Brett Herriot Review

Jack and the Beanstalk, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk, 

**** 4 Stars

“ everything classic panto firing on all cylinders should be !”

Qdos mark there 3rd year in charge at the King’s theatre Glasgow by bringing a pantomime to the bath street that hasn’t graced the stage in 25 years. Jack and the Beanstalk is back and following in last year’s stellar Aladdin they continue the old school charm of the big hearted, family inspired pantomimes that have called the King’s home for decades.

The classic tale of the famers boy Jack (Johnny Mac in fine form further cementing his growing legacy with the kings panto) who lives with his mother Dame Trot (Legendary Elaine C Smith proving a woman can be as good a dame as any man) in the village of Glasvegas. Times are hard and while Jack may secretly love Princess Jill (Naomi Cowe) things take a dark turn when the evil Mrs Blunderbore (Anne Smith in a fine villainous turn) doing the bidding of her Giant husband kidnaps The princess, and takes the Trots trusty cow daisy in return for beans! These beans are magical and with Mammy Nature (Angela Darcy) spreading her magic the biggest of beanstalks towers over the kings as the gang led by the King Hector (Jonathan Watson) are off on a big adventure in Cloud land.

This show is everything classic panto firing on all cylinders should be, stunning costumes, a colourful Hugh Durrant inspired set that sparkles under Alex Marshall’s excellent lighting design. Added to the mix is some very big special effects from those boys at Twins FX, it’s a winning formula.

Director and choreographer Johnny Bowles clearly knows how to bring big and classic pantomime to life and with the stellar due of Smith and Mac at the helm you cant help but be won over by its charms. Musically it’s a jukebox of hits from 70’s pop tunes to musical moments like “talk to the animals” and Elaine C Smith delivers a stunning take on “Cher” if she can just turn back time! And it is helped no end by musical Director James Dunsmore and the 5-piece King’s orchestra.

However, unlike 2017 Sleeping Beauty and 2018 Aladdin it feels like the extra magic sparkle is missing from this year’s show, its partially the decision to use Mrs Blunderbore as the villain (side stepping flesh creep) and the story line in act 2 is rushed to quick conclusion. Also, in previous years both Smith and Mac had JP Corrigan to bounce off and create real comedy magic that element isn’t there this year so all the comedy falls to Smith and Mac it feel like a slightly missed opportunity. The many and varied sketches are plentiful, and the comedy within them works well especially the adlibs both rehearsed and unrehearsed.

These minor quibbles aside this is fun family show with tradition as much as it can be at its heart with Elaine C Smith and the wonderful Johnny Mac leading its truly impossible not to enjoy yourself and roll along on the adventure.

Both Smith and Mac have been announced for next years “Cinderella” which again will allow for traditional pantomime to reign supreme at the kings. For now ever pop along and enjoy Glasgow’s biggest pantomime in every way!

Qdos Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Runs until Sunday 5th January 2019 Tickets from £17 go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/jack-and-the-beanstalk/kings-theatre-glasgow

Brett Herriot Review

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Kings Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, 

***** 5 Stars

“the ultimate Christmas treat”

Goldilocks is the universally accepted “Circus” pantomime, its story line of the girl who finds the cottage in the woods with three chairs, three bowls of porridge and three beds isn’t a strong enough narrative to pull off a full pantomime so the action is moved to the world of the circus.

In this production Goldilocks ( the wonderfully honey voiced Gillian Parkhouse) works and lives in her mother and father’s circus. Dame May McReekie (Allan Stewart at the very top of his game, with a plethora of over the tops frocks and what remains simple the best legs in the business) and Andy McReekie The Ringmaster (Andy Gray returning in a blaze of glory to the king’s following a period of ill health, his entrance alone, think billy Flynn in Chicago, is a unique moment in itself) are in dire straits, the bills are piled high and they need a star act to bring in the crowds to save them.

Fighting against them is the evil Baron Von Vinklebottom (Grant Stott in top hat and tails with a whip being as bad as only he can be and doing it bloody well to boot) the evil baron sees no problem in using animals in his circus as well as stealing what ever acts he chooses. So, when Goldilocks comes across three bears (Clare Gray, Ross Finnie and Darren Brownlie) in the wood who can, walk, talk and entertain with comedy musical numbers McReekies circus can be saved if only they can overcome the evil Baron and his wicked plans.

