Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, FTH Theatre, Falkirk Review:

Cinderella, Falkirk Review:

**** 4 Stars

delivers a warm and Big heart pantomime with level of spectacle that Falkirk will not have seen before”

Imagine Productions makes its debut at the FTH Theatre in Falkirk (once home to the televised FCYT pantos for many a year) with the greatest panto of them all Cinderella and they succeed in delivering a warm hearted and fun production.

Telling the age-old tale of Cinderella (Christie Gowans)who goes from Rags to Riches after overcoming her evil stepmother (Sally Howitt) and worse ugly sisters  and finding her prince (Adam Morgan) with a little help from Buttons (John Winchester) and her Fairy Godmother (Barbara Bryceland).

As is traditional for Imagine theatre pantomimes, this is a story and plot driven show with added comedy and a very special effect that sees the transformation scene truly take flight. Performance wise its an interesting one. Fairy Babs (Bryceland) has a true warmth of personality and that big voice that saw her achieve much on TV’s X factor and the Voice, however she is being helped with a lot of technical panto magic with the lines. That said it’s a remarkable challenge for a cabaret vocal performer to take on the task of leading a panto company so full credit to Barbara for delivering with the charm and personality and drive that see’s the audience take her to there hearts.

Sally Howitt’s Baroness Demonica owes much to her River City Character Scarlett but is well delivered and a consummately professional baddie. Talking of baddies, this show shines with Craig Glover (Sadie) and Derek McGhie (Senga) ugly sister double act. With on the ball comedy quips, big costumes and the ability to break the forth wall with ease, these two truly make this Cinderella Shine.

Elsewhere Gowan’s Cinderella is sugary sweet and pitch perfect making every little girl’s dream in the audience come true, as a performer she also carries Adam Morgan’s Prince Charming vocally, while Morgan has great acting presence his vocal isn’t always on the button, but he succeeds in getting his talent across.

John Winchester’s “Buttons” is charming and wins the audience over from his first appearance and his double act with Dandini “Scott Watson” is also winner especially during the song sheet. Special mention must go to ensemble member John Aitken, his performance is completely polished and delivered with gusto yet never truly pulls the focus, its always nice to see a gorgeous and dedicated performance turned in from the ensemble.

Director Stuart Bird has delivered well on Alan McHugh’s script although the show does run a little too long and could do with pruning down especially the song sheet which runs it course long before the final “Double Speed” finale. Laine Baird’s Choreography ensures the entire space is used and the colour and variety that dance brings to panto is truly explored. Musical Director and Arranger Darren Webster ensures classic pop tunes like “Make your own kind of music” sits well with up to date hits from “The Greatest Showman”.

All in All, this production delivers a warm and Big heart pantomime with level of spectacle that Falkirk will not have seen before, so get yourself along and grab those tickets as the magic will be over by the stroke of midnight on Christmas day.

The Falkirk Community Trust and Imagine Theatre Presents, Cinderella, FTH Theatre, Falkirk, Runs until Monday 24th December. For tickets go to: http://www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org/whats-on/events/search.aspx?q=cinderella

Brett Herriot Review

Beauty and the Beast, Kings Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

Qdos Pantomimes Present Beauty and the Beast, 

***** 5 Stars

Beauty and the Beast is a slice of the West end on stage in Edinburgh,

For the first time since 1946, Beauty and The Beast is back as the King’s pantomime and what a triumph it is. A much-anticipated panto classic was expected but for the regular panto trio of Stewart, Gray and Stott matters took an unfortunate turn with Andy Gray having to withdraw due to ill health.  However, with Gray’s blessing the show must go on and my word what a show it is!

Telling the tale as old as time of a Prince Callum who ignores the wishes of a poor beggar woman who is an Enchantress (Jacqueline Hughes) and cast’s a spell leaving him as The Beast, living in Auchtereekie Castle with Mrs May Potty (A sublime and on the top of his form Allan Stewart) when Belle (Gillian Parkhouse) arrives at the castle with her inventor brother Dougal (Daniel Cullen) she finds herself falling in love with the prince inside the beast. The only problem is the evil Flash Boabby (Grant Stott, outdoing himself this year) a vain malcontent has set his sights on Belle and the story is set for the most spell binding of Pantomimes.

