Brett Herriot Review

Legally Blonde The Musical, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Beyond Broadway Experience, Legally Blonde The Musical

**** 4 Stars

“Glittering, Shimmering, heart warming fun!”

The Beyond Broadway Experience is now an annual fixture in the King’s Theatre Edinburgh diary, bringing together a professional production team, 10 days of rehearsals, 160 young performers from across Scotland and beyond and the challenge this year, to perform Legally Blonde The Musical.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach. Based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the successful 2001 film adaptation. Telling the story of Elle Woods (played with charm and style by Lori Davidson), a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner (Ross Dillon who embodies the two sided character so well) . She discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham (a blistering and gutsy Eilidh Murray) in a murder trial. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself.

The show is a highly layered and complex affair and designed for 12 principals and a small ensemble opening it up to a 160 strong cast is a mega challenge and for the most part Director Andrew Gowland succeeds thanks to his deep knowledge of the show, this isn’t his first dance with Legally Blonde as director and it shows.

Performances are on the whole excellent and well judged, Leading lady Lori Davidson shines in the role bringing the right amount of sass, dumb blondeness and winning charm as “Elle” discovers who and what she is and can achieve anything if she believes in herself. Playing opposite Davidson is Fraser McAdam in the role of Emmett Forrest, his is a performance that captures completely thanks to his understated take on the character, his declaration of love for Elle is truly moving and a wonderful moment of theatre from someone so young. In the role of Paulette is Clare Wootton who simply shines with full triple threat charm she is the beacon of the show and one can only hope she enters training fully and the arts industry as it will be so much the better for her.

Gowland’s direction is tight and assured and dispenses with a set, utilising a series of moving boxes and benches combined with human statues ensures a clean and fresh sense pervades the show its a winning formula. Choreography from Murray Grant and Louise Ferrier (with guest choreography from Broadway original cast member Nikki Snelson) is excellent and pushes the physical space of the King’s to its limits and its clear the cast give it there all. Special choreography mention must go to Corey Learmonth in the role of “Kiki” a virtually silent character that shines with his physical expression in the dance medium there is a big future ahead for him in the dance world.

The highlight of the show must be “There, Right There” a massive production number based around the pool boy confronting his sexuality and comedy joy de vere on the American march to equality its a joy to watch.

The production boasts a 10 strong band in the pit under the musical direction of Simon Hanson and its west end worthy, the punchy score is delivered in style by the musicians who are clearly giving it there all to enhance not only the experience of the performers on stage but the audience too.

Where the production doesn’t shine is in the vast number of cast, 160 is clearly to much of a stretch for legally blonde as it would be for most shows, the use of the auditorium boxes does work, even if the timing of the entries went a bit a wry, but to crane your neck to see a team of performers squashed into the second deck of boxes (above the dress circle) does the cast and show a dis-service. Perhaps fully double casting the show and alternating performances would allow more of these talented youngster there moment to shine. That being said the finale of the show with performers dripping from the boxes and across the stalls is a magical moment so its a tough choice to call.

Beyond Broadway Experience have once again delivered an unforgettable journey for performers and audience alike and they should be justly proud of what they have all achieved in just 10 days a production which is Glittering, Shimmering, heart warming fun!

So what you waiting for? bend and snap and head long to the King’s Edinburgh for a truly theatrical experience.

Beyond Broadway Experience Presents, Legally Blonde The Musical, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 20th July ( Matinee Friday 19th July will feature alternates in the lead roles) for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/legally-blonde

 

Brett Herriot Review

The Bodyguard, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

The Bodyguard,

**** 4 Stars

The Bodyguard the musical delivers a true slice of big budget west end theatre”

In 1992 Whitney Houston’s film “The Bodyguard” broke box office records and shot Houston to critical acclaim and insured the song “I will always love you” written by Dolly Parton would enter the lexicon of musical history.

In 2012 the film was adapted for the stage the show’s book by Alexander Dinelaris brings the story forward to present day and changes the focus of the story to bring the character of Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) to the forefront rather than the bodyguard. The script adapted from the original screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan also expands the role of Rachel Marron’s sister Nicki (Micha Richardson). The stage musical like the original film features music by Whitney Houston which in addition to the original movie soundtrack adds the following additional Houston tracks: “So Emotional”, “One Moment in Time”, “Saving All My Love for You”, “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know”,”Oh Yes”, “All the Man That I Need”, “All at Once”, and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”.

Director Thea Sharrock brings a cinematic style to the production thanks to Tim Hatley’s Set and costume design which is stunning as it moves with grace across the stage to create both intimate and expansive settings. The sound design by Richard Brooker does need work though, the opening number “Queen of the night” is supposed to replicate a live stadium concert, however in the playhouse its nothing more than ear splittingly loud and makes for an uncomfortable opening.

