based on her military service and the paralysing of her bunk mate in a freak gun accident. That said, the over-riding feeling is one of joy. The rhythms infectious. There’s also an original take on R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People.

Irit Dekel is offering up something original with this east-west hybrid of influences. An antidote to the grey world outside the doors. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW: Flight – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’ contemporary opera Flight is almost universally loved and with good reason. A knockout score and a story filled with both drama and humour make it a hit with audiences world wide.

Image: James Glossop

Beginning as a story about a series of couples stranded at an airport due to electrical storms, librettist De Angelis discovered the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 to 2006 (a story which spawned a book The Terminal Man; French movie Tombés du ciel (Lost in Transit); the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal; short story The Fifteen Year Layover; two documentaries Waiting For Godot at De Gaulle and Sir Alfred of Charles De Gaulle Airport as well as the mockumentary Here To Where) and she and Dove wove the story of a refugee hiding at the terminal around the more comic aspects of the opera. The relationships unravel and entwine and all the while the refugee strives to overcome his plight.

Image: James Glossop

Many of the cast reprise their roles from the previous Opera Holland Park production (Jennifer France as the Controller, Victoria Simmonds as Minskwoman and James Laing as the Refugee) and their comfort and familiarity with the roles shows, especially Countertenor Laing whose voice gives goose bumps) however, while France has an impressive top range she was a little underpowered at times). Peter Auty (Bill) and Stephanie Corley (Tina) provide comic relief as the long-married couple seeking to spice up their marriage as do Jonathan McGovern and Sioned Gwen Davies as the randy Steward and Stewardess.

Image: James Glossop

Image: James Glossop

The music has a mid-century cinema musical feel – almost Bernstein or Gershwin-like, it is, at all times, melodic and an absolute joy to the ear. However, personally I can’t help wonder if it would have sounded better for being less ‘operatic’ and more ‘musical theatre’: the operatic voices, in this production all excellent, don’t entirely do the fabulous score justice.

Image: James Glossop

This re-imagined production by director Stepehn Barlow and the design team of Andrew Riley, Richard Howell and Jack Henry James is an absolute joy to watch and listen to, a welcome addition to this season’s operatic programme at Scottish Opera and one not to miss.

Image: James Glossop

The production continues at Glasgow Theatre Royal until 24 February then at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh from 1 to 3 March 2018. 

REVIEW: Beautiful the Carole King Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Beginning with the now famous Carnegie Hall concert in June 1971 to celebrate her seminal album Tapestry, Beautiful the Carole King Musical, quickly flashes back 14 years to a 16-year-old King (then just plain Carol Joan Klein) about to sell her first song (It Might as Well Rain Until September) to Don Kirshner at Aldon Music. In the blink of an eye, King has a new name, is pregnant, married to the man who would become her world-famous song writing partner, Gerry Goffin, and churning out hit after hit.

King’s isn’t a tale of sunshine and rainbows, there’s a world of pain behind the boppy pop songs making it more than the straight-forward jukebox musical: young motherhood and marriage, self-doubt and Goffin’s mental collapse and chronic infidelity. It also explores the friendly rivalry between Goffin and King and fellow song writers (and real-life partners) Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann at their Times Square hit factory at 1650 Broadway. The relatable human aspects of the tale, despite the fame and acclaim of the main protagonists, give it a greater resonance with its audience.

For all the moments of drama the story is pretty functional but it still manages to tug at the heart strings in all the right places. The story having been given the inevitable American gloss-over, it’s left to the songs to carry the tale. And what songs: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, One Fine Day, The Loco-Motion and Pleasant Valley Sunday from Goffin and/or King, and Mann and Weil’s Walking in the Rain and On Broadway, to name a few. If there’s one criticism of the music it’s that many of the songs are presented as works in progress, snippets rather than full production numbers and it leaves you, on most occasions, begging for more, more, more. The full production numbers like the Drifters On Broadway and particularly The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, Barry Mann’s rendition of We Gotta Get Out of This Place and King’s own (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend give you goose bumps.

Bronté Barbé, while not entirely the epitome of King, her voice is a tad nasal, does capture her essence, and when at full belt is utterly electrifying. Amy Ellen Richardson’s Cynthia Weil is a knockout, her energy levels and roof-raising voice are a treat. Kane Oliver Parry is a nicely judged Gerry Goffin, the object of our ire for the evening, and Matthew Gonsalves excels as the fantastically comic, and hugely talented hypochondriac, Barry Mann. The ensemble are first rate, doubling up as the roster of hit acts who recorded King’s songs.

