Brett Herriot Review

Pantoland at the Palladium, The London Palladium Review:

Pantoland at the Palladium,

***** 5 Stars

“Tears, Laughter a Panto Masterclass“

Despite the Odds, South of the border a handful of venues have staged socially distant pantomimes  leading the charge is the world-famous London Palladium. With a solo bubble seat secured, temperature check complete, lashing of sanitizer and social distancing in full force we at Scotsgay Arts were proud and honoured to see what turned out to be just 1 of 6 performances of Pantoland at the Palladium.

What a joyous experience it was to be back in a theatre and not just any theatre, The Palladium which has lit up Argyll street for over one hundred years and to do so during the glitz and sparkle of pantomime. Yes, it feels different but also life affirming and joyful too, for those who adore the arts in whatever capacity they work within it or choose to view it from those glorious auditoriums the over whelming feeling of being back will never be forgotten.

This year Qdos have forgone a “traditional” plot driven fairy tale, time was short,  and it was important to celebrate the return of live theatre. Director and Producer Michael Harrison has struck gold with this celebration of the last 5 years of creating panto at the palladium as well as celebrating the masters of the genre that built the palladium panto to where it is now.

The big differences first, this is presented on one set, Ian Westbrooks gorgeous palladium Cinderella set is back accompanied by a brand-new front portal that is bedecked in posters from the history of palladium pantos, there is no ensemble cast or babes and the stars of the show clearly follow social distancing to the letter.

This production is nothing short of a Masterclass of pantomime, this panto reprises moments from Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Snow White and Goldilocks and three bears and adds some new material in a glorious display of pantos past, present and future.

Palladiums regular Team Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Gary Wilmott and Nigel Havers all return and are joined by Dick Whittington’s Elaine Page, Charlie Stemp , Ashley Banjo and Diversity, and making their Palladium Pantomime Debuts are Beverly Night and star of Joseph Jac Yarrow.

This really is a show about paying tribute to the venue, the overture by the Orchestra is the Classic Sunday Night at the London Palladium and sets the bar high, that is matched by the incredible talent of Beverly Night playing a fairy type role as she belts out “Finding Pantoland” (lyrics rewritten to the tune of Finding Neverland) its obvious the cast much like the audience are glad to be in a theatre. Gary Wilmot is next up in his Dames Frock he delivers several wonderful moments the best of which is his tribute to the London Underground that names every single station on the network that was updated to include new stations opened since Dick Whittington Closed!.

Julian Clary is in the form of his life; the innuendo  laden comedy has laughter ringing around the building he also gets to parade some of the best of Hugh Durrant eye popping costumes from the last 4 productions. Clary is master of his craft his ability to work the audience whilst knowing how far to push the outrageousness is epic.

There may be no ensemble, but dance is well catered for with Ashley Banjo and Diversity who have formed a work “bubble” that allows them to work at close quarters to pull of those breath-taking routines.

Nigel Havers does exactly what he does best, perform out of his skin in ever more outrageous costumes whilst continuing the schtick of the previous years of simply wanting a role to play and watching him work with Julian it clear there is genuine affection between them.

Paul Zerdin and Little Sam deliver something for everyone, Zerdin must be the great Ventriloquist act in the world. Its a childlike charm that also captures the adults when needed is the very epitome of Pantomime.

Cheeky chappie Charlie Stemp a veteran of two palladium pantomimes shows his west end leading man smile as well as performance skill and he is an absolute delight when he reprises “Dick”. Jac Yarrow is utterly charming and gorgeous and matches Stemp every step of the way. There is also a wonderful moment in the “12 days of Christmas” when Nigel Havers rips down a back cloth to reveal the cast in an off moment, it appears Mr Yarrow likes to parade around in his dreamcoat!

The last star to enter the show is the Queen of the West End Elaine Paige, she does not appear until halfway into act 2 but its worth the wait, reprising her Queen Rat role we are treated to a rewritten “New Ways to Dream” from Webbers Sunset Boulevard, the moment she sings, “we’ve come home at last” is one that has never rang so true. Paige is joined again by Clary for a rousing rendition of “I know Dick so well” it’s as funny now as it was in 2017.

