Brett Herriot Review

Edinburgh Gang Show 2022, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Review:

A triumph of variety

***** 5 Stars

For over sixty years a beloved staple of the Autumn season in Edinburgh is the annual Gang Show, traditionally staged at the Kings Theatre and giving over 200 Cubs, Rainbows, Guides and Scouts the chance to take to the stage in a variety spectacular. Its hard to believe the show was last staged in 2019 and now following a near three year pandemic enforced break, the Gang are back and for the first time since 1962 (when the Gang moved to the Lyceum Theatre) this brand new generation of Gang have moved to the larger and grander Festival theatre. What a triumph of variety it is!

The 2022 show must have been the biggest challenge the production and back stage teams must  have ever faced, with a 90% entirely new cast, a new theatre, an earlier time slot and coming back from a massive enforced break, could they deliver something benefiting there new cast and loyal audiences alike? The answer is emphatically YES! And what a treat it is!

Following a stellar opening with the Jamboree Overture the curtain rises for “Back In Business” blending Sondheim with Dick Tracy featuring Ewan Arnold & Lucas Need as soloist the Gang lay there stall our quickly for a evening of fast paced musical numbers, polished choreography and snappy comedy sketches.

Director and writer Andy Johnston has refined the Gang Show to a fine blend, he knows his gang and knows his audiences even better and that flows across the footlights, following a section based on “Gang Show High School”  comes a blistering “Historical Moments” the perfect blend of comedy meets music with nods to Billy Joel, the smash hit “Six the musical”  and perfectly delivered “Och Aye, I can boogie” how such a deep voice comes from someone is stunning and Lliam Foster delivers in spades to close the section.

The rest of Act 1 sees Fame the musical meet Les Miserables meets Fame the motion picture as brilliantly execute “Sing the Body Electric” Brings the curtain down on a perfectly paced 1st Act. The Gang don’t let up and Act opens with what has to go down as a pure 5 star moment with a section titled “Together” featuring the most hauntingly powerful performance of “Empty Chairs at Empty tables”, performed by Matthew Knowles his rich tenor voice is simply beautiful and for someone so young to deliver this quality of performance sends tingles up the spine, a west end career await Matthew, let’s hope he chooses to follow through.

With more nods to musical theatre including a punchy “Beautiful” from the Carole King musical as delivered by Charlotte Dickson, and a mass panto style sing along its time for the traditional Gang Show finale wonderfully introduced by Maria McDonald which leads to the entire tartan clad Gang on stage to bring the curtain down in a thrilling conclusion.

Johnston should be so proud of the Gang, they give everything they have and leave it on stage and reminds us all that Variety will always survive. The transfer ( although temporary until the Kings reopens) to the Festival Theatre actually works for the Gang they now have more space which benefits’ co Dance Directors Louise Williamson and Jemma Crawford’s choreography wonderfully well taking full advantage they unleash many wonderful dance moments which deserve a star all on their own.  Musically it’s all just perfect with Musical Director Andrew Thomson and his 12 piece orchestra delivering a powerhouse performance from the pit ensuring Ian Sutherlands, David McFarlane and the Late John Duncan’s arrangements sore throughout the theatre.

The music sores thanks to Hayley Gordon’s and Apex acoustics’ wonderful sound design, even with a couple of wobbly moments which will smooth out as the run beds in, ensures the Gang are heard throughout. Special mention must go to James Gow and Andy Johnston’s simply stunning lighting design, they have the ability to not only ensure the Gang on stage are wonderfully lit but also have the innate ability to ensure the theatre itself is beautifully lit and they also have the added bonus of video projection this year which further adds to the production quality.

The Gang show has always know its sense of self and it’s very patriotically Scottish and proud of its Edinburgh heritage. The 2022 show reaffirms’ that and delivers a high quality evening of theatrical entertainment with professional production values. However at the end of the day it’s about the young people on stage and may they be forever changed as the sail on a crest of a wave, this is a must see Gang Show because believe me, The Gang is back! And back with a Bang!

Edinburgh Gang Show 2022, Festival Theatre, Runs until Saturday 5th November for tickets go to: Edinburgh Gang Show 2O22 (capitaltheatres.com)

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