Brett Herriot Review

Crocodile Rock, Tron Theatre, Glasgow Review:

***** 5 Stars

“A heart-rending exploration of sexuality, identity and sense of where we call home “

Original performed in 2019 as part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and Pint, Andy McGregor’s one-man musical went on to achieve critical acclaim and was broadcast later that same year by BBC Scotland.  There were whispers at the time of the producing company Sleeping Warrior Theatre Company delivering a Touring production, however the pandemic put paid to that. Finally, however the first Scottish tour McGregor’s heart-rending exploration of sexuality, identity and sense of where we call home is making its way around Scotland. 

Set before the age of the internet and the evolution of the mobile phone in 1997, Crocodile rock tells the story of 17-year-old Steven living his life on the island of Millport, feeling lost and repressed in the island community he fears being for ever stuck following his parents’ footsteps in running the local pub and bed and breakfast. That is until a chance meeting with a drag queen who is staying at the b&b for the island festival. That Queen unlocks the truth in Steven as he faces up to being gay and that Drag offers him the self-expression he craves. 

McGregor both writes, composes and directs this beautifully judged and emotional of musicals and its feels there is strong auto-biographical flavour to it that the audience can’t help but by beguiled by. Running at 75 minutes McGregor truly lets the audience inhabit Steven’s world, the pain, confusion and ultimately the strength and joy the character feels on his journey to self-acceptance.

In the role of Steven, Stephen Arden delivers a masterclass of emotionally truthful acting along with a well-judged and delivered comedy coupled with a gorgeous voice and thanks to the frequent inclusion of the audience through asides everyone in the Tron went on a collective journey that touches the heart, soul and memories of us all. Truly wonderful theatre at its very best.

Joining Arden on stage is musical director Andy Manning they also turn in a wonderful performance as both MD and backing singer and stunning saxophone solo, they are accompanied with Kim Shepard and Simon Donaldson. 

Kenny Miller set, and costume design is pitch perfect allowing both Millport and bright lights of Glasgow to shine under Grant Andersons thoughtful lighting design further supported by Fraser Milroy’s perfectly executed sound design.

Crocodile rock is a shining beacon of excellent writing, stellar performances and a rare stark honesty that is missing from so much of modern musical theatre, it allows us to not only view Steven’s journey but reflect on our own and the music sears itself into the heart you can’t help but leave the theatre filled with hope for what lies ahead. For that is ultimately the essence of this show, hope! And the reality that before we can ever love someone else, we need to love ourselves first no matter the cost. Do what you must to grab a ticket for this remarkable production while it continues to tour Scotland.

Crocodile Rock, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Run Ended but the production continues to tour Scotland, for further information go to: https://sleepingwarriortheatre.com/crocodile-rocka-new-life

Brett Herriot Review

The Osmonds, A New Musical, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Review:

A stylish tribute to a pop culture phenomenon

**** 4 Stars

The Osmonds, the most globally successful family in pop music history can lay claim to the most epic of highs in the industry and the most crushing of lows that threatened to shatter there family forever. They came back from the brink to secure their place in the hearts of millions who were with them through it all. This is truly what musicals are made of and now Jay Osmond brings the story to the stage featuring all the hits of the brothers Osmond into the bargain.

There are in fact nine Osmond Children, the two eldest Virl and Tom were both born profoundly deaf which makes the fact that the remaining brothers, Merrill, Alan, Jay, Wayne, Donny and Jimmy alongside the sole daughter Marie can produce such intricate harmonies all the more astonishing. It was the families wish to provide hearing aids and support for Virl and Tom that started their performing careers.

This musical from co writers Shaun Kerrison and Julian Bigg (Kerrison also directs and Bigg’s is musical supervisor) takes the point of view of Jay Osmond (Alex Lodge) who always felt caught in the middle of every family argument and explores his relationship with the brothers and his parents.

