Tag Archives: Review

REVIEW: Gary Lamont Dropping The Soap – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

It’s hard not to love Gary Lamont. From the moment he walks onto the stage with a giant wedge of cheese on his head – yes, no typo, singing This is my Moment in tribute to his spirit animal Martine McCutcheon, there isn’t a minute he doesn’t have the audience eating out of his hand.

Hugely likeable and hugely talented, Lamont takes the audience on a break-neck journey on life after soap (operas), musing on the somewhat rocky path many much-loved actors have trodden since stepping away from small screen fame. Roping in his showbiz pals, there are mascara ruining sequences with Claire from Steps, Claire from Stepps, Graham Norton, Juliet Cadzow (his mum in the soap River City), Martine McCutcheon and a belly-achingly funny duet of I Know Him So Well with best buddy Michelle McManus. There’s no lull for the entire running time – a feat many so-called comedians would be hard pressed to achieve, this is a show that genuinely has you leaving the theatre, feeling the world is a happier place.

As he says in the show, in Soapland you either leave in a hearse or in the back of a taxi – Lamont left in a silver limo – hopefully a portent for his future career. Lamont has a gigantic gift for comedy, a fine voice and an irresistible personality – Lamont’s brand of joy should be available on prescription. Do yourself a favour and catch this if you can.

On Tour:

Sat 24 Mar – Cumbernauld Theatre – 7.30pm www.cumbernauldtheatre.co.uk

Fri 27 Apr – Stirling MacRobert 7.30pm www.macrobertartscentre.org/

Sat 28 Apr – Paisley Arts Centre – 7.30pm www.boxoffice.renfrewshire.gov.uk

Fri 04 May – Adam Smith Theatre – 7.30pm www.onfife.com

Fri 11 May – Lochgelly Centre – 7.30pm www.onfife.com

Fri 25 May – Livingston Howden Park 7.30pm www.howdenparkcentre.co.uk

Sat 26 May – Byre Theatre St Andrews – 8pm www.byretheatre.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/G_aryLamont

Facebook: www.facebook.com/whatariddy

REVIEW: Back to Bacharach – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

The back catalogue of Burt Bacharach comprises some of the world’s most recognisable hits. In a career spanning six decades (that arguably reached its zenith in the mid-to-late 60s) there’s a rich vein of material to be mined here.

Bach to Bacharach – The What The World Needs Now Concert Tour, delivers not only the big hits: I Say A Little Prayer, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, Anyone Who Had A Heart, Walk on By, The Look of Love, Make it Easy on Yourself, 24 Hours From Tulsa, the list goes on and on, but there are a few surprises too: Keep Me In Mind covered by Elvis and Don’t Make Me Over from Dionne Warwick.

Backed by an eight-piece band, the principal vocalists Martin Neely, Chloe Du Pre and Arabella Rodrigo have a wealth of experience behind them from the West End stage to backing/session work and cruise/cabaret performance. There’s a warmth from the trio that transmits to the audience and they work hard to keep the energy levels up and the audience engaged throughout.

There’s plenty of bang for your buck here, the hits keep coming and the two-hour show is packed with familiar song after song.


The only issue the cast are fighting against is that these songs are synonymous with some of the most legendary vocalists in pop history: Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Cilla Black, to merely touch on a few, indeed Black’s trials and tribulations when working with control freak Bacharach, are vividly documented in the recent musical of her life Cilla. These are big shoes to fill and while there are some show-stopping moments, Rodrigo’s Anyone Who Had A Heart is a stunner, they never quite hit the heights of the originals. That said, this a top quality production with an on-point band and hugely talented vocalists, one could never tire of hearing these pop classics and the packed audience is testament to the enduring draw of Bacharach. Just sit back, relax and enjoy.

Back to Bacharach is currently touring the U.K. – details here: http://www.back-to-bacharach.co.uk


REVIEW: The Wandering Hearts – Broadcast, Glasgow

Having spent weeks at the top of the Country Artist Album chart, the talent and quality of London-based ‘country, folk-pop’ group The Wandering Hearts won’t be confined to intimate venues like Glasgow’s Broadcast for long.

