Brett Herriot Review

Matilda The Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse Review:

Matilda The Musical,

***** 5 Stars

A Heart-warming Journey into the magical imagination of childhood.

Since opening in London’s west end in 2011 at the Cambridge Theatre, Matilda the Musical has sprinkled its charm and magic to generations of theatre fans, and now the show is on the road and makes its Scottish Debut at the Edinburgh Playhouse and it truly delivers a heart-warming journey into the magical imagination of Childhood.

Matilda the Musical is based on the 1988 children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was adapted by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. The musical tells the story of Matilda, a precocious 5-year-old girl with the gift of telekinesis, who loves reading, overcoming obstacles caused by her family and school, and helps her teacher to reclaim her life for the clutches of the selfishly evil Miss Trunchbull.

Director Matthew Warchus has imbued the show with the style of the book it comes from, seemingly lifting “Blakes” cartoon characters from the page and breathing life into them and that instantly ensures this is a winning production.

Leading a stellar cast, Scarlett Cecil (there are 4 child actors performing as Matilda and all the lead child parts) delivers a big voiced and finally created take on the character that always has the audience on side. There is a clear warm relationship with Carly Thom “Miss Honey” that becomes the lynch pin of the show, and the resolution to their story truly fill the heart with joy, it’s a wonderful thing to watch unfold.

Sebastien Torkia and Rebecca Thornhill indulge completely in comedic over acting as Mr and Mrs Wormwood. However, its exactly what the characters need, larger than life and all the better for it. Elliott Harper is in a class of his own, his take on “Miss Trunchbull” is nothing short of masterful, completely blurring the lines that it’s a man playing the rotten to the core headmistress whose forgotten dreams are hidden by the cruelness she shows to the world.

Warchus along with Choreography from Peter Darling, Set and Costume Design by Rob Howell and Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone, have managed to harness the aesthetic flare of the west end production even if the staging feels heavily brought in and small on the expanses of the Playhouse stage. This is a minor quibble especially as the magical illusions of Paul Kieve make it into the touring production full formed and add a real sense of childlike wonderment.

Matilda is packed with catchy tunes thanks to Tim Minchin’s clever and heart felt score and lyrics highlights include “When I Grow Up” performed by the whole company it’s a testament to youth and looking to the future unchained by the stresses and strains of adulthood. “Quiet” performed by Matilda is breath taking for its depth of emotion and ability to carry almost and entire story in one song. Both these songs and other combine to the grand finale of Revolting Children performed by the company as they take their bows in a very clever “Scooter” sequence.

Matilda has all the magical ingredients  for a simply stunning evening of Musical Theatre, Faultless performances, Stunning Staging and settings and music that leaves you humming as you exit the theatre. You would be a crazy maggot to miss out on seeing Matilda at the Playhouse.

Roald Dahl greatest gift was his ability to understand the imagination and how potent it can be in childhood, anything is possible if you dare to dream big enough, for Matilda that rings ever true, so hurry along and Dream the dreams of your childhood once more on this the most thrilling and captivating of musicals.

The Royal Shakespeare Company Presents “Matilda, The Musical” The Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 27th April. For tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/matilda/edinburgh-playhouse/

Brett Herriot Review

The Girl on The Train, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

The Girl on The Train,

**** 4 Stars

An Express train of thrills!

The 2015 best selling thriller novel from Paula Hawkins became a smash hit film for Tate Taylor a year later, now its been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel. Telling the story of Rachel Watson ( a remarkable performance of depth from Samantha Womack) an alcoholic who rides a train aimlessly since losing her job. From the train, she fixates on the lives of her former husband, Tom Watson, ( a light touch and aft chilling turn from Adam Jackson-Smith) and his current wife, Anna (Lowenna Melrose), and their neighbours, Scott (Oliver Farnworth in fine form) and Megan Hipwell ( a physically great Kirsty Oswald), whom she idolizes. Megan worked for the Watsons as a nanny, but recently quit. Whilst on the train, Rachel spots Megan kissing a stranger and becomes infuriated at her. She leaves to confront Megan, but hours later she wakes up in her bed, covered in blood.

Thus, the scene is set for a complex web of lies, half truths and faded memories of questionable honesty thanks to abuse of both alcohol , physical and mental Natures. Gripping stuff for a thriller play to come to grasps with.

The production directed by Anthony Banks largely succeeds thanks to a highly committed cast, especially “Womack” who spends 95% of her time on stage and is engaging from the off, the audience is on her side as she tries to understand the things that have gone on that she has no memories off but knows she must unravel to get at the truth.

She is joined by strong performances from the entire ensemble especially Oliver Farnworth the newly widowed man who must not only come to terms with loosing his wife but also that said wife wasn’t everything she appears to have been.

