Tag Archives: Shaun Williamson

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: One Man Two Guv’nors – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Review originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com

It is testament to the writing skills of Richard Bean and the supreme talent of the energetic and committed cast that an obscure 18th Century Commedia dell’Arte farce has a packed audience of 21st Century Glaswegians rolling in the aisles. Bean’s One Man, Two Guv’nors has been appearing throughout the country to almost universal acclaim almost perpetually since its smash hit arrival in 2011 at the National Theatre and on this, its third national tour it has lost none of its ability to raise a laugh.

It’s 1963, Brighton, and Francis Henshall a man always on the lookout for an opportunity, has managed to secure himself two jobs with two different guv’nors. One, Roscoe Crabbe is a local gangster of formidable reputation, the other, Stanley Stubbers, a posh twit of a petty criminal. Francis does his level best to keep the two from learning of the others existence. But, to complicate matters, Roscoe is actually twin sister Rachel in disguise, Roscoe having been ‘accidentally’ murdered by Rachel’s love Stanley Stubbers. Thrown into the mix are the Clenches; Charlie, who owes Roscoe money and his daughter Pauline, previously betrothed to Roscoe to hide his homosexuality, but who is now set to marry would-be actor Alan Dangle, book-keeper Dolly and a host of other misfits.

The success of the piece depends on two factors, the writing and the cast, and in both cases they are top-notch. The rapid-fire dialogue and the break-neck speed physical comedy are delivered with aplomb by the talented ensemble cast, and this is the perfect example of a true ensemble cast: whilst much of the action lies heavy on the shoulders of a few principal actors, this is a piece where everyone has their moment to shine.

Gavin Spokes is an amiable and energetic Francis who gets the crowd on his side from the off and Alicia Davies a spot-on Roscoe/Rachel. Edward Hancock is an hysterical Alan (previously Orlando) Dangle; the reason for the change of name explained by the fact that angry young men of the 60’s are not called Orlando, his over the top luvvi-ness as the would be thesp is met with peals of laughter at every entry. The rest of the cast too, are pitch-perfect. The whole piece is punctuated before, during and after by skiffle band The Craze who deliver period atmosphere with first rate musicianship and bags of charm.

It’s good to see that a piece of such quality is still packing them in and has lost none of its sparkle. Do yourself a favour and get a dose of theatrical Prozac at the King’s Theatre until Saturday.


Runs until Sat 5 July 2014 then touring

REVIEW: The Ladykillers – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

(I must confess that this review is, in some way influenced by the fact that I had the privilege of seeing this in its initial run at the Gielgud Theatre in London with a stellar cast including: Peter Capaldi, Ben Miller and James Fleet see here.)

Lovingly based on the classic Ealing Comedy, Graham Linehan has adapted this perfectly for the stage, maintaining the fun but with a sinister edge. The play opens on the modest exterior of a post-war London town house, which then lifts to reveal a fantastically intricate and eccentricly lop-sided (bomb damaged) interior. The set then continues to delight and surprise throughout the whole piece, almost starring as a character itself.

The deliciously dark comedy tells the tale of Mrs Wilberforce, who takes in a gang of robbers posing as a string quintet. It is a true ensemble piece and each actor is given their chance to shine: Michele Dotrice is the deliciously dotty Mrs Wilberforce. Dotrice’s performance deviates from the classic film and the London production where Marcia Warren took the role, in that it is rather less gentle and sweetly eccentric, rather more boom and bluster and she looks physically more than able to take on the gang.

Paul Brown plays ring leader Professor Marcus with the right balance of menace and gentlemanly manners, but his delivery seemed rushed at times. Former Eastender Shaun Williamson is cast as a Romanian gangster Louie with suitably dodgy accent, and copes competently enough but with little flair. However, Clive Mantle and Chris McCalphy as the Major and One Round are pitch perfect, but it’s William Troughton who steals the piece as pill-popping Harry, and who is on the receiving end of most of the slapstick gags.

The Ladykillers is an excellent realisation of the beloved film and is packed full of wonderful one-liners and visual gags. Catch it if you can – a perfect evening’s entertainment.

The show runs at Theatre Royal Glasgow until Saturday November 26, and tickets are available from here.