The most touching moment in the entire show comes with Beverley Knight performing the sketch “The Great Clowns of Pantomime” which sees the posters on the proscenium arch lit up in a fitting tribute to the many stars who are no longer with us, the sense of loss is deepened this year as we have seen Bobby Ball, Des O’Connor and Dame Barbara Windsor to name but a few to leave us.

Pantoland at the Palladium brings Tears and Laughter in equal measure not just for the cast but also the backstage and production team. This show has the absolute best including outstanding musical arrangements by Gary Hind, faultless lighting by Ben Cracknell and on point sound design by Gareth Owen.

At the Curtain call the vastly reduced audience gave the longest and loudest standing ovation ever seen in the Palladium, even in the middle of a Pandemic live theatre can happen and happen safely people do want to be entertained. Despite the shocking lack of communication and treatment from the Government it was moment that will always be remembered as Julian Clary and his fellow cast stood on stage drinking in the ovation and humbly said thank you and made us one promise, they will be back next year same time same place! Just one question remains just what Fairy tale adventure awaits us in Pantoland at the Palladium next.

QDOS Productions Present Pantoland at the Palladium, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.

Brett Herriot Review

Camp As Christmas, Bare Productions Virtual Review:

Camp As Christmas,

*** 3 Stars

“Frothy Festive Fun“

Edinburgh based Bare Productions were scheduled to perform “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at this years Edinburgh Fringe but this has been put back to Fringe 2021, meantime the cast have gathered for a virtual festive offering.

Hosted by “Jovid” Jo and David are bringing us some camp festive nonsense with sketches, interactive challenges interspersed between cast members singing festive tunes drawn from the world of Musicals, Film, and Pop.

After the introductions and a charming performance of “Let It Snow” by Rebecca Drever, the first challenge is watching our hosts devour an entire chocolate advent calendar, watching someone shovel chocolate into themselves is not the most thrilling thing to watch and the build up to revealing who won said challenge takes a tad too long.

An Interactive dance challenge is next up, which will allow audiences to vote for the best “Priscilla Inspired” dance routine. This challenge is cascaded across the entire broadcast which does add a nice sense of freshness that outstrips many other online offerings.

The company’s youngest member Luke Murray is next up with sweet performance of “Last Christmas” Luke has a strong voice for his years and great presence on screen which hopefully bolds well for his stage performances. “Jovid” are they tasked with recreating a scene from “Love Actually” which does deliver some funny lines in amongst the pathos.

The Sketch from the three actors playing Tick, Adam and Bernadette in Priscilla is shrewdly judged with laughs aplenty and is seriously very adult and all the better for it! Just watch those Aussie Accents!

Closing out the first act of the virtual offering is Charlotte Jones with a full throttle and big voiced “ All I Want for Christmas is you.” It is a powerhouse performance that really Hits those big notes and brings the curtain down on Act 1 in style.

Following a 10-minute interval that features adverts from businesses that’s support Bare Productions is into Act 2 and Performance of “Driving Home for Christmas” by Darren Johnson a naturally gifted vocalist who brings the right sense of festive charm to the number.

What follows is more anarchic sketches from “Jovid” accompanied by further updates from the “Dance Challenge”. A second challenge is opened for a Ru Paul inspired Lip Sync battle, set to East 17’s festive favourite “Stay” its gonna be a close run challenge to get a winner.

After more challenges, we get the final performances in the dance challenges after which its time to vote with the results announced via social media. Closing out the virtual festive romp is Zoe Brookes who gives a beautiful rendition of Have Yourself a “Merry Little Christmas”. With a voice that touched by warmth and honey its an emotional performance with just the right mix of runs and riffs. A truly lovely end to virtual performance.

Over all its pure Frothy Festive Fun with a warm heart at its centre, however the links could be tightened up to shorten the overall length and technically if all the contributors had filmed in “Landscape” it would have given the overall product a smoother finished. That said you cant help but be charmed by this offering and its worth every penny of the five pounds! So why not pop online for a festive treat.

Bare Productions present, Camp as Christmas, for tickets go to: www.facebook.com/Bareproductions

Brett Herriot Review

Big Band Does Halloween, BBD Productions, Virtual Review:

Big Band Does Halloween,

**** 4 Stars

“Spooktacular Charming Fun“

Edinburgh based BBD productions launched themselves at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 to critical acclaim infusing some of the biggest songs from Broadway and the west end with the incredible sound of a live jazz big band. Think Glenn Miller meets Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, and you get the flavour.

