Brett Herriot Review

Anything Goes, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

“Sumptuous and Glorious, sparkling with joy!“

***** 5 Stars

Cole Porter’s classic musical is approaching its 88th year since its debut at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon) on Broadway in 1934 and holds a unique record of having four different librettos, the original 1934 version, the 1962 off Broadway revival, the 1987 revival libretto and the 2011 revival on which this production is based.

It is the critically acclaimed 2021 Barbican London production which has sailed into the Festival theatre for a limited run prior to the show returning to London’s west end later in the summer and this is truly a sumptuous and glorious production that sparkles with joy.

Telling the story of a voyage on the SS America in the mid 1930’s as the ship sails from New York to London we meet Business Mogul and millionaire Elisha Whitney (Clive Hayward stepping in for the indisposed Simon Callow) his assistant Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards), Mother and Daughter Mrs Evangeline Harcourt and Hope Harcourt (Bonnie Langford and Nicole-Lily Baisden)Ship singer Reno Sweeny (Kerry Ellis) and criminal gangster Moonface Martin ( Denis Lawson) and a large ensemble who bring to life the many characters drawn together on the ship that see’s misunderstandings aplenty, love blossoming and truths being revealed. All this wrapped up in some of the best tunes in musical theatre its everything a classic musical should be and more.

Performances are universally excellent with Denis Lawson being the first of the stand outs; his comedy timing and characterisation are utterly faultless. The same is true of west end veteran Bonnie Langford who still Razzle dazzles and her energy floats across the foot lights. Kerry Ellis delivers in spades and shows her voice is up to the job and delivers a Reno that’s totally fresh yet every inch the classic 1930’s leading lady.

Director and Choreographer Kathleen Marshall has created a masterpiece on stage, blending the comedy with show stopping numbers and dance pieces are pure Busby Berkley  and receive sustain ovations from the rapt audience in the Festival theatre . Derek Lane’s set design was nominated for an Olivier award and rightly so it’s magnificent and lush, no expense has been spared and brings an epic cruise liner to live on stage including taking the audience inside the cabins which vary from the Brig to 1st Class. Jon Morrell’s costume design brings 1930’s flapper culture to life and makes the show sparkles almost as brightly as Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design that’s so opulent it knocks the eye out.

This production features a 15 strong orchestra under the baton of Musical Director Mark Aspinall which see’s classic songs “It’s De Lovely”, “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel Blow” amongst other sounding magnificent  and rich it’s impossible not to smile at the joy of seeing musical theatre on this scale done right.

Anything goes remains timeless and it’s easy to see why this most recent production wowed the west audiences as it’s just a fabulous production at heart, a set that’s sumptuous as it is unique, costumes to die for, performances that are stellar, dance that brings the house down truly everything that’s needed for a pure five star night of musical theatre.

Get to the Festival theatre before the SS America sets sail for London’s Barbican once more.

Anything Goes, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh runs until Sunday 15th May for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/anything-goes

Mary Woodward Review

Whirlygig, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Review

As Part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

**** (4 stars)

A bare floor with strange outlined shapes on it, and in the centre a glowing red egg…

Someone’s singing dum da dum dum behind us: others copy what’s being sung, and four performers slowly move down the stairs to that floor with the drawings all over it.  One of them claps a rhythm, then jumps in time with it: the others try to copy, but one of them just can’t get it right at first – hoorah! At last she’s got it right too, and they go off, still singing.

One performer comes back in, carrying something – what is it? Now she’s trying to see will it fit into any of the outlines on the floor: what’s going on? More and more things are brought in, and now we can see musical instruments of all kinds – things to bang, to pluck, to blow, and finally the biggest thing you’ve ever seen – an enormous metal coiled thing with a huge horn at the end, which you have to climb into to play, and which makes wonderful deep rich notes: it’s a sousaphone.

Suddenly a cuckoo clock starts calling: everyone rushes round in a panic, getting themselves and their instruments ready.  They put their music straight on the music stands, and begin a fabulous tango – the giant metal sousaphone is joined by a ukulele, a saxophone, and another weird instrument – you blow down a tube, but that’s joined to a tiny piano-like long box: it’s a melodica!  This ‘formal’ music-making regularly punctuates the joyfully silly goings on – and no doubt gives the performers a moment of seated respite…

Rory Clark, Daniel Padden, Sita Pieraccini and Claire Willoughby are four multi-talented comedic musicians who have enormous fun playing around with rhythm and melody in delightfully complex ways.  They start with single sounds, adding more and more to create multi-layered music that never stands still – as indeed these four rarely do themselves.  Things are bashed, hit, plucked and blown – there’s a wonderful quartet for glass bottles, initially cleverly tuned by the amount of water in each, and dropping in pitch each time a player takes a swig from their bottle.  It’s not simply a matter of one person per instrument: at one point the four musicians are inextricably entwined around each other while playing [how??!!] more than four instruments between them: at another a wonderful sea shanty emerges from a swaying collection of instruments – you can almost taste the sea spray.

