Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Review:

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, 

***** 5 Stars

“ Teaching the World New Ways To Dream“

Widley considered to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest and most complete work based on the Billy Wilder 1950 movie of the same name telling the story of the Faded Silent Movie star Norma Desmond (Played with extraordinary depth and emotion by Donna Hazelton) forgotten by the world and longing to return to her people in the dark. It’s when struggling studio writer Joe Gillis (Nick Tomlinson who gives an astonishingly understated performance that totally reinterprets the character) stumbles upon the grumbling mansion at 10086 Sunset Boulevard that the tale of Love both wanted and unwanted, broken dreams and manipulative power play starts to unfolds. All this set against the glamour of 1940’s Hollywood and the world of Paramount Studios this Limelight production is truly a world with in a world take on the story.

Director Kenny Christie has truly delivered a unique take on the show that actually has the sweeping breath of a movie live on stage that blends Norma’s world which she believes is a film in itself with that of many people who work in the Paramount Studio system living in the real world. Its that clash which leads to the dramatic collision the forces Norma to spiral into insanity and Joe left paying the ultimate price. It’s a joy to watch.

The casting is excellent with Hazelton (who has west end credits to her name and it shows) leading the company faultlessly, her Norma is unique she has forgone trying to replicate “Close”, “LuPone”, “Paige” and the many others who have brought Norma to life and instead delivers her take and its one that truly gets under the skin of “Desmond” and to watch her descent into insanity is gripping and powerful musical theatre at its best. The same applies to Tomlinson’s take on Joe and he has a warm honey voice to go with it. The same is true of Chris Tomlinson’s excellent take on Max the forgotten love of Norma’s and now her Butler who gives everything to ensure Norma is the greatest star of all. Special mention also goes to Andrew Todman as Artie Green who gives the role a Clark Gable twist and to Vicky Sharp as Betty Schaefer with her powerhouse vocals giving the character real punch

It’s not just the leads who stand out it’s the entire company, they have truly taken on the challenge of delivering a complete universe of characters and fully succeed in bringing both worlds fully to life.

Director Christie should be justly proud, his vision for the show truly flows and thanks to Elinor Burns pitch perfect Choreography which blends together period dance moves that fully opens up the story and coupled with sharp drilling the large ensemble dance pieces are delivered in style.

The true highlight of Sunset is the epic score and Musical Director Paul Gudgin has delivered in style with peerless vocals on stage accompanied by a 14 strong orchestra in the pit the ensures every note of the sweeping and orchestrally brilliant score rings out around the Alhambra magnificently.

Production wise the technically complicated set works beautifully coupled with Jonnie Clough’s excellent lighting design and Mike Somerville’s Sound design. If there is anything negative to say its in the delivery of the microphone sound to often Mic’s were late coming on and thus cut off to many lines, it’s a quibble that while not enough to loose a star does need sorted to fully give the cast on stage and audience that true west end worthy standard this show bleeds.

Limelight’s production of Sunset Boulevard is everything and more and worth every penny of the ticket price so get along to the Alhambra and watch as this stellar company truly do teach the world new ways to dream.

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Runs until Saturday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://alhambradunfermline.com/event/limelight-productions-present-sunset-boulevard/

Brett Herriot Review

I Think We Are Alone, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

I Think We Are Alone, 

**** 4 Stars

“ love is the key to understanding those hurting “

6 people living in London, some related and some not, each one connected either by chance or choice or divine decision as they chart their course through the journey of life. Sisters estranged and fighting to overcome the pain and trauma of a childhood beset with abuse. A mother who masks her grief by pushing her son to his limits and very nearly out of her life and a Taxi driver facing up to the loss of his wife until a stranger enters his life and gives him hope.

I Think We Are Alone Now is a bittersweet and funny take on our ache to connect with those voices we need to hear again, those arms we need to feel around us once more and those faces we need to see one last time can we really let go and yet still hold onto what we love the most.

Frantic Assembly’s production of Sally Abbott’s play is one of finely judged performances the melds together the dramatic theatre with modern contemporary dance, all placed inside a set designed by Morgan Large that comprises four moving walls as it focus that allows a deep emotion to purvey not only the actors but the audience who are drawn into the sweep of the story.

Co- Directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham this is the companies 25th anniversary production and it delivers everything it sets out, with a 6 strong ensemble cast, Chizzy Akudolu, Charlotte Bate, Polly Frame, Simone Saunders and Andrew Turner every single one of them give performances that run the gamut of human emotion.