Thirty minutes after uploading two demos to SoundCloud, the group, then called The Paper Hearts, caught the attention of Decca Records, who invited them to audition one month later, and signed them on the spot. A small name change, a turn supporting the Brothers Osbourne, an appearance at the C2C Festival and here we are on their first headline tour.

Having a band with four talented vocalists results in the most ear-pleasing, to-die-for harmonies and while each is a knock-out singer, it’s A.J. Deans’ outstanding voice that lingers in the memory. The interchanging of the vocal leads means that the interest never wanes throughout the set. Comparisons are inevitable with Fleetwood Mac but it is evident that this band have poured their hearts and souls into the creation of these original sounding songs, there isn’t a weak link in the entire one hour set. Standout among the fabulous tunes are the upbeat Devil and the contemplative If I Fall.

The quality of the sound, singing and song-writing is bigger than this (albeit) sold-out show. This is stadium filling stuff with a wide appeal. The current appetite in the UK for musical Americana remains undiminished and The Wandering Hearts will undoubtedly be at the vanguard of the British movement.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.


REVIEW: Irit – Òran Mór, Glasgow

Irit Dekel’s life story is almost as colourful as her music. The Tel Aviv native has been an Israeli Army sniper, actress, TV host, film-maker and comedian and is in Glasgow with her three-piece band to showcase her debut solo album Happy.

Her sun-soaked sound transports, instead of sub-zero Scotland, it’s the sound of Parisian pavements, middle eastern rhythms, Astrid Gilberto, Buena Vista Social Club, and a dash of Piaf.

There’s a bite to the lyrics behind the catchy melodies, and Dekel describes some of the life experiences that have influenced the songs, one particularly affecting is based on her military service and the paralysing of her bunk mate in a freak gun accident. That said, the over-riding feeling is one of joy. The rhythms infectious. There’s also an original take on R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People.

Irit Dekel is offering up something original with this east-west hybrid of influences. An antidote to the grey world outside the doors. Highly recommended.


REVIEW: Flight – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’ contemporary opera Flight is almost universally loved and with good reason. A knockout score and a story filled with both drama and humour make it a hit with audiences world wide.

Image: James Glossop

Beginning as a story about a series of couples stranded at an airport due to electrical storms, librettist De Angelis discovered the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 to 2006 (a story which spawned a book The Terminal Man; French movie Tombés du ciel (Lost in Transit); the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal; short story The Fifteen Year Layover; two documentaries Waiting For Godot at De Gaulle and Sir Alfred of Charles De Gaulle Airport as well as the mockumentary Here To Where) and she and Dove wove the story of a refugee hiding at the terminal around the more comic aspects of the opera. The relationships unravel and entwine and all the while the refugee strives to overcome his plight.

Image: James Glossop

Many of the cast reprise their roles from the previous Opera Holland Park production (Jennifer France as the Controller, Victoria Simmonds as Minskwoman and James Laing as the Refugee) and their comfort and familiarity with the roles shows, especially Countertenor Laing whose voice gives goose bumps) however, while France has an impressive top range she was a little underpowered at times). Peter Auty (Bill) and Stephanie Corley (Tina) provide comic relief as the long-married couple seeking to spice up their marriage as do Jonathan McGovern and Sioned Gwen Davies as the randy Steward and Stewardess.

Image: James Glossop

Image: James Glossop

The music has a mid-century cinema musical feel – almost Bernstein or Gershwin-like, it is, at all times, melodic and an absolute joy to the ear. However, personally I can’t help wonder if it would have sounded better for being less ‘operatic’ and more ‘musical theatre’: the operatic voices, in this production all excellent, don’t entirely do the fabulous score justice.

Image: James Glossop

This re-imagined production by director Stepehn Barlow and the design team of Andrew Riley, Richard Howell and Jack Henry James is an absolute joy to watch and listen to, a welcome addition to this season’s operatic programme at Scottish Opera and one not to miss.

Image: James Glossop

The production continues at Glasgow Theatre Royal until 24 February then at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh from 1 to 3 March 2018. 