There’s a constant change of rhythm and tempo, and the audience is kept well engaged – at one point the musicians come round pointing out things about us – pink trainers, sparkly bag – and playing snatches of tune for each one: when they find TEACHER all four join to serenade her, with an extra fancy bit for her GLASSES…  At one point the musicians tear up their sheet music – rhythmically; at another they try to play from music which has holes in it.  When they yet again reassemble to play their tango and realise they have torn up the music for it, they are at first non-plussed – but then realise the joy of improvising on their instruments.  An exuberant jam session ends this whirligig performance.

The most telling accolade for Rory, Daniel, Sita and Claire came after the loud and enthusiastic applause at their final bows, when one of the teachers announced that his classes unable to stay on for the Q&A session as the buses were waiting to ship them back to school.  A heartfelt groan issued from so many throats it was obvious everyone had been having such a splendid time they simply didn’t want to leave the theatre.

For those of us who stayed, both the questions and the answers were fascinating.  We learned about the fly that made an appearance; how hard it is to sing when three other people are piled on top of you; that once you’ve learned to play one instrument, it’s much easier to pick up other ones – and that you don’t have to be brilliant at them all to be a performer.  Rory was asked how heavy the sousaphone is, and Daniel was congratulated for being in his first show with the group.  [He also needs huge applause for being the creator and co-director!].  Each player told us their favourite instrument, and favourite part of the show, and talked about how long it took to make the show: I hope all this inspired many kids to decide that music-making is going to be a major part of their lives from now on.

Credit must be given to the ‘backstage workers’ too.  Gill Robertson, Co-director and Artistic Director of Catherine Wheels; Lauren Desjardins, Stage Manager; Fran French, Assistant Stage Manager; Katherina Radeva, Set Designer; Alison Brown, Costume Designer and Michael Sherin, Movement Director have created a wonderfully silly exploration of the fun you can have making music with other people.  Our four musicians showed that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to take part – some of the most fun was had with simple things you just hit.

Let your hair down, let loose your imagination, and celebrate your inner child with Whirlygig!

Whirlygig, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh runs until 13th May Tickets and more information available at www.imaginate.org.uk

Brett Herriot Review

Rock of Ages, Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

“Still Rocking at Heart

*** 3 Stars

It’s hard to believe that  its now 17 years since the 80’s Rock jukebox musical Rock of Ages made its debut performances in Los Angeles  in 2005. Following an all star film adaptation in 2012 and various productions around the globe including Broadway and London’s west end. The show returns for a new UK tour and proves it’s still rocking at heart.

Rock of Ages, with book by Chris D’Arienzo tells the story of the Bourbon Club in 1987 Hollywood and the lives of those who work there, those who protest at the perceived sexual filth that goes on in there and of the German redevelopers who see only the value of the property and want to knock down the club along with the dreams, hopes and wishes it holds for so many with it.

A comedy pastiche that features the breaking of the fourth wall often plus a slew of 80’s rock classics including Feel the noise, We built this city, The Final Countdown, I can’t fight this feeling anymore and Don’t Stop Believing amongst the 29 songs featured in the show it’s a solid jukebox musical for the masses.

This is a real feel good and fun night of musical theatre and performances on the whole are delivered well. West end veteran Kevin Kennedy returns to the role of Dennis Dupree and is spot on the money especially opposite Joe Gash as Lonny who delivers a high energy performance as the shows narrator who engages with the audience to great effect, although a little more diction is need to understand all he is saying and his accent has a tendency to slip but the joy of his performance is the laughter he brings from the audience.

Sam Turrel as Drew delivers well as the male love interest and his rich voice fills the giant Playhouse with ease. Gabriella Williams as Sherrie gives a heartfelt performance but there are pitchy moments in the vocal delivery which she overcomes especially on the big numbers.  Rounding out the principals is x factor winner Matt Terry as Stacee Jaxx who is never over used and brings a rich tenor rock sound and some real camp sass to the rock world of the Bourbon. The production has a talented 13 strong ensemble bringing to life the myriad of characters we see across the show.

