Tag Archives: Edinburgh Playhouse

REVIEW: Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical – Edinburgh Playhouse

With its origins as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2010 festive show, nine years down the line, Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda has been seen by over eight million people around the globe. Winning awards and smashing box office records wherever it goes (and deservedly so) the transformation of a much-adored but thematically and emotionally challenging children’s book was never going to be easy, taking its creators seven years to develop from page to stage – but boy was it worth it.

There are few other musicals, let alone one largely written for a child audience, that is a genuine emotional rollercoaster, laugh-out-loud funny and entirely entertaining from curtain up to curtain down for an audience of all ages. Never shying away from the darker corners of human nature, it re-iterates throughout that despite this one having one, not all stories have a happy ending. An unexpected and unwelcome addition to the grotesque Wormwood family, five-and-a-half-year-old prodigy with telekinetic powers Matilda (Scarlett Cecil), takes solace in books – from Austen and Brontë to Dickens and Dostoyevsky and finds a kindred spirit in her gentle and downtrodden new teacher Miss Honey. While she relishes starting school, the cruelty she seeks to escape at home is heaped upon her and her classmates ten-fold by their larger than life, ex-Olympic hammer throwing head mistress Miss Trunchbull (played to utter perfection and with great relish by Elliot Harper).

With a two-hour 40-minute running time, jam packed with dialogue, tricky lyrics and hugely inventive choreography and scene changes, Matilda’s success relies in no small part to a well-drilled cast, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality one than this. Scarlett Cecil, one of four Matildas is an absolute star, it must be remembered that this is a child taking on this role, a child who rarely leaves the stage during the entire production, a child who is delivering complex dialogue and lyrics that those treble her age would find challenging. The entire child cast are exceptional (the adults are pretty spectacular too) not a foot or word is out of place and the energy and gusto with which they attack every scene adds a youthful realism.

Both Kelly’s words (perfectly adapted from Roald Dahl’s original book) and Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are clever, clever, clever and prove that there’s no need to dumb down to provide entertainment with mass appeal. As perfect as it’s possible to be, Matilda remains an outstanding musical in the British theatrical canon.

Runs until 27 April 2019 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for THE REVIEWS HUB

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! – Edinburgh Playhouse

This post was originally written for The Reviews Hub

Sometimes, all you need at this time of year is to escape the hustle and bustle of festive shopping, freezing temperatures and the shock of your ever-dwindling bank account. 17 years after its first appearance on stage, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Mamma Mia!, still has the ability to help you do just that.

In one small corner of Scotland’s capital city, the sun beats down on the azure blue Mediterranean island idyll of Kalokairi. 20 year-old Sophie is about to marry her sweetheart Sky, and all she wants is her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, she has no idea who he is. On finding her former party-loving mother’s diaries, she invites the three most likely candidates to share her big day. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go exactly to plan.

Essentially a thin storyline woven around the hits of one of the world’s greatest pop bands, it’s no less entertaining for that, and while it may seem like the young things are the centre of it all, it’s the more mature members of the cast who are the heart and soul of the piece. Sara Poyzer as mother Donna is a knock-out, both vocally and emotionally, the performance is a pitch-perfect portrayal of a mother losing her only daughter to the world. As Donna’s former band-mates Rosie and Tanya, Jaqueline Braun and Emma Clifford deliver the lion’s share of the laughs and are no slouches vocally either, and as the trio of potential dads Richard Standing (Sam), Tim Walton (Harry) and Christopher Hollis (Bill), imbue life and spirit into characters that could have easily been two-dimensional.

As undemanding as the whole endeavour is, it still packs an emotional punch and the glorious music never fails to get an auditorium on its feet at the end. It’s pure entertainment and does what most great theatre should do – transport you to another time and place for a few hours.

Resist the temptation to hibernate this winter, get yourself along to the Edinburgh Playhouse and bask in the reflected sunshine of this uplifting, feel-good show. A real tonic for the soul on these long, cold winter nights.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

REVIEW: Bernadette Peters – The Playhouse, Edinburgh

Considered the finest interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim, Broadway superstar Bernadette Peters visited Edinburgh this week on the final night of her three date tour of the U.K.

Ms Peters, despite her tiny stature, is a Titan of the stage, but her modest demeanour and genuine warmth belies this, there are no diva antics here, the moment she steps on stage to a standing ovation, she seems truly appreciative of her audience, and boy are they appreciative of her. That’s not to say she’s lacking in sass – far from it – she cheekily sashays through some glorious, and in some cases forgotten, musical theatre classics. From Gypsy’s Let Me Entertain You, through a series of Sondheim’s greatest works, some sassy show-stoppers such as Fever (delivered reclining on the grand piano) and C’mon a My House which she performed in her TV show Mozart in the Jungle, to little heard songs from Carousel and State Fair, this is a masterclass in acting through song.