REVIEW: Beautiful the Carole King Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Beginning with the now famous Carnegie Hall concert in June 1971 to celebrate her seminal album Tapestry, Beautiful the Carole King Musical, quickly flashes back 14 years to a 16-year-old King (then just plain Carol Joan Klein) about to sell her first song (It Might as Well Rain Until September) to Don Kirshner at Aldon Music. In the blink of an eye, King has a new name, is pregnant, married to the man who would become her world-famous song writing partner, Gerry Goffin, and churning out hit after hit.

King’s isn’t a tale of sunshine and rainbows, there’s a world of pain behind the boppy pop songs making it more than the straight-forward jukebox musical: young motherhood and marriage, self-doubt and Goffin’s mental collapse and chronic infidelity. It also explores the friendly rivalry between Goffin and King and fellow song writers (and real-life partners) Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann at their Times Square hit factory at 1650 Broadway. The relatable human aspects of the tale, despite the fame and acclaim of the main protagonists, give it a greater resonance with its audience.

For all the moments of drama the story is pretty functional but it still manages to tug at the heart strings in all the right places. The story having been given the inevitable American gloss-over, it’s left to the songs to carry the tale. And what songs: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, One Fine Day, The Loco-Motion and Pleasant Valley Sunday from Goffin and/or King, and Mann and Weil’s Walking in the Rain and On Broadway, to name a few. If there’s one criticism of the music it’s that many of the songs are presented as works in progress, snippets rather than full production numbers and it leaves you, on most occasions, begging for more, more, more. The full production numbers like the Drifters On Broadway and particularly The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, Barry Mann’s rendition of We Gotta Get Out of This Place and King’s own (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend give you goose bumps.

Bronté Barbé, while not entirely the epitome of King, her voice is a tad nasal, does capture her essence, and when at full belt is utterly electrifying. Amy Ellen Richardson’s Cynthia Weil is a knockout, her energy levels and roof-raising voice are a treat. Kane Oliver Parry is a nicely judged Gerry Goffin, the object of our ire for the evening, and Matthew Gonsalves excels as the fantastically comic, and hugely talented hypochondriac, Barry Mann. The ensemble are first rate, doubling up as the roster of hit acts who recorded King’s songs.

Fundamentally, Beautiful is the story of one woman quite literally finding her voice. After a career providing hits for some of the biggest artists of the 60s, King emerges from the shadows, uses the highs and lows of her life and finally claims the limelight for herself. Both empowering and entertaining, a ‘must-see’.

Runs until 17 February 2018 | Image: Birgit & Ralf Brinkhoff

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

REVIEW: The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Aiming to recreate the heyday of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas has the potential to be a huge crowd-pleaser. The show, created by Mitch Sebastian has been doing the rounds both on tour and in the West End since 2002 with little change to its seemingly successful formula.

It’s the early 50s, the Sands Hotel and not only are the Rat Pack in town but Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is too. While it aims to create that Las Vegas glamour, the set is simplistic: the band on a raised platform, a grand piano, some stools and a representation of the Sands famous logo, are all that decorates the set, so it’s down to the music and the performers to sell the show.

First impressions are good, the band, under the tight musical direction of Matthew Freeman, are outstanding: crisp and pin-sharp, they recreate the sound of the best of the big bands, Freeman also has a fine, fine touch on the piano. Garrett Phillips as Frank Sinatra also makes his mark, recreating Sinatra’s sonorous tone perfectly as well as his idiosyncratic phrasing, although he’s entirely wooden as he moves around the stage. David Hayes has captured some of the voice, but is the least co-ordinated Sammy Davis Jr you are likely to see – for a man renowned for his dancing skills, you can’t help think they could have tried a little harder in the casting and while a heavily panstick-ed Nigel Casey has Dean Martin’s shtick down-pat and moves well, he is often over-powered by the band. Nicola Emmanuel as Ella Fitzgerald makes a fleeting appearance and while entirely competent, fails to make much of an impression.

