Tag Archives: Glasgow

REVIEW: Jinkx Monsoon and Ben DeLa Creme – All I Want For Christmas is Attention – Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Ben DeLa Creme and Jinkx Monsoon are back in Glasgow at the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket with their all-new seasonal spectacular, All I Want For Christmas is Attention.

The two Seattle Super-Queens make for an unlikely, but absolutely perfect pairing. DeLa is billed as ‘all sugar’ and Jinkx ‘all spice’ but their two very different Christmas/Holiday ideals provide plenty of laughs.

All I Want for Christmas is Attention marks DeLa’s first producer credit for an international tour, and there’s a lot at stake, but, if the full auditorium and the audience reaction is anything to go on then she has nothing to worry about.

Presented like a 1950s Holiday TV special, but with 21st Century sensibilities and content. There are sketches and songs, and plenty of bickering, and of course, lots of glam costume changes. There’s an undeniably warmth, and feel-good atmosphere about the whole evening and the fact that these are two of the most accomplished queens on the scene means that they know how to structure a show. For all the crazy content this is as professional as it gets.

A masterclass in polished, elevated drag, that plays to the special talents of its stars, this is a pairing not to be missed.

REVIEW: Iris – Scottish Opera at The City Halls, Glasgow

Iris, Pietro Mascagni’s little seen third opera, is presented in concert form at the City Halls in Glasgow, by Scottish Opera. Originally intended to be semi-staged, almost universal cast illness means that this is a little more no frills. However, the music is so glorious, nothing more is required.

Set in Japan in the Edo period, innocent Iris (Kiandra Howarth, replacing the indisposed Helena Dix), the daughter of blind Il Cieco (James Creswell) lives a simple life. Her world is turned on its head when young Lord Osaka (Ric Furman) carries Iris off to Kyoto’s (Roland Wood) geisha house and a world so cruel she can barely comprehend.

Mascagni’s work pre-dates Puccini’s Butterfly by six years and is considerably more demanding – this is basically the tale of a young Japanese girl who is sold into sex-trafficking, and it makes no bones about it’s presentation of it, what Puccini glosses over, Mascagni and his librettist Luigi Illica, lay bare. The problematic nature of the story is only made more difficult by the fact that there is no remorse for the unpalatable actions of the men in the story and to add insult to injury, the males are inevitably handed all the best music.

The ominous bass solo with which the work begins, sets the tone for Iris’ fate, but it begins one of the most beautiful openings in opera, as the sun rises over Japan. This glorious opening is a precursor to a work filled with beautiful music, played faultlessly by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and accompanied impeccably by the chorus of Iris. The first rate singers, the icing on the cake.

While the subject matter may not be to many’s taste, Iris, is utterly hypnotic, completely beguiling, and in the intimate setting of the City Halls, with it’s world-class acoustics, a five-star, absolute highlight of the current opera season.

Image: James Glossop

REVIEW: Cinderfella – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

There has thankfully been a seismic shift in the Pantosphere in recent years to reflect the society we actually live in, and at the forefront has been the Tron Theatre, and more specifically those works from the pen of the wonder boy of panto fabulousness, Johnny McKnight. That said, this is the festive show I’ve attended since childhood and from the days of Peter Capaldi, Forbes Masson, Alan Cumming and Craig Ferguson, it has never felt the need to conform to Christmas norms or patronise its audience. It has a special place in my heart and year on year it never fails to entertain on every level and for every age.

The smashing of gender stereotypes features large in this year’s offering Cinderfella, and boy do they do it with tons of style and even more humour. Poor, orphaned Cinderella is fighting to keep her late parent’s vintage store afloat, her only hope is to meet fashion entrepreneur Princess Charmaine and persuade her to invest in the failing family business. However, the only way a poor pleb like Cinderella can get near the Princess is to get an invite to her annual ball. However, this year the guest-list is a male-only affair – so what’s a girl to do?…

The music is chart-toppingly catchy and composer Ross Brown has obviously caught West End smash Six, another celebration of female strength, there’s also a nod to You’ve Got a Friend in Me in Muttons big solo number.