The Osmonds father George (a delicate performance from Charlie Allen) used his military experiences to guide the way he parented the children, often going too far and forgetting where military service ends and being a father begins. That said thanks to Charlie Allen’s fine performance it’s always clear that above all else George had nothing but love for all his children.

Kerrison delivers excellent performances from across the entire company and there are stand out moments especially from Alex Lodge as “Jay Osmond” who narrates the show as well as performing as an Osmond brother. It’s a stylish show but it does start to drag slightly with an overall running time of two hours and forty five minutes (including twenty minute interval) among all the hits including Paper Roses, Long Haired Lover from Liverpool, Love me for a reason, he ain’t heavy he’s my brother and Crazy Horses are scenes with real nail biting drama that brings a complete silence to the theatre.

Lucy Osborne’s basic set designed its complemented well by her costume design that see’s many of the famous Osmond fashion styles revisited, combined with Ben Cracknell’s excellent lighting design and Dan Samson on the money sound design you have all the right ingredients in play for a jukebox musical that for once puts the story and dramatic performances at its heart.

The Osmonds a new musical could easily have been a cheap chance to roll out the hits to an audience of women of a certain age reliving there youths. The production takes a far classier road, putting the emotional journey of a family  at its heart and reminding us just how much the Osmonds reshaped popular music and pop culture, they never abandoned their mantra, Family, Religious beliefs then Career and despite the biggest of falls, they proved to themselves that by sticking together, families can get through anything that comes their way. This is a show worthy of the ticket price as its a stylish tribute to a pop culture phenomenon! So grab those tickets now.

The Osmonds, A New Musical, Festival Theatre Edinburgh Runs until Saturday 24th September for tickets go to: The Osmonds: A New Musical (capitaltheatres.com)

Brett Herriot Review

The Book of Mormon, Edinburgh Playhouse Review:

A breath of fresh air to the musical theatre world

**** 4 Stars

Finally after a long pandemic delay the smash hit, Tony and Olivier award winning musical, “The Book of Mormon” makes its debut at the Edinburgh Playhouse the final stop on its first UK tour which started out in 2019.

The show opened on Broadway in 2011 and found instant success thanks to its creators (the minds behind the animated success South Park) tapping into the counter culture in the younger generation of modern society. The show tells the story of two Latter-day Saints missionaries as they attempt to preach the faith of the Church to the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village

It sounds a very simple idea for a musical but the book, music and lyrics of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone delivers a show which redefines the genre, tackling issues including HIV, oppression, female genital mutilation as well as oppression. This combined with lampooning some of the biggest Broadway musicals of modern history makes for a joyous evening of musical theatre that is strictly for adults, it very near the knuckle and if your easily offended think twice, this really needs an open-minded audience for it to succeed and succeed it does.

Performances on the whole are great but the show rests on the leads Elder Cunningham “Conner Peirson” and Elder Price “Robert Colvin”, Pierson shines as the comedy foil of Elder Cunningham and puts the giant heart of the character fully on show and it’s a pleasure to watch. Colvin’s portrayal of Elder Price doesn’t always succeed too often words are dropped and his singing voice needs to be a little bit stronger to fully convince but there is an undeniable charm to his performance that carries the audience along. The leads are supported by a strong 24 member company who shine brightly delivering the gutsy score and comedy in equal measure with style.

Scott Pask’s set design is quite simply the west end production on tour and looks stunning under Brian MacDevitt’s excellent lighting design. Brian Ronan’s sound design is functional but the whole sound level isn’t loud enough, it seems strange to say it, but it feels like the whole thing needs turned up to give it that vital oomph it needs to get the 5 stars that are clearly in this production.

The greatest element of The Book of Mormon is it never takes itself seriously and pays tribute to the entire musical theatre universe with The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of opera and others managing to sneak into the sly nods and occasion just blatant rip offs which are aided and abetted by Musical Director Colm O’Regan and his 10 piece band who are in terrific form throughout.