The company were slated to return for the 2020 fringe season but Covid took its grip, but the performers have decided to bring some Halloween cheer with there own virtual offering and what a charming fun affair it all is.

Macauley Burns opens the show with a powerful and committed performance of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ from the same titled musical which wowed audiences in the Coliseum in London’s west end and is scheduled for a UK tour in 2021. . Rachel White then gives her take on ‘Dead Mom’ from the Broadway hit musical adaption of the Tim Burton film, ‘Beetlejuice’. Rachel’s performs with conviction and commitment which suits the piece.

Rachel Stanley steps into the Iconic Bette Midler’s shoes for a rendition  of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ from Hocus Pocus. Rachel brings the right sense of fun to the song and is ably assisted on backing vocals by Sarah Docwra and Rachel Flynn. 

Its then time for a spot of Sondheim as  Chris McLeish performs ‘Not While I’m Around’ from Sweeney Todd his is a sophisticated take on the song accompanied by solo piano while a million miles away from a big band sound it’s an endlessly watchable performance. Moving swiftly to  ‘Pulled’ from ‘The Addams Family Musical’, performed by Jenny Kinnear. It was inevitable that song from “Addams” would pop up as the most Halloween of musicals. Kinnear delivers the goods with vocal precision.

Former Queen Jane Seymour from “Six” Caitlin Tipping performs ‘Monster’ from ‘Frozen the Musical’ which is slated to open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane later in 2021. Tipping is flawless in her vocal power and control and is indeed a skill, hopefully future BBD productions will showcase the other side of her voice with a ballad. Speaking of ballads,  ‘With You’ from ‘Ghost the Musical’ is next up performed by Dannielle Logan. This is a song which details the emotional tragedy of loss. Logan’s performance is uniquely beautiful, honest, and truthful take that touches the heart and soul in equal measure and is indeed the highlight of the virtual show.

Marc MacKinnon changes the mood to late night new York supper club with a touch of jazz with a performance of  ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ from ‘Pal Joey’, Mackinnon knows his skills well and is an engaging performance to watch through the lens of the camera. Attention turn to comedy and finally turned in performance of ‘Together Again’ from ‘Young Frankenstein’ performed by Scott Coltman. His vocals are matched by his comic timing and characterisation as he duets with himself. Closing the broadcast is  Claire Moore performing ‘Last Midnight’ from ‘Into the Woods’. Claire throws herself into the role and indeed into the woods with a atmospheric and chilling Spooktacular conclusion to the show.

Overall, this is 30 minutes of fast musical fun, even if the songs are only connected to Halloween by a mere word, and the overall show would have benefited from a group number to bring the strings together at the end.  For that being said BBD have shown what a gifted roster of talent are at there fingertips.

The broadcast is available to stream until 5th November and is well worth checking out.

BBD Productions present, Big Band Does Halloween for tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/big-band-does-halloween-tickets-126789890977?fbclid=IwAR3jToJle2olJB8MlgTHVg1uQxZDomswBm7-_rdKfGRG4ETzrDt2__xBLKU

Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Review:

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, 

***** 5 Stars

“ Teaching the World New Ways To Dream“

Widley considered to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest and most complete work based on the Billy Wilder 1950 movie of the same name telling the story of the Faded Silent Movie star Norma Desmond (Played with extraordinary depth and emotion by Donna Hazelton) forgotten by the world and longing to return to her people in the dark. It’s when struggling studio writer Joe Gillis (Nick Tomlinson who gives an astonishingly understated performance that totally reinterprets the character) stumbles upon the grumbling mansion at 10086 Sunset Boulevard that the tale of Love both wanted and unwanted, broken dreams and manipulative power play starts to unfolds. All this set against the glamour of 1940’s Hollywood and the world of Paramount Studios this Limelight production is truly a world with in a world take on the story.

Director Kenny Christie has truly delivered a unique take on the show that actually has the sweeping breath of a movie live on stage that blends Norma’s world which she believes is a film in itself with that of many people who work in the Paramount Studio system living in the real world. Its that clash which leads to the dramatic collision the forces Norma to spiral into insanity and Joe left paying the ultimate price. It’s a joy to watch.