The all-female cast is absolutely dynamite. Sally Reid, all wide-eyed innocence and guilelessness is the titular hero and her comic timing is masterful. Lauren Ellis-Steele doubles up as “Scotland’s answer to Beyoncé” (more an Adele look-and-sound-alike) and also the Wicked Stepmother – it’s a perfectly pitched performance and Ellis-Steele has a fine set of pipes, and as with all McKnight festive offerings, she gets to go full-on Mariah in All I Want For Christmas, the song that traditionally brings the shows to an end. Jo Freer as Cinderella’s loyal sheep side-kick Muttons is a scene stealer as are Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Daisy Ann Fletcher as Cinders’ hapless and hopeless step-brothers Harry and Larry in eye-popping male-drag. 

This ‘estrogen epidemic’ is so well conceived and so well delivered, you can’t fail to be thoroughly entertained and its message of female self-reliance will make your heart soar. I can’t praise it highly enough – a fantastic, five star, festive feast.

Image: John Johnstone

REVIEW: Jack Whitehall Stood Up – SSE Hydro Arena, Glasgow

The song The Greatest Show with sparkle-clad Vegas show dancers, a tumbling routine and fire canons, is not quite what you expect as the intro to a comedy gig, but this isn’t any old comedy gig, this is the first night of a 2-date run at the 13000-seater Hydro Arena and Jack Whitehall’s new show for 2019, Stood Up.

It’s a testament to Whitehall’s skill and affability that apart from the dazzling intro and finale (which we’ll come to later) that this isn’t an evening of comedy on steroids, it’s just Whitehall telling stories in such an engaging way that he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Such is his skill, that it’s all he needs. The act is tight throughout (there’s not a murmur of heckling) and Whitehall never wavers, never looses the thread, keeps the jokes coming and the audience firmly on his side and invested in what on earth is going to come next.

There’s the inevitable, but perfectly knowing schtick about how he’s just like you or I (he’s not) and the posho-references, but that’s what the audience comes for, that’s what he’s loved for.

There are surprises aplenty throughout that would be churlish to reveal to anyone attending the tour and an eye-popping seasonal spectacular to end the show, that cleverly ties into an anecdote from the first half.

He may not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, but it’s a masterclass in comedy performance that keeps the laughs coming from start to end.

Catch it on tour if you can.

 

Reviewed on 19/11/2019 Jack Whitehall continues touring throughout the UK.

 

REVIEW: SIX – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.

Aragorn, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, Parr.

Six women, six British Queens, reduced to six words in a rhyme.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss give sassy 21st Century voices to these six Tudor queens.

Written in ten working days, Six the Musical has been an eye-watering, head-spinning success since its appearance in 2017 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it was performed by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Since then it has had a UK tour, several runs in the West End, been produced Off-Broadway, had a US tour, a run on Norwegian Cruise Lines that will continue to 2022, and will appear on Broadway, Australia, Canada and in Chicago and Minnesota in 2020. It is currently on its second UK-wide tour.

It is a sassy celebration of womanhood as these Queens get to reclaim their own her-story 500 years on. Long defined by who their husband was, it’s now time to tell their own tales.

Inevitable comparisons will be made with theatrical juggernaut Hamilton which also mixes 21st century music with historical subject material. However, Six manages to plough its own original and irresistible furrow. Staged like a mash-up between a stadium concert and a musical, it blends spot-on humour and cleverly delivered history with a refreshing dose of self-awareness. Each Queen gets her chance to stand centre stage and state her case in an X-Factor style competition to see who had it worse at the hands of the infamous Henry. These women are here to kick ass and tell all. This they do in an array of musical genres, a blend of pop, rock ballad, R&B, soul and electro euro-pop (the hysterical Kraut-rock/House mash up Haus of Holbein) and all backed by an all-female band, The Ladies in Waiting.

Each of the six women playing these six queens is thoroughly talented and shine equally, a rare and wonderful thing to see on stage and despite the competitiveness, it’s ultimately a show of sisterhood. This is a girl gang you really want to join.

