Brett Herriot Review

Death Drop, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

“truly a joyful night out

**** 4 Stars

Following a sell out and critically acclaimed run in London’s West End at the Garrick Theatre, the Drag Queens and Kings have packed up their wigs, make up and high heels and set off on the road on the first UK tour of the Drag Murder Mystery from the pen of Holly Stars based on the original idea by Christopher D Clegg.

Set in 1991, a gaggle of guests gather on the mysterious Tuck Island for a dinner party like no other. The tension rises as the outrageous guests reveal their questionable pasts and hidden secrets. As the ferocious finger pointing and savage speculation begins, one by one they sashay away, until at the last, nerve-shredding, side-splitting moment we find out who-dunnit!

Holly Stars script truly delivers everything its sets out too, blending drag humour, outrageous costumes and pitch perfect comedy timing from a strong ensemble cast to deliver a memorable evening of theatre. Although this is very much a murder mystery for the adults, with the cast ever ready to break character and take on any audience member either daft enough or brave enough to heckle. These boys and girls take no prisoners as they seek the truth and find out just who the killer on Tuck Island is.

Holly Stars not only writes the script but takes on the challenge of playing all three Bottomley Sisters which luckily for her happen to be identical triplets, Stars shines as the glue of the show. Joined by Ru Paul Drag Race stars, William as Shazza (Shazza in name only as William delivers their regular act within the constraints of the script) and Ra’Jah O’Hara as the wonderful Summer Raines with the frocks to match. Completing the line up of Queens are Karen from Finance as Morgan Pierce (a send up of Pierce Morgan and the news of the world) and Vinegar Strokes as Lady Von Fistenburg. Apple Derriers is also cast as alternate for all parts.

This production isn’t just about the queens two excellent Drag Kings also have a major part to play with Richard Energy in the role of Rich Whiteman and Georgia Frost as Phil Maker. The performance from the entire cast are uniformly excellent its clear it’s very a much a team show and that flows across the foot lights. The fact it’s Queens and Kings gives the production a balance that it needs and allows all facets of comedy to be mined beautifully.

Director Jesse Jones delivers a well paced production and the original songs from Flo & Joan give great colour and the show would benefit from perhaps a song or two extra especially in the dialog heavy act 2 as the final reveal takes a little more time to reach than it probably should.

Justin Williams set design blends the over the top style of drag with a colourful Cluedo type set while adding the right nods to 90’s culture. The portrait of Charles and Diana looms large across both set and story. Add to the mix Jack Weir’s excellent lighting design, Beth Duke’s thundering sound design and you have the perfect mix for a west end show on stage at the kings.

Queens would be nothing without good wardrobe so special mention must go to Isobel Pellow who delivers in spades.

Death Drop truly delivers everything it sets out too, adult humour, slapstick visual comedy and the sassiness and truth that only these Kings and Queens can bring. They take aim at culture raging from Ru Paul and her drag race to the evil conservative party it’s truly a joyful night out.

So why not book a ticket, grab a glass of wine or the tipple of your choice and head to the King’s Edinburgh to see if you can figure out whom the killer that is stalking Tuck Island really is!

Tuckshop & Trafalgar Theatre Productions Present, Death Drop, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Runs until Saturday 20th November. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/death-drop Tour continues to Birmingham.

Brett Herriot Review

Dirty Dancing, The Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review

**** 4 Stars

You can’t help but fall for its charms

The Iconic pink neon sign blazes out across the auditorium of the Festival Theatre instantly setting the scene for the most beloved of romantic movies now transformed into a stage musical. The company have a lot to live up to in trying to recapture the magic of the most treasured film of a generation and a film which came to define the career and legacy of the late Patrick Swayze.

This company largely succeed in delivering a raunchy, sexy and often pathos filled show that adds to the legacy rather than detracting from it. Set in the Summer of 1963 prior to the assassination of President Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther would extol the power of his dream, it all seems a million miles away from the holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains were we find the Houseman family including Frances, better known as Baby (played by Kira Malou in a staggering truthful and warm heart way, staying clear of the well-known Jennifer Grey movie take but also enshrining the naivety needed for the role). 

Baby is keen to show off her dancing skill in story of Americana versus coming of age and discovering oneself. Johnny Castle (The stunning Michael O’Reilly, who takes on the challenge of Swayze and makes the role his own!) is looking for a new dance partner thanks to his current one falling pregnant to another man. He finds Baby and they set out on a journey of self-discovery and reshaping the world around them, taking on bigotry and intolerance along the way.