This is a modern piece delivered as intercutting monologues that would just as easily sit on an internet blog as it does on stage and although the first Act feels disjointed and leaves you entering the interval posing the question “where is all this going” it’s the magnificent second act that brings healing to the wounds and proves above all else, human connection and love is the key to understanding those hurting the most and embracing hope for the future that lies ahead for us all.

A sharp and fluid lighting design by Paul Keogan and Sound Design by Ella Wahlstrom both enhances and develops the physical performance space and the production is better for it.

I Think We Are Alone Now, is a brave meeting of artistic choices, sharp and emotional writing coupled with performances the defy the norms and makes for an enchanting and engrossing evening of theatre, one which is unmissable.

I Think We Are Alone, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/i-think-we-are-alone

Brett Herriot Review

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, 

**** 4 Stars

A riot of a slapstick comedy that is brilliantly judged “

Mischief Theatre returns to its birthplace of Edinburgh bringing the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society with there new production of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. The charming story of the boy who never grew up. With a pumped-up budget and brand-new set design, this promises to be an epic night of theatre, just as long as it doesn’t go wrong in the most calamitous of ways!

This riot of a slapstick comedy is brilliantly judged from writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, it blends the classic peter pan story with that of the local amdram company who try as they might just can seem to get things to go right.

It works of course because of the ten strong ensemble who are so tight they all shine equally, in what is an extremely physical show, where slapstick its taken to the extreme it’s a wonder no one is really injured as performers plunge from the flying wires, sets collapse, explosions erupt, and the turntable spins faster that the electric meter that’s powering the entire theatre.

Director Adam Meggido really explores the world of amdram with great details and ramps it up with beautifully judged comedy that bizarrely is mostly family friendly and he and his team come up with ever inventive ways of making carnage strike in the most spectacular and unexpected of ways.

This production is clearly a team effort and what a journey it’s had from the Pleasance during the Fringe festival, to London, the world beyond and “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” even enjoyed a BBC adaptation broadcast in 2016. It’s a remarkable achievement from a small company that blossomed in the heart of the biggest arts festival in the world.

Peter Pan is one of many “Mischief Theatre” productions and is arguably its strongest because its based on such a classic tale and this particular show blends the slapstick with pantomime and ensures the audience who have made there way to the festival theatre on an ice cold winters night leave with a belly full of laughs and there ticket money well spent.

Let’s hope this company never grows up and continues delivering the laughs in style.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 16th February for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/peter-pan-goes-wrong

Brett Herriot Review

Six, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Six, 

***** 5 Stars

“ history defining, rule breaking, pop odyssey of a musical

When two unknown writers, who had never written anything musical in their lives put pen to paper and delivered “Six” to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe could they have foreseen just how epic their creation would become? Well Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss history brought to life story backed by an epic pop score has come home to Edinburgh for a sell out run at the Festival Theatre and it’s a pure theatrical treat.

Six is a pop concert revue show that takes us inside the lives of the six wives of King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon (Lauren Drew), Anne Boleyn (Maddison Bulleyment), Jane Seymour (Lauren Byrne), Anne of Cleves (Shekinah McFarlane), Katherine Howard (Jodie Steele) and Catherine Parr (Athena Collins).

The joy of this show is that its nothing to do with Henry VIII but the woman who shaped his life, its ultimately a tale of empowerment, one of which that’s more potent given that even in today’s modern world, there simply isn’t enough strong female roles available. Six more than makes up for it with its stellar cast. These are performances that transcend the art form and the cast are universally excellent. That said Lauren Byrne performs “Heart of Stone” with such passion and compassion it literally burns its way into your memory.

Production wise, Six Nails it with fast flowing direction from Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, Sharp and concise Choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille that makes the most of Emma Baileys set design even if the stage is heavily brought in to make it tour able its more than made up for with Tim Deiling’s epic stadiumesk lighting design. Credit also to Paul Gatehouse’s sound design that brings the concert feel very much to life.

Creatively Gabriella Slade remarkable and award worthy costume design is the element that blends ancient historical characters into a modern world, think 16th century meeting little mix it a true joy to behold.

Six is currently packing them at the Arts Theatre in London’s west end and is currently totally sold out for its Edinburgh Run with people literally losing their heads trying to beg, borrow or steal a ticket. What truly sets Six apart, is that its so fresh and inventive and for once it truly puts female empowerment at its very heart. Even the band lead by the incredible MD Arlene McNaught proves no man can do with this collection of ladies can.