After the defiant intro number Ex-Wives, Lauren Drew (Catherine of Aragon) starts the ball rolling with the sassy No Way followed by Maddison Bulleyment’s hysterical Anne Boleyn delivering the Lily Allen-ish Don’t Lose Your Head, including the lyrics: “I tried to elope but the Pope said ‘nope'” and “everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will”. Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour) tugs at the heart-strings in the power ballad Heart of Stone. Shekinah McFarlane (Anna of Cleves) gives us the Rhianna-like Get Down and delivers the laughs with: “I’m the Queen of the castle, get down you dirty rascals” when ‘exiled’ to a life of luxury and independence after her divorce from Henry. Jodie Steele delivers Katherine Howard’s All You Wanna Do, with defiance, the lyrics make you question (in light of the #MeToo movement) has anything really changed for women in the past 500 years? And sheds new perspective on how she has been remembered in history. Athena Collins brings the women’s stories to an end absolutely beautifully with Catherine Parr’s Beyoncé-like torch song I Don’t Need Your Love. Each of these woman has is a power-house vocalist and could tear up any stage. That said, the songs they are asked to deliver are hard not to love and as catchy as hell. The rousing Six and Megasix mash-up brings the house to its feet to get down at the end.

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is sharp, original and modern, and perfectly executed by the cast. Gabriella Slade’s costume design is Ariana Grande does Tudor and it works fabulously, as does Emma Bailey’s simplistic but effective, concert-style set design and Tim Deiling’s rich lighting.

The face-off between the women is definitely a twisted sisterhood, they each fling the other’s sob story back in their faces, but this show of fierce womanhood is utterly irresistible. The dawning realisation by each woman that they only claim their place in history because of the man they married, reduced to: “just one word in a stupid rhyme” is actually heart-breaking. Thankfully they get “five more minutes” to set the record straight and send the audience to the street on an absolute high.

The succinct story telling packs a punch and the compact 75-minute running time is audience friendly. Marlow and Moss prove again that HISTORY + MUSICAL THEATRE = HIT. They have successfully distilled 500 year-old history into a perfect piece of entertainment for the 21st Century. Having seen it several times now, Six remains one of the best things out there and stands up to repeated viewings (something this reviewer is never keen on).

It’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a fog of tired, relentlessly touring, mediocre musicals. Get a ticket while you can, you won’t regret it.

Runs until 10th November 2019 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

review originally published at The Reviews Hub

INTERVIEW: John Barrowman talks about his festive show coming to Glasgow this December

It’s the most FABULOUS time of the year – and entertainer extraordinaire John Barrowman will be celebrating the festive season with fans as he returns to the UK with a dazzling new Christmas tour.

The eight-date JOHN BARROWMAN – A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS  tour in November and December follows the success of his sell-out summer shows, celebrating his 30 years on stage and screen, and will coincide with the release of his new album of the same name.

Barrowman is a singer, actor, dancer, presenter, judge and author. Last year, UK audiences delighted in supporting him as he made the final three in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 2018. And he’s recently been announced as the new judge for ITV’s Dancing On Ice, having competed on the show’s first series in 2006.

Speaking about the tour and new album, John said: “I am so looking forward to starting everyone’s Christmas off with a festive bang.

“It’s been great to get back into the studio recording new Christmas tracks. I love this time of the year, but this is the first time I’ve put together a full album of Christmas and festive music for the most FABULOUS time of the year.

We caught up with John for a festive chat as he prepares for a truly FABULOUS Christmas…

What is Christmas all about to you?

“It’s about family, friends, celebrating the birth of a child, and basically coming together and enjoying people’s company. Everybody talks about presents, but my favourite time is Christmas morning after all the presents have been opened, having brunch, relaxing, playing games, all that stuff.

“Of course, I have to fit music into Christmas, and that starts on Christmas Eve. We have all the Christmas songs on, line up bottles of Champagne – from the most expensive to the cheapest… And by the time we get to the cheap ones, they all taste exactly the same anyway.”

