Tag Archives: REVIEWS

REVIEW: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Another production fresh from a run in the West End and now hoofing it up and down the UK is David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, bringing the sunny south of France to a chilly Glasgow this week.

Based on the 1988 Steve Martin/Michael Caine movie where two rival con men vie for the attention and the bank balances of rich ladies, old and young, in beautiful Beaumont sur Mer.

Suave, sophisticated charmer Lawrence Jameson’s (Michael Praed) ruse is to pose as a prince to fleece his victims of their fortunes, whilst rival Freddy Benson (Noel Sullivan) is a masterclass in vulgarity, a fraudster who will do anything to pay for his next feed.

When the pair realise the town ain’t big enough for the both of them, a wager is laid down – the first to swindle €50000 from soap heiress Christine Colgate, gets to stay in town, the loser, packs his bags.

It may seem like an unlikely source of musical theatre material, it was always a lightweight story and writer Jeffrey Lane has done little to elevate the original movie script, leaving it languishing as a piece of fluff, albeit a very attractive looking piece of fluff.

David Yasbek’s songs are more set piece than plot-driver, but they are pleasant enough and feature just about ever style of song you can think of in the theatrical cannon: ‘Oklahoma’ (not that one) is a tongue in cheek country and western treat, Oompah number ‘Ruffhousin’ mit Shuffhuasen’ delivers the laughs, there’s tango and salsa too, and there’s even a great big power ballad (replete with X-Factor style backing choir) ‘Love is my Legs’. Worthy of note though is the exemplary band under the lively baton of Ben Van Tienen, who sound rich and musically on-point throughout.

The cast do their best with the material at hand, the fourth wall is broken throughout but this often misused device works well here. Michael Praed in a role he’s born for, is a smooth, suave, sophisticated charmer with a sonorous voice. Noel Sullivan actually brings a warmth and charm to the previously uncharming Freddy, Carley Stenson is a fine voiced Christine, and Phoebe Coupe wrings the most out of her hick-from-the- sticks character Jolene, but it’s the ever-popular Mark Benton as Lawrence’s right hand man and unlikely lothario, French police chief Andre, who garners the biggest laughs.

The comedy often feels like it’s from another era and considering the source material is almost 30 years old and the musical itself, though only appearing in the West End in 2014, has been doing the rounds in the US since 2004, it’s may be no surprise, but it really does need revision – is there really a need for saucy maids in suspenders and bottomless dresses in 2015 – c’mon.

There’s nothing new here, it’s not a groundbreaking work but it’s glitzy, glamorous, undemanding and undeniably entertaining and the cast and band are of the highest class.

Runs until Saturday 27th June 2015 then touring.

This article was originally written for and published for The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/dirty-rotten-scoundrels-kings-theatre-glasgow/

REVIEW: News Just In – The Arches, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/news-just-in-the-arches-glasgow/

Writer: Johnny McKnight

Director: Johnny McKnight

In News Just In the rag-bag team at Tartan Tonight take over the Arches for an anarchic commentary on the day’s Commonwealth Games events. There’s: deluded diva news anchor Delta (Julie Brown); alarmingly tanned co-anchor, sex pest and sectarian Fergus (Jordan Young); gay weatherman in pink shorts-suit and glittery gold trainers Ross (Johnny McKnight); former Commonwealth ping-pong player Margo (Rosalind Sydney); put-upon intern Sam (Gavin Jon Wright) and programme boss Jan (Julie Wilson Nimmo).

With an ever-changing script, a different lead writer every night (this one was finished just half an hour before the show), and an energy level required that would rival most of the competitors in the Games themselves, this is an ambitious undertaking.Tonight’s script has been culled from the reactions to the much anticipated opening ceremony “not as sh** as we thought it would be” and Scotland’s gold medal winning first day, but the lion’s share of the material is the petty rivalry, personal quirks and questionable antics of the team.

The humour is at times too heavy on crudity and scatology, where it really hits the mark and where it gets the biggest laughs of the night is when it plays upon every Glasgow caricature and in-joke to great effect, there’s also an hysterical voice over from Sally Reid  and some well-judged video material which provide much of the evening’s laughs. The Commonwealth material itself is spot-on, less effective are the TV show team’s antics which frame the show, surprising, as this is the material that one would presume has had the most time spent on it.

There’s no doubting the talent and commitment of the cast and the energy levels are to be applauded, however it’s not quite hit the mark yet, hopefully as the team settles into its stride and as the days progress there will be more fertile fodder.

