Tag Archives: 2017

REVIEW: Giovanni Pernice, il ballo è vita – The Town House, Hamilton

giiovanni pernice luba mushtuk

Sicilian dance superstar and Strictly Come Dancing alumnus Giovanni Pernice is the latest TV dance pro to take his own personal show on the road and it is arguably, the best one yet.

What this stunning show, il ballo è vito (Dance is Life), demonstrates is that the TV dance behemoth Strictly suffocates the personality of its stars. As a regular viewer of the show, I would be hard pressed to express what I thought Pernice’s personality was – the tabloid gossip about a romance with his celebrity partner the only hint of the man behind the smile. In reality Pernice has a winning and highly charming personality and instead of show-boating in the limelight, he is so comfortable in his ability to shine that he creates a show in which all of his cast get a turn in the spotlight.

cast of dancers il ballo e vita dance is life gianni pernice

There is real artistry here, and under the direction and choreography of Strictly director of choreography Jason Gilkison, there’s so much that delights. The first act has a charming Italian theme, with innovative and beautifully staged classics such as: Volare, Mambo Italiano, That’s Amore and Tu Vuo Fa’ L’Americano. There’s also a funny interlude when a member of the audience joins Giovanni on stage to share some food, Lady and the Tramp style – much to the amusement of the audience. Unlike many of these contrived moments in other dance shows, Pernice’s ease with the audience and genuine charm allows him to pull it off with aplomb. The second act is a tale based on the love story of Pernice’s grandmother and grandfather set to a contemporary and classic soundtrack.

The choreography is simply stunning and the sheer speed and originality of the footwork on display is breath-taking. Pernice is truly a class apart. Mention must be made too of the excellent set and lighting (and shadow) design that enhances the choreography beautifully throughout.

Pernice shows he is a team player, more than ably supported by a team of professionals (including the highly talented Russian dancer Luba Mushtuk), he allows each their chance to shine.

There’s a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere throughout and the ease in the interactions with the audience make this show stand out. This is a classy affair, beautifully staged, and the best Stricty alumni show so far. Catch it if you can.

REVIEW: Scottish Opera La bohème – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

flea market scene la boheme scottish opera

A sharply crafted, visually stunning and beautifully sung La bohème is a triumphant finale to the 2016/17 Scottish Opera season.

The creative team of André Barbe and Renauld Doucet, last seen in 2014 with the glorious Don Pasquale, have taken Puccini’s masterpiece of Italian opera and reset it to the 1920s. The era of ‘The Lost Generation’, when the world’s creative souls converged on Paris to live the bohemian life among the flea markets, jazz clubs and free spirits.

woman and man mimi and rodolfo hye youn lee luis gomes la boheme

What the pair have achieved is to take the world’s most frequently performed opera, tone down the schmaltz and restore its humour and joie de vivre. Despite the frozen bohemians burning their books, the warmth of their spirits shine through in this production.

papier mache big head mannequins street scene christmas la boheme scottish opera

This is a production whose success is a result of a perfect coming together of all its parts: composer, conductor, cast, design, direction and orchestra. Vital and vibrant it is a winner in every area.

a woman in flapper dress atop a table in la boheme

There are a brace of fine vocal performances: Hye-Youn Lee is a vocally elegant Mimi with an incredibly ear-pleasing and distinctive tone. She perfectly expresses Mimi’s demise without descending into melodrama. Luis Gomes (Rodolfo) is a beautifully toned tenor, however, he is frequently overpowered by the orchestra and Jeanine de Bique is an eye and ear-catching, Josephine Baker-ish Musetta, complete with pet cheetah.

André Barbe’s set is a star in itself. Bristling with life, it is a lavish cacophony of colour and meticulous detail. You will be hard pressed to see a more visually stunning production all year.

This perennial favourite’s standing as the world’s most popular opera shows no sign of abating and this stunner of a production from Scottish Opera will live long in the memory. A stand-out 5 stars.

All images: Sally Jubb

Tours to Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh – more information at: http://www.scottishopera.org.uk/

 

 

REVIEW: Shirley Valentine – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

jodie prenger against a greek seaside background

Willy Russell’s track record of successfully writing about ordinary women is almost unparalleled in popular theatre: Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and this, his 1986 effort Shirley Valentine, have repeatedly touched the hearts of the nation in both stage and film versions.

Shirley Bradshaw (Jodie Prenger) is 42, with two teenage kids who have flown the nest, an emotionally distant husband, her day to day existence leaving her resigned to (literally) talking to the egg-yolk yellow walls of her pine-clad kitchen. When her best friend offers to pay for a well-needed holiday for the pair, Shirley jumps at the chance to escape.

In the 30 years that have passed since it was written, much has changed, and women have come a long way. Despite a few dated references, and the fact that at 42, an age when many women in 2017 are only starting to contemplate having a family, 1980’s Shirley feels washed up and unable to escape her situation, Russell’s script has largely weathered the years well. That he can wring so much humour and pathos from the life of a working class Liverpudlian housewife, is a testament to his talent. It is in turn touching, resonant and laugh-out-loud funny.

That said, it’s not without fault. Essentially a 16000-word monologue, the weight of the production’s success is set firmly on the shoulders of the lead. Here, Prenger can’t rely on her impressive singing voice. Shirley’s cheeky chat and charisma, coupled with Prenger’s vivacity and heightened characterisation make it hard to believe that she doesn’t have the confidence to leave her dreary life behind. However, Prenger’s natural warmth transmits brilliantly to the audience, making us forgive her less than on-point Liverpool accent, and the audience is never not rooting for her every step of her journey.

Amy Yardley’s set design is simple, the 80s kitchen familiar to anyone who lived through the decade. Less successful is the rendering of the sun-drenched Greek island, the azure blue Mediterranean Sea more plastic camping tarpaulin than lapping waves. That said, it’s the words that matter, and those are glorious.

There’s enough here to still resonate with an audience in 2017; it’s a perfect balance of thought-provoking, self-searching, inspirational and life-affirming. It will make you, as Russell says in his script, “fall in love with the idea of living.” A British theatre classic and deservedly so.

Runs until 6 May 2017 | Image: Manuel Harlan

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR THE REVIEWS HUB HERE