Home is obviously Palm Springs, but you’re still very much attached to your Scottish roots. Where do you spend Christmas?

“Prior to last year, Christmas has always been spent at my cousin’s in Dunblaine, as when I’ve been working in panto, you only really get Christmas day off, so not much chance to travel too far. So last year was the first time in many years where I’ve actually been at home with family, in the States, for Christmas, and that’s where we’ll be this year too.”

Do we assume your house looks fabulous at Christmas?

“Absolutely. My house gets decorated to the hilt; pilots could mistake our house for a runway! That said, by the time I’ve actually finished the tour and other work I’ve got on, there’s only going to be about five days to do all the decorating and shopping.

“We have two trees. One is decorated in a Scottish-American-Welsh-British traditional style, recognising all the places I’ve lived in. The other is more glitzy and sparkly, with a dash of Star Wars – we have a Star Wars tree topper.

“All the trees outside have huge baubles on and we really go all out.”

Who will you spend Christmas with and what’s the plan?

“Mum and dad are just down the road, so they’ll be with us, and my aunt and uncle and Scott and mine’s best friends – just the eight of us.

“Everyone shares the jobs, although one day I’ve got a chef booked so no one will have to cook at all. But we’re a diverse family, so we really try to include lots of different elements.

“Mum will make shortbread, obviously – being Scottish, my aunt is from Belgium and she does the hors d’ouvres. Then it’s a traditional turkey dinner with everybody pitching in to help.

“One rule though, whoever cooks does not clean up – so I make sure I get really stuck into the cooking, and make a mess…”

Are you a gift giver, or receiver?

“I like to give more than receive, for sure. But I do absolutely love to receive gifts which are made personally, crafty gifts. There’s so much more heart to those things.”

What’s the best present you’ve ever had?

“I remember one year as a kid, all I wanted was a silver flute. I’d come down, opened all my presents from Santa and I didn’t get it. Mum and dad asked me to get something out of the drawer in the other room where they kept the silverware, and there among it all was this very particular flute.

“I like to make gift giving an event like that – it really adds to the occasion.”

The tour is coming to Glasgow, obviously, how could you not include your home city, especially at Christmas?

“It really will be the homecoming show, and home is so important at that time of year. The audiences really know what to expect, are always totally fabulous and get right behind me.

“I always go a little bit further there than anywhere else, as I know I can get away with it. It’ll be like an early Hogmanay.

And lastly, what can fans expect from John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas Tour? The summer tour was truly fabulous, and your mum, dad and Scott almost managed to steal the show on those dates… Will we be seeing them again?

“It’s going to be totally Christmassy… I’ve written a letter to Santa to see if ‘Mr and Mrs Claus’ are able to come along. Scott will be there again, on the merchandise stall, and on stage at some point. I hope to integrate mum and dad into it – which will be quite exciting, I hope.

“Like the summer shows, there will be music, stories and photos, but this time sharing all my favourite moments from Christmas through the years.”

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com

John Barrowman ‘A Fabulous Christmas’ is out 6th Dec on Decca Records

See JOHN BARROWMAN – A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS at:

  • SUN DEC 1 GLASGOW, SEC

REVIEW: Motown the Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Eight hundred dollars, a loan from his family, was all it took for Berry Gordy to set up the legendary Motown Records. Flash forward to 1983, and the eve of Motown’s 25th anniversary. Gordy is reflecting on his career at a point where the label is in deep decline, it’s biggest stars having left for better deals with bigger bucks. He sits at home deciding whether to attend the celebration in his honour. Thankfully, this self-reflection takes us back, right back to Detroit and the foundations of Hitsville USA and to those sublime, timeless tunes – an astonishing 57 number one hits.

