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Brett Herriot Review

School of Rock, Edinburgh Playhouse Review:

“Musical theatre event that we all need at the moment

**** 4 Stars

Based on the 2003 motion Picture telling the Story of Dewey Finn (Jake Sharp) a die hard rock fan that is kicked out of his band, stealing the identity of his friend Ned Schneebly (Matthew Rowland) Dewey enters Horace Green School as a teacher to make ends meet.  On discovering the musical talents of the pupils he sets the class and himself on a course to “The Battle of the Bands” and a true moment to shine as a rock god.

This is essentially a coming of age tale filled with rock tunes, peerless casting and a Childs cast that puts us all to shame with their talent. It asks us how far are we willing to go for rock glory but also what will it take to stand up to those we love most and simply just be us.

The musical was a departure for Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2015 when it debuted on Broadway prior to its opening at the New London Theatre (now the Gillian Lynne), it’s the west end production that is the basis for this, the First National UK TOUR.

Performances across the board are excellent with “Sharp” turning in a finely tuned turn as “Dewey Finn” and special credit must go to Matthew Rowland as (Ned Schneebly) who characterisation is charming and comedy timing spot on the money and really makes the most of his stage time. The production is very much an ensemble effort and that comes across in the joy the cast have in blending the comedy and drama that this shows Exudes.

The children’s cast are all stars and multi talented, strapping on guitars, playing keyboards and drums throughout the production. Production wise Anna Louizos’s Scenic design looks very small on the Playhouse stage especially with large black cloths framing it, you can’t help wonder if more of the stage could have been use. That being said the set shifts effortlessly from New York Apartment, to School to Battle of the band arena with ease and Natasha Katz lighting is bang on from the twilight of New York to full out arena rock show lighting. Mick Potter’s sound design delivers too, although there were a couple of dodgy mic moments but this is probably opening night teething issues.

Director Laurence Connor has made the most of Lloyd Webber’s Music, Glenn Slater’s Lyrics and Julian Fellows (yes he of Downton abbey) book and brings a real joy de vere along with a human touch to a story that asks us to think that perhaps it’s better to stand up and be one’s self rather that conform to others expectations of ourselves. This is never truer than in “Rebecca Lock’s” stand out performance of “Where did the Rock Go?” a beautifully delivered ode to what could have been.

School of Rock is a Musical theatre event that we all need at the moment, it bright and bold and full of hope and it’s a wonderful  production taking to the stage of the Playhouse following the lifting of Omicron Covid restrictions, you won’t go wrong in grabbing a ticket and rocking out!

School of Rock UK Tour, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until Saturday 29th January 2022 for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/school-of-rock/edinburgh-playhouse/ the production plays Glasgow Theatre Royal in March 2022.

Arts News!

Restrictions and the Fallout

Covid Restrictions take toll on Scottish Venues:

The First Minister confirmed on Tuesday 11th January the restrictions for indoor venues would not be lifted, (despite outdoor stadia having there restrictions lifted from the 17th January) with only an indicative date of 24th January as a lifting date our theatres have had to cancel and reschedule may upcoming productions. So let’s ahead round the country for a quick Update.

Edinburgh:

The Playhouse:

Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre

Scotland’s largest Theatre the Playhouse was due to host the Scottish Premier of the UK tour of the acclaimed musical “Waitress” originally scheduled from 18th to 22nd January, the greenside venue confirmed a postponement then producers of the show have confirmed the show will come to the Playhouse from Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd April following its Scottish Debut at the Glasgow King’s. The theatre will contact with current ticket holders to confirm their respective new dates. All other booked productions are continuing to play their respective runs as of this writing.

The Festival and King’s Theatre Edinburgh:

Capital Theatres operate the King’s, Festival and Studio Theatres in Edinburgh

It has been a particular torrid time for the team at Capital Theatres (the team who run the Festival, King’s and Studio theatres in the Capital city). They have confirmed the tour of “Bring It On” the musical tour scheduled to play Edinburgh from the 15th of February has been cancelled and will not play beyond its current dates at the Southbank centre. 