Beauty and the Beast is a unique panto as its completely plot driven but in the magical hands of Allan Stewart and Grant Stott the King’s annual extravaganza reins supreme. High lights include an ingenious front of cloth “Sushi” gag that has the audience in hapless laughter. A pure belter of “sing the lyric” sketch all mixed in with the big song and dance numbers.

Allan Stewart shows just why he is regarded as the country’s best dame, he has truly upped his game this year working at a phenomenal rate kicking off with a twist on the Greatest Showman’s “This is me” as he rises from the depths of the pit of the kings! His comedy timing is on point especially in the inventive shopping trolley gag. Stewart also shines in some impressive frocks, Aunty May is indeed in fine fine form. Stewart is matched in comedy foil by Grant Stott who is given extra stage time this year especially in the comedy sections. We even get to see a flash of his Boabby behind a fig leaf in a clever strip routine.

The ensemble also gets to shine especially Parkhouse’s “Belle” who is cast into the sushi gag and almost makes it all the way through without laughing. Cullen’s Dougal the Inventor is used sparingly but does allow the show to have one of its legendary flying effects produced by those boys at Twins FX’s.

Qdos’s set truly sparkles under Matt Clutterham’s Lighting and with Richard Brookers impressive sound design the production boxes are ticked in style. Director Ed Curtis along with Choreographer Alan Harding assisted by Sharon Harding have taken the challenge of loosing a start of the show and delivered a show which ranks right up there with the London Palladium.

Beauty and the Beast is a slice of the West end on stage in Edinburgh, and the magic of pantomime truly sparkles, Allan Stewart should be justly credited for helping to create an ongoing golden period of pantomime as he also writes the show. Audiences will always remember those wonderful days of Stewart, Gray and Stott! And worry not the three are back together in 2019 as Goldilocks and the Three Bears has been announced already.

For now don’t be a beast, get to the King’s and grab those tickets for a Beauty of a pantomime!

The King’s Edinburgh and Qdos Pantomimes present “Beauty and the Beast”, The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 20th January 2019. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/beautyandbeast

Brett Herriot Review

Jack and the Beanstalk, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk:

**** 4 Stars

“Pantomime Magic Has Returned to the Brunton in Style”

2018 see’s a new writer and director in John Binnie taking the helm of East Lothians premier panto after last years lack lustre Beauty and the Beast, The Brunton had a lot to do to climb the peeks of Pantomime and this production of the classic fables sets them well on course for true panto magic.

The age-old tale of Jack (Ross Donachie) his mother, Dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo ( the utterly sublime Graham Crammond) and in this version of tale Jack’s sister Jilly ( Eilidh Weir) and their family cow Daisy (Hayley Keating and Sean O’Brien).  The family have hit hard times and are struggling to pay the bills on the house and daisy’s pasture to the evil giant who sends his wife (Wendy Seager) to collect the rent. Added to the mix is Prince Nice Labels ( Ewan Peatrie) a fashion diva who is willing to give up the labels for the love of Jilly. The plot is set for a big adventure of good verses evil and everyone looking for their happy ever afters.

Binnie has added a few unique touches to the story removing “Fleshcreep” as the baddie and installing the wonderful Wendy Seager as the Giant, Giants wife and other characters, she has a big voice and big talent and gives a performance that allows the audience to boo easily. Her “Gold Finger” is a special moment in the show. This production is truly the Dames Show and Graham Crammond makes his return to the Brunton with a bang and a flawless performance that generates laughter both from his performance and array of costumes. Ross Donachie’s Jack is a charming and thoughtful take on the character and shows real acting quality although his vocal prowess isn’t as strong as it should be especially in his solo number you can’t help but be charmed by him.  The best vocals of show must go to Ewan Petrie’s Prince, he brings a gorgeous hunky look and honey-soaked voice and charm that make him endlessly watchable.