Despite the sheer size of this, the largest theatre in the UK, it seems as though you’re in an intimate cabaret club, so adept is Peters at drawing her audience in. There’s pure emotion and total commitment to each and every note and from the front row it gives you glorious goosebumps.

As you leave theatre you know what you have just witnessed is something truly special and will rarely be repeated. Just magical.

Image: Contributed

REVIEW: Guys and Dolls – Edinburgh Playhouse

So successful is Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2014 production of Guys and Dolls, that not only has it made the transfer to the West End but has also spawned a comprehensive national tour. Sad to say, however, it appears to have lost some of its five-star sparkle in transit.

An amalgamation of three of Damon Runyon’s Broadway fables; The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, Pick the Winner and Blood Pressure: shifty, small-time crook Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield), in need of money to host ‘the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York’, bets charismatic cool-cat and inveterate gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman), that Masterson can’t get frosty missionary Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) from the Save-A-Soul Mission, to go with him to Havana on a date. A merry band of misfits help colour the tall tale, from eternally engaged, fourteen years a fiancée Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman), to local low-lives Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse.


The witty words of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows are regarded as among the funniest in the musical theatre canon and they remain intact in Gordon Greenberg’s revival. However, the pace and direction of Greenberg’s production lacks the spark required to bring Runyon’s stories fully to life, playing like a poorly connected series of stand-alone scenes rather than a flowing whole.


None of the faults of the production can be blamed on the cast, with West End leads Louise Dearman, Anna O’Byrne, and Richard Fleeshman and seasoned actor Maxwell Caulfield at the helm, then quality is assured. Dearman turns in an especially effective turn as a Lucille Ball-like Miss Adelaide, managing to balance the humour and pathos brilliantly and Fleeshman conveys the easy charm and charisma of Masterson with aplomb. The supporting cast too is of the highest quality.

guys and dolls 3

Peter McKintosh’s set design is essentially simple, an arc of lightbulb-ringed adverts and a series of roll-on-roll-off accents, which only really brings the vivid world of New York alive when fully lit. The choreography of Cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta and West End stalwart Andrew Wright has been placed firmly centre stage, with extended dance sequences throughout. The duo’s work is especially effective in the ballet-inspired crap game in the sewers with its athletic, inventive sequences and a nod to Acosta’s ballet background in the Swan Lake line up.

With such a top-notch cast and first-rate creative team, it’s hard to see how this could go wrong, but Greenberg’s production falls flat in too many places that if fails to do full justice to the stellar cast and this musical theatre classic. Ultimately unsatisfying.

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

Images: Johan Persson

REVIEW: Love Me Tender – The Playhouse, Edinburgh

This seemingly ‘new’ musical is actually a decade old, starting life on Broadway in 2005 as All Shook Up, it has been freshened up by director and choreographer Karen Bruce and is now touring the UK prior to a hopeful West End transfer as Love Me Tender.

The story is a familiar one, indeed it takes as its unlikely inspiration Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: charismatic drifter Chad moseys into a one-horse town where the downtrodden locals are under the control of the zealous mayor who has enforced the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act “no loud music, no public necking and no tight pants” with a guitar on his hip and mischief in mind. Cue love at first sight, cross-dressing, mistaken identity and general mayhem.

Unashamedly cashing in on the eternal popularity of the music of Elvis Presley, the 25 songs are either cleverly or wittily inserted into the script, indeed central to it’s success is the fact that it whole endeavour doesn’t take itself seriously at all, the knowingly silly but witty book moves along at a fair pace  and manages to keep the interest levels high throughout. There are also a raft of witty visual gags to look out for. However, the sheer volume of music leaves little room for complex dialogue or fully developed characterisations. Another gripe is the fact that the rough rock ‘n’ roll edges have been well and truly smoothed off the songs which have all been given a musical theatre gloss over, indeed some of the arrangements are so far removed from the originals that they are rendered almost unrecognisable.

The sheer good natured fun of it all more than makes up for any gripes though, and the cast are universally top-notch: Ben Lewis as Chad has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek throughout and has a good stab at some of The King’s greatest hits, needless to say Mica Paris impresses as bar owner Sylvia and the ever-reliable and loveable Shaun Williamson provides the lion’s share of the evening’s laughs. There’s strong support too, in particular from Mark Anderson as nerdy Dennis and a fine-voiced Aretha Ayeh as Sylvia’s feisty daughter Lorraine and poor Laura Tebbutt deserves a medal for enduring the least flattering costume ever as the cross-dressing Natalie/Ed.