REVIEW: Tonight’s The Night – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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

Writer: Ben Elton

Director: Caroline Jay Ranger

Choreographer: Denise Ranger

It’s down in Gasoline Alley, Detroit. Here we meet Stuart, madly in love with garage receptionist Mary but unable to declare his love, the lovelorn lad makes a deal with the devil to trade his soul for that of his idol Rod Stewart. He then learns the hard way to be careful what he wishes for, as in the pursuit of fame and fortune, he loses not only the girl he loves but everything he ever was.

Ben Elton’s plot of Tonight’s The Night is holier than Swiss cheese and has not so much been shoe-horned around the hits of Rod Stewart as crow-barred. Seriously outdated, the storyline and the humour regularly fail to meet the mark: essentially a well-worn love story with a bit of a morality tale about losing oneself in the pursuit of fame, it has all been done before and better. What saves the whole endeavour is the cast who, to a man, work their socks off.

Ben Heathcote turns in a creditable performance as our hero Stuart and is ably supported by Jenna Lee-James as love-interest Mary, it must be said though, that Miss Lee-James voice was cracking under the pressure at times throughout the night. The real stars however are the supporting cast, in particular Andy Rees as mechanic Rocky,  Rosie Heath as Dee Dee whose delivery of ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ brings the house down and Ricky Rojas as Mick Jagger/Keith Richard hybrid Stoner, who not only is in possession of an excellent voice but also manages to deliver the shows only funny lines with considerable aplomb. This trio are seriously underused, as the action and quality of the singing elevates when they are given their moment in the spotlight. The onstage (but camouflaged) band are also deserving of credit, fine-sounding, they help to drive the action along apace.

If you forgive the holey (almost non-existent) plot and concentrate on the music you’ll have a half decent night, and indeed the first night Glasgow crowd who sang their hearts out along with the cast at the biggest hits, were on their feet, (free) sailor hats on head, belting out the encore megamix at the end. Possibly of interest to Rod Stewart fans – musical theatre lovers might well do themselves a favour and steer clear.

Runs until Sat 14 June 2014

REVIEW: Fiddler on the Roof – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Fiddler-on-the-Roof_StrapThis article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/fiddler-on-the-roof-eastwood-park-theatre-giffnock/

Book: Joseph Stein

Music: Jerry Bock

Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick

Director: Alasdair Hawthorn

Choreographer: Jonathan Parsons

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

There are few musicals which rely so heavily on a single central character to carry the show, but Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof is one.

The success (or failure) of this show hangs on the casting of the iconic role of Tevye; the poor Jewish dairyman, father of five free-thinking daughters and defender of the much cherished and long-held traditions of his Jewish faith. In the hands of Jonathan Proctor, Theatre Guild of Glasgow have a star quality Tevye, a rich baritone of exquisite tone and power, Proctor imbues the role with wisdom, wit and a winning warmth, which will charm even the hardest of hearts. Proctor lights up the stage with every appearance and the stage feels less bright when he’s not there.

Fiddler is a show about tradition, however it is anything but traditional: it is unusual subject matter for a musical, at its heart the story is undeniably bleak, focussing as it does on a turbulent time in Russian history: the pogroms, the victimisation of the Jewish people and the eventual Russian diaspora. Depressingly, the story still retains a resonance today as society fights to hang on to traditional values in turbulent times. Yes, there are moments of reflection, yes, it’s touching and yes, there are moments of utter sadness, but overwhelmingly it is a joyful celebration of life and of hope.

The staging here is relatively simplistic however, it is highly effective in evoking the bustling life in the shtetl Anatevka at the turn of the century. There is a large ensemble and the company are at their finest when singing as one. The evocative score has some stand out tunes too: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and of course, “If I Were a Rich Man”, principle among them.

If any criticism is to be made with the production it is in some of the supporting roles, there were some pitch issues with a few of the cast, which were highlighted due to principal characters such as Proctor as Tevye and Suzanne Shanks in the role of daughter Hodel, being of such fine voice that it threw up any faults in those who had to sing alongside them. That said, it did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the evening.

A vivid re-staging of a classic show with a strong ensemble and a star leading man.

REVIEW: Crime and Punishment – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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The sheer audacity to even attempt a stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s literary classic Crime and Punishment is utterly reflective of the theatre within which it is receiving its world premier. At the core of The Citizens is an artistic vision which has never shied away from the difficult, never patronised its audience and season after season delivers innovation and originality to its patrons along with a healthy dose of theatrical madness.