The productions Set and costume design by James Cotterill works well and is inventive if a little clunky at times, which I suspect is more down to the rake of the King’s stage than the set itself. Mixed with eerie video projections by Andrzej Goulding all set under Jack Knowles perfectly lit lighting design this show brings the film very much to life.

With sharp and pacey direction that see’s the play zip along through the many twist and turns its ultimately a satisfying evening of dramatic theatre that never fails to engage and you will be taken in by the final twist in the tale that makes it, more than worthy of the ticket price.

If they could just get the set to play ball properly this would be a polished and slick affair that, that for all the bumps it remains a taught thriller experience with quality performances from all and will leave you asking, how well do we really know those we love most? Grab those tickets and step aboard this express train of thrills!

Simon Friend, Amblin Partners and Josh Andrews present The Girl on The Train, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 30th March. UK tour continues, visiting Theatre Royal Glasgow from 15th April then His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen from 3rd September 2019. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/girlontrain

Brett Herriot Review

Local Hero, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Local Hero, 

***** 5 Stars

“ The beating heart of Scottish Theatrical Creativity”

Bill Forsyth’s 1983 Bafta award winning motion picture “Local Hero” transformed Scottish cinema, for the first time Hollywood viewed Scotland as something more than tartan Tammie hats and shortbread and finally broke the mis held beliefs of films such as Brigadoon.

Now 35 years later, Forsyth has collaborated with Lyceum Artistic director David Grieg to write the book with acclaimed Musician Mark Knopfler (who created the original films album) delivering music and lyrics, Furness is back in a brand-new musical adaptation the is clearly the beating heart of Scottish theatrical creativity.

Local Hero tells the story of “Mac” an inspiring and finely nuanced performance from Damian Humbly an 1980’s Oil magnet executive working for Knox Oil of Houston Texas, he is sent to Furness in Scotland by his king pin boss “Happer” (the legendary Burt Lancaster in the film) played with consummate skill and talent by Simon Rouse. His mission is to buy Furness in order to set up an Oil Refinery and cash in on the 80’s Oil boom from Scottish Waters. Happer is also keen on getting his name on an asteroid comet and the clear skies of northern Scotland offer the best chance of that happening, Mac must keep in touch with Happer whilst buying the village from the locals. At its Heart Local Hero is tale of community, belonging to the environment around us and asks us what do we leave behind for future generations and is that worth selling out.

This musical adaptation is loving tribute to the film original and is engrossing from the off especially with Knopfler’s new songs managing to completely recapture the essence and style of the 1980’s whilst always tying in and furthering the story.

Both Humbly and Rouse form part of a 15 strong company of actors who are universally excellent bringing the villagers to life with ease, and the inherent comedy has the audience laughing form the off. Special mention must go to Katerina Bryan as “Stella” her voice is peerless  and to hear her sing vibrates around the lyceum is a moment of joy.

Director John Crowley has totally delivered us back into the 1980’s taking us back before the advent of mobile phones, the internet and where the art of communication is by GPO telephone box. He has done this by being joined in the production team by the very best from the creative industries. Tony award winning Scenic and costume designer Scott Pask has delivered a triumphant stage set that uses a massive cyclorama to great effect combined with Tony and Olivier award winning lighting designers Paule Constable’s work is a thing of rare beauty. Pask has also brought a detailed and accurate 80’s costume design to the show that’s flawless. The closing of Act 1 as the Northern Lights appear above Furness is a moment that sears into the memory and takes the breath away and reminds you just how good theatre can be when the boundaries are pushed beyond their limits.

Paul Arditti’s sound design is oft understated but peaks in the right moments with helicopters swooping over head and motorbikes screaming across the stage without the audience ever seeing either items its brilliantly done. Arditti’s work also ensures we hear the excellent 7-piece live band under the Direction of Phil Bateman. The band deliver Knopfler’s score with precision and its clear they enjoy every moment of being seen on stage especially during the wonderful ceilidh scene.

Local Hero deserves every one of its 5 stars and much like the film before it, this musical will transcend the art form of musical theatre, with witty script, uniformly excellent performances from the entire cast and a production element that can outdo many a west end show, this is a show that will live long in the memory.

As the curtain fell to the strains of Knopfler’s “Going Home” the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation for just how brilliant a production they had just witnessed. The Lyceum doesn’t do musicals often but when they do, they change the landscape and showcase just why theatre matters. They tell the stories that engross and entertain and “Local Hero” can already take its place amongst the classics.

Do what you must to snap up a ticket and head for the Lyceum and be transported to Furness of the 1980’s it’s an experience you will never forget!