Shakespeare it isn’t but it is hugely entertaining, silly, escapist fun. If it’s a good-natured pick-me-up you’re looking for then look no further.

4 ****

Runs until Saturday 25 July 2015, visiting Glasgow King’s Theatre from 3 – 8 August 2015

INTERVIEW: 10 minutes with the stars of The Lion King – Ava Brennan and Nicholas Nkuna

Anticipation has been building throughout the country since the announcement in January that Disney’s legendary musical The Lion King would make its Scottish premiere at the Edinburgh Playhouse this autumn. The international cast of 52 performers from 18 different countries have arrived this week in Edinburgh with 23 trucks and to the news that over 210,000 tickets have been sold before the first performance. Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to meet the show’s stars Ava Brennan (Nala) and Nicholas Nkuna (Simba) and chat about being part of this global phenomenon.

How are you settling in to Edinburgh?

Ava: I’ve been doing a bit of exploring already, along Princes Street and just walking around and getting to know the city. I’ve got a list of places I want to go to: the castle and I’d love to do one of the city tours to see all the sights; I also really want to see Mary Stairs Close the haunted underground city.

How has Edinburgh compared to other cities you’ve performed in?

Nicholas: It’s been different in every city, every city brings its own energy to the show and the show has a lot of local references added for each place we go, they just love it, especially here. We couldn’t believe the reaction those parts got. When we walked out and heard the reaction from the 3000 people in the auditorium it was unbelievable.

Ava: The first preview was daunting, the theatre is so huge and the whole cast felt more nervous than we have done anywhere we’ve been.

Why do you think the Lion King has been such a long-running and well-loved show?

Nicholas: First of all for me, it’s the story, it’s universal and touches all ages. I think that’s what makes it so successful. It means I can take my little brothers, my mum and dad, it touches all age groups.

Ava: Coupled with the story is the show itself; the puppetry, the costumes and the amount of detail that’s gone into every aspect of the show, all the fabrics are African in origin and along with the wonderful actors, it all comes together to make it feel so real and authentic.

 What is your history with the Lion King?

Ava: I’m going into my fourth year with the company; I was in the Hamburg production and in the West End for two years and now on the tour.

Nicholas: This tour is my first experience in the Lion King and I’m going in to my second year now.

What is your favourite aspect of being in the show?

Nicholas: My favourite song is “He Lives in You” I think everyone relates to the song, It’s that time when you grow up and you realise that you have to face your responsibilities. Rafiki is knocking some sense into Simba and that’s the moment in the show when the light really goes on for him. I also love the whole experience of being on tour and having the chance to travel from city to city too.

Ava: I love the first act where we hear “They Live in You” and it’s Mufasa and Simba, I have a son myself and when Mufasa tells Simba he is never alone and that his ancestors are always watching over him, it gets me every time.

It’s such a huge company what is the atmosphere like backstage?

Ava: We really are like a family; we spend so much time with one another, eight shows a week and all the rehearsals, it’s made us quite close. It’s a really nice atmosphere where everyone is really looking out for one another.

Nicholas: We are blessed being out on tour together, firstly to get the chance to meet all of these amazing people from so many wonderful countries. There are five continents represented in this one production, so few people will ever get to experience all those diverse cultures.

Ava: The fact that we are from all over the world but have the privilege of telling this one fantastic story together is wonderful.

How do you keep it fresh when you are on a long tour, how do you keep up the energy and enthusiasm?

Ava: It’s the audience that keep us going as well as the people we are working with, of course it’s the same show every day but we never feel the same way every day. There are always different people to bounce off of each day and the audience may be different from what we’ve experienced before, so that keeps it fresh.

Nicholas: I always remember that each and every night there are people in the audience who are getting to see the show for the very first time. So I think of it as a premier every night, each and every single night the show has to be at its best.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring actors?

Ava: This industry is audition after audition and knock back after knock back, it happens to every performer, all I can say is keep going, if you want to go for it, if you want it to happen, it will, if you work hard enough for it.

Nicholas: This was my third attempt to get into the show, I had been turned down twice before and then on the third try I landed the principal role in the show. If you want it enough, go for it, there is nothing that should stop you. If you really believe in it then someone will see that in you and it will happen.

Disney’s The Lion King is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 18th January 2014.