This new adaptation by Chris Hannan eschews Dostoyevsky’s complex narrative and numerous sub-plots in favour of a clear central storyline, whilst still managing to give full weight to the big existential issues of the novel. The drama is also complimented by an atmospheric score by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia and a pared back design by Colin Richmond.

The ensemble are of the utmost quality, ably led by Adam Best. Best perfectly encapsulates Raskolnikov’s emotional turmoil as he descends into darkness and re-emerges into the light.

As with much of the work at The Citz, the piece manages to do what all great art should – to provoke debate. The moral and philosophical argument of whether it is ever justifiable to take a life for an ideological purpose is as far from being agreed upon and as hotly debated as it ever was.

Go along to question, to be inspired and challenged as well as entertained – yet another hit for The Citz.

Crime and Punishment runs at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until September 28, after which it will transfer to Liverpool Playhouse, October 1-19; and then to the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh from October 22 to November 9.

For more information, visit – www.citz.co.uk

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Photo Credit – Tim Morozzo

REVIEW: Back to the 80’s, Minerva Youth Theatre – Eastwood Park Theatre

The biggest hits of the decade, an engaging and nostalgia filled storyline, combined with the energy and commitment of this vibrant and highly talented cast, make Minerva Youth Theatre’s Back to the 80’s a must-see for every age group.

Regarded by most who had to live through them, as not the best decade for either fashion or music, this show proves that yes, some of the fashion moments may have been ill-judged, but there really were some fabulous hits in the 80’s, which this brilliantly exuberant and sure-footed cast deliver with unwavering focus and energy for the whole of its two hours.

There’s much to delight here for every age group; those who remember the 80’s can revel in the cleverly delivered nods to just about every famous face and fad of the decade (it’s a whirlwind tour of the pop culture of the day); while the kids can, in turn, laugh at what we found “cool” way back then and find out where all those neon fashions so prevalent now, actually came from. The kids will also surprise themselves at how many of those nearly 30 year old hits they actually know.

The show tells the story of 17 year old Corey (Matthew McCallion) and his friends and enemies in the 1989 graduating class of William Ocean High (get it?) as seen through the eyes of his almost thirty year old self in the year 2001. It’s a classic boy meets girl story infused with all the trials and tribulations of teenage love, but seen from the perspective of the now grown man, and all played out to the sounds of the biggest hits of the 80’s.

The ensemble as a whole are polished and assured, but special mention must go to Matthew McCallion as central character Corey Palmer whose affable charm, impeccable American accent and highly accomplished performance are the lynch-pin of the evening. He is ably supported by Reece Thomson as the object of Corey’s affection, Tiffany and Kyle Nolan as his rival in love Michael. Also deserving of praise are: Ross Moynihan as high school nerd turned Internet millionaire Feargal McFerrin, who wholeheartedly throws himself into the role and raises the biggest laughs of the night (I won’t waste the surprise but his Karate Kid routine is priceless) and Hannah Verlaque and Jennifer Scott as Laura and Debbie a pair of girly geeks with fantastic comic timing.

The show whizzes past at breakneck speed, punctuated by some fantastic hits sung by a hugely talented cast –  go along and enjoy the roller coaster ride Back to the 80’s – I promise you’ll love it.

Runs until Saturday (including Saturday matinee) at Eastwood Park Theatre

Tickets from Box Office 0141 577 4970

or

0141 569 9469

REVIEW: John Wilson Orchestra – Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Movies, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

It was a triumphant return last night to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for John Wilson and his spectacular orchestra. At the risk of boring everyone senseless again (I’ve waxed lyrical and at length about John Wilson on many occasions) I’ll keep it short.

Wilson’s careful and clever mix of well known and neglected, but no less beautiful tunes serves to remind us that some of the finest songs of the 20th Century were written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. 

The energy and virtuosity of the players and the enthusiasm and charisma of John Wilson manage to convey to each and every audience member the sheer joy and exuberance of this music. It is a privilege to be in the same room as these musicians and to hear this music. Vocalists Sir Thomas Allen, Julian Ovenden, Annalene Beechey and Kim Crisswell testify to the quality and sheer class of this outfit, all four made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when they sang. The sell-out house were on their feet at the end and everyone on stage deserved no less acclaim. All I ask is that they hurry back to Glasgow as soon as they can. 

REVIEW: Singin’ in the Rain – Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Glasgow Light Opera Club

If ever there was a musical that could wash away those impending winter blues then Singin’ in the Rain is that show. How can anyone fail to be entertained by musical classics such as Make ’em Laugh, You Are My Lucky Star, You Were Meant for Me and of course the magical title song? This tale of the dawn of the “talkies” is one of the best-loved musicals of all time.

