Edinburgh Gang Show 2018, Review:
**** 4 Stars
“continues to transcend time and touch the young people of today.”
For their 59th Annual Production the Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies once again take to the stage of the Glorious King’s theatre to deliver an evening of variety and spectacle and pay homage to this history of Gang shows around the world as created by the Late Ralph Reader CBE.
The Gang Show is a unique pantheon of theatre making with no comparable’s to draw against and the Edinburgh show must be simply the biggest Gang Show still produced in the UK. It continues to flourish by embracing modern tastes in it’s music, comedy and production whilst always tilting its hat in respect to those who have gone before, in fact Ralph Reader’s own material appears in 3 items in the 2018 production.
Leading the Gang in his 16th production (making him the longest incumbent of the post) is director Andy Johnston who also writes much of the material. Its his time as director that allows him to judge the show to a T and continues to deliver something very much for everyone.
Highlights of the 2018 show include Tatiana Honeywell’s moving performance of “Hallelujah” in the “A Secret Chord” section. Honeywell’s developing vocal power is already something of beauty and as she gets older it promises big things for this talented performer. Act 1 finale “21st Century Broadway” sees the Gang truly get into their stride especially in the clever mash up “Found Tonight” that fuses Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen performed in style by Cameron Kilgore, Kate Kistruck, Andrew Knowles and Ava McCaffer. Special mention in the first half must go to the junior gang with an inspired “Like a Rainbow” that put songs that showcase the colour of not just the rainbow but of humanity and having the youngest cast members singing the songs whilst clearly loving there moment under the bright lights is a joyous thing to watch. Act 1 is just a tad too long coming in 75 minutes on its own but as the show settles into its run it will tighten in its pacing.
Act 2 see’s the Gang really get into high gear with some very mature and professional performances, including Cameron Kilgore performing “waving through a window” from the Broadway smash, Dear Evan Hanson. “I want to be a producer” is delivered in style by Matthew Knowles with the biggest vocal of the evening, a performer to keep an eye on an no mistake. The finale of the show is the usual mix of the traditional blended with modern and its inevitable the greatest showman should get an appearance. Lewis Boyd’s take on “A Million Dreams” is charm personified and ensures the Gang bring the curtain down riding high on a crest of a wave.
It’s the production element that failed the Gang on opening night principally in the sound department, with Microphones failing to work, feedback, popping’s and bangs galore and an imbalance of sound that rendered the main vocals in the opening number difficult to hear above the orchestra. Too many times the performers simply couldn’t be heard from the Circle and the Gang on stage deserve better.
That said, other production elements continue to push the boundaries of the King’s capabilities, James Gow’s and Andy Johnston’s lighting design is pure west end standard and not only lights the stage but showcases the rococo splendour of the Kings itself. Coupled with Alan Hunter and the wardrobe teams ever innovative costume design is a winning formula.
Joining Johnston in the production team is dance director Louise Williamson whose choreography this year sets the bar to a whole new level of physicality with some excellent chassis and high lifts spread throughout the show performed by the core de dance with consummate skill. Musical Director Andy Thomson has imbued the show with a fresh musical style and with a professional orchestra under his baton supporting the Gang throughout its clear this production team have much more to offer in the years ahead.
Its hard to imagine what the late Ralph Reader would make of a 2018 Gang show, but one thing is assured, he would beam with pride that the love and dedication that allowed him to create the original gang show in 1932 continues to transcend time and touch the young people of today.
Edinburgh Gang show is in the business of making memories and that goal has been achieved with this year’s production. So, make sure you sail along on the crest of your wave and get those tickets before it all becomes yet another magical memory.
EGSPL productions present, Edinburgh Gang Show 2018, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Run Until Saturday 24th November for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/gangshow