Tag Archives: Elaine C. Smith

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: Fat Friends The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Based on Kay Mellor’s 2000 TV Show about the lives of the members of a Leeds slimming club, Fat Friends has now had the musical theatre treatment.

It’s six weeks shy of Kelly’s wedding and she’s ready to float down the aisle in her dream dress. However, there’s a not inconsiderable problem – it doesn’t fit. Cue, signing up to a slimming club. There she meets a rag-bag mix of misfits all with problems of their own.

On the surface, Fat Friends is an entertaining, escapist evening at the theatre. However, as with much of Mellor’s work, it is always deeper than it seems. Scratch beneath the surface and there’s a deeper core. In this case addressing the issues of body image, fat shaming and exploitation by the diet industry. The issues of social media trolling are also tackled, something the source material never had to deal with. There’s a resonance for anyone who has had to count the calories. Well written, if over-long and a bit broad and coarse at times, it avoids being preachy but still manages to communicate a message under the candy floss.

Nick Lloyd Webber’s score (yes, son of you-know-who) is absolutely excellent, don’t be deceived by titles such as: Diets Are Crap, Big and Battered, sung in a chip shop, and Corset Song, understated they ain’t, but they’re catchy, beautifully layered musically and fit the narrative (if a bit classy for the script). I’m not sure if I imagined it but there was a little glimmer of Lloyd Webber Snr’s Take That Look Off Your Face at one point.

The rolling cast (some actors only appear at certain venues) are uniformly entertaining and have some of the best sounding voices to grace the stages of the UK in recent years. In Scotland, veteran local actress Elaine C. Smith replaces Sam Bailey as Kelly’s mother, the ubiquitous Smith who is becoming a predictable stand-in when actors get a nosebleed travelling north of the border is excellent. Prenger is a metaphorically larger than life Kelly and her much-lauded voice is as strong as ever. Natalie Anderson (Lauren) and TV veteran Kevin Kennedy as Kelly’s dad, provide sure-footed support. One surprise of the evening is Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton. She has little stage time but delivers a well-judged comedy turn as diet franchise owner Julia Fleshman. Joel Montague, in for Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff as Kelly’s fiancé Kevin has the most beautifully melodic voice, one which does full justice to Lloyd Webber’s music.

While this is undoubtedly an entertaining production, there is one thing that needs to go on a diet and that’s the script. There are a few too many unnecessary scenes that add little more than extending the running time and could easily be trimmed.

Bretta Gerecke’s set design is colourful and functional but leans a bit towards the homemade pantomime to be truly effective.

It echoes the famous words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, then how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” A life-affirming, hugely relatable piece of entertainment with the best singing you’ll hear on stage all year.

Runs until 5 May 2018 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Annie – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

As a populist piece of entertainment Annie, Thomas Meehan, Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse’s 1977 musical has always appealed to those who love their shows schmaltzy and sentimental and taking it as such, Nikolai Foster’s revival will surely entertain many. There are sunny tunes a-plenty, wall-to-wall energetic tots and a tug at your heart strings story, but high art it isn’t and the plot that threads together the musical theatre mega-hits is paper-thin.

The tale of 11-year old Annie left on the steps of a New York orphanage as a baby, still clinging to the desperate hope that her parents will return to claim her, is one of hope and optimism in the face of adversity. Set during the Depression, the plot has a familiar resonance – the wide-spread poverty and desperation are not so far removed from the world outside the doors of the theatre, however, the uneven book has its lulls and at times the attention drifts (a fact seemingly acknowledged by the director, who sends the cute canine member of the cast, Sandy (Amber) on stage to enliven any moments of boredom).

Foster’s new production has more than the hint of the RSC’s Matilda about it, from the jigsaw piece decorated set (building blocks in Matilda) to the sharp, modern choreography (which is absolutely first-rate), it shows its influences on its sleeve. That said, the set design and lighting are a visual treat.

The first-rate cast is deserving of high praise: Alex Bourne’s Oliver Warbucks is fine-voiced, fleet-footed and assured and Holly Dale Spencer’s Grace is a pitch-perfect, well-judged delight. The pint-sized orphans are well-drilled, energetic and characterful, the ensemble is universally razor-sharp and Elise Blake’s Annie is highly competent if lacking a little warmth.

Musicals have come a long way since Annie’s appearance in 1977 and Foster’s production delivers visually for a modern audience, but there’s just something missing in the musical itself that a great director, innovative choreographer, talented set designer and first-rate cast just can’t overcome. If you like your entertainment sweet, syrupy and sentimental and thoroughly family-friendly then you’ll love it – those looking for something with a bit more grit should look elsewhere.

Runs until 20 February 2016 |Image: Matt Crockett

REVIEW: I Dreamed a Dream, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Elaine C. Smith’s starring role as the “inner voice” of Susan Boyle packs an emotional punch in this, her musical I Dreamed A Dream.

It certainly can’t be said that this is an uplifting tale of one of the “little people” and her glorious rise to stardom – be prepared to leave the theatre having seen an often depressing and heart-breaking story powerfully told. From oxygen depravation at birth, severe school bullying, over-protective parents demolishing her chance at love, to heartbreaking loss and her horrific treatment by the tabloids, it leaves no stone unturned in its telling. And it is all the better for it.

In returning home to Scotland, where this show’s language and cultural references have the most resonance, where the audience can draw direct parallels with their own up-bringings, it held the sold-out audience firmly in its grip from start to finish. There were moments when the audience, so in its thrall, were so silent you could hear a pin drop.

It would have been easy to tread lightly, to gloss over the rough patches but this is a braver story to tell and one which will leave a lasting impression on the audience of how the real story behind the show-biz sparkle isn’t as fairy tale like as we want or imagine it to be. And I hope it’s rapturous reception gives Susan Boyle some comfort from the life-time of heartache she has endured in its creation.