Director and Choreographer Nick Winston has truly got the best from his cast and produces a solid show that’s enhanced by Morgan Large’s stunning Set and 80’s Costume design. The set is very much a testament to the stadium rock concerts of the 80’s and it’s simply beautifully lit by Ben Cracknell who has brought real rock power to the lighting. Where it’s not so strong is Ben Harrison’s sound design which surprisingly for a rock show has the volume set low, even the hope of rocking out in the curtain call doesn’t see the volume lift and it’s a wasted opportunity.  Hopefully it’s just bedding in issues and they crank up the volume for those rock numbers.

The story line originally showcases diversity with a gay coupling sharing an onstage kiss alongside the central heterosexual storyline; this production omits that and uses comedy to send up the gay coupling and relies on stereotyping of homosexuality that belongs in the 80’s but given where the show is set its actually a wry choice.

Rock of Ages does everything it should, laughs a plenty, and a slew of Rock anthems we all love and it does deliver value for money making it a worthy night of rollicking musical theatre, so pop along to the playhouse, bandana in hand and find out for yourself that you just can’t stop this feeling anymore!

Rock of Ages, Edinburgh Playhouse, runs until Saturday 14th May for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rock-of-ages/edinburgh-playhouse/

The production visits Eden Court Theatre Inverness from 23rd August and King’s Theatre, Glasgow from 30th August.

Mary Woodward Review

I am Tiger, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

A Perth Theatre production commissioned by Imaginate as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.

***** (5 stars)

Stunning, amazing, outstanding, brilliant, wonderful, memorable, gripping, breathtaking…words fail me when I try to describe this work: superlatives aren’t enough, and I wish I had a sixth star to award.

Laura is alone in her attic [reached only by a ladder], staring at the box her parents have given her.

The box moves.

Inside the box there is a tiger.

A real tiger.  Okay, an as yet small tiger, but really truly a tiger, stripes, teeth, tail and all.

Why have her parents bought her a tiger?  Isn’t it illegal to keep one as a pet?

Little-know facts about tigers – alone among the big cats, they love water, they love swimming, but they can’t stand rain.  And there are now more tigers kept as pets than live in the wild.

Laura is at a family counselling session – alone.  Again.  The counsellor shows her first-ever sign of interest or animation when told about the tiger: normally she simply displays the appropriate professional reactions to anything Laura says.  Mum and Dad aren’t here – and they don’t speak to me: Dad’s become a DIY robot, and Mum just cries. 

Danny always wanted a pet, but he’s allergic.  If he were here, the tiger would be someone else’s problem, not mine.  But he’s not here.  And that’s the whole point of it: he’s not here, and no-one ever says his name or talks about him.  One day he was here, and the next gone.  No note, no explanation.  Why?

I am Tiger is an exploration of what it feels like to try to keep on living, try to make sense of life after a family member has committed suicide.  Chloe-Ann Tylor gives a searingly intense performance as Laura, pacing and leaping around the set like the tiger she is trying to live with but which grows and grows until it spirals out of control.  It’s not all gloom and doom – there are brilliant flashes of wit and humour, and a totally brilliant parrot joke to close the show and bring us back to the here and now.

Oliver Emanuel has produced a deeply moving piece of work, inspired by the fact that suicide is the prime killer of men under forty.  He also tells us a lot about tigers, and clearly shows how keeping a tiger as a pet is costly in more ways than one might imagine.  Director Lu Kemp, designer Jamie Vartan, lighting designer Simon Wilkinson and composer/ sound designer Danny Krass have collaborated to create a stunning production which surely has to have more than the five performances scheduled in this festival.  The final performance is on Wednesday, so get a ticket now!

This year’s festival, the first to put on live performances for a live audience in three years, celebrates the sheer joy of people coming together again while investigating the many challenges for children [and adults too!] of the lockdown years – isolation, lack of touch and human connection, mental health, peer pressure, and how to make sense of confusing and conflicted situations.  Certainly last night’s audience were full of joy at coming together – for some of them the first time in three years that they’d been in such a gathering, or been to a live performance – and were loud and generous with their applause for I am Tiger.

There are twelve different shows in this year’s festival, six of them Scottish, with a target audience of newborns – sixteen-year-olds, and with an eclectic mix of genres and performance styles.  Don’t miss out on the fun! 

I am Tiger, runs until 11th May, for Tickets and more information go to: www.imaginate.org.uk

Arts News!

“Sittin’ on top of the world” Captivate Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe 2022!