Joining Binnie in the production team is Tommie Travers marking his fourth year as MD. He delivers with skill ensuring up to date pop numbers mingle easily older classic tracks like eye of the tiger. Travers greatest achievement is his underscoring, every scene comes to life with all the major characters having their own musical motif it’s a wonderful atmospheric achievement for the show. However, that said Travers would be served by the addition of a small band rather that just his keyboard and laptop driven backing tracks.  Choreographer Stephanie MacAulay delivers well utilizing the space, the small principal cast and team of babes drawn from the community.

Costume and set design by Robin Mitchell and the students of Queen Margaret University really ensures the Brunton brings tradition back to their panto and all costumes are fabulous although the Dame’s final costume looks half-finished and not the knock your eye out epic scale that a good Dame should get for their finale.  Mitchell’s Sets show the theatre to its very best especially  under Laura Hawkins Lighting design and a quality sound design from Cameron McFarlane ensuring all the boxes production wise are delivered in style.

This is a marked improvement of a pantomime although Binnie’s references could do with updating, Cracker Jack hasn’t been on British TV since 1984 so it soars above the kids heads as does many of the more adult minded jokes. All in All, panto magic has returned to the Brunton in style, so gets those tickets and join Jack and the gang for the biggest of adventures.

The Brunton Theatre Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Run’s until Saturday 5th January 2019 Tickets from £14 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events

Brett Herriot Review

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Review:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, 

**** 4 Stars

The Greatest Show on Earth!”

The Theatre Royal’s dream team of Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward mark their 12th year of creating  magic in Newcastle’s biggest pantomime by straying away from the classic titles like Cinderella and Aladdin and tackling the less well know and further less performed Goldilocks and the Three Bears but they succeed in creating a unique spectacle of fun and razzmatazz.

Goldilocks as a story on its own won’t sustain an entire pantomime so the entire story is transposed to the Circus, this is the tale of Haywards “Dame Rita Rington” owner of Rington’s Circus with Goldilocks (Laura Evans) as her daughter joined by Danny the Clown (Adams) who longs to be the star of the show and win Goldilocks love, coupled with Rita’s husband The Ringmaster ( Webb). They have a winning non-animal circus, but the bills are stacked high and they face ruin unless the star of the show can bring in the audiences. They come across the bears during a walk through the Forrest. These are special bears they can talk and when the Evil Baron Von Vinklebottom (Steve Arnott) wants them for his evil animal circus.

The Story frame is contrived and a little weak, but it allows Adams and Webb (both circus performers out with panto season)  to truly shine at what they do best. Also, Adams takes a step back and doesn’t fully lead the panto, but the entire company come together for an ensemble show.

The big flying effects are also given a rest this year and are replaced by some incredible Circus acts from around the world including The Great Juggling Alfio who is rather gorgeous and presents both two juggling acts that are breath taking alongside his Acrobatic Pole Act. He is joined by the Skating Medini who will blow you away with their skill. The final circus act is the petrol fuelled madness that is the Berserk Riders that has the Audience gasping in wonders.

Michael Potts returns as “The Idiot” an act that seemed tired last year but in Goldilocks fits in well and Potts has truly upped his game and injected real comedy acting into his routine this Year. As the show gets into high gear, Danny Adam’s once again raises the bar with nerve jangling walk on the high wire and demonstrates why he is leading superstar in panto and he will be driving the Theatre Royal panto for years to come.

This year also see’s a gorgeous and inventive Set from Ian Westbrook that sparkles under Ben Cracknell’s lighting design that see’s the entire auditorium decked out in festoons. Award Winning director Michael Harrison has as special place in his heart for Newcastle and always ensure the very best production for his home town before he sets off to direct the London Palladium. For a fun, fast paced and unique panto book those tickets now for the Greatest Show on Earth.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Runs until Sunday 20th January 2019 for tickets go to: https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/panto-goldilocks

Brett Herriot Review

Nativity The Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Nativity The Musical,

**** 4 Stars

Sparkles with Festive Cheer”

The Festival theatre is kicking of the festive season of shows in style with this adaptation of the hit movie that’s touring around the country before returning to London for an extended Christmas run.