No Panto is complete without a love story enter Joey the Clown (The outstanding Jordan Young making his King’s panto debut, following a decade in Aberdeen. Young is known for playing a hard-bitten gangster in BBC River City, don’t expect any sign of that here, his comedic ability and overt physical performance is awesome) he wants both Goldilocks and to be the star of the show himself. Can he get his dreams at the girl? Its fun journey finding out.

The performances are uniformly excellent but its important to understand, Goldilocks is intentionally a very different pantomime, it stretches the format into a huge hybrid. Part Panto, Part Circus, Part pure vaudeville. Its impossible to compare it with “Cinderella” or “Aladdin” as it stands alone, and this show really sets an incredibly high benchmark for its production values.

Featuring two circus speciality acts The Great Juggling Alfio and the Berserk Riders (which is a stunning and scary high-octane moment for the petrol heads) an eight strong ensemble, a troop of babes and the McReekie Circus is brought gloriously to life. Comedy is tight and clever, the sketches well judged and music at his usual excellent calibre thanks to Musical Director Andy Pickering and the King’s Theatre Orchestra.

Ian Westbrook of 3d Creations has delivered a spectacular set that’s a riot of colour and charm especially under Matt Clutterham’s stunning Lighting design which sees the ornate King’s auditorium decked out in hundreds of festoon lights. Director Ed Curtis has delivered in spectacular style alongside the trio of Stewart, Gray and Stott they have taken the panto in bold new direction and It works, truly delivering the ultimate Christmas treat.

For those who prefer a more classic pantomime fear not for next year the boys return with The Sleeping Beauty for the first time 26 years! And better still Jordan Young will be with them! But for now, grab a ticket and head to McReekies Circus for the Greatest Show on Earth.

The King’s Edinburgh and Qdos Pantomimes present “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 19th January 2019. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/goldilocks

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Review:

Cinderella, The Brunton, 

**** 4 Stars

“Charming and Fun Production”

2019 sees Cinderella the godmother of all pantomimes return to the Musselburgh venue. The production is sold as “Traditional Pantomime for all ages” which makes the decision to move Cinderella into a circus theme an interesting one.

Writer and director John Binnie return’s after his excellent debut in last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk and delivers a production which has charm in abundance and works well within the physical constraints of the theatre. It also puts the local community and locations at its very heart.

The difficulty is, Cinderella is the godmother of pantos because its every little girl’s dream, a tale of once upon a time in a magical village when a gorgeous prince, a gold ticket, a fairy godmother makes defeating the wicked stepmother and ugly sisters a possibility! That childlike wonder and charm doesn’t transposition well to a circus theme. However, it remains nevertheless utterly charming and fun to watch.

Cinderella played with innocence and a light-hearted touch by Eilidh Weir spends her days sweeping the big top floors of the circus owned by her evil stepmother and ringmaster (the wonderfully bad Wendy Seager), who favours the ugly sister duo of Mince and Tatties (played brilliantly by Graham Crammond and Andrew Dyer respectively) as they plan to sell the circus and reap the money. Its circus clown Buttons (the always fun and charming Ross Donnachie) who shows cinders any love, but as he stumbles upon Prince Charlie ( the utterly gorgeous Lewis Lauder) and in what is normally a Prince and Dandini moment they swap places, allowing the rest of the story to unfold in traditional ciders style albeit in its new location. It even allows Estrid Barton’s Fairy Godmother to sprinkle a little magic especially in the inventive transformation scene.

This Cinderella is real family affair and its boosted by Musical Director Tommie Travers excellent musical choices, with pop songs sitting comfortably alongside the ballads. Its Travers delicate underscoring that adds something special and that would be further enhanced with a full live band, however Travers delivers well at the keyboard in the pit.

Robin Mitchell’s Set and Costume Design is spot on the money bringing to life the circus theme in a riot of colours and the costumes, of which there are many, bringing real character. This is further boosted by Ian Curtis and Craig Dixons first rate lighting design which adds even more colour and depth to the production.