This production has a rich shine to it thanks to Director Federico Bellone knowing his material and understanding what it takes to transform a film to a stage production. Supported by an excellent ensemble cast adding to the mix, Roberto Comotti set design, Valerio Tiberi & Nick Richings evocative lighting design the film of many a childhood is alive on stage and its beautiful to see.

Special mention must go to Austin Wilks Choreography he truly captures all the magic of the film and makes it accessible for modern audiences but loses none of its Charms and the iconic lift is there in all its glory and its never looked better. 

It’s in the music that see’s the only drawback, the show is filled with a plethora of 50s and 60s classics and the title track of the movie (I’ve had the time of my life) is all present but the decision to pair the live band down to just three musicians who also appear on stage throughout the show, it’s clear a large click track has been deployed and it leaves the sound just a tad too synthetic  and does the overall production a dis-service. 

Dirty Dancing is assured good audiences as it appeals to a certain generation whose movie going memories of childhood are relived and it’s a crowd pleasing and soul stirring in equal measure. You can’t help but fall for its charms, so for the time of your life, getting along the Festival Theatre were every night feels like the weekend.!

Dirty Dancing, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, runs until Saturday 13th November, UK tour continues for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/dirty-dancing-2021

Brett Herriot Review

The Play That Goes Wrong, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Review

**** 4 Stars

true comedy perfection ”

The Olivier award winning West End and Broadway comedy smash hit has been missing from the UK venues for too long thanks to the pandemic, at a time when laughter is needed more than ever, the mischief team are back in Edinburgh for the first time since there 2018 visit to the Festival theatre.

Telling the story of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society whose most recent successes include the acclaimed productions of the Lion and the Wardrobe and musical hit Cat! Are debuting their new play “The Murder at Haversham Manor” a 1920’s Murder Mystery. As the title suggests this amateur production is beset by an onslaught of calamities that ultimately ensure that the play goes wrong in a spectacularly funny manor!

Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have truly captured the heart of amdram, mixed it with split second comedy timing and visual special effects to create a little bit of belly laugh inducing theatre magic.

Tour Director Sean Turner has put together a stellar ensemble company comprised of 12 gifted comedy actors who bring to life a plethora of characters who can bumble dialog, improvise and create often physically violent comedy with ease and really makes this production shine.

Where this production truly glows is in the quickness and delivery of the comedy, simple ideas like the butler repeating his lines so often the cast go around in circles for a solid 5 minutes growing ever more frustrated as the audience are reduced to helpless laughter is pure joy to watch.

The show literally zips by at such a pace it must be the quickest 2 hours of theatre in creation as the set falls apart literally amongst exploding light bars and as the cast drink white spirit as the stage crew have lost the whiskey its true comedy perfection that will send you home from the theatre with aching limbs from the laughter. 

The decision for it to play the King’s this visit is a masterstroke, the old lady of Leven Street adds a warmth and intimacy to the production that gives it a whole new level of enjoyment. It’s clear by the curtain call speech how glad the company are to be back at work. The audiences are as luck to have them back too! The Play That Goes Wrong is a true comedy tour de force and once seen is totally unforgettable. 

Mischief Theatre Productions Present “The Play That Goes Wrong”, Kings Theatre Edinburgh, Until Sunday 7th November for tickets go to https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Brett Herriot Review

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the Musical Review:

Joyous, Gorgeous and Magnificent piece of musical theatre

***** 5 Stars

27 years after its Broadway debut, Disney Theatricals have brought their special brand of magic back to its first globally successful stage musical adaptation. Beauty and the Beast for the last few years was produced by another UK based producer with luck lustre results so it’s clear from this  gorgeously sumptuous new production that Disney have embraced the success of the Live action film and put it on stage with truly magical results.

Director and Choreographer Matt West has delivered Rob Roth’s new production in style, with effortless story telling blending with pure Broadway dance numbers that would make Busby Barclay proud. “Be Our Guest” starts big, gets bigger and even bigger still until its dripping with pure musical theatre goodness that rightly has the audiences applauding long and hard.

The cast are first class, Courtney Stapleton’s “Belle” is everything and more than you could want from the character with gorgeous vocals to match. Stepping into the role of the Beast is alternate, Alyn Hawke who gives the heartless prince doomed forever to live as a Beast incredible light and shade as the Beast learns to Love, Hawke plays it with gusto. Forming a polished comedy double act Gavin Lee’s “Lumiere” and Nigel Richards “Cogsworth” are a pure joy, with faultless timing and give the production true comedy joy de verve.  Special mention also goes to Sam Bailey (yes she of x-factor fame) who proves her worth as “Mrs Potts” and gives her performance of “Beauty and the Beast” all the charm and warmth it needs to melt even the hardest of hearts.