Telling the story of St Bernadette’s School in Coventry as they’re attempting to mount a musical version! of the age-old Nativity play. Only trouble is teacher Mr Maddens (Scott Garnham) has promised that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film. Entering the madness at the behest of the school’s head teacher, is teaching assistant the crazy Mr Poppy, (the sublime Simon Lipkin). Add to the mix the wacky and outstandingly talented kids of the school as they go up against the low expectations of their own friends and family and take on the snooty Mr Shakespeare and the kids from the private Belgrade oakmoor school. It’s a story of believing in oneself, beating the odds and shining as brightly as the stars on Christmas night.

This is a stellar production that’s designed to bring out the festive cheer in all of us and succeeds, especially in the lead casting, Simon Lipkin is a bundle of energy powering through act 1 at a dizzying rate, but his true acting talent shines in the quieter moments of act 2. Playing against Scott’s Garnham’s “Mr Maddens” is a thing of beauty, Mr Maddens has allowed his true love to leave him to per sue her dreams and he ends up becoming the “scrooge” type that finally changes his ways as he sees how much the Kids have come to mean to him it’s a true performance of the best of the Christmas message.

The leads are joined by a stellar ensemble cast bringing comedy, pathos and musical hi-jinx’s to life easily. The production also features a rotation of guest celebrity stars which for Edinburgh is the comedy legend Jo Brand, who delivers in spades as “The Critic” taking pot shots at those like my good self who search endlessly for the hallowed 5 stars.

Writer and Director Debbie Isitt has delivered the goods big style putting the adult and children’s casts through there paces added to David Woodhead’s sparkling set and costume design that’s given real sparkle with Tim Mitchells lighting Design. Choreographer Andrew Wright is given some seriously talented kids to work with as they back flip and execute the dance with a professional eye for detail.

They only real draw back is Tom Marshalls sound designs is set just a tad to loud to rock concert levels during the musical numbers and its obvious the small pit band are relying on the click track especially on the percussion side that leans towards the synthetic side.

The show is not scared of breaking the forth wall and the most charming moment comes when sabotage see’s the power cut off right in the middle of the nativity performance and Mr Poppy asks the audience to light up their mobile phones and light the stage. Its truly a magical moment that allows the audience to totally embrace the production.

The show is superbly paced and never drags, and you just can’t help but be caught up in the Christmas, Spirit, so for a Christmas gift of a show that sparkles with festive cheer you had better book those tickets now!

Nativity the Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 2nd December, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/nativity

Brett Herriot Review

Let’s Face the Music and Dance 2, Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Let’s Face the Music and Dance 2, 

**** 4 Stars

Ultimately what shines from Let’s face the music and dance 2 is Love”

In 2014 Edinburgh based Choreographer Janice Bruce produced Let’s face the music and dance, a song and dance spectacular that raised £7,500 for leukaemia care as a tribute to her mother Margaret Hare who battled the disease and sadly it’s a battle she lost. 4 years later and with a wish to raise more than £10,000 Janice and musical director Alison Rushworth are back with a brand-new show lighting up the church hill theatre this week.

The performance in two acts is split into six sections act one kicks off with Glitz and Glam featuring an opening medley drawn from the best of Broadway before heading into la cage aux folles with a strong drag theme set up by the shows MC Derek Ward who host the first act in drag himself.  It’s a punchy opening section that gives way to “Taptastic” which is as the title suggests the chance to showcase some tap-dancing skills. Ibiyemi Osinaike delivers a suitably big voiced rendition of 42nd street. This section contains 5 more tap numbers concluding with the delightful Charlie Munro giving it big licks in Razzle Dazzle. Closing the first act is “After Dark” featuring songs from shows that put a touch of horror to forefront including “feed me” and the title track from “Little shop of horrors” alongside Cara Blaikie’s astounding take on “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”.

Act 2 goes up with “Danger” pulling songs from the action movies including a sublime “the writing is on the wall” performed Darren-Phillip Johnson to a true west end standard. Bruce’s choreography is brought to for in the excellently executed tribute to the Matrix, which is visually stunning in every way. “Bright and Beautiful” is next up with songs that put the beauty of the world around us to the fore. The stand out of the section must be Keith McLeod and Jennifer Lane sweet rendition of “ A whole new world”. To bring the show to a close is a section titled “ Christmas” capitalising on the festive time of year.