Six is history defining, rule breaking, pop odyssey of a musical for a new generation of theatre goers than will speak across the generations, its legacy is already in the writing and this is one joyous 80 minutes of theatre you will want to see again and again, sadly for Edinburgh tickets are golden just like the Six Ladies on stage! Good luck trying though!

Six, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 9th February for tickets (Returns Only) go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/six-the-musical UK Tour Continues.

Brett Herriot Review

Dear Evan Hansen, Noel Coward Theatre, London, Review:

Dear Evan Hansen, 

***** 5 Stars

“ A Musical that Puts Humanity and its Weakness at its Heart! “

In a modern world that’s come to be shaped by the adage known as “Fake News” where the deep routed human emotion of just wanting to be accepted has never felt more pertinent or relevant it would seem perhaps inevitable that such a personal story should make its way onto London’s west end and with it into the hearts of musical theatre fans the world over. That Story has arrived in the spectacularly moving “Dear Evan Hansen” a musical that puts humanity and its weaknesses at it’s heart. It’s a thrilling game changer.

Telling the story of Evan Hansen (an emotional and complex performance from Alternate Marcus Harman) an American teen living with social anxiety and trying to fit in to a world that’s always left him on the outside. Confronted with the suicide of Connor Murphy he tells what he thinks is a small lie and finds himself gaining acceptance from both the Murphy family, his school friends and the world that’s brought ever closer by the global power of the internet. The problem is Evan’s mother who has always fought for Evan can see through the lie to the pain that lies deep within Evan. As the Lie snowballs an entire community including Evan lies shattered by the truth, can they find the power of forgiveness and ask the question can you ever really be found?

Debuting in 2016 this multi Tony Award winning musical from Book Writer Steven Levenson with Music and Lyrics from Benji Park & Justin Paul came to London’s west end at the end of 2019 and has proven a sell out smash hit and every plaudit it receives is truly justified.

Each member of the eight strong cast excels and delivers emotionally charged performances that will sear their way into your heart and live long in the memory. Special mention must go to Marcus Harman ( who alternates with Sam Tutty) as Evan, it’s a performance that is headed for Olivier award glory. Along side Harman is Rebecca McKinnis as Evan’s mother Heidi Hansen. The raw emotional intensity that McKinnis brings to the role is nothing short of remarkable and redefines power of musical theatre to inform and move in equal measure. The same is true of the entire cast.

This is a modern musical for modern times that speaks across the generations. Director Michael Greif ( the acclaimed director of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent”) has brought the modern world to the stage of the Noel Coward theatre thanks to David Korins inventive Scenic design which encapsulates the internet and is boosted by the award worthy Projection designs of Peter Nigrini, Japhy Weideman’s lighting design and an impeccable sound design from Nevin Steinberg.

The production is anchored by Musical Director Matt Smith and his tight and cohesive eight piece off stage band that brings a score which transcends human emotion to life, if the future of musical theatre lies in the power of a score alone then Dear Evan Hansen’s music is a guiding light for all that is good that lies ahead.

As the curtain falls, and you wipe away the tears you feel grateful for all that this show has given us, it challenges us to think not only of ourselves but more importantly those around us, we all want to belong, we all desire that best friend we can trust and love with the deepest of our secrets. There is no Fake news with Dear Evan Hansen its truth is the power that can heel but perhaps the question remains, Will you be found? Head to the Noel Coward Theatre and just maybe the answer awaits.

Dear Evan Hansen, Noel Coward Theatre, London, for tickets go to: https://dearevanhansen.com/London/ booking currently until 30th April 2020.

Brett Herriot Review

Oor Wullie The Musical, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Oor Wullie The Musical, 

**** 4 Stars

“ Calls to the Childhood in us all!“

Having already had “The Broons” live on stage, now respected producing house Dundee Rep collaborate with Selladoor Productions to bring Scotland’s favourite scamp “Oor Wullie” to life on stage in a brand-new production and what a special and charming treat it is.

With a book and lyrics by Scott Gilmour and music by Claire Mackenzie this musical adaptation brings the stories to life that have enchanted readers for over 80 years in The Sunday Post and not to mention the yearly Annuals that have been a part of the Scottish Cultural landscape for generations.

