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/

Brett Herriot Review

Avenue Q, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Avenue Q,

**** 4 Stars

” A Charming, Life Affirming Puppet Journey”

It’s hard to believe that “Avenue Q” the Broadway and west end smash hit musical turns 16 years of age this year and infact only closed on Broadway at the New Stages on the 26th May this year.

Selladoor have revived there previous touring production and brought the puppets back to life for a brand new UK tour and what a Charming, life affirming puppet journey it is. Telling the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod, an Internet ‘sexpert’ called Trekkie Monster, Lucy the Slut and a very cute kindergarten teacher named Kate Monster. This is in essence an adult version of life on Sesame Street, and although the puppets clearly owe much to Jim Henson’s Muppets the programme makes clear there is no formal connection  between them.

What Makes Avenue Q unique is the puppeteers are unconcealed there in full view of the audience for the entire production many of them perform two puppets and its an amazing ability to disappear behind the puppet and have us focus on the puppet character itself. All the puppeteers in this production succeed with this in a very talented way. Special mention must go to Lawrence Smith as Princeton/Rod his vocal talent imbues both puppets with completely unique and individual characters and brings them to life with ease. The same applies to Cecily Redman as Kate/Lucy her voice is impressive as she moves seamlessly between accents and her performance of  “It’s a fine line” which closes the first act is an emotional and tender moment. The cast deliver some of the catchiest tunes in musical theatre including, Avenue Q, The Internet is for Porn and Schadenfreude with great style.

The company truly mine the comedy of Jeff Whitty’s book and Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s music and lyrics to great effect and Cressida Carre takes on Directing and Chorographic duties and delivers well really getting under the skin of how humans interact with Puppets and make it all seem utterly real. The production elements also shine Richard Evans set design owes much to the original concept of the show but gives a more cartoon type feel, with animations being screened on two big plasma screens high above the stage to great effect. Charles Morgan Jones has given the show a sumptuous lighting design that makes it glow in all the right place while retaining great atmosphere and Chris Bogs sounds design comes to the fore especially as the live band are tucked away off stage rather than in the pit. Paul Jomain has designed the puppets for this production and while they clearly are inspired by the Henson Muppet factory as its very easy to draw comparisons to Bert and Ernie and indeed Cookie Monster he has blended a more cartoonish style to them that adds additional charm.

Avenue Q was cutting edge when it arrived on stage all those years ago, with the adult language, sexual references and tackling social issues around sexuality, finding love and belonging in the world. Its fair to say its lost most of the edge morphing in more a joyful and caring celebration of humanity in all it forms. It remains a very warm hearted piece of musical theatre that takes very gifted performers to pull off. So why not head to the King’s and take a trip down Avenue Q its a journey that will have you leaving theatre with a huge smile, truly excellent stuff!

Selladoor presents Avenue Q, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 1st June, for tickets go to: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/avenueq The UK tour continues and will call at the King’s Theatre Glasgow from 25th June.

 

Brett Herriot Review

An Evening with Telly Leung, Dirty Martini at Le Monde, Edinburgh, Review:

An Evening With Telly Leung,

***** 5 Stars

“A journey that touched the heart and moved the soul.”

Telly Leung the Broadway star of Disney’s Aladdin, Rent and Godspell to name but a few has made his Edinburgh debut in an enchanting evening of music and conversation in the cosy Dirty Martini room of the Le Monde Hotel overlooking George Street in the heart of Edinburgh and what a fitting location that reminds you of the legendary supper clubs of New York such as The café Carlyle.

Telly who lives in New York flew in for a series of teaching workshops agreed to perform for one night only and it was a true treat. Accompanied by the faultless and gifted piano accompaniment of Ian Murray Redpath Sutherland, Leung took us on a journey that touched the heart and moved the soul.

Act 1 looked to his origins telling the story of his parents who to escape communist China swam for 7 hours to reach the freedom of then British held Hong Kong.  They then travelled to America and New York to give their child the freedom and chance to reach for the American Dream. Sharing his passion for all things Whitney Houston he opens with a blistering and vocally faultless “How will I know”. His vocal ability never wavers for the entire evening and his emotion flows especially in a touching performance of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” which is fitting tribute to the city he calls home. Leung brings act 1 to close by chatting openly about finding love, he is married to the dashing James Babcock and understanding the power that Hit U.S TV show “Glee” had on a generation. He performs a wonderful mash up of “I (am what I am) Have Nothing”

Act 2 focuses on Leung’s incredible career both on screen and on Broadway and performs songs from Disney’s Lion King and Aladdin alongside a touch of Sondheim and also covers his time in Godspell.  Bringing the evening to a close Leung discusses his time in Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” and finding his place in the musical theatre pantheon  and encourages the audience to find just one small thing in there every day lives that can make them a hero and change the world just a little bit for the better. Telly then delivers a truly heart-breaking performance of “Cover You” in that one number Telly confirms his leading man status and even better member of humanity.

Beyond Broadway productions should be commended for putting these intimate evenings of theatre on for Scottish Audiences. Telly Leung’s true gift is to share his passion for performing while continuing to appreciate where he came from and striving to change the world around him for the better. We can learn much from his abilities and lets hope this first visit to  Scotland isn’t is last as an Evening with Telly Leung will live long in the memory and sear its way into your heart. Simply incredible indeed.

Beyond Broadway Productions present: An Evening with Telly Leung, Dirty Martini at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh, Run Ended.

Brett Herriot Review

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, 

**** 4 Stars

Funny and Visually Stunning!

Summer 1958. Minneapolis City Bank has been entrusted with a priceless diamond. An escaped convict is dead set on pocketing the gem with the help of his screwball sidekick, trickster girlfriend… and the maintenance man. With mistaken identities, love triangles and hidden agendas, even the most reputable can’t be trusted. In a town where everyone’s a crook, who will end up bagging the jewel? Thus, the stage and story is set for a comedy romp for the creators of “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”

Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have delivered a tour de force romp the relies on both clever word play and visual gags a plenty and fast driven pace, the only time the humour feels uncomfortable is the inclusion of the vastly outdated “Camp” gay characters and the implied sexual innuendo, theatre has moved on from such characters and this winning play deserves better.

Director Kirsty Patrick Ward (working from Mark Bell and Mischief Theatres original direction) brings comedy capers at breakneck speed aided by David Farley supreme set design that turns the stage literally on head in a scene that blows the audiences away. All this is bolstered by David Howe’s atmospheric lighting design and Joey Hickman musical arrangements.

Cast wise this is true ensemble piece with the entire 9 strong company giving it there all and special mention must go to Sean Carey as Sam Monaghan whose physicality is a sight to behold couple with wit and charm  makes him endlessly watchable. Ashley Tucker as Ruth Monaghan has a big belter of a voice well suited to the 50’s big band style tunes she is given, and she can really shake it in the comedy leagues too. As the villain of the piece Liam Jeavons as Mitch Ruscitti brings a real dash of James Dean swaggering in a leather jacket and waving a gun about you can’t help but wish he would get his comeuppance and is another comedy treat.

Mischief Theatre Productions have really tapped into unique form of theatre that brings belly laughs and stunning visuals in equal measure and hopes are high for the visit of Peter Pan goes wrong, which will complete the trilogy of shows going on tour. Let’s hope the awkward stereotypes remain with the bank robbery as they don’t appear in the play that goes wrong! That said this is a winning comedy play so rush to get those tickets as the UK tour is nearly over!

Mischief Theatre Productions Presents “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery”, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 18th May, Then UK tour continues, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/bankrobbery

Brett Herriot Review

The Verdict, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

The Verdict, 

**** 4 Stars

A Slow burn but thrilling conclusion!

The Verdict is the debut stage adaptation of the 1982 American legal drama film of the same name directed by Sidney Lumet and written by David Mamet from Barry Reed’s novel of the same name. It starred Paul Newman in the title role of Frank Galvin. Telling the story, of a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer who accepts a medical malpractice case to improve his own situation, but discovers along the way that he is doing the right thing

This stage adaption is credited to the books writer Barry Reed and adapted by Margaret May Hobbs and follows closer to the book rather than the film script and that makes Act 1 a little sluggish, The set up and history of what brings the case of Deborah Ann Doherty vs St Catherine Laboure Hospital to the Count of Suffolk Court  in Boston is laboured in an act that could easily be trimmed by 10 minutes.

Much of the content in act 1 delves into the American justice system and its corruption along with the prosecutions developing case, its also interesting the it’s the catholic church backing the defence case that adds a sinister dimension indeed.

Taking on the role of Frank Galvin is Ian Kelsey who is in fine form as the down on his luck lawyer who crutches on booze, although when Bishop Brophy (Richard Walsh) offers a $300,000 bribe to turn the case down, Kelsey is able to let Galvin’s sense of truth shine through and its wonderful to watch. Joining Kelsey is TV acting star Dennis Lill as Moe Katz the wise cracking Jewish father in law of Galvin who comes out of retirement to assist in the prosecution of the case. Dennis Lill turns in a shining performance that sparkles with comedy whit and is a joy to watch.

This is a all star cast with a 17 strong company performing a multitude of roles, special mention must go to Richard Walsh who not only performs the role of Bishop Brophy but delivers a stealthy turn as Judge Eldridge Sweeney, know as a defenders judge he at times begins trying the prosecutions case instead of Galvin and leads to some brilliant comedy asides that helps lift the darker moments of the play. Also worthy of credit is Holly Jackson Walters in the role of Natalie Stampanatto, the admissions nurse who is forced out of her profession but ultimately holds the key to the truth, her moment in the dock during Act 2 is a moment of expertly delivered performance that leaves you feeling the pain she has suffered in revisiting old wounds.

Act 2 is truly where this production shines with Michael Lunney’s design taking us right into the heart of the courtroom, Lunney also directs the production and achieves a great deal of detail from all the characters and keeps the twists and turns coming at a nice pace in Act 2. Mix this with Jeremy Barnaby’s evocative lighting design and Lynette Webster music and a sound design from White Tip Media and your getting a winning evening of court room drama, yes the verdict asks the question, What price the truth? well it’s a slow burn but ultimately  leads to a thrilling conclusion so book those tickets now.

Middle Ground Theatre Company Presents “The Verdict”, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 4th May, Then UK tour continues, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/verdict

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