The same fate has befallen the UK tour of “Fatal Attraction” which was due to play the Edinburgh King’s from the 1st of February. The UK tour of “Fat Friends The musical” scheduled for the Festival Theatre from 1stMarch has been postponed and also removed from the venues scheduled.

A major blow is the National Theatre’s UK tour production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” scheduled to play the Festival Theatre from Tuesday 15th February has been cancelled. This is solely due to Scottish restrictions as the production will play the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield on those dates instead. Scottish Audiences can see the Show at the Kings Theatre Glasgow from 5th April.

Finally the Festival Theatre was to start 2022 with the acclaimed production of Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” from the 19th January. Thankfully producers have announced new dates and the Production will run from Wednesday 16th February and the venue will contact ticket holders accordingly. All other performances at the Edinburgh King’s, Festival and Studio theatres are currently planned to run as scheduled.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh and the East Coast:

Edinburgh’s Usherhall

As of publication the Brunton Theatre Musselburgh, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, The Traverse Theatre are unaffected as of this writing. However the Usherhall Edinburgh have paused ticket sales for “Get Organised”, “ELO Again” and “BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra-Saint-Saens ‘organ’ Symphony” check there websites for further info.

Glasgow:

Glasgow King’s

The King’s Theatre Glasgow

The Smash hit west end sensation “The Book of Mormon” was scheduled to play Glasgow King’s from 17thJanuary. This has been cancelled and hopefully new dates are announced soon. The production will play The Edinburgh Playhouse from 13th of September.

Theatre Royal Glasgow

The Theatre Royal Glasgow

The Theatre Royal have confirmed “No such thing as a fish” scheduled for Sunday 16th January has been rescheduled to Sunday 4th September. Also “Rhod Gilbert- The Book of John” booked for Sunday 23rdJanuary has been rescheduled to Tuesday 24th May. All Other productions are schedule to play as booked.

Aberdeen:

His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen

His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen have confirmed cancellation of Scottish Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” with no plans to reschedule. Also the production of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” scheduled to play from 25th January has been cancelled.  As of this writing other shows remain unaffected.

Inverness:

The Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

As of this writing, The Eden Court theatre in Inverness is fairing the best, with no announced cancellations or rescheduled dates. Keep an eye on their website for more details.

Summing up:

The vast bulk of our venues are affected by the ongoing restrictions, we hope that the Government lift these restrictions on the indicative date of the 24th of January and urgently deliver the promised funding support. When the curtains do rise, its more vital than ever that audiences support their local theatres and beyond as they recover from the pandemic and these latest restrictions forced on them.

Arts News!

Letter to the First Minister of Scotland

Dear Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland,

Today, Tuesday 11th January 2022 you made an announcement to parliament regarding ongoing restrictions in Scotland in relation to the Omicron Covid Pandemic. 

You confirmed that the restrictions on capacity at outdoor venues will be lifted as of the 17th of January, but all other restrictions remain in place with an indicative date of 24th January as a possible easing date. First Minister this is a catastrophic decision on the part of the cabinet and the Scottish Government.

The arts industry was getting back onto its feet prior to Christmas 2021 when the announcement was made that a maximum of 200 people could enter a theatre for a socially distant performance a completely unviable prospect for any venue. Therefore, the curtains came down across the country many of which were mid Pantomime season, a season which is the lifeline for many venues. Causing huge financial loses for theatres, creatives and staff from across the arts spectrum. To date there has been no financial support received from the government or an indication of when this may come.

The decision announced today that allows 65,000 plus sit in Murrayfield for the Rugby matches with 50% Covid pass check but doesn’t allow for 3000 to sit in the Edinburgh Playhouse with 100% covid pass checks is at its least galling and deeply unfair to our industry as well as vast swathes of the Hospitality industry equally as effected by these decisions made today.