The Book of Mormon truly delivers a breath of fresh air to the musical theatre world, sometimes audiences need to be challenged in order preserve the fact that theatre is and always will be the last uncensored space.  So what you waiting for! Head to the Edinburgh Playhouse and grab those tickets as many of the performance are already sold out. Well done the Playhouse for opening the Autumn and Winter season but once again bringing the best of the west end to Scotland!

The Book of Mormon, Edinburgh Playhouse Runs until Saturday 8th October for tickets go to: The Book of Mormon Tickets | Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh | ATG Tickets

Please note following the sad death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the performance scheduled for Monday 19th September has been cancelled as a mark of respect on the day of the National State Funeral.

Brett Herriot Review

The Sound Of Music, the SLO Company, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

Solid and massively entertaining

*** 3 Stars

Edinburgh longest running amateur dramatic society The Southern Light Opera Company are marking their 125th Anniversary with their first full production to be staged at the Festival Theatre (The Edinburgh  King’s is now closed for its renovation.)  And remarkably there bringing the Roger and Hammerstein Classic the Sound of Music to the stage for the first time.

The Sound of Music itself is marking its 63rd birthday this year and thanks to the 1965 motion picture featuring the legendary Dame Julie Andrews there can’t be a soul in the English speaking world who has not seen or heard of the show telling the true life story of the Von Trapp Family (although heavily dramatised on stage and screen) were love wins out and the family fight back against the Nazi occupation it features some of the most beautiful music ever scored.

The SLO have not only had to adjust to a new home but also a new time slot moving from the Spring 2023 to the opening slot of the theatres Autumn and Winter season at the Festival Theatre following hot on the heels of the capitals festival season.

SLO succeed in delivering a solid and massively entertaining evening of musical theatre and flooding the Auditorium with that gorgeous score delivered by a polished orchestra in the Pit.

Performances are on the whole really rather good but there are some iffy accents at play as well many performers simply rushing the lines but as the show comes in at a lengthy 2 hours 45 minutes its understandable.

 In the title role of “Maria Rainer” Cathy Geddie delivers a sugary sweet performance that occasionally can feel just a little too naive however she possess a voice that’s soaked in honey and simply gorgeous to listen too. John Bruce plays “Captain Georg Von Trap” which he does with total conviction and his opening up of the characters feelings as he falls in love with Maria is judged perfectly plus  his rich voice gives it depth. Zorbey  Turklap’s take on “Max Detweiler” is overtly camp and is sitting on the edge of being just too camp to the point its distracting thankfully he reins it in enough to make the character work. Elspeth White plays “Baroness Elsa Schraeder” and she is sublime at delivering a “bitchy” character in style but her talent is ensuring she always give the character real heart.

The true stand out performance has to go to Debora Ruiz-Kordova as “Mother Abbess” my word is this a west end worthy performance at work. Her thrilling climax to act 1 singing “Climb Every Mountain” would give any west end soprano a run for their money! A joyous moment indeed.

Two sets of children share the roles of the Von Trap Kids and the “Edelweiss Cast” on press night turned in a polished and assured performance and gives real depth and colour to the overall show.

Director Quintin Young has delivered much and the use of large thrust stage to aid the transitions between scenes works wonderfully well but more should have be done to use the thrust further and bring the action closer to the audience. That said the opening scene which uses the boxes either side of the stage is stunning and high emotive.

Production wise there were a few issues, Sound isn’t quite there yet but hopefully the little flaws will iron out as the run progresses and the Set on occasion floated from side to side on more than one occasion as if a fly cue or two had been missed. James Gow’s Lighting design is spot on the money bringing a traditional theatrical feel to the production peppered with moments of sublime atmosphere thanks to his inventive lighting design.

Louise Williamson’s choreography also delivers in spades bringing an enriching context to the overall show that’s perfectly in keeping with the piece.  This is further enhanced by Kate Dixon excellent wardrobe design that never falters especially through vast number of costumes changes achieved by the principals.