Overall this is a charming and fun production but the change of location doesn’t work fully for it, as there are no circus speciality acts, jugglers or acrobats and it relies on character driven story to carry the show through, which would have been better delivered in a traditional telling of the story.

For all that, you can’t help but be won over by this production which will pack them in at the big top of the Brunton theatre.

The Brunton Theatre Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Run’s until Saturday 4th January 2020 Tickets from £14 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events

Brett Herriot Review

Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Review

Beauty and the Beast, 

**** 4 Stars

A Charming Tale as old as Time!”

The Theatre Royal’s dream team of Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward mark their 13th year of creating magic in Newcastle’s biggest pantomime by returning to the traditional pantomime of Beauty and the Beast following last year’s circus inspired stunt bonanza that was Goldilocks.

Based on the classic tale as revived by Disney, the Story of the Beast (Chris Cowley) condemned to be forever the beast unless he can fine love and make a girl see the man with in the beast is a romantic love story at its heart that’s a charming tale as old as time and excellent for family pantomime fun.

Add to the Mix Clive and Danny’s regular routine of zany slapstick routines and Chris Hayward stunning Dame Rita Potty and the fusion of Classic pantomime with Newcastle’s regular trio works its charms. Steve Arnott the regular baddie gets to play a goodie this year as Dashing Dick the Candlestick playing opposite Reece Sibbald’s Mr Tock the talking clock. Baddies duties fall to Wayne Smith and his take on Flash Harry. Performances are universally excellent as always with the cast clearly enjoying themselves and that flows across the footlights.

Producer and Director Michael Harrison has delivered a true return to traditional family pantomime with scale that can only be delivered by QDOS, a stunning set from Ian Westbrook sparkles under the rich lighting of Ben Cracknell’s design.

The panto is written by Michael Harrison and Alan McHugh and for the most part works wonderfully well however the routine of using countries names and flags for a rhyming comedy number doesn’t work, its over long and falls flat and just isn’t landing despite the game attempt by Danny Adams it’s a comedy routine that could easily be cut from the show and making the overall product tighter.

That being said the “Trunk of Truth” routine is comedy gold and done with such force that the entire house was drowning in laughter. The same applied to the song sheet “Gilly Gilly” which has a stunning and surprising conclusion that makes the audience gasp.

All the regular ingredients come together to make the magic that is the Newcastle Theatre Royal pantomime the very best in the North East. It remains the testing ground for Qdos with many ideas and effects turning up in Harrison’s London Pallidum production.

The highlight of this years show has to be Chris Hayward’s Dame Rita Potty who arrives on stage in a succession of knock out costumes which he designs himself it brings all the glitz and the glamour that is both traditional and modern pantomime in all its glory.

Beauty and the Beast at the Newcastle Theatre Royal delivers in spades and will continue to push the boundaries of the possibilities and with next year’s panto already announced, a return of Humpty Dumpty a title not see for many a long year things continue to look good for biggest and best panto in all the land.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Runs until Sunday 19th January 2020 for tickets go to: www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/panto-beauty-and-the-beast

Brett Herriot Review

How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

*** 3 Stars

“charming family fun”

Its not quite time to open the first window on the advent calender but the festival theatre is getting in the christmas spirit early with this charming family fun production of Dr Seuss’s classic tale of how the Grinch stole Christmas the musical!

The Grinch has been around since 1956, firstly as Dr Seuss’s charming illustrated poem, then a film with Boris Karloff before a more modern take by Jim Carrey and the popular animated film with the voice of Benedict cumberbatch.

This musical adaptation came to life over 21 years ago in 1998 and its toured in the Fall of each year across the united states and now it recieves its British premier in a tour of the country.

Telling the story of the Grinch who hates christmas and wants to make the people of whoville suffer by stealing all there christmas presents and feast and dump them into the abyss of the valley of crumpit mountain. Its when the citizens celebrate christmas regardless that the Grinch’s heart grows and he find the true meaning of christmas. Its a child friendly take on a christmas carol and while charming there could have been so much more in this production.