It’s been agreed and even said by yourself that we must now learn to live with this virus as it moves from pandemic to endemic and for many these latest restrictions have had little meaningful benefit in stemming the latest wave.

We all appreciate and accept the need for ongoing caution, but it’s now becoming a situation of being overly cautious and damaging lives financially not to mention the toll on mental health.

Many of our free-lance and front of house workers have not worked since Christmas eve, with no income or support things are at a desperate stage. Today’s announcements have seen the Scottish premiers of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Waitress, The Musical “being cancelled or reschedule causing a knock-on effect to so many.

You say the decisions have always been guided by the science and the data, but you have never clearly shown this science and data to us and have admitted it’s difficult to identify the link from restrictions to benefits.

If we are to live with this virus, then we must do that collectively, if it’s possible for stadia to be at full capacity with mitigations then so too should our theatres, nightclubs and indoors sports venues be given the same chance.

The time for damaging and controlling restrictions is now passing, and while we accept the need for mitigations, we must learn to live life with the virus instead of in fear of it. Indicative dates are of no use First Minister, The arts and other industry need confirmed dates and information in order to plan for reopening, not endless what if’s.

First Minister if these highly damaging restrictions must continue, we ask for the science and data that clearly demonstrates the benefit of such action, as oppose to an exercise in control and further please bring forward the financial support now to ensure those in our industry can survive until the curtains can rise, that is of course is if there is even a curtain to go up.

Yours truly,

Brett Herriot

Editor, Scotsgay Arts.

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Review:

The ultimate festive treat for all the family!

***** 5 Stars

Glasgow King’s the cities most historic theatre is the undeniable home of Pantomime in Scotland’s largest city with all the Icons of panto having played the venue over its lifetime. Sitting in the auditorium you can feel the presence of legends like Rikki Fulton, Stanley Baxter, Una McLean and Gerard Kelly to name a few looming large.

Given the postponement of Panto last year there is a lot riding on Cinderella even with the continuing pandemic the now Local team of Elaine C Smith (Fairy Godmother) and Johnny Mac (Buttons) have delivered a magnificent production fitting of its title “ The Fairy Godmother of all Panto’s”.

The timeless tale of Cinderella (Tinashe Warikandwa, who gives a charming performance)who longs to find her true love in Prince Charming (the gorgeous Christopher Jordan-Marshall)but her Ugly Step sisters Clatty Patty (Angela Darcy) and Hairy Mary ( Joanne McGuinness)what the Prince for themselves. However thanks to the fairy Godmother and dedicated Buttons dreams can come true.

The casting is spot on with a faultless principal cast with special mention to Darren Brownlie who brings a couthy and world wise take as a Dandini he is the true jewel in the show! As is becoming tradition there is no dame with Elaine C Smith filling that role and it works so well, her remarkable talent allows her to create a unique connection with the audience and bond that remains ever   strong. Johnny Mac is truly a shining comedic star worthy of adding his name to the Icons that build the King’s his cheeky, childlike innocence endears him to children and adults alike.

The duty of baddie falls to the ugly sisters and Darcy and McGuinness deliver the goods getting the boo’s in the right places but never over the doing the nastiness. Warikandwa’s Cinderella is beautiful in every way and Jordan Marshall’s rugged prince charming is a winner too. The production features an eight strong company of accomplished dancers who do Jane McMurtrie’s choreography full justice.

Ian Westbrook’s set glistens; under Simon Wilkinson’s lighting the same is true of Ron Briggs costume design with specialities by Mike Coltman. Cinderella’s transformation to Princess Starlight comes complete with a flying coach thanks to the Twins FX.

Musically, this panto hits all the high notes with a plethora of pop hits mingled with the specially written score performed in style by James Dunsmore and the 5 strong King’s Theatre Orchestra.