And thank goodness for those hits, essentially, Motown the Musical is an extremely sanitised version of events written by Gordy himself. While it tracks Gordy’s infamous and adulterous relationship with Diana Ross (which produced a child, of whom there’s no mention here) at exasperating length, and tries to tackle some more serious themes of the era: JFK’s assassination, Vietnam, the race riots, its clunky and often embarrassingly simplistic script suffers badly in order to shoe-in another hit, it’s choc-full of cheesy lines: “that little Stevie is a wonder” as Wonder appears as a child with his head bobbing wildly (cringe). In sharp contrast, many recent jukebox musicals have managed to weave a decent story around the songs, Jersey Boys, Beautiful and Sunny Afternoon to name a few. It’s very much greatest hits and an exceedingly lazy script, and many of these glorious songs are frustratingly truncated, however, if you revel in the music alone, and the sheer number of songs (50) then you are in for an entertaining evening. 

The set is sparse and simplistic and complemented by colourful projections, so it’s down to the hard-working cast to deliver the goods. The  large ensemble double and triple-up (and more) as the rest of the fabulous Motown roster, including Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells, The Jackson 5 and The Temptations, now stars of their own hit Broadway musical and writers Holland, Dozier, Holland, and do so with energy. Those with a larger role are Shak Gabbidon-Williams, a fine singer, as a conflicted Marvin Gaye and Nathan Lewis as Gordy’s life-long friend Smokey Robinson. Karis Anderson is a competent singer but her portrayal of Diana Ross neither sounds/acts or looks like the diva and the time spent in this already long musical to her relationship with Gordy, seriously outstays its welcome. The audience is left asking why are these greatest hits are being severely cut short when we are subjected to this mortifying cheese-fest. It also needs to be said that this is quite possibly the worst diction this reviewer has heard in many a year.

It skims the surface of Motown’s move from Detroit to Los Angeles and Gordy’s insistence on mainstreaming or prematurely ageing his young and hip roster into old-fashioned middle of the road entertainers. Ultimately the move signified the loss of credibility and cool of the label.

The directorial choices are also somewhat baffling. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a tribute concert or a musical (there’s some audience interaction which entirely breaks down the fourth wall), which means the audience is unclear how to behave – it has arrived in Glasgow on the back of some controversy at a previous venue where audience members were asked to leave due to rowdy, concert-goer behaviour, as the rest of the audience had paid their hard-earned cash to enjoy the musical’s storyline as well as music. Unfortunately the problems seem to have travelled with it. The show is prefaced by an announcement to respect other audience members (unheard of in the venue), which is duly ignored by a section of the audience who are here for a sing-along, and who then cause major disruption as they refuse to leave when their behaviour is challenged by fellow audience members and staff of the venue. Props to the cast who manage to ignore the off-stage drama.

These songs are some of the finest ever written, performed by some of the most talented artists of all time, and the cast largely deliver, of that there’s no question, but this quite frankly awful script lets these talented performers and the Motown legacy down pretty badly.

Runs until 2 November 2019 | Image: Tristram Kenton 

REVIEW: Lisa Stansfield Affection 30th Anniversary Tour – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Ivor Novello and BRIT Award-winner Lisa Stansfield is currently riding the second wave of her career, after bursting on the scene in 1989, and re-emerging after a sabbatical of over a decade with 2014’s album Seven and 2018’s Deeper.

Hot on the heels of last year’s Deeper tour, this time we are going back, waaaay back, thirty years, to celebrate her debut album Affection. And it’s a full-on nostalgia fest for her fans as she transports them back to those heady days where it all began. As the hall is filled with the rich, full sound of her smooth eight piece band (and two outstanding backing vocalists) you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Stansfield’s 90s heyday – the illusion only shattered by the grey haired, middle-aged audience bopping along with the hits.

Stansfield is still as strong a vocalist as she ever was, the power unbelievably coming from such a teeny, tiny, frame. She storms through Sincerity, Poison, Mighty Love, This is the Right Time, the title track Affection and of course, All Around the World among others.

For someone who is known as a gregarious and verbose interviewee she is surprisingly mute throughout most of the set, rarely engaging with her audience beyond a word or two. There are no frills – the set is a cloth with Lisa on it and the lighting is simplistic. Stansfield relies on the music, and her lauded vocals to do the talking for her.