While there is a fair representation of the main trio’s biggest hits: I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore, to name a few, there are some less well known numbers that will either delight or frustrate. In the case of this reviewer, it frustrates somewhat. With three (and with Fitzgerald, four) artists with such rich back catalogues, there is space to make this an evening of out-and-out highs, however, the uneven nature of the song choices means the evening never really hits its stride. That coupled with some utterly cringe-worthy linking dialogue and an attempt at humour in the second act, that falls flat on its face – you can feel the tumbleweed slowly making its way across the stage – you can’t help feel that it’s all an opportunity missed.

There’s undoubtedly talent on the stage, both in the singers and musicians, but their potential is not being exploited. It’s time to get rid of the sexist, racist and homophobic banter and while there’s an argument that it’s reflective of the era represented, it’s just lazy, especially with a cast with so much to give musically – less chat, more music please. These artists and they way they sang these songs can speak for themselves. An overhaul is needed to get the most from the music and the cast. Still an enjoyable evening if you concentrate on the music and ignore all the filler.

Runs until 10 February 2018 | Image: Betty Zapata

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub here

REVIEW: Greek – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Based on Steven Berkoff’s riff on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Greek has fast forwarded the story from Thebes, 429 BC to the Tufnell Park in the 1980s.

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s work, while labelled as modern opera is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the shock of the new may have worn off in the intervening years, it still packs a hugely entertaining punch visually and aurally. Though, those with a delicate stomach might want to give it a wide berth thanks to Dick Straker’s live video projections which include a stomach-turning greasy spoon breakfast complete with live maggots and those offended by fowl language be warned there’s plenty of effing and blinding.

While cleverly adapted to suit modern sensibilities, the fundamentals remain the same: our hero Eddy, clad in a tomato red Adidas 3-stripe tracksuit leaves behind the ‘cess pit’ of the East End to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a fortune teller who predicts his father will die a violent death and he’ll ‘bunk up with his mum’.

Johannes Schutz’s set design comprising an enormous, white rectangular revolve with two door openings, focusses all the attention firmly up front and centre stage. Alex Lowde’s comical costume designs add to the almost vaudevillian feeling of the piece.

The cast of four (three of whom, Allison Cook, Susan Bullock and Henry Waddington, double, triple and quadruple up on roles) keep the interest and entertainment up throughout. There are however a few issues with projection, even from just a few rows back it sounds underpowered. That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this it remains hugely entertaining throughout.

Young conductor Finnegan Downie Dear, keeps the orchestra on point and sustains the creeping menace in the music for the duration.

Subtle it isn’t, but it is a thoroughly engaging, bawdy and bold, small but perfectly formed 80 minute breath of fresh air on the opera landscape.

Images: Jane Hobson


REVIEW: Cilla The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Adapted from Jeff Pope’s own acclaimed 2014 TV mini-series starring Sheridan Smith, Cilla The Musical cashes in on the never-ending nostalgia for all things 1960s as well as deftly portraying Cilla Black’s rags to riches journey from Liverpool’s ‘Scotty’ Road to stardom.

Behind the toothy smile of the girl next door, Black was a woman of blinding ambition, and Pope doesn’t shy away from highlighting the sometimes less than palatable aspects of Black’s personality: forcing her clearly talented husband Bobby Willis to abandon a promising career is only one example.

Pope has realised the world of the 1960s on stage with a sure touch: a world that will be familiar to anyone who lived through the era. Portraying the comparative ordinariness of the stars of the 60s – waiting in the phone box at the end of the road to find out if your song has hit number one. There’s also a particular resonance with the sectarian divide in Liverpool reflecting Glasgow’s own.

The narrative has drive, the first act filled with youthful ambition, the second taking a darker turn as it portrays Brian Epstein’s untimely demise and Willis and Black’s crumbling relationship.

It’s the three B’s who feature largest in the show: Black, Bobby Willis and Brian Epstein. Carl Au is a standout as husband Bobby with a fantastic voice of his own and Andrew Lancel is impressive as the tortured and troubled Epstein, both capture the hearts and minds of the audience. It’s refreshing to see Willis given due credit for the role he played in making the woman who was to become his wife, a huge star.

