REVIEW: Shout! The Mod Musical – Momentum Playhouse, Edinburgh

Five girls coming of age in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ to a soundtrack of hits from the generation that created pop music, is Shout! The Mod Musical in a nutshell.

In an era when man conquered the moon, the pill was widely available, women were becoming liberated and the belief that there was suddenly a classless society, these ordinary girls find that while England claims to be swinging – things ain’t what they seem to be. Seeking guidance through this maelstrom, they write to Shout magazine’s agony aunt Gwendolyn Holmes for some sage advice. Unfortunately Ms. Holmes cure for all ills is the philosophy that women’s sole ambition is to be a wife and mother with perfect hair and an immaculate manicure.

The book writers Phillip George and David Lowenstein have pulled off an impressive feat in getting paid to write an almost invisible script. What really elevates this piece of fluff into a joyous celebration of girl power is its knock-out soundtrack and stunning cast. Who wouldn’t want to hear “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself”, “Downtown” and the raucous title track sung gloriously by a quintet of stupendously talented actors? Their harmonies are particularly impressive and a delight to the ear.

Whilst it appears to be pure fluff, it does a helluva good job of highlighting the iniquities of being a woman in the 60’s through songs and laughter (domestic violence is even touched upon). It is terrifying to think that what was perfectly acceptable then is truly frightening now. There are particularly hilarious interludes about asbestos dresses “ooh, it makes me all tingly”, the side-effects of the pill, Paul McCartney’s impending nuptials and wearing the latest fashions: “I’m so chic, so trendy and so crippled” to look out for.

The whole thing tears along at break-neck speed in a riot of rainbow colours and the hits just keep on coming. This is a well-oiled machine and the chemistry created among the cast and their commitment to their roles absolutely shines through.

This is just a joyous celebration of womanhood and the music that set Britain on the world map.

Worth mentioning too from this production of ex-students from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, is the tribute to 60’s icon and Liverpool lass Cilla Black in the pre-show music – a nice touch.

Runs until 30 August 2015

This review was originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/shout-the-mod-musical-momentum-playhouse-st-stephens-edinburgh/

REVIEW: There’s a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis – Momentum Playhouse @ St Stephens, Edinburgh

On paper the subject matter of this “new play with music” couldn’t get any better: set initially against the backdrop of Elvis’ one and only visit to the UK on Thursday March 3rd 1960, when he stepped onto the Tarmac of Prestwick Airport in Scotland, it tells a hugely relatable relationship tale of how teenage dreams can turn into adult nightmares. Add to this a smattering of classic tunes: “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “The Wonder of You” and the barnstorming title track to name a few, and a (relatively) local setting and you’d think you’d have a sure fire hit on your hands: Jennifer Selway’s There’s a Guy Works Down The Chipshop Swears He’s Elvis is bursting with promise, but it’s not without it’s faults.

The surprise visit from ‘The King’ to Scottish shores has the Kilmarnock branch of the Elvis Presley Fan Club in a tizzy. It’s four members are firm friends but lies and deceit abound and 20 years on, the consequences of those lies, and the truth of that night in 1960, threaten to tear them apart forever.

There’s a fair potion of grit served up in Selway’s play amongst the teenage swooning and crooning but there’s an overwhelming feeling that it could have given so much more. Some of the fault lies in the dialogue which at times feels artificial and at other points has clearly has been used to pad the work out to the nearly one and three quarter hour running time: some judicious editing would have tightened the focus, made the piece harder hitting and left room for more of the thing that the cast truly excel at: singing. The glorious sound they make both individually and collectively is stunningly good – leaving you begging for more.

More a work in progress than the finished article, but the potential is all there for this to be a sure-fire hit.

Runs until 30 August 2015 This review was originally written for and published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/theres-a-guy-works-down-the-chip-shop-swears-hes-elvis-momentum-playhouse-st-stephens-edinburgh/