REVIEW: Bring Him Home Colm Wilkinson in Concert – Edinburgh Playhouse


There are many young pretenders to his throne but Colm Wilkinson still reigns supreme as the king of musical theatre and his concert at Edinburgh Playhouse, is a masterclass in singing, not only musical theatre but good old fashioned rock and roll too.

From the first notes we know we’re in for a special night and Wilkinson doesn’t disappoint. The rapturous applause to which he enters the stage is testament to the regard in which he is held by musical theatre aficionados. Entirely at ease on stage, this is a man thoroughly comfortable in his own skin and fully aware of his strengths: his sure-footedness instantly signalling to the audience – sit back, relax hey! even join in if you want to – but be prepared to be entertained.  This is a city renowned for its subdued audience reaction but Wilkinson is a first-rate raconteur and his jovial personality and clever song choice ensured the crowd were in fine voice from the start. Hard to believe for Edinburgh but there was even audience participation at some of the more spirited songs; that should be proof enough of Wilkinson’s magic touch.

Further evidence of his surety of touch is the choice of opening number – Music of the Night – in many lesser performers repertoire this is their highlight moment left for the big finish – but Wilkinson has played the big parts, sung in massive concerts and has such a back catalogue of material that he can throw, arguably one of musical theatre’s biggest show-stoppers, in at the start as a warm up!

The evening is punctuated with songs from guest artists Siobhán Pettit and Áine Whelan, both are competent singers and provide a different dynamic to the evening: a few of the big female musical theatre show-stoppers, and both are politely received but its Wilkinson whom the crowd are here to see and the atmosphere is only truly enlivened when he’s on stage. Special mention must go to the band – all phenomenally talented individually and a treat for the ears as a whole.

It is hard to pick out any moment as a particular highlight in an evening of such quality, but, when Wilkinson walked on stage in his Jean Valjean coat to sing Bring Him Home, the entire auditorium erupted – prompting tears of emotion from many.

It would be easy to wax lyrical about the quality and tone of Wilkinson’s voice but many thousands of words have covered that already. This was a truly magical night with a master story teller in both word and song. Many of those young pretenders should take heed – this is how it should be done!


Edinburgh Playhouse Set List:

Music of the Night

Help me make it Through the Night

Some Enchanted Evening

First of May

Folsom Prison Blues

I Dreamed a Dream sung by Áine Whelan

Something’s Coming sung by Siobhán Pettit

Danny Boy

Whiskey in the Jar

This is the Moment

Man of La Mancha

The Impossible Dream


She’s Leaving Home

All That Jazz sung by Siobhán Pettit

The Winner Takes it All sung by Áine Whelan

500 Miles

Got My Mojo Working

I Cannot Stay

Mamma Don’t



Bring Him Home

REVIEW: Ghost – Edinburgh Playhouse


Walking back to their apartment one night, Sam and Molly are mugged, leaving Sam murdered on a dark street. Sam is trapped as a ghost between this world and the next and unable to leave Molly who he learns is in grave danger. With the help of a phony store-front psychic, Oda Mae Brown, Sam tries to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving her.

I strongly doubt that the 1990 mega-hit movie, Ghost would ever have been a likely candidate for a stage musical adaptation in anyone’s  books – having at its core a heart-breaking love story with a dramatic cat and mouse thriller thrown in for good measure. However, it’s precisely this, and the innovative on-stage effects and illusions that make it stand apart from other movie-based musical fodder.

The most technically advanced production ever to tour the UK: the cleverly designed visuals, including projected backdrops, evocative lighting and illusions designed by Paul Kieve, (which allow Sam to walk through solid doors) are stunning in their realisation – the subway scene in particular is jaw-droppingly impressive. To say any more would spoil the multitude of surprises in store.


Stewart Clarke’s central performance as the tragic Sam is deserving of acclaim – he manages to convey the right balance of anger, disbelief, sense of loss and frustration as he makes his journey to acceptance and peace. He is also in possession of a powerful voice with beautiful tone. As Molly, Rebecca Trehearn fares less well, though a competent singer, her voice at certain parts of her range was a little reedy and at times she lacked both the charisma and the emotional depth to convey the sorrow of a woman so recently bereaved.


The moments of light relief come in the form of Wendy Mae Brown playing her near-namesake Oda Mae Brown, she sparkles with sass and shimmies across the stage in an eye-dazzling array of outfits, stealing every scene she’s in and as the duplicitous Carl, David Roberts delivers a convincing performance. The show also benefits from an accomplished ensemble, strong voiced and with impressive dance skills.