Special mention must go to Mark Henderson’s lighting design and Duncan McLean’s Video design. Together they have created award worthy contributions and truly bring the show to life in an unforgettable way.

Performances overall are uniformly excellent, “Burke” in the lead role has what it takes to deliver the role although her voice did seem a little nasal and tired at first but my word when she warmed up it was a powerhouse performance especially on “Always Love you” a true theatrical highlight of the show. The standout performance is Micha Richardson as Nicki Marron her voice is like honey and her presence on stage is felt throughout her performance, its earthy, emotional and flies at all the right moments a brilliant musical theatre performance.

Stepping into the shoes of Kevin Costner’s as Frank Farmer the Bodyguard is Benoit Marechal who delivers a striking and solitary take on the role, his stage presence does draw the eye especially in the climatic showdown with Phil Atkinson as the Stalker. It’s the character of the stalker the delivers my one true bug bear, Director Sharrock has clearly spotted that Atkinson has a well developed six pack and puts it on show at every opportunity, but she has done the finale of act 1 a dis-service, as the stalker stands semi naked brandishing a knife in a serious moment of drama it induces laughter from the audience as well as wolf whistles and its clearly not needed.

The Bodyguard the musical delivers a true slice of big budget west end theatre, wrapped around a taught thriller movie script coupled with excellent performances its well worth a visit to the Playhouse! So, grab those tickets now!

Michael Harrison and David Ian presents, The Bodyguard the musical, Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 20th July for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-bodyguard/edinburgh-playhouse/

Brett Herriot Review

Toast, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, Review:

Toast by Benjamin Storey

**** 4 Stars

Emotionally honest journey that touches the heart”

Interabang Productions return for the second week of the Formation festival with another new piece of writing, telling the story of Joe (Benjamin Storey) a man whose passion in life is music and his girlfriend Mel (Rachel Flynn). There life in the post millennial world is shattered when faced with a terminal diagnosis that forces them to not only confront morality but legacy, what do we leave behind when life has hardly begun?

There is much depth and honesty in Storey’s writing which harnesses the kitchen sink drama but stays clear of becoming too soap opera and its all hangs on two wonderful and beautifully judged performances from Flynn and Storey who bring a rich understanding of the emotions that their characters are facing its gripping and taught at moments yet sprinkled with enough laughter to lighten the mood.

Director Ryan Alexander Dewar delivers a finely judged play which is beautifully lit and ensures we are drawn into the living room of this Edinburgh flat like flies on the wall given the opportunity to experience an emotionally honest journey that touches the heart.

There were some niggles production wise especially with Microphones that had interference all the way through the play but it didn’t distract from the story and its issues that can easily be sorted.

Performance wise both Storey and Flynn excel, especially during the emotional moments where they confront the reality of the situation they find themselves in, its that deep sense of truth that sets this play in a league of its own.

There will be life for “Toast” after the run ends, and Interabang productions are clearly striving to create a unique platform for both new writing and performers whilst delivering high production values.

For now get along to the Assembly Roxy and check out “Toast” a play that will truly touch your heart.

Interabang productions present “Toast”, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 7th July, for tickets go to: https://www.assemblyfestival.com/roxy/whats-on/toast-formation-festival

 

 

Brett Herriot Review

Being Liza, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, Review.

Being Liza, Assembly Roxy, as part of Formation Festival

***** 5 Stars

a stunning and beautifully judge comedy drama

New company Interabang mark there debut with a stunning and beautifully judge comedy drama, that doesn’t focus on Liza Minelli per say but a daughter and father tribute act to the daughter of Judy Garland and draws many mirrors to the cost of living someone else’s dream when your heart desires something far different.

Frances Edwards (Rachel Flynn, in fine vocal form) tours the width and breath of Scotland performing the “Being Liza” tribute show with her father Pete (James Keenan in a wonderfully judged performance) at the piano, he longs to sign the big contract that will take them to the top, the only problem is, this is his dream not Frannies. Added to the mix is the tour accountant (Benjamin Storey in a charming and heart warming performance) his dream is to throw away the account books and take to  the stage too with Frannies help. Can France’s reach her dreams while caught behind the mask of  a musical legend?

Not only does she play the lead the role, Rachel Flynn also writes this one act 50 minute play with music that delves deep into the dysfunction of a family that’s held together by the lies of the past and the unrelating pressure of the father to reach a dream he longs for even when his daughter longs for something completely different. It also tackles living for oneself and not for others, even if the other person is the one closest to your heart. Its emotional territory and Flynn succeeds in capturing the hurt whilst injecting enough humour and comedy to break the tension.