The greatest element of the sound of music is just that the Music and Musical Director Tommie Travers has been able to coax amazing vocal performances across the company as well as bringing to life that gorgeous score thanks to his 25 piece pit orchestra under his baton it truly adds a refined polish to the production.

SLO should be proud of themselves and each other given the difficulties they have faced in getting  the show to the stage and the incredibly short rehearsal period that ensured the curtain has gone up on a rock solid production that is loaded with potential to go even further! A show that’s worth climbing any mountain to grab a ticket!

The SLO presents, The Sound of Music, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 10th September for tickets go to: Southern Light: The Sound Of Music (capitaltheatres.com)

Brett Herriot Review

Footloose, The Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

Footloose has a solid heart !

*** 3 Stars

It’s hard to believe its approaching forty years since Kevin Bacon created the iconic role of Ren McCormack in the genre redefining movie “Footloose” telling the tale of Ren who moves to a small town in Texas called Beaumont from Chicago. There he finds a town and its people still reeling from the tragedy that befell it a couple of years before, which particularly affects the local reverend who institutes a ban on booze, drugs and dancing. Youthful rites of passage for a prom meets authority in a clash that must make them both face up to the loss, redemption and the realities of life that loss causes pain but it can’t stop life from moving on.

The films screenplay by Dean Pitchford was adapted for the stage in 1998 and the musical made its debut in London in 2006 and went on to enjoy several UK tours. Now Selladoor, Runaway Entertainment and Jason Haigh Ellery have launched a brand new UK tour for 2022 and its now enjoying a week long run at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

This production delivers a mixed bag, while the performances are excellent and the small tight cast give buckets of energy it’s the creative decisions that take the shine off. It appears Selladoor productions are starting to over kill with adapting musicals for actor/musician parts. In some productions seeing the performer suddenly whip out an instrument and play it while continuing the lyrics and acting can actually work, sadly its less effective in Footloose, seeing two guys with guitars strapped to them as they jump a skipping rope looks a little strange if not overly gimmicky. The performers are supported by Musical Director Mike Nichols on Bass and Bob Carr on a digital drum kit set high above the stage.

Sara Perks costume design is spot on the money bringing to life a plethora of 80’s couture with details to knock the eye out. Sadly the same doesn’t apply to her Set design. The set is simply tiny, and looks dwarfed on the Playhouse stage, which has been heavily brought in with swathes of black curtains which easily half the available stage space. UK tours have to fit a range of venues but this particular set does a disservice to the audience in the Playhouse.  To many times a curtain located behind the keyboard station was left open and we could see the cast waiting for an entrance or the technical crew going about their business back stage which spoils the illusion of theatre.

In this production it’s the performances that count and director Racky Plews has an excellent pool of talent to draw from. Joshua Hawkins turns in a skilled and high energy take on the title of role of Ren McCormack giving shades of innocence, frustration along with some fantastic hi energy dance moves. Jake Quickenden takes on the comedy role with “Willard Hewitt” he proves he has the voice and skill as a musical theatre actor but it didn’t take long for his clothes to be ripped off to reveal  the chiselled body underneath. Special mention must go to Holly Ashton in the role of both “Vi Moore and Principal Clark”. Ashton’s performance of “Can you find it in your heart” it’s both emotional and honest and a high point that really pushes the story of the show forward.  The same acclaim goes to Darren Day in the role of Rev Shaw Moore a man conflicted between his faith, sense of loss and failure to understand his pain doesn’t outweigh that of those around him. It’s an accomplished performance with a honey soaked vocal to boot.

This production of Footloose has a solid heart and delivers much for the ticket price but the small set and tech issues and the choice to use an actor musician style run against it but it still makes for a fabulous night of musical theatre and you can’t help getting to your feet for the mega mix and cutting loose to Footloose!

Footloose, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until Saturday 23rd July for tickets go to: Footloose Tickets | Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh | ATG Tickets