The Royal Lyceum Theatre and The Old Vic presents “Local Hero”, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Runs Until Saturday 23rd April for tickets go to: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/local-hero

Brett Herriot Review

The Wedding Singer, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

The Bohemians present The Wedding Singer

**** 4 Stars

“Joyous Fun”

The 1998 Adam Sandler movie “The Wedding Singer”  made its transition to the stage in 2006 and tells the story of Robbie (played with charm by Fraser Jamieson) , who sings at weddings, his failed relationship with his former fiancée, and his romance with a new love, Julia (a big voice and talented Katherine Croan). Set amongst the culture and fashions of 1980’s America.

The musical, very much like the movie before it, is very light on script and content and relies more on the music (the film using pop hits) and the musical adaptation deploys Music by Matthew Sklar and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin who deliver real 80’s style tunes that feel authentic of the time period even if they do repeat just little to often over the course of the show.

Performance wise, the leads are in excellent form, “Jamieson” knows the role well as its not his first take on the character and that shines through. “Croan” is everything you could wish for in a Julia bringing warmth and charm in equal measure. Elsewhere the ever cute Ross MacPherson delivers a “George” which for once doesn’t descend into gay parody but instead gives comedy and vocal skill in equal measure ensuring George is taken to the hearts of the audience a truly winning performance of a character often failed in other productions of the show. Special mention must go to Cathy Geddie as “Rosie” who is just comedy acting brilliance at its best. Her old woman has them rolling in the isles and can also draw a tear when pathos is called for, a real must see performance indeed.

Turning to the Production Elements, The choreography from Dominic Lewis and Felicity Thomas is right on the money, their gift is to make every cast member shine through movement and they utilize the expanses of the King’s stage well. They also ensure the show feels fresh throughout whilst injection enough 80’s dance styles to keep the time placement perfectly in pitch with the show. A great choreographic achievement for Am dram.

The Score is delivered by a 12 strong on stage band under the direction of the shows MD Finlay Turnbull and is first class and filled with precision, especially from Angus Croudace on Drums and Thomas Lowe on percussion who together are the engine room of the show musically.

Director Malcolm Burnett has brought together all the elements and ensured the large cast all have there moments to shine and clearly knows how to produce large scale musical theatre, however where the show falls down is in the transitions, scene changes take just a little to long, with lingering moments in the semi darkness (The MD’s Relay screen lights the stage unintentionally) and still feels clunky and dissipates the pace of the show that the cast work hard to build. This might tighten naturally as the show beds into its run such is the nature of theatre.

Overall The Bohemians have delivered on the promise of another fun filled and musically pleasing production that’s delivers a solid starting point for 2020 production of “Shrek”, for now pop along to the King’s and bop the night away for a show and a decade that taste very well may have forgotten.

The Bohemians present, The Wedding Singer, Kings Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 23rd March for Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/weddingsinger

Brett Herriot Review

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

**** 4 Stars

“Any Dream will do!”

2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and its legacy is confirmed with a brand new imagining of the show coming in the London Palladium this summer.

Meanwhile Bill Kenwright’s Touring production returns once more to Edinburgh with a worthy take on the show. Based on the “coat of many colours” story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The shunning of Joseph that see’s him banished to Egypt where only his power to interpret the dreams of the rich powerful saves and allows him to prosper so much so redemption comes when he meets his family once more. It’s more or a less a full sung through piece that puts love and truth and the heart of the story.

The joy of this current production is in the performances, especially the gorgeous Jaymi Hensley (yes he of Union J and X Factor fame) who makes his debut in the lead role of Joseph. Boy can the boy deliver, punchy acting, huge honey warm vocals and boyish charm ensures he gets the audience from the off. The same is also true of Trina Hill as Narrator, its joy to hear the score sung the way it was intended to be for once. Her vocals reverberate around the massive playhouse auditorium. Elsewhere in the cast Henry Metcalfe (who also choreographs) delivers well as Jacob and Potiphar bringing a sense of maturity and wisdom to the roles. Also in the role of the youngest brother “Benjamin” Alex Hetherington brings a cheeky chappie charm to the role that see’s the character shine every time he appears on stage.

Whilst the performance’s are uniformly excellent including the children’s choir drawn from schools in Edinburgh its the production elements that let it down. The set and props looked tired to the point that inflatable sheep no longer inflate properly and cast members have to give them a hand. Sean Cavanagh’s design owes much to the 1991 Palladium revival but its that 28 year passage of time that makes it feel just that little bit out dated and in need of refreshing. A start has been made though, with Gary Lloyd adding new additional Choreography  and the talented cast deliver that in style. The whole thing is wrapped up Nick Richings on the money lighting design and Dan Samson’s sound design.