Glasgow Light Opera Club bring a touch of stardust and good old-fashioned theatrical class to the King’s Theatre in this, their latest production. Giving the central performance of the night as Don Lockwood, Brendan Lynch is a revelation. This role requires the classic  “triple threat” – an actor, singer and dancer, and outside the professional theatre world that’s hard to find. Lynch’s voice is so utterly evocative of the era, that if you closed your eyes you’d swear you were listening to a 78 rpm record on a wind up gramophone. When you add in immaculate footwork executing the imaginative choreography and finely tuned acting, you can’t fail to see that Lynch truly is a star – the stage only fully lights up when he’s there.

Providing the high comedy moments with a deft touch are Suzanne Shanks as silent movie diva Lina Lamont and Aaron Mooney as Don’s life-long side-kick Cosmo Brown, Shank’s ear-splitting rendition of What’s Wrong With Me raises the biggest cheer of the night and praise must also go to the dancers who provide a touch of sparkle and polish with their Busby Berkeley-inspired routines.

If you want to be transported to a time when stars were stars and glamour and elegance were king then Singin’ in the Rain is the show to take you there, and I dare you not to skip through the next puddle you find humming the famous theme tune.

Runs at the King’s Theatre Glasgow until Saturday ticket details here

REVIEW: Footloose – Theatre Guild of Glasgow, Eastwood Park Theatre

When Ren and his mom move from Chicago to small town Bomont, Ren is prepared for big changes at his new high school, but what he isn’t prepared for is a ban on dancing instituted by the local preacher, determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth. When the Reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage his reputation. With many of the locals eager to believe the worst about the new kid how can Ren turn them all around?

The movie turned into musical might be a familiar formula but this faultless company don’t put a foot wrong in this high octane version of Dean Pitchford’s Footloose.

The cast burst onstage with an exuberant flourish and their infectious charm carries the audience along on a wave of energy right to the end in this engaging and affable tale.

The Theatre Guild of Glasgow are renowned for the quality of their cast and here it’s no exception. Central to the action is Connor Going whose assured performance strikes the right balance between arrogance and affability as rebellious teen Ren, but where the production really shines is when the more experienced members of the ensemble take to the stage. In particular Cameron Lowe gives a finely tuned performance as Reverend Moore, the lynch-pin of the community with a strangle-hold on the town’s youth. Lowe perfectly conveys the inner turmoil of a man struggling with his duties as town leader and his true feelings. His beautifully nuanced performance is the highlight of the night. Adele Simpson and Suzanne Lowe as the mothers of the two central characters also deliver a “hairs on the back of the neck” scene in Learning to be Silent, where both actresses’ soaring voices are given a chance to shine. As well as these moments of drama, Andrew Neilson as Willard provides the comedy set piece of the night with his rendition of Mama Says. Pure comedy gold.

This is a show guaranteed to put a smile on your face – get a ticket if you can, go along and be swept away by its joyous charm, and be confident that where you see the name Theatre Guild of Glasgow you can be certain that’s it’s quality assured.

REVIEW: Whistle Down The Wind, Runway Theatre Company, Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow

There are amateur theatre companies and there are amateur theatre companies, and Runway Theatre Company are no ordinary amateur theatre company, this production, the Scottish amateur premier of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down The Wind must be the closest to professional perfection that I’ve seen.

In an evening of delights it is hard to know where to start heaping praise: From the richness of the sound of the accomplished orchestra; to the stunningly versatile set; the soaring multi-layered voices of the ensemble; the scene-stealing junior players to the astonishing quality of the principals, this was in a class apart.

Special praise must go to Elle MacKenzie as Swallow whose crystal-clear soprano was a joy; to Kate McVey and Ethan Kerr whose performances belie their ages, both performing with a focus and strength that many adults could only aspire to – all the while never faltering in maintaining convincing American accents; but the most praise must go to the phenomenal power-house that is J Campbell Kerr. It is rare to see a performance of this quality on any stage let alone an amateur one. Kerr’s acting is pitch-perfect but his voice is simply sublime – good enough to challenge any of our celebrity tenors or baritones out there – indeed much of the interval chat was praising Kerr as a rival to Alfie Boe.

This simply shines with sheer quality from curtain up to curtain down. I urge you to beat a path to the Mitchell Theatre door before this ends on Saturday.

Ticket info from: Susan Russell 07801 048527 or sbrussell@ntlworld.com

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