Tag Archives: Joe DiPietro

REVIEW: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – Greenside at Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

In an Edinburgh Festival Fringe of increasing size and, in some cases, questionable quality, a small but perfectly formed jewel of a production shines bright above its contemporaries, Accidentally on Purpose Productions staging of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

Presented as a series of vignettes on the themes of love and relationships, this witty, if ubiquitous presence at The Fringe, stands the test of time (save a few dated references) despite nearing its twentieth birthday.

With a cast of six, Accidentally on Purpose has managed to pack a bucketload load of interest and a shed-load of quality, into a work of only fifty minutes. The direction from Adam Broad ensures maximum visual interest from a minimal staging and the transitions are smooth, slick and quick despite many scene and copious costume changes.

There is a maturity and sure-footedness from the entire ensemble despite their youth, and a perfect match of acting skill and powerhouse vocals, the harmonies throughout are glorious too. It seems churlish to single out any performer, but Bethany Marvin has finely tuned comedy and vocal skills and seems set to be one to watch out for in the future. That said there are quality performances from all throughout.

The material offers nothing particularly original, it largely relies on stereotypes to drive home the point, but it’s good-natured and relatable and delivers the laughs, albeit superficially. The tunes also reside firmly in the amiable category, there’s nothing new, nothing knockout, but it all sounds perfectly pleasant and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality production on The Fringe.

This is a theatre group to watch and with such promise, it will be interesting to see what’s next.

REVIEW: Love Me Tender – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Before Joe DiPietro wrote the multi-award-winning Memphis, he made his Broadway debut with the show All Shook Up, ten years on and All Shook Up has had a shake-up of its own from director and choreographer Karen Bruce and is now touring the UK as Love Me Tender.

A laudable sense of self-awareness elevates DiPietro’s show above the run of the mill, biographical, jukebox musical. Embracing as it does the madness of a show filled with cross-dressing, major misunderstandings, mistaken identity and misplaced love with utter relish is what makes it a winner.

It is as amusing as it is improbable and the humour manages to remain on the right side of charming (albeit with a huge side-order of corny): in a (literally) one-horse town (look out for the amusing sight gags, for this and throughout) a rabble-rousing roustabout arrives in town. There’s no music, no dancing and absolutely no smooching but our rebellious hero sets about using the power of music to change all that.

Aside from its clever self-mockery, another reason for the success of the whole endeavour is a top-notch cast of both theatre and TV favourites and new talent: Australian theatre star Ben Lewis (among whose many roles is the Phantom in Love Never Dies) is an amusing and utterly likeable, if unlikely rabble-rouser,Chad, and sings with gusto some of Elvis’ greatest hits, in rousing voice is soul diva Mica Paris as bar owner Sylvia, who delivers a goosebump inducing rendition of “There’s Always Me”, the pair are ably supported by stage and TV favourite and National Treasure in the making, Shaun Williamson as widowed father Jim and Sian Reeves, relishing the role of over-zealous Mayor whose greatest delight in life is upholding the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Law. But to its credit there’s new talent too: Aretha Ayeh as Sylvia’s daughter battling racial prejudice is a knockout (there’s even an appearance from the KKK!) as are Laura Tebbutt as cross-dressing car mechanic Natalie, Kate Tydman as repressed museum curator Miss Sandra and Mark Anderson as weedy but loyal Dennis.

The music of Elvis is cleverly employed throughout, appearing as snippets, re-arrangements and full-blown production numbers, however a word of caution, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Elvis fan expecting concert-type renditions of his greatest hits then this may not be the show for you. What it is though, is good clean fun with a great big heart and utterly irresistible.

Yes, the characters are a set of caricatures, yes, it’s cheesy but it is hugely entertaining and in this grim summer it’s a welcome tonic for the soul.

Runs until Saturday 8th August 2015 then touring

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com

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

REVIEW: Memphis – Shaftesbury Theatre, London

Six months on and Memphis still has the audience rocking in the aisles. This story of the birth of rock and roll may appear on the outside to look like just another jukebox musical but in reality, with its uplifting book by Joe DiPietro and original score from Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, that couldn’t be further from the truth.


It’s 1955 and poor white boy, local music fan turned DJ, Huey Calhoun is on an one man mission to bring “race music” to the masses in the segregated Deep South. Frequenting the black music clubs on Beale Street, Huey discovers singer Felicia and starts her on the road to success, but along the way Huey falls for Felicia and the pair’s relationship has to fight hard to survive in this racial hotbed.


A fictionalised account of a time in the US when barriers were beginning to be broken but with an establishment that still bolstered the barricades it manages to make its point without ramming it down your throat. There’s a helluva lot of sentimentality here but the message still gets through and to its credit, it manages to eschew the schmaltzy happy ever after ending whilst still managing to send you back onto the street on an emotional high.


The music is an on-period delight: there’s blues, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and some heart-breaking ballads too.

There is an exuberant energy throughout and the cast look as if they are having the time of their lives, which then transmits throughout the auditorium (on the night I attended the audience were particularly enthused – so much so the cast felt the need to Tweet their appreciation after the curtain fell). They are also, undoubtedly, the strongest voiced ensemble on the West End stage at the moment – so much so that it feels like a wave of electricity hitting you as each number is performed. Brisk doesn’t describe the direction by Christopher Ashley, break-neck would be nearer the truth: the time goes by so quickly and the action moves at such a pace that you land back on the street exhausted and sightly stunned.


It is the principle pairing of Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly that makes this an absolute winner. Knight’s voice is truly outstanding and the power she manages to muster from her tiny frame is stunning, but it is Donnelly who really steals the show and the audience’s hearts. His charm and charisma as well as his comic timing and knock-out voice are a winning combination.

Like every other show it’s not without its faults but they’re few and far between and the sheer sense of joy it leaves you with is worth the price of a ticket any day.