Fans of the era will also be delighted to know that another B, The Beatles, who played a critical role in Black’s success also appear, played with aplomb by Joshua Gannon, Michael Hawkins, Alex Harford and Bill Caple. The energy levels lift at their gifted musicianship. Among the supporting characters, Pauline Fleming and Neil MacDonald as Cilla’s parents make their mark as do Billie Hardy and Gemma Broderick-Bower as pals Pat and Pauline and Tom Christian as Bobby’s brother Kenny Willis. In their entirety, the cast are top-notch and much of the whole endeavour’s success is due to their considerable talent.

In the title role Kara Lily Hayworth looks nothing like Black, but manages to convey her larger than life personality. Vocally she’s utterly on-point, indeed she has one of the finest voices I’ve heard in a very long time. Her continued success looks assured.

The story stops in 1967 and Black had relatively few hits: Anyone Who Had a Heart, You’re My World, Love of The Loved and Something Tell’s Me are all here, but it’s necessary to utilise the hits of other 60s stars to drive the story along, there are songs from fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers and US stars The Mamas and Papas (fabulously portrayed by members of the ensemble), laudably all the songs featured feel necessary to the narrative.

This is a hugely entertaining and nigh-on unmissable production thanks to Pope’s sure-footed script and a cast of supreme quality. There’s so much to enjoy here, well worth seeing even if you are not a particular fan of the woman herself.

Runs until Saturday February 2018 at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow.

REVIEW: Strangers on a Train – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

A chance meeting on a train introduces Charles Bruno and Guy Haines, two wildly different men but with problems in common. As the journey progresses, a hypothetical plan is hatched between the pair: what if Bruno kills Haines unfaithful wife in return for Haines bumping off Bruno’s much-loathed father? When Bruno follows through on his side of the imagined bargain, Haines is subjected to stalking, intimidation and blackmail.

Mistress of mystery Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel, Strangers on a Train was an instant hit on publication, with the heavily adapted Alfred Hitchcock classic film noir following quickly on its heels one year later. Good old-fashioned thrillers, once so prevalent on the theatrical landscape, are woefully few and far between, so it’s refreshing to see this classic chiller on stage. Craig Warner’s stage adaptation, (which had a run in the West End under the filmic direction of Robert Allan Ackerman in 2013 with a star-studded cast and a hugely impressive set) has been given a more perfunctory treatment here. Though it must be said it is undoubtedly simplified by necessity in order to tour the UK.

Images of the Hitchcock movie are seared on the memory: the tennis match with its subtle homosexual undertones; the creepily gripping murder of Haines’ first wife reflected in the eyeglasses and the suspenseful finale. Unfortunately, under the direction of Anthony Banks, there’s an overall sluggishness that fails to ratchet up the tension sufficiently, and large parts of the action plod. At two hours 25 minutes, it’s a bit of an endurance test.

The directorial choices for the actors are also questionable at times. Populated by familiar TV faces, some emerge more convincingly than others: Coronation Street’s Chris Harper has the lion’s share of the dialogue and for the most part delivers a fully three-dimensional characterisation of Bruno however, his Tennessee Williams-like relationship with his louche mother does teeter too close to parody for comfort and the most emotional moments can read as too manic. Call the Midwife’s Jack Ashton’s delivers a coldly unemotional turn as Haines, failing to convey the character’s emotional descent: the words come out, the acting doesn’t convince. Hannah Tointon, best known for Mr. Selfridge, has a slim theatrical CV and it shows, while her role as Haines’ new wife is hideously underdeveloped, her delivery is quite frankly unforgivable, calling to mind the enthusiastic, but amateur thespian. Another crucial flaw in the proceeding is that both murders take place off-stage and any chance at thrills and chills are passed over.

David Woodhead’s set design comprises a series of sliding panels and projections and while functional and at times clever, suffers in scale. Many locations are confined to a tiny box on the main frame of the set. It does though evoke Edward Hopper’s classic paintings of mid-century American life, especially when coupled with Howard Hudson’s atmospheric lighting design.

This much-anticipated thriller fails to live up to its potential and ultimately there are too many flaws to make it truly enjoyable.

‘This review was originally published at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/strangers-on-a-train-theatre-royal-glasgow/



« Older Entries