Speaking of Mrs Potts, the originator of the character Dame Angela Lansbury lends her voice to the prologue which sets the show off in sparkling form. The principals are joined by a driven and strong 14 person ensemble.  Every single performer plays there part amongst the many smaller characters with style.

This new production features a stunning scenic design from Stanley A Meyer which is supported by Natasha Katz lighting design and a pure west end worthy sound design from John Shivers. These core production values are boosted even further with Darrel Maloney’s absolutely stunning Projection and video design for the show. If that were not enough Ann Hould-Wards Costume design is the cherry on the cake, borrowing heavily from the live action movie these costume are pure quality and knock the eye out adding the extra layer of sumptuousness this stellar production deserves.

The music is delivered in an equally high standard from a 10 piece pit orchestra under the baton of resident MD Jonathan Gill. This is the final Scottish stop for the Tour for the moment hence its lengthy Run at the Playhouse.

Since reopening the Playhouse have truly brought out the big guns to attract the audiences and this production of Beauty and the Beast is a joyous, gorgeous and magnificent piece of musical theatre that truly proves that Disney has brought back the magic to a tale as old as time!

Grab those gold dust ticket before the magic leaves the Edinburgh Playhouse!

Disney Presents Beauty and the Beast, The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 27th November. For tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-beauty-and-the-beast/edinburgh-playhouse/

Brett Herriot Review

Grease The Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

**** 4 Stars

“Grease is, was and always will be the word!”

It’s hard to believe that its 50 years since Grease took to the stage of a basement in Chicago, the audience that night in 1971 sat on crates having paid three dollars for the privilege. That production was gritty capturing the essence of the coming-of-age tale.

The 1978 Robert Stigwood movie that shot Olivia Newton John and John Travolta to fame turned the gritty tale into California dreams and subsequent stage productions capitalized on that success by embracing the pink neon bubble gum romance the film portrayed thus masking what was great about the stage original, it felt like maybe Grease as its meant to be seen was consigned to history. 

That’s until the simply sublime Curve Leicester and Director Nikolai Foster have brought this simply astounding new production to the stage and what a treat of a musical it is. Let’s be clear from the off, this is a return to the original roots of the show, the T birds are gone and returned to the Burger Palace Boys. The pink ladies only appear fleetingly towards the end of the performance and the bubble gum pink neon schmaltz of teen romance is once again the journey of adolescence and coming of age in 1959 Chicago.

From the off this is a stellar cast of fresh talent with the entire ensemble working a seem less company to the point that the “leads” blend in fully. Those leads do deserve special praise, taking the role of Sandy Dumbrowki is Ellie Kingdon who delivers an emotionally strong take in both characterisation and vocals and truly shatters the “dumb blonde” feel of old Sandy’s and makes the character truly human. Playing Danny Zuko and head of the Burger Palace boys is Dan Partridge. Partridge brings a raw vulnerability to the part that totally changes the perception of a once see-through character and it’s wonderful to view.

Special mention must also go to Tendai Rinomhota as Betty Rizzo who delivers a big voice and depth to Rizzo who is often played as a bitch but in reality, hides a heart that just wants to be loved. The production does feature pop star Peter Andre as Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel, as Vince its easy money of Andre who spends the bulk of the time perched by his DJ booth high above the stage coming off somewhat underused. However as Teen angel he delivers a scene stealing moment with he and the company dripping in silver sparkles a plenty.

Colin Richmond’s Scenic and Costume design taps into 50’s americana and memorabilia is peppered throughout the sets, thankfully the pink neon lighting is removed and instead Ben Cracknell lighting design delivers a palate of colours for every emotion especially in the gritter moments. Tom Marshall’s Sound design works well, although there were a few sound blips on press night which hopefully should smooth out as the run progresses. The production is boosted by Douglas O’Connell projection design which even recreates the original beach opening of the show.

Fosters direction is spot on, blending the grit in the drama along with the light and comedy that is loved about the show. Arlene Fosters fun and on point Choreography is executed with passion by the entire cast and holding the whole thing together is Musical Director Dan Glover and an awesome 8 piece band in the pit.

Grease is loved by millions, and the 1978 film is cherished and the films shadow loomed large over the 40 years of stage productions that have followed so it’s wonderful to see the show returned to its original glory and this production proves without a shadow of a doubt that Grease is, was and always will be the word!

The Curve Presents, Grease the Musical, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, runs until Saturday 2nd October, UK tour continues for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/grease