Timothy Mason’s Book and Lyrics and Mel Marvin’s Music borrows heavily from the original text of the book and works well with some fluffy light tunes through out but it does lack a stand out number to send the audience home humming. That said the Classic “You’re a mean one, Mr Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” from the 1966 animation do feature and offer the best of the score.

Performance wise its a mixed bag, the production is advertised as starring Gregor Fisher but its a bit of a misleading casting, Gregor appears as himself at the top of the show for a 5 minute scene where he reads the Grinch story to a group of children invited on stage from the audience, he is then never seen again, not even in the curtain call. Its clearly a case of getting a name on the poster to get the audience in.

Edward Baker-Duly plays the The Grinch perfectly and is clearly inspired by Jim Carrey’s take on the role, his ability to use his face like elastic to convery the character is excellent. Steve Fortune plays “Old Max” with an aged charm and maturity thats highly fitting and truthful. X Factor Star Matt Terry plays “Young Max” and while there is much youthful fun coming from the role, there are moments where it feels a little dialed in and tired which is a shame. Performance wise the star of the show must go to young Isla Gie in the role of Cindy Lou Who for a girl so young to have such a big voice, stage presence and performance ability is stunning and she is joy to watch on stage.

John Lee Beatty’s set is very in keeping with the Dr Seuss’s orginal artwork and again brings a schmaltzy warmth with it and its boosted by Ben Cracknell’s lighting design even if a couple of cues were late. Also we saw far to much of the stage technicians when clearly we arent meant too somthing perhaps Director Matt August can smooth out as the tour continues.

How the Grinch stole christmas is a warm hearted pre christmas treat that could have been so much more than it was but as the snow falls gently across the auditorium you cant help but be moved by its charms. So pop along to festival theatre with the kids in tow before the Grinch disappears for another year.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas The Musical, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 30th November, For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-the-musical

 

Brett Herriot Review

Edinburgh Gang Show 2019, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Edinburgh Gang Show 2019, 

**** 4 Stars

A fitting celebration of 60 years!”

For their 60th Annual Production the Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies once again take to the stage of the Glorious King’s theatre to deliver an evening of variety and spectacle and rather than marking the 60th Anniversary outright, (it wasn’t mentioned once during the performance) the gang are out to do what the do best and entertain and give the very best of themselves.

The Gang Show remains unique in the world of theatre making with no comparable’s to draw against and the Edinburgh is simply the biggest Gang Show still produced in the UK. It continues its modern formula of embracing modern tastes in its music, comedy and production whilst always tilting its hat in respect to those who have gone before, in fact Ralph Reader’s own material appears in 4 items in the 2019 production.

Leading the Gang in his 17th production is director Andy Johnston who also writes much of the material. Its his time as director that allows him to judge the show well and continues to deliver something very much for everyone. Although some of the comedy this year wasn’t hitting its stride on opening night, however it feels very much like pacing and delivery and should gather momentum as the run goes on.

Highlights of the 2019 show include. A highly moving and perfectly arrange mash up of “Falling Slowly” from Once the musical mixed with “Seasons of Love” from Rent. This is touching and emotional moment truly makes the audience think and gives the gang a chance to reflect on friendship and life away from the bright lights of the kings. The section “Mr Fahrenheit” lets the gang kick into high gear with a jazz infused tribute to Freddie Mercury and the music of queen. As in previous years Act 1 remains a tad to long coming in at 75 minutes on its own but as the show settles into its run it should tighten a little to compensate.

Act 2 has the true jewels in the crown for the gang this year especially “Wanna Dance” where Tatiana Honeywell builds on the success of last year’s performance with a simply outstanding rendition of Whitney Houston’s classic Honeywell has the west end and beyond with her grasp if she chooses to pursue a career are talent sparkles under the bright lights. “Born to Boogie” also fizzes with a huge tap number and nods to “Billy Elliot” this section truly shows the gang on form. Bringing the show to a close in traditionally staged manner with the full company on stage in uniform sees “Lady Gaga” mixed with “Ralph Reader” and it works wonderfully well. The closing of the show really sums up the joy of this modern gang show and makes for a fitting celebration of 60 years as the direction is set on the future.

The sound on opening night was nothing short of woeful, with far to many bang’s, pops, and at times the main gang working vocally together simply couldn’t be heard above the orchestra which given the show was viewed from the front stalls is poor, the gang deserve so much better, hopefully the technicians will get things sorted and deliver improvements for the rest of the run.

Other production elements continue to push the boundaries of the king’s capabilities, James Gow’s and Andy Johnston’s lighting design is simple excellent and delivers intimacy and full on stadium concert lighting when called for. Coupled with Alan Hunter and the wardrobe teams ever innovative costume design it’s a winning formula.

Joining Johnston in the production team is dance director Louise Williamson whose choreography this year becomes a true highlight of the production the trickier routines are performed by the core de dance with consummate skill, but she also ensures the entire cast are featured in the dance form throughout.

Musical Director Andy Thomson continues to stamp his style on the show and this year he and his orchestra have brought a filled out and rich sound to the music that fully supports the cast on stage thanks to the wonderful musical arrangements and orchestrations used.

The 2019 Gang Show does everything it says it should, the wealth of talent both on and off stage ensure that the Gang will still be treading the boards for the next 60 years ahead. Memories are a beautiful thing, and long may the gang continue to sail on the crest of wave and shape the lives of generations for years to come as well as making the most magical memories for gang and audience alike.

EGSPL productions present, Edinburgh Gang Show 2019, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Run Until Saturday 23rd November for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/gangshow

Brett Herriot Review

9 To 5 The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

9 To 5 The Musical, 

***** 5 Stars

“A Comedy Musical Joie De Vivre!

Can you believe the motion Picture of “9 to 5” was released in cinemas in 1980 yes! Almost 40 years ago, the story of three women leading the charge for female empowerment in the business world of the high rises of New York gave Dolly Parton perhaps her most recognisable hit.

The film was adapted to a musical and premiered in 2008 and gained some success however it didn’t arrive in the west end of London until just this year, and its that production which is still currently playing at the Savoy Theatre which is now on tour throughout the UK and what a treat it is.

Telling the story of Violet Newstead ( a wonderful turn from Laura Tyrer stepping in for the indisposed Louise Redknapp) a strong willed woman with aspirations of being CEO, Judy Bernly (Amber Davies in powerhouse turn) an office newbie who facing up to life without her husband must get on the work ladder and Doralee Rhodes (Georgina Castle who channels Dolly Parton wonderfully well) who every one thinks is a tart with a heart but in fact this tart has the brains to match.

The three women are stuck in a male dominated world, and repressed with a boss, Franklin Hart Jnr (a snide and excellently judge performance from Sean Needham) who is nothing more that a sexist pig. Having put rat poison in the boss’s coffee which he survives its sets off a chain of comedy events that see’s the woman finally find there feet in the business world and each other and change there world for the better.

This 2019 production is without a shadow of doubt the best ever of the show, with Director Jeff Calhoun taking the show in new direction, this is musical theatre for adults, with sexual innuendo, bare buttocks and S and M references aplenty and it’s a comedy musical joie de vivre.

Dolly Parton’s Music and Lyrics and Patricia Resnick’s book is better served by this retooling one which works so well as rather than trying to please family audience’s it harnesses the power of the original film and explores the empowerment of women in business so well.

Lisa Stevens Choreography is sharp with nods to Bob Fosse scattered throughout added to Simone Manfredini’s 8-piece band all the ingredients are mixed together for a superb night of musical fun. Special mention must also go to Tom Rogers inventive set design which really transport the show to New York and an office setting brilliantly and even allows Dolly herself to act as Narrator ( sorry folks she is on pre tape not live in the theatre) which adds extra charm. With excellent lighting design from Howard Hudson and Poti Martin’s Sound design you have all the trappings of a west end calibre show on stage at the playhouse.

9 to 5 remains an enduring hit as both a film and musical because of its heart and putting women at the centre of the story something which even now 40 years letter remains as relevant as ever. So tumble out of bed and pour yourself a cup of ambition and head to the playhouse for a real treat!

Dolly Parton Presents, 9 To 5 The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 16th November, UK tour continues for tickets go to: www.atgtickets.com/shows/9-to-5-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/