The production is uniformly an ensemble piece and deliver’s excellent performances from all involved its clear to see the hours of hard work put in being delivered on stage. Its also visually a treat with the use of a large video screen to illuminate each song. The problem lies in the show’s length, its long coming in over an hour and twenty minutes per act. The issue of dragging is exacerbated by the long transitions between songs, which as the show beds in will tighten up. The overall production would benefit from loosing a song from each section. As negative as that sounds the positive side is the company certainly give the audience plenty for their ticket money.

Ultimately what shines from “Lets face the music and dance 2” is Love, the cast love being on that stage, the audience love watching them and for Janice Bruce is the love of a mother and her passion for the arts that will achieve that goal of raising £10,000. Make sure you grab those tickets while you can!

Let’s face the music and dance 2. Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh, runs until Saturday 1st December (Saturday Matinee Only) for tickets go to: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/edinburgh/church-hill-theatre-edinburgh/lets-face-the-music-and-dance-2018

Brett Herriot Review

Motown The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Motown The Musical,

***** 5 Stars.

“Motown the Musical, is West End Theatre shining at its Brilliant Best!”

Detroit Michigan, home of the Motown sound since the 1960’s producing hits for The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder among so many others. One man started the dream factory, Berry Gordy and using his autobiography “The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown” and the legendary Motown Catalogue the story that defined a generation, That story is now a full scale stage musical.

This show is still enjoying a west end run at the Shaftsbury Theatre and now makes its only Scottish Stop at the grand Edinburgh Playhouse and what a treat of a musical it is. Many of us only recognise the music of Motown and not the struggle for racial equality and acceptance that pervade America through the sixties. What this production does wonderfully well is put Berry at the centre of the story as the world shifts and grows around him. This musical is about one mans journey to spread the love of music and the family he build from the singers and musicians that he worked with, all set to the background of social and political change of 1960’s and 1970’s America.

Playing Berry is the astonishing  Edward Baruwa who delivers a tour de force performance in both acting and vocal with a honey rich voice. Baruwa is as assured breaking the fourth wall talking to the audience as he is delivering the raw emotion on the discovery of the assassination of President Kennedy. Matching him in a powerful performance as “Diana Ross” is Karis Anderson. The recreation of Diana’s break through solo concert in Las Vegas of the early 70’s is a pure theatrical moment of triumph as members of the audience are encouraged on stage to join in a rousing rendition of “reach out and touch” which reverberates around the auditorium.

What sets this musical apart is the way in which it engages with the social political changes of the time, thanks to David Korins Scenic design and Daniel Brodie’s simply outstanding projection design the audience are transported across America and its history featuring video footage of Dr Martin Luther King, The Kennedys, the changing presidents, the Vietnam war as well as provided the backdrop to the location of Hitsville USA. There is truly no other musical in the UK that delivers the quality of spectacle that Motown the musical does and the fact this is touring production is an even greater achievement.

This production features no less than 63 numbers from the Motown catalogue (although many are cut into mash up and few are just snippets) and all are delivered in style by Musical Director Griff Johnson and his 10 piece band, there is no better sound that the music of Motown being delivered by those most passionate about it. Director Charles Randolph -Wright has delivered a show which is never mawkish but a joyful celebration of period in time sadly consigned to the history books. He does it while keeping focus on Berry and the emotional toll it took.

As the show comes to a close with a recreation of the famous Motown 25th Anniversary concert, it becomes clear that love was the centre of the story, love for music, love for humanity and the joy of all those special memories which continues to shine across the decades.

Motown The Musical is not a jukebox musical its something far better, an engaging story, stunning sets, costume, performances and musicians combine to deliver a stellar evening on Stage and with the Playhouse hosting the only Scottish dates, you better make a beeline for the box office and see for yourself why the Playhouse is the home of the west end. Motown the Musical is indeed West End Theatre shining at its Brilliant Best.

Motown the Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 8th December, for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/motown-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/