If there’s any criticism of the show then it’s the music by Glen Ballard and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, though pleasant and entirely fitting to the piece (if a little repetitive) one questions at times if it’s needed at all. This is a very different theatre-going experience – it’s a movie played out onstage and the story-telling and performances alone are strong enough.

I defy anyone who sees this not to leave the theatre with a tear in their eye or a lump in their throat – an unmissable show.

REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Edinburgh Playhouse


Adapted from Stephan Elliott’s 1994 film, the musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transsexual, who get together to honour a booking for a show in Alice Springs. As they head from Sydney aboard their bus, Priscilla, the three friends meet some strange characters, encounter homophobia and eventually find happiness in the most unexpected places.

The Priscilla bus rolls in to Edinburgh still chock full of feather boas and sequins but in a somewhat scaled down version from its West End original. That said, the spirit of the glorious original is alive and well in this uplifting production.


The talented cast are ably led by Richard Grieve (Bernadette), Jason Donovan (Tick/Mitzi) and Graham Weaver (Adam/Felicia), keeping the energy levels up and the camp spectacular alive throughout. The familiar disco numbers are belted out with gusto and the outrageous costumes are an eye-popping delight.


Production photos copyright Paul Coltas

This is a show to lift the spirits and send you into the street with a spring in your step and your faith in humanity restored. A joyous, celebratory evening at the theatre.

photo (2)

My souvenirs – if you know the show you’ll know where these were fired from!!!

The bus rolls into the King’s Theatre Glasgow in June – ticket details here

REVIEW: Cats – The Edinburgh Playhouse


A show that takes as its inspiration T.S. Eliot’s  Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats wouldn’t at first seem to be the most likely premise for a musical, but 31 years on from its debut at the New London Theatre, Cats, the award-winning and record-breaking musical returns triumphant for this UK tour.

“On just one special night of the year, all Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, makes the Jellicle choice and announces which of them will go up to the heaviside layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.”

Despite its somewhat unusual source material, this is a captivating and engaging story. From the first explosion of twinkling lights and music to the dynamic end, every member of the audience, which included some very tiny members, was utterly mesmerised.

Part of the show’s success is the variety of tone and pace; there is never a point where the interest is allowed to wane. However, the most magical thing about this musical is the sheer skill of the cast. The actors bring the brilliantly observed characters thrillingly alive. Rarely can the word faultless be used for the whole of an ensemble. The complexity of the choreography and the effortlessness with which it is executed is truly to be marvelled at. It is a show of  tiny details – each cast member limiting their movements and gestures to only those which a cat can actually do, (the exquisite hand gestures were, to a man, executed with thumbs firmly attached to their “paws”). After a time the movement is so enthralling that it becomes almost hypnotic.


It is difficult to single out any individual performer in a knock-out cast, but particularly captivating were: Ben Palmer as Munkustrap, rarely off-stage for the entirety of the show, the intricacy of his movements and focus and attention to detail were compelling to watch.  Ross Finnie, a cast member from the original production, recreates his character Skimbleshanks with an engaging warmth and charm, and Oliver Savile raises the biggest cheers of the evening with his attention grabbing rebel with a glint in his eye Rum Tum Tugger.

It wouldn’t be a review of cats without mention of Grisabella who sings the most well-known of all the musical’s songs – Memory. Joanna Ampill, international star of Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, beautifully embodies the role of the “Glamour Cat”, shunned by the other Jellicle cats for leaving the tribe to explore the outside world. Weighed down and wearied by her life she desperately tries to return to the fold. Her, at first tentative and heart-breaking rendition of Memory in the first act gives way to a powerful and soaring rendition in the second, leaving the audience with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of their necks on end.

This is a sharply crafted show, beautifully realised and masterfully executed by its phenomenal cast. It is infused with electrifying energy leaving its audience transfixed from start to finish. If this first show audience is anything to go by this will be a sell-out. I urge you to get a ticket if you can – unmissable.

Runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 7th March

Cats was originally directed by Trevor Nunn, with choreography by Gillian Lynne  and set and costume design by John Napier.  Chrissie Cartwright re-creates the direction and choreography for this tour.

CATS opened at the New London Theatre on 11 May 1981 and played almost 9,000 performances. It closed on 11 May 2002 having celebrated 21 record-breaking years and winning an Olivier Award for Best Musical (1981). On Broadway it was the winner of 7 Tony Awards (including Best Musical and Best Director) and ran for an amazing 18 years making it second only to The Phantom of the Opera as Broadway’s longest running musical.

« Older Entries