Fundamentally, Beautiful is the story of one woman quite literally finding her voice. After a career providing hits for some of the biggest artists of the 60s, King emerges from the shadows, uses the highs and lows of her life and finally claims the limelight for herself. Both empowering and entertaining, a ‘must-see’.

Runs until 17 February 2018 | Image: Birgit & Ralf Brinkhoff

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Aiming to recreate the heyday of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas has the potential to be a huge crowd-pleaser. The show, created by Mitch Sebastian has been doing the rounds both on tour and in the West End since 2002 with little change to its seemingly successful formula.

It’s the early 50s, the Sands Hotel and not only are the Rat Pack in town but Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is too. While it aims to create that Las Vegas glamour, the set is simplistic: the band on a raised platform, a grand piano, some stools and a representation of the Sands famous logo, are all that decorates the set, so it’s down to the music and the performers to sell the show.

First impressions are good, the band, under the tight musical direction of Matthew Freeman, are outstanding: crisp and pin-sharp, they recreate the sound of the best of the big bands, Freeman also has a fine, fine touch on the piano. Garrett Phillips as Frank Sinatra also makes his mark, recreating Sinatra’s sonorous tone perfectly as well as his idiosyncratic phrasing, although he’s entirely wooden as he moves around the stage. David Hayes has captured some of the voice, but is the least co-ordinated Sammy Davis Jr you are likely to see – for a man renowned for his dancing skills, you can’t help think they could have tried a little harder in the casting and while a heavily panstick-ed Nigel Casey has Dean Martin’s shtick down-pat and moves well, he is often over-powered by the band. Nicola Emmanuel as Ella Fitzgerald makes a fleeting appearance and while entirely competent, fails to make much of an impression.

While there is a fair representation of the main trio’s biggest hits: I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore, to name a few, there are some less well known numbers that will either delight or frustrate. In the case of this reviewer, it frustrates somewhat. With three (and with Fitzgerald, four) artists with such rich back catalogues, there is space to make this an evening of out-and-out highs, however, the uneven nature of the song choices means the evening never really hits its stride. That coupled with some utterly cringe-worthy linking dialogue and an attempt at humour in the second act, that falls flat on its face – you can feel the tumbleweed slowly making its way across the stage – you can’t help feel that it’s all an opportunity missed.

There’s undoubtedly talent on the stage, both in the singers and musicians, but their potential is not being exploited. It’s time to get rid of the sexist, racist and homophobic banter and while there’s an argument that it’s reflective of the era represented, it’s just lazy, especially with a cast with so much to give musically – less chat, more music please. These artists and they way they sang these songs can speak for themselves. An overhaul is needed to get the most from the music and the cast. Still an enjoyable evening if you concentrate on the music and ignore all the filler.

Runs until 10 February 2018 | Image: Betty Zapata

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub here

REVIEW: Greek – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Based on Steven Berkoff’s riff on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Greek has fast forwarded the story from Thebes, 429 BC to the Tufnell Park in the 1980s.

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s work, while labelled as modern opera is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the shock of the new may have worn off in the intervening years, it still packs a hugely entertaining punch visually and aurally. Though, those with a delicate stomach might want to give it a wide berth thanks to Dick Straker’s live video projections which include a stomach-turning greasy spoon breakfast complete with live maggots and those offended by fowl language be warned there’s plenty of effing and blinding.

While cleverly adapted to suit modern sensibilities, the fundamentals remain the same: our hero Eddy, clad in a tomato red Adidas 3-stripe tracksuit leaves behind the ‘cess pit’ of the East End to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a fortune teller who predicts his father will die a violent death and he’ll ‘bunk up with his mum’.

Johannes Schutz’s set design comprising an enormous, white rectangular revolve with two door openings, focusses all the attention firmly up front and centre stage. Alex Lowde’s comical costume designs add to the almost vaudevillian feeling of the piece.

The cast of four (three of whom, Allison Cook, Susan Bullock and Henry Waddington, double, triple and quadruple up on roles) keep the interest and entertainment up throughout. There are however a few issues with projection, even from just a few rows back it sounds underpowered. That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this it remains hugely entertaining throughout.

Young conductor Finnegan Downie Dear, keeps the orchestra on point and sustains the creeping menace in the music for the duration.

Subtle it isn’t, but it is a thoroughly engaging, bawdy and bold, small but perfectly formed 80 minute breath of fresh air on the opera landscape.

Images: Jane Hobson

 

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