The casting is excellent with Hazelton (who has west end credits to her name and it shows) leading the company faultlessly, her Norma is unique she has forgone trying to replicate “Close”, “LuPone”, “Paige” and the many others who have brought Norma to life and instead delivers her take and its one that truly gets under the skin of “Desmond” and to watch her descent into insanity is gripping and powerful musical theatre at its best. The same applies to Tomlinson’s take on Joe and he has a warm honey voice to go with it. The same is true of Chris Tomlinson’s excellent take on Max the forgotten love of Norma’s and now her Butler who gives everything to ensure Norma is the greatest star of all. Special mention also goes to Andrew Todman as Artie Green who gives the role a Clark Gable twist and to Vicky Sharp as Betty Schaefer with her powerhouse vocals giving the character real punch

It’s not just the leads who stand out it’s the entire company, they have truly taken on the challenge of delivering a complete universe of characters and fully succeed in bringing both worlds fully to life.

Director Christie should be justly proud, his vision for the show truly flows and thanks to Elinor Burns pitch perfect Choreography which blends together period dance moves that fully opens up the story and coupled with sharp drilling the large ensemble dance pieces are delivered in style.

The true highlight of Sunset is the epic score and Musical Director Paul Gudgin has delivered in style with peerless vocals on stage accompanied by a 14 strong orchestra in the pit the ensures every note of the sweeping and orchestrally brilliant score rings out around the Alhambra magnificently.

Production wise the technically complicated set works beautifully coupled with Jonnie Clough’s excellent lighting design and Mike Somerville’s Sound design. If there is anything negative to say its in the delivery of the microphone sound to often Mic’s were late coming on and thus cut off to many lines, it’s a quibble that while not enough to loose a star does need sorted to fully give the cast on stage and audience that true west end worthy standard this show bleeds.

Limelight’s production of Sunset Boulevard is everything and more and worth every penny of the ticket price so get along to the Alhambra and watch as this stellar company truly do teach the world new ways to dream.

Sunset Boulevard, Limelight Productions, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, Runs until Saturday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://alhambradunfermline.com/event/limelight-productions-present-sunset-boulevard/

Brett Herriot Review

I Think We Are Alone, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

I Think We Are Alone, 

**** 4 Stars

“ love is the key to understanding those hurting “

6 people living in London, some related and some not, each one connected either by chance or choice or divine decision as they chart their course through the journey of life. Sisters estranged and fighting to overcome the pain and trauma of a childhood beset with abuse. A mother who masks her grief by pushing her son to his limits and very nearly out of her life and a Taxi driver facing up to the loss of his wife until a stranger enters his life and gives him hope.

I Think We Are Alone Now is a bittersweet and funny take on our ache to connect with those voices we need to hear again, those arms we need to feel around us once more and those faces we need to see one last time can we really let go and yet still hold onto what we love the most.

Frantic Assembly’s production of Sally Abbott’s play is one of finely judged performances the melds together the dramatic theatre with modern contemporary dance, all placed inside a set designed by Morgan Large that comprises four moving walls as it focus that allows a deep emotion to purvey not only the actors but the audience who are drawn into the sweep of the story.

Co- Directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham this is the companies 25th anniversary production and it delivers everything it sets out, with a 6 strong ensemble cast, Chizzy Akudolu, Charlotte Bate, Polly Frame, Simone Saunders and Andrew Turner every single one of them give performances that run the gamut of human emotion.

This is a modern piece delivered as intercutting monologues that would just as easily sit on an internet blog as it does on stage and although the first Act feels disjointed and leaves you entering the interval posing the question “where is all this going” it’s the magnificent second act that brings healing to the wounds and proves above all else, human connection and love is the key to understanding those hurting the most and embracing hope for the future that lies ahead for us all.

A sharp and fluid lighting design by Paul Keogan and Sound Design by Ella Wahlstrom both enhances and develops the physical performance space and the production is better for it.

I Think We Are Alone Now, is a brave meeting of artistic choices, sharp and emotional writing coupled with performances the defy the norms and makes for an enchanting and engrossing evening of theatre, one which is unmissable.

I Think We Are Alone, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/i-think-we-are-alone