It is all very low-key and very mellow, and while the mega-fans are lapping it up, to those less invested, the similar sounding songs and the lack of light and shade mean that many of the songs are indistinguishable from one other.

It might not win her any new fans but it’s definitely an evening of quality and nostalgia for Stansfield fans.

The Affection tour continues to:

Tue 29 Oct 2019 – UK, Birmingham Symphony Hall
Thu 31 Oct 2019 – UK, London Royal Albert Hall
Fri 01 Nov 2019 – UK, Cardiff St David’s Hall

 

REVIEW: Andrea Bocelli – SEE Hydro Arena, Glasgow

It’s oft been quoted, but it bears repeating: “If God had a singing voice he would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli”, so said pop diva Celine Dion of the vocal phenomenon and 90 million album selling superstar, and she’s not wrong, Bocelli’s voice is so sublime it’s almost divine.

The world’s biggest selling classical artist is accompanied on this spectacular evening by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cuban soprano Maria Aleida, flautist Andrea Griminelli, the Edinburgh Choral Union, some classical dancers and Britain’s own R&B queen Beverly Knight.

It’s hard to describe adequately the atmosphere, but it’s almost reverent, the audience are entirely rapt for the whole  evening, it’s a warm, comforting feeling, old-fashioned but just, well…lovely. Every detail has been thought of and every artist a master of their craft, every note, every bit of staging (including massive panoramic projections) is of the highest quality. There’s no facile chit-chat, the music does the talking and does so, beautifully.

There’s a perfect mix of classical favourites, some personal choices from Bocelli, his classical crossover hits and duets with his guest stars, interspersed with clips from his recent movie The Music of Silence which provides some background on Bocelli’s childhood and sight loss. There’s also exquisite dancing accompaniment and a selection of Spaghetti Western themes from flautist Griminelli. Soprano Aleida delivers impressive vocal gymnastics including those on The Doll Aria from Les Contes d’Hoffman, Knight sings a relaxed version of her hit Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, and duets with Bocelli on Canto della Terra. The sentimental Glasgow audience erupt at Neapolitan classic O Sole Mio, Con te Partiro and Nessun Dorma which sends the audience home floating on a cloud.

Bocelli’s beaming smile at the rapturous reception says all that’s needed to be said about this perfect evening’s entertainment.

REVIEW: Tosca – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Sumptuous, stunning, shocking, and still sensational, Anthony Besch’s production for Scottish Opera of Giacomo Puccini’s once decried, but now beloved, “shabby little shocker” Tosca, still has the power to stir almost 40 years on. As evidenced by the packed house, this ninth revival, is as popular as ever, and rightly so.

Now widely utilised, but ground-breaking in the 1980s, was Besch’s re-setting of the work from the Napoleonic era to 1940s Fascist-era Rome, and the production looks and feels as fresh and relevant as the moment it first appeared.

As the curtain rises on Peter Rice’s glorious set there is an audible gasp from both those new to this production and those in the audience welcoming home an old and much-loved friend from its extensive travels around the globe. The magnificent realisation of the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, is truly breath-taking, never more so than in the Te Deum, where the splendidly clad clergy and congregation bring the curtain down on the first act. The representations of Scarpio’s office in the Palazzo Farnese and the ramparts of the Castel Sant’Angelo are just as magnificent and historically accurate.

Puccini’s sublime music sounds strikingly modern and almost cinematic throughout, and the orchestra under the baton of Stuart Stratford sounds majestic, managing to strike the perfect balance of power without ever overwhelming the singers.

Natalya Romaniw is an out-standing Tosca, seamlessly marrying her stunning vocals to beautifully measured and highly convincing acting skills. Roland Wood is an assured Scarpia, but it is Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi who is the knock out of the evening, never was a voice more perfectly married to a role, he is truly stunning.

This is a five-star, breath-taking production in every respect, and the perfect example of what opera can and should be.

Runs until 26 October 2019, then touring to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

For more information visit Scottish Opera

IMAGES: JAMES GLOSSOP

 

 

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