The Story of this show is a touching, and moral tale of Understanding each other and the world around us and holds a mirror up to the modern world. Wahid (Eklovey Kashyap) as Scottish boy of Pakistani heritage is bullied at schools and finds the only way to survive is to immerse himself in the adventures of “Oor Wullie” in an annual handed to him by the librarian, But Wullie (a brilliantly created take by Martin Quinn) has big problems the evil Basher Mackenzie (Leanne Traynor) has stolen his bucket and threatens to take over his story. Can Wullie and his pals Bob (Dan Buckley), Soapy Soutar (Bailey Newsome), Wee Eck ( Grant McIntyre) and Primrose Patterson (Leah Byrne) along with Wahid find the bucket and see the best in Basher? Well with a little from PC Murdoch (Ann Louise Ross) this charming and family friendly story unfolds, with songs that are catchy and with a heavy Scottish flavour and comedy at his core it’s a truly charming mix. Special mention must go to “Wullie’s Wagon” a song which has a real touch of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s about it.

Director Andrew Paton has delivered what must have seemed impossible, in bringing a corner stone of Scottish literature to life and making it accessible to a modern audience of all ages It was no mean challenge but he succeeds thanks to the 11 strong ensemble company who work cohesively to not only bring to life the central characters but also the many other characters who populate the show.

Kenneth MacLeod’s design is functional blending both comic book with life like locations although there were some problems with the sliding screens on opening night, there were also a couple of pauses which lingeried just a bit too long but was probably down to open night niggles and will ease as it settles into the run. There were also problems in Katherine Williams lighting design, to often the performers weren’t in light and random spotlights appeared to light up areas of the stage not being used, again maybe just an opening night faux pas.

Overall though, this is a warm hearted and winning production that truly calls to the childhood in us all, its inherently Scottish and shows home grown musical theatre at its best. The niggles will soon settle and audiences are assured an evening of musical theatre that will conjure memories as well as where we all are in the world today, this is never more true than when the show pays tribute to Oor Wullie’s creator Dudley D Watkins.

So pop along to the kings for a Braw Nicht oot!

Oor Wullie The Musical, The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 1st February, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/oor-wullie Scottish Tour Continues.

Brett Herriot Review

The Secret Cabaret, Dirty Martini, Edinburgh, Review:

The Secret Cabaret, Dirty Martini, 

**** 4 Stars

“ a touching and deep cabaret evening. “

Following the success launch of “The Secret Cabaret” in Bristol, producer Angus Blance brings his monthly fundraising cabarets to Dirty Martini above Le Monde in the capitals George Street and it charms with wonderful performances but does need more in its programming choices.

Using a format of three acts over a 2 and bit hours and with a “themed” third act to bring colour to evening should work but the choices of songs, which have a heavy American flavour were to often on the deep emotional with nowhere near enough comedy and light so the balance became heavy going. The themed third act of “LGBTQIA+” celebration was well intentioned but again the focus was and the lack of acceptance, problems with love and the loss of a lover. It would have been nice to see the balance of happiness for those who identify as LGBQIA+.

The six strong cast all have there moments to shine across the three acts, James Dawoud’s gentle and strong vocals come to the fore in his charming take on “Giants in the Sky” from Sondheim’s “Into the woods”. Mimi Joffroy has big and brassy vocals to a tea with an emotional performance of “All falls down” from Groundhog Day the musical. Alistair Mackey brings an actor’s touch to his songs and his take on “I’ll cover you” conveys the emotion but the vocals are stretched to the limits. Sally Pugh brings intensity to all her performances none more so than a stellar rendition of “Losing my mind” from Follies. Malachi Reid brings tears to eyes with a heartfelt take on “Not my father’s son” from Kinky Boots and is a beautiful moment. The true stand out from the opening cabaret is Sophie Douglas, her honey-soaked vocals with the right degree of power and her performances of “I can cook too” from on the town and “she used to be mine” from waitress truly show the versatility of her performance skills.

The 6 perform together twice, once to open the cabaret and they close it together with a rousing rendition of “You will be found” from the current smash hit “Dear Evan Hansen” and brings things to a rousing conclusion. The evening is anchored by the stylish piano accompaniment of Musical Director Steven Seagaud combined with Louise Sables musical staging ensures the best is made of the small stage.

This was a touching and deep evening of cabaret and if future programmes have a little more light amongst the darkness it will continue to sell out and earn a reputation as the premier musical cabaret in the city.

The Secret Cabaret will run monthly at Dirty Martini (Le Monde) Edinburgh and the next Cabaret is scheduled for Sunday 16th February.