Director Ryan Alexander Dewar has opened the piece fully and used the small space of the Roxy upstairs to its full potential cleverly deploying a door frame covered in dressing room mirror lights to move the action from the stage to the dressing room where the characters spend the majority of there lives. He also brings the best out in Flynn’s vocal skills whilst allowing the story to build. Keenan and Storey also deliver well but this is Flynn’s shinning moment and she truly shows what she can do. Its a joy to watch.

Everything about this piece says it should enjoy a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, but there are no plans at the moment for that to happen, it does feel that there will be more life to “Being Liza” as there is much for the characters to explore, what is present for the moment is dramatically gripping, impassioned and thoroughly well conceived and delivered piece of new writing.

There are big things in store not only for Flynn but for Interabang productions who will present there second play in the second week of the Formation festival. For now there is one final chance to get along to the Roxy and catch “Being Liza” and its an experience you wont forget.

Interabang Productions Present “Being Liza”, Assembly Roxy, as part of the Formation festival. Runs until Sunday 30th June. For tickets go to: https://www.assemblyfestival.com/roxy/whats-on/being-liza-formation-festival

Interabang Productions will present “TOAST” from 5th to 7th July in the same venue.

 

Brett Herriot Review

Amelie The Musical, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Amelie The Musical, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

***** 5 Stars

“poetically beautiful musical theatre that sears its way into the heart”

The 2001 critically acclaimed smash hit French language film that transcended global cinema now comes to the stage, performed in English with book by Craig Lucas, Music and Lyrics by Daniel Messe and Lyrics by Nathan Tysen. This is truly a production that shows the true beauty of musical theatre to move the heart and soul in equal measure.

Telling the story of Amelie Poulain (Audrey Brisson in a stunning performance) who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. She secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. However when a chance at love comes her way, Amelie realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in heart.  What unfolds is a story of the power of love and when we dare to dream we really can change the world for ourselves and those around us.

This 16 strong ensemble troupe of Actor/Musicians is first class and deliver a tour de force performance that director Michael Fentiman can be justly proud off. The use of actor/musician lead shows has increased in popularity (Craig Revel Horwood being a regular user of the idea) it doesn’t always work and often detracts from the production. In Amelie its an enchanting gift, the performers bring both France and Amelie’s dreams to life in a physically poetic way that’s a joy to watch. “Brisson” truly shines in the lead role, she is the total physical embodiment of Amelie especially as she sores above the stage on several occasions. In the role of “Nino” the boy Amelie dares to love is “Danny Mac” fresh from his success on the UK Tour of Sunset Boulevard, Mac delivers a finally crafted and intimate character that whilst never overpowering always pulls the audience into his journey, wonderful stuff.

Barnaby Race’s musical arrangements are quite simply beautiful in everyway coupled with musical director’s George Francis attention to detail ensures the music in this show stays long in the memory long after the curtain falls, with “How to Tell time”, “Halfway” and “Where do we go from here?” making particular impact.

Madeleine Girling’s design is spot on and conjures up Paris in all its glory with clever nods to the many cafe’s of the city and the Eiffel tower too. Coupled with Elliot Griggs excellently judged lighting design and Tom Marshall’s sound design ensures this is already a west end worthy production.

Michael Fentiman has succeeded in capturing the poetic magic of the film in this stage production and while it doesn’t totally reinvent the musical theatre wheel, Amelie the musical is a unique and very special show. Truly gifted performers, the industries best creative’s and technician’s combine to send the audience on a journey of love, hope and dreams.

Amelie the musical is without doubt poetically musical theatre that sears its way in the heart, get along to the King’s for an unforgettable evening!

Hartshorn – Hook Productions and Selladoor Productions present: Amelie the Musical, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 29th June, For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/amelie-the-musical

UK Tour Continues, production will visit Glasgow’s Kings Theatre from 19th August 2019.

Brett Herriot Review

Little Shop of Horrors, Leith Theatre, Review:

MGA Presents Little Shop of Horrors, 

**** 4 Stars

Suddenly Seymour faces a new generation

37 years after its off Broadway debut and 31 since its famous movie adaption starring Rick Moranis, the smash hit black comedy musical from the Late Howard Ashman (books and lyrics) and Alan Menken (Disney Musical Legend) has been chosen by MGA as the swan song for the graduating 3rd years of the school of musical theatre and what a treat it is.

