Tag Archives: Aileen Johnston

REVIEW: The Music Man – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Runway Theatre Company again prove their worthy position at the top of the tree of amateur companies in Glasgow, reviving Meredith Willson’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning, little-seen, musical theatre classic, The Music Man, with aplomb. A timely choice too, with the announcement that in 2020, Hugh Jackman will lead the first Broadway revival in nearly two decades.

It’s 1912 and the people of sleepy River City, Iowa really don’t know what’s in store for them when smooth talking swindler Harold Hill rolls into town. However, Hill’s plans to con the innocent townsfolk are foiled when his heart finally starts to rule his head.

Old-fashioned in the nicest possible way, this is a light-hearted, undemanding tale with a bunch of quirky characters and two of musical theatre’s most enduring tunes: the oom-pah-pah-ing 76 Trombones and the much-loved classic ballad, Till There Was You.

Its old-fashionedness is both its strength and its weakness. The public’s appetite for nostalgia is sated with the homely, feel-good storyline, the period costumes and score. However, the hokey dialogue has aged badly and the heightened characterisations required by the script, render it too caricatured at times. That said, any criticisms of this production are entirely at the hands of the source material not the actors or musicians.

This is a show with a rousing chorus, the ensemble fill the auditorium with the biggest, most glorious sound you will have the pleasure to hear, and the quartet comprising Tom Russell, Ross Nicol, Cameron Leask and Bob McDevitt are just heavenly sounding. Brendan Lynch (Harold Hill), once again proves to be an adept leading man and a true triple threat, and Catherine Mackenzie (Marian Paroo) is a beautifully toned soprano. The costumes are of an excellent quality. The set and lighting are functional and easy on the eye and the transitions, especially in a theatre with no fly tower, are smooth and pacy. The child actors, of which there are many, are drilled to perfection as are the dancers – it’s unusual in an amateur production to have such universal quality.

A warm and comforting and very welcome blast from the past that will leave audience members of all ages thoroughly entertained.

Runs until Saturday 18 May 2019

 

REVIEW: Curtains – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Written by the team that brought you Cabaret and Chicago, Kander and Ebb’s rarely seen musical murder mystery Curtains is a sparkling little gem of a show.

Unlike its illustrious stablemates, Curtains doesn’t have the darkness and decadence of these two musical theatre masterpieces, but what it does have is a whole load of heart and so much going for it that the two hour forty minute running time flies past in the blink of an eye. Helped of course, by the supremely talented cast in Runway Theatre Company’s production.

It’s 1959, Boston, backstage at Robbin’ Hood of the Old West, a would-be Broadway blockbuster were it not for the dramatically, vocally and terpsichorally challenged leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw. Collective sighs of relief abound when she’s murdered during the opening night curtain call, but with so many suspects the crime looks impossible to solve. Into the fray comes community theatre veteran and police lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Believing the perpetrator to still be in the theatre, he commandeers the building and sets about finding the culprit while offering a few words of wisdom on how to turn this theatrical turkey into a sure-fire hit.

Referencing a raft of shows from the Golden Age of Musicals; with Fred and Ginger dance numbers, nods to Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun, heck there’s even a showboat onstage at the end, this is a hark back to another era, where plucky showgirls get their big break, tough showbiz mommas get things done and true love always finds a way.

There are some fine tunes too, Show People, Coffee Shop Nights and I Miss the Music in particular stand out and there’s a script packed full of witty one-liners (best delivered by Will Pollock as English luvvie theatre director Christopher Belling), all adding up to a thoroughly satisfying night at the theatre.

The cast are, as always from Runway, top-notch. Brendan Lynch’s Lieutenant Cioffi has the perfect mix of wide-eyed wonder at this crazy showbiz world he so longs to be part of, and eagle-eyed detective out to get his man (or woman). Lynch is the personification of a triple threat and rises to the demands of the role with ease. He is more than ably assisted by his fellow cast members, the aforementioned Pollock is a shining star and his razor sharp delivery of the pithy barbs, hits the mark every time, Aileen Johnston delivers a great big Ethel Merman-esque turn as producer Carmen Bernstein and Holly Steel should be applauded for pitching her chorus girl with ambitions of bigger things, Bambi, just perfectly, a role it would have been so easy to over-play.

This is all you could want from a musical: the big tunes, the big laughs, the fabulous production numbers and the great cast all add up to a fabulous night’s entertainment. If you want a perfect piece of escapist fun, then look no further.

Curtains runs until Saturday 14 May at Eastwood Park Theatre.

REVIEW: Lend Me a Tenor – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Based on Ken Ludwig’s play of the same name, it’s 1934, Cleveland, Ohio and Henry Saunders, manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company and his nervy assistant Max, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Tito Merelli (Il Stupendo). Merelli is in town to sing the lead in Verdi’s Otello, an event that will be the biggest coup in the history of the theatre. A sellout crowd awaits – what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything of course.

As always it’s quality assured when you see the name Runway Theatre attached to any performance. In a work that could easily descend into cheap slapstick in the wrong hands, this production manages to pull off the none-too-easy task of presenting a pitch-perfect musical farce.

The laughs are non-stop and the musical numbers are beautifully performed, staged and costumed.The shows greatest success though is the central casting of Kris Haddow as Max Garber and J.Campbell Kerr as Tito Merelli, both in possession of knock-out voices and impeccable comic timing, their impressive theatrical experience shines through and both could grace any West End stage with ease. The pair are ably supported (and finely voiced) by: Roslyn Hogg as Maggie, the object of put-upon Max’s affections, Aileen Johnston as Tito’s volatile Italian wife and Chriss Mills as opera diva Diana Diuane. The ensemble too are worthy of particular praise as one of the finest sounding companies in Scotland.

An utterly joyful evening’s theatre in the presence of possibly Scotland’s finest amateur company.