Acclaimed Edinburgh based company Captivate Theatre have confirmed they’re full scale return to the Fringe Festival of 2022 with the major news they’er taking over their home of The Rose Theatre the city Centre venue for the entire 2022 festival to continue they’er aim of celebrating and elevating talent from within the city and beyond.

Captivate Theatre debuted at the 2012 Fringe to sell out audiences and critical acclaim for their programme of large scale musicals, intimate dramas, comedies and children’s Shakespeare’s shows.

Originally homed in Broughton High School the company moved to the Famous Spiegel tent in 2014 seeing their reputation soar to new heights with a sell out production of the ever popular Sunshine on Leith which would sell out the Spiegel tent in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 2017 saw Captivate make the beautiful Rose Theatre they’rehome, for the subsequent three festivals working with the legendary team at the Gilded Balloon as venue producers. 2020 saw the first cancellation of the entire Festival due to the Covid pandemic, however Captivate teamed with Gilded Balloon in 2021 for a production of “Sunshine on Leith” staged outdoors for the first time at the Multistory venue in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle itself.  Now the company which see’s hundreds of performers from across Edinburgh and the Lothian’s take to the stage each summer are bringing their full programme back and running the Rose Theatre Venue itself!

Company Founder, Owner & Artistic Director Sally Lyall

Speaking to Scotsgay arts, Sally Lyall – Founder, Owner & Artistic Director said “It’s an incredibly exciting, if a little scary, move for us.  We are programming the main theatre from morning to late night and have many fantastic shows to suit everybody.  Over two hundred local children and adults will be involved on stage, back stage, front of house and in the bands.  It will be a fantastic experience for all involved and the audiences.  The Rose is a fantastic venue in the heart of the city with the fantastic Rose Café and bars to hang out in.  We want to create a real buzz about the place and can’t wait to get started.”

The Rose Theatre is owned by theatrical entrepreneur Peter Schaufuss, who recently confirmed plans to revive St Stephens Church in Stockbridge which will see a brand new production of “Hamlet” featuring the legendary Sir Ian McKellen as the jewel of its Fringe programme.  Schaufuss an ardent supporter of the arts in Edinburgh beyond the Fringe spoke to Scotsgay arts saying “I’m thrilled to provide a space for Captivate Theatre to call ‘home’ for this year’s festival. Captivate Theatre continues to be one of the most exciting local theatre companies to bring opportunities to local performers within the vast Fringe landscape.”

Captivate Theatre’s annual Fringe programme draws together hundreds of children, a dedicated adult cast along with a wealth of musicians, technicians, wardrobe, back stage and front of house teams in a collaborative exploration of the arts that has seen many of its members enter the professional industry including Michael Fraser, Arts Producer who gained his first opportunities in the arts from the company and as says “Captivate Theatre and Sally Lyall are the reason I found my love for theatre and fringe. It’s thanks to the opportunities proved by them, as a boy from Gorgie, that I am now able to call this industry home. I’m delighted to come back to where I started and support Sally with this next step in the company’s journey.”

Lyall Joined by cast members from across the 2022 Productions.

The 2022 programme from Captivate will feature, Sunshine on Leith, the companies, five star, vibrant, energetic, emotional, sell out production will come to the Rose Theatre for the first time.

Smashing Shakespeare Primary Times Children’s Choice Award Winner written by company directors Sally Lyall and Tommie Travers. Brave Macbeth, Juliet and Her Romeo tell the bard’s tales through comedy and song promising fun for all the family.

Oliver! This classic musical tale returns to the Rose and features a stunning performance from Scottish Opera and Royal Opera House Covent Garden Alumni Charlie Munro who will be joined by a stellar cast.

Shrek the Musical “Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek…”  Captivate all new production tells the story of everyone’s favourite ogre in their own original style.

The Addams Family their spooky and their cookie! One of the companies’ summer school productions with an extremely talented young cast taking centre Stage. We Will Rock You young@part the second of the companies summer school productions. Which will see an incredibly talented all female cast take to the Rose Theatre Stage.

One Man Two Guvnors Following a successful run in the Spring at Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre, the company revive this multi award winning comedy play for a Fringe Run.

Perfect Forth Captivates, critically acclaimed,  A-Cappella group present Athena,  a high-octane blend of original music based around the mythology of the Greek gods, accompanied by well-known, rearranged songs that you know and love.

Big Band Does… Two late night shows are promised from this Edinburgh based company, Big Bad Does… Broadway and DIVAS: From Stage To Screen will be ending each night of the Fringe with a bang! Following their 5 star, sell out debut in 2019 they are being hosted by Captivate Theatre in their new home of the Rose Theatre.