Tag Archives: SECC

REVIEW: Michael Ball Both Sides Now Tour – Glasgow Clyde Auditorium

m ball both sides now web

There are few who could fail to be charmed by the affable personality of the musical theatre juggernaut that is Michael Ball, and the sold out and very vocal audience at the Clyde Auditorium testify to that.

This is a show of two halves, Ball showcasing his new album of pop standards Both Sides Now in the first and his personal musical theatre favourites in the second.

The two halves though adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable whole, were unequal in their quality. Had it not been for the sheer charm of the man, the somewhat middle of the road first half, populated with songs from artists as diverse as Dolly Parton and Snow Patrol would have merely been a pleasant excursion into Radio 2 territory. While it’s thoroughly understandable that artists wish to showcase their range, the song choices only sold Ball’s phenomenal talent short. That said, the material was well received and easy on the ear.

The second half by contrast was a spectacular showcase for Ball’s powerful voice. At the top of his range he is truly unbeatable and the songs chosen, a selection of the cream of the crop from a career spanning nearly thirty years, had the crowd in his thrall, the cheers getting louder and more sustained as the night drew to a close. Ball is a man who truly knows how to work a crowd and present a show tailored for maximum effect and to give maximum enjoyment. He ended the night with the tune that earned him his place in the nation’s affections Love Changes Everything with the crowd on its feet roaring for more.

With an innate ability to read a crowd, Ball then returned to keep the party going with a rousing encore, which included his Eurovision hit One Step Out of Time replete with cheesy, audience-participation dance moves.

A phenomenal performer, a stupendous voice and a true gent – thoroughly recommended.

REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar – The Arena Tour, SECC, Glasgow

The publicity surrounding this newly revitalised Jesus Christ Superstar has been plentiful and vocal. From the naysayers who have decried it before even seeing it, to those railing against the snobbery surrounding it, who welcome the extravaganza with open arms. For what it’s worth here are my thoughts.

The score of this musical is demanding on its performers and success of this piece almost always hinges on the abilities of the singers involved. Search for a Superstar winner Ben Forster may have manged to belt out a few numbers on his TV journey to the role of Jesus but here his limited vocal range is exposed – fine when he’s in range but seriously under-powered when he’s not. His acting skills are also woefully limited, swinging between pained and pouting and not much else. Melanie C is an anaemic Mary Magdalene – again vocally under-powered and is in possession of a rather ear-grating nasal whine. The stand out star turn and power-house performance of the night is given by Tim Minchin who conveys the anger and anguish of Judas beautifully, though his vocals sometimes suffer from the efforts of his acting. Chris Moyles as Herod, only on stage for 3 minutes, milks it for all it’s worth and equips himself with more aplomb than you would imagine. Sheer theatrical class though is displayed by Alexander Hanson as Pilate whose experience on stage shows his younger counterparts how it should be done. Beautiful acting and a fantastic voice.

Director Laurence Connor brings us a rather rawer and grittier setting for this production: referencing the London riots of last summer, Guantanamo Bay, the Occupy movement and reality TV, indeed, the re-staging is one of the highlights of the production. My only complaint would be the sheer vastness of both the stage and the cast, often rendering the detail and any ensemble performances invisible.

However there was a large and very vocal number of audience members at the SECC last night complaining that they had absolutely no view of the stage in their £65 seats.

The action takes place in the centre of a square set with enormous scaffolding (containing the musicians) rising either side to the ceiling. However, this rendered the action completely invisible for anyone who wasn’t dead-straight, centre-front of the stage. The enormous screen at the rear of the stage which may have helped some of the audience follow the action was also completely obliterated by the staging.

This has always been one of my favourite musicals, it is certainly the musical I’ve seen the most and I’ve seen it staged in many forms. The experience, though a thoroughly enjoyable one, left me with a feeling that something was missing, it was neither fish nor fowl – never fully embracing its theatrical origins and never fully submitting itself to the full rock concert experience. It was a new and not entirely successful hybrid. Fundamentally this is a piece of theatre and despite its pounding rock score the subtleties, emotion and often delicate power that sets it apart from the rest has been lost in this vast arena.

Enjoy the rock spectacle, marvel at the size of the cast, revel in seeing Tim Minchin give a glimpse of his genius but take it from me – this is a beautifully written piece and is best seen at its simplest, I hope that those who see this for the first time here, go and see it in a theatre if it ever tours again.