This Cinderella has it all with stellar performances, knock out costumes, fabulous writing all wrapped up in a sprinkling of magic that proves this really is the Fairy Godmother of all panto’s a true must watch for the ultimate festive treat for all the family!

Crossroads Pantomimes present: Cinderella, King’s Theatre, Glasgow runs until Sunday 2nd January 2022 for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/kings-theatre-glasgow/

Brett Herriot Review

Aladdin, SEC Glasgow (Armadillo), Review:

“needs more magic

*** 3 Stars

Glasgow has the very rare distinction of hosting two Crossroads pantomimes which has been the case since the company took over producing the Panto at the King’s Theatre. Prior to that, the Armadillo panto was the home for Crossroads.

The problem is now the company have two productions in the same city the Armadillo feels forgotten about with clear cuts to the budget that delivers an underwhelming production devoid of panto magic.

Firstly the venue is a strange choice for pantomime, it always has been, it’s a concert and conference hall that seats 3000+ making it a massive challenge to fill. It’s also not designed as a theatre so the flying of the sets during the show is painfully slow even on a heavily brought in stage set.

Aladdin is the classic tale of the boy who falls in love with the princess and goes from rags to riches with the help of the genie, the spirit of the ring and does of magic that transforms his life and that of his mother, The Widow Twankey. The Story is there fully in Director Tony Cownie’s tight production.

This production relies on the cast who are excellent even though the strange twist in the writing means Aladdin isn’t Aladdin its Gary Tank Commander being well Gary Tank Commander (Greg McHugh is in fine form in delivering a character he knows inside out). Abanazar, the baddie of the story is played by Sanjeev Kohli (who steps in for the indisposed Gavin Mitchell) he too is playing Navid (he of still game) playing Sanjeev playing Abanazar! See the confusion.

Leah McCrae is Widow Twankey (Glasgow seems to have a passion for women playing dames, it may not be traditional but with a strong performer like McCrae it works so well) she delivers in spades with strong comedy timing and a wonderful voice. Her costumes are fabulous but even those were seen at the King’s in 2017/18.

Elsewhere in the cast Brian James Leys as the Emperor and Blythe Jandoo as Princess Jasmine deliver everything you could wish for and the same goes for Rachel Flynn as the spirit of the ring whose vocals are peerless.  The strong principal cast are joined by a large ensemble dance troop to bring the story to life.

From the moment the curtain went up there were issues, the Set looks like it’s been clubbed together from whatever was left in the stores, it doesn’t sparkle, Gary’s first entrance in a tank was blown when it completed failed and had to be pushed off with the help of the ensemble with Greg adlibbing for his life.

There are trimming issues galore in lighting and sound especially when the giant puppet Genie appears using a pre recorded vocal track it feels as if these scenes are under rehearsed. Pantomime should also have a splash of magic, this production is lacking in it, the flying carpet is nothing more than a truck pulled across the stage in a cloud of dry ice. Speaking of the smoke machine, too often the cast disappear in the smoke perhaps a little less heavy on the button would work wonders.

Crossroads have a partnership with Twins FX who deliver astonishing effects, but in the SEC Glasgow there are none, they do have a 3D sequence but even that feels dated although does get the screams coming from the younger audience members.

Musically the show is strong; with Richard Andersons 5 piece orchestra delivering a heavily pop infused score in style even though there is no orchestra pit there stationed on the floor of the stalls in beside the front row of the audience.

Given tickets cost up£40 each for this production, it’s not delivering value for money, there is a strong pantomime somewhere in this production but it needs more magic and increased production values for it to match its selling title of “Everything you could wish for in a panto”.

That all being said for a classic panto that relies on the cast delivering a panto master class then Gary Tank Commander and Leah McRae and company won’t steer you wrong.

Crossroads Pantomimes present: Aladdin, SEC Glasgow (Armadillo), Runs until Wednesday 29th December for tickets go to: https://www.sec.co.uk/events/detail/aladdin