Joseph has endured for half a century because of the love of the story and the music and lyrics that defy age and spans the generations. This production is worth seeing for the stellar cast however lets hope that the tour takes a leaf from the upcoming palladium production and breathes life back into the sets.

As the curtain falls your gonna be on your feet singing along as the song says when it comes to Joseph, any dream really will do.

Bill Kenwright Presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until Saturday 24th March for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat/edinburgh-playhouse/  UK tour Continues.

Brett Herriot Review

Ghost the Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Ghost the Musical, 

**** 4 Stars

“ Emotionally effecting”

Bill Kenwright’s new production of Ghost as Directed by Bob Thomson returns to the tour circuit following the lacklustre 2016 tour that saw the critical mauling of Sarah Harding. The staging itself hasn’t changed for the 2019 production however a terrific cast has been brought into the show and finally Bill Kenwright’s production of Ghost does justice to the original, well almost.

Originally produced in 2011 in Manchester prior to a west end run, the musical follows the story of the 1990 Oscar and Bafta award winning movie. Sam (played to perfection by Niall Sheehy) and Molly ( an emotionally charged performance by Rebekah Lowings) a New York couple are deeply in love until torn apart by a seemingly senseless murder. Sam dies but doesn’t move to heaven as there was more sense to the death than first thought, He was murdered to hide the criminal activities of his supposed best friend Carl (a perfect villain take by Sergio Pasquariello). The resulting story is one of love, loss and crime thriller mixed together with a wonderful modern musical theatre score by Dave Stewart (yes, he of the eurythmics) and Glenn Ballard.

The show works so well as original film writer Bruce Joel Rubin writes the book and lyrics and includes the iconic Potters wheel scene and yes Unchained melody remains intact. It’s the raw human emotion that grips the audiences and I defy you not to shed a tear as Sam reveals the emotional truth of the power of love in a truly Emotionally Effecting finale to the show.

Why the 4 stars? Simply it’s the production value, the west end production installed a plethora of illusions to make Sam truly a ghost presence, being able to pass through solid objects and move things without seemingly touching them. The same effects were utilised in the original UK tour so its possible for such magical moments to be recreated. This production dispenses with them, simply using a slatted cloth in place of a door panel is not enough to truly make us believe in Sam’s Ethereal being.

That aside this is a vast improvement on the previous UK tour and its thanks to that stellar cast who managed to engage the audience  from the off and the emotion is never cloying but remains honest and truthful and makes for a truly satisfying evening of musical theatre.

You wont go wrong buying a ticket to this production of  Ghost, so do just that and loose yourself in the power of love.

Bill Kenwright presents, Ghost the Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 2nd March, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/ghost

Brett Herriot Review

Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show,

***** 5 Stars

“ A Joyous Affirmation of Variety”

The Edinburgh King’s theatre has been the home of Scottish variety for decades from the glory days of the 5 past 8 shows via the lasting legacy of its annual pantomime spectacular. The enduring mix of music, magic, laughter and nostalgia brings the audiences in their droves to the hallowed auditorium on leven street.

That said it can only happen if a true master of the graft is in the driving seat, and there is no greater master of the art form than Allan Stewart, whose now annual Big Big Variety show continues to shine the spot light on variety in a simply big big way.

Stewart casts off the frocks and chains of pantomime and unleashes his finely honed talent for entertaining, joined by his panto partner in crime Grant Stott, the show opens to a blistering start of comedy skits, with the occasional aside thrown in, and when the first guest act, namely Soul Nation take to the stage with an exciting mix of soul and pop classics its obvious its going to be a winning night of theatre.

Kev Orkian is given a full slot to pull off his rib tickling piano fused comedy that leaves the audiences in stiches as the curtain falls for the interval. Opening Act 2 is the now comedy masterclass of the MacRoberts Brothers all the way from Effin this time joined by Boabby’s from the continent the roars of laughter confirmed just how gifted a comedy writer Stewart has become, his ability to write a line and know just how it will land comes from years of working the variety circuit in both the theatres and now long gone working men clubs.

Magic is next on the cards with Britain’s got talent break out star Mandy Muden delivering gags amongst the magic tricks and proving even a broken microphone wont stop her, the stage is then given to Grant Stott for more tales from behind the Mic before Allan Stewart tops the bill with a slew of impressions, songs aided by the full Andy Pickering Orchestra and comedy draw from observations of life, a truly rich vein to tap into.

As the curtain falls it’s a magical moment of pathos as Stewart reflects that we must all get older, but variety when done so well will always remain as young and vibrant as ever. Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety show does exactly what it says on the flyers but does its so wonderfully well. It a joyous affirmation of how good light entertainment live on stage can be and for that Allan Stewart and his collections of acts should stand proud under the bright lights of the Kings!

Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs Until Saturday 2nd March , for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/allanstewart