The musical is a loving homage to the 1960’s b movies conjuring a more innocent time, set in down town New York on Skid Row where the Mushnik Flower shop has hit hard times, until Seymour Krelborn (a wonderfully charming performance from Reuben Woolard) discovers a strange new plant that brings good fortune and changes lives and allows him to charm the love of his life Audrey (Grace McGill). The problem is the Plant, Audrey 2 (an R and B oozing turn from Eimear Burns) eats human blood and seeks world domination.

Little shop is an interesting choice for a large company musical as it only has 8 principal parts and one of these is usually an off-stage voice, here Director Drew Gowland deploys a 23 strong company to bring skid row to life. Along with Choreographer Murray Grant and Musical Director Simon Hanson they have made brave choices.

Given that the company is female heavy, casting Laurie Audrey-Hill as psychopathic dentist Orin Scrivello gives the production a different slant turning Audrey bisexual, it a novel idea that gives the production a modern updating. Even Mushnik traditionally a male role is play by the sublime Sophie Douglas who sells every comedy moment and displays a shrewd sense of comedy timing.

The production performed in the faded splendour of the Leith Theatre actually works for it, its like sitting in skid row watching skid row and the charm of it all flows across the audience. Grant’s choreography is sharp and well judged with the occasional nod to other musicals such as fiddler on the roof and the company commit to it fully. Simon Hanson’s small on-stage band are first class delivering modern fresh musical arrangements especially on the big songs including “Skid Row” and the powerful “Suddenly Seymour” which is given the full Broadway production treatment and it’s wonderful to watch.

As the curtain falls on a production which is clearly giving Little Shop of Horrors to a new a generation there is a truly touching moment in the bows as this graduating class each get a moment to break the fourth wall and acknowledge that for them and MGA it’s the end of the road together. The big wide world of professional musical theatre awaits them. Gowland, Grant and Hanson have sent them on there way in style and for all of them big performing futures await them.

MGA Academy of the Performing Arts Presents, Little Shop of Horrors, Leith Theatre, Run Ended.

Brett Herriot Review

Club Tropicana The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

Club Tropicana, Edinburgh Playhouse, 

*** 3 Stars

Hardworking cast let the feel-good comedy shine

Club Tropicana The Musical tells the story of a Spanish hotel under threat from an hotel inspector who is really a fellow hotel owner out to sabotage the good times, throw into the mix a couple due to get married but get jilted at the alter and decide to take the honeymoon anyway, a plethora of 80’s hits and fashions from the decade that taste forgot, love lost and love found, finding out what true friendship is, and you get what’s on offer here.

Michael Gyngell’s script is paper thin, but he makes up for it with brilliant comedy asides delivered in style by a hard-working cast who let the feel-good comedy shine through in a production that relies heavily on the music and classic slapstick comedy to get the audience on its side.

X factor star Joe McElderry shines in the role of “Garry” the overtly camp hotel entertainment host resplendent in baby pink uniform he brings lashings of warmth and charm to the role and you can’t help but be won over by his boyish charms and honey soaked vocals. The other shining star of the show is the legendary comedy impersonator and musical performer in her own right Kate Robbins as “Consuela” a true comedy gift that delivers big laughs it’s a truly accomplished performance.

Musically hits such as “Girls Just wanna have fun”, “Relax” and “making your mind up” run the gamut of 80’s highlights and Greg Arrowsmith’s Musical arrangements are delivered in style by the tight 5 piece onstage band under the direction of Charlie Ingles and add real oomph to the show. Although the shows namesake song “Club Tropicana” doesn’t feature in the show at any point its an interesting choice no doubt driven by the rights of the wham classic.

Where the production falters is in the stage sets, clearly on a heavily brought in staging (the playhouse is a big stage). Diego Pitarch set design is cheap looking and doesn’t do the show justice watching the set rock back and forward whilst surrounded by swathes of black cloth makes you realize the production deserves better. That said Pitarch does deliver well on the costume design side, with a veritable parade of 80’s iconic fashion statements on show. Tim Deiling’s Lighting design also does much to open the small performance space on stage and lets it flow across the audience. There was some sound issues especially with balancing the band against performers, but it felt it clear it was just opening night gremlins that will easily smooth out as the show beds into its run.

Directors Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston have delivered on the promise of the show, working the cast into a tight unit with snappy choreography to boot and bringing a fun juke box musical to the stage. Its clear the 80’s was a decade in which they discovered themselves and their places in the world and the icon music is potent reminder of youth and its that heart warming sentiment that makes Club Tropicana the Musical worth checking out especially over a glass of wine. So why not pop to the Playhouse and let the music and the memories wash over you too!

Mark Goucher and Gavin Kalin presents Club Tropicana the Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 15th June, Then UK tour continues, for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/club-tropicana/edinburgh-playhouse/