Jersey Boys

 

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Edinburgh Playhouse
Feb 19-Mar 2, 2019

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The Edinburgh Playhouse, 2019, let the games begin! I was one of an almost full house for this one, tho’ admittedly I knew very little about what I was going to see. I like it that way, keeps an unbiased mind free to review. But now I am biased, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons are wicked! The true test of a musical is to be humming & the whistling & singing snatches of half-remembered lyrics, constantly seeing after seeing the show. Yes, that’s what happened with Jersey Boys – their tunes are proper cheeky, proper fun – while I’m Working My Way Back to you girl is on my tongue as I type.

“Trios are out, quartets are in.”
Tommy DeVito

For me Jersey Boys was of course, top-notch entertainment, but it was more, much more, it was an education into Jerseybeat – a unique corner of 60s pop music obscured the British devotion to The Beatles etc. But OMG, Franki Valli & his boys have a wonderful oeuvre of classic tunes, they kept coming like rainbows on the Gulf Stream & a cool biopic to back ’em up. This biopic, then, was slick, snappy, & based upon interviews with the four lads themselves. “How much better does it get,” remark’d the bands main hit-writer, Bob Gaudio, “than to see your life pass before you, with a twenty-minute intermission, & never having to break sweat?”

In the hands of the four brilliant gallants on stage before us – Michael Watson (Frankie), Simon Bailey (Tommy DeVito), Declan Egan (Bob Gaudio) & Nick Massi (Dayle Hodge) – we were completely & relentlessly immured in the reality of the Four Seasons, so amazing were the performance levels. Band tensions bristl’d with energy; Mobsters meandered in & out of the action, as did the young Joe Peschi thirty years before his oscar; genuine streetwise New Jersey gags bubbl’d with comedy, & the music, the music was bangin.’
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To hear the original songs sung with such precision is what you want from such a genre, & of the many I’ve seen in recent years, it feels like Jersey Boys is the best!

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Holidays !!

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THE MUMBLE TEAM

Are taking their annual Festive Break

SEE YOU ALL IN THE SPRING !!

Kinky Boots

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Edinburgh Playhouse
Until Saturday 5th January

Book: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars Performance: five-stars  


My Editor phoned me on Monday to ask me if I would review tonight’s performance of Kinky Boots. I quickly did a bit of research and discovered it is a musical with the songs of Cindy Lauper. OOOOOOoooo I like her.Good Time! So I phoned my editor back and said sure, Divine would love this scoop. I had two tickets, so invited my lovely friend Maggie Cheyne.

I arrived early at The Playhouse and made my way to The Boards to pick up my tickets and Goodie Bag !!!!!!! A Goodie Bag That included, Two tickets, a program, some rather lovely bindis and a velvet Kinky Boot bauble – a very festive bribe. I turned around to see two very beautiful trannies doing a photo shoot. Such beauty and power; masculine femininity, classically beautiful femme faces. I was stunned by such beau, & felt a touch under dressed. Even though my freshly purple hair  looked nice, I got the glitter girl to tart me up a bit – sparkly glitter. ‘Hmmm,‘ I thought as I skipped down the steps to meet my lovely friend Maggie and the beautiful creatures followed me outside, ‘this is becoming more and more appealing by the moment.’ I was all a fluster. Maggie looked lovely and we made our way into the Playhouse. Our seats in the stalls, gave a perfect view of the stage, center stalls row P. Good Time! ❤

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The Plot: A son inherits a shoe factory in Northampton and it is faced with closure due to a slump in the market. Our hero has to travel from London to the shoe factory in Northampton, leaving his hot girlfriend behind. Hot girlfriend wants to close the factory and turn the building into flats. Our hero wants nothing to do with the plan. Instead, he turns the shoe factory’s fortunes around with an all-singing, all-dancing cast of extremely convincing Trannies. Creating a range of high-heeled thigh boots that form a high-brow fashion show in Milan (tasty). Successfully turning the factory’s fortunes around. Saving the jobs of the people employed there. Hot girlfriend moves back to London. Hot boyfriend wants to stay with his shoe factory, so moves on to a blonde chick who had a better voice, but was the exact opposite of what he had before. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘Its a rebound.’

The Performance: The Playhouse was full, right up to the gods, every seat was taken. The capacity audience were up for it the lights went down and a spectacular performance struck us all, fresh from a sell-out run in the West End of London. It totally kicked off in Edinburgh tonight. Productions of this caliber are few and far between, and everything about it set my creative juices on fire with a clever script brilliantly directed. Romance, passion, romantic tragedy, rebounds, superbly convincing transvestites, high-heeled boots with a happy ending – and the songs of Cindy Lauper telling the tale. The stage sets and lighting were just as spectacular. Possibly the greatest cabaret I have ever seen and been delighted by. Lola the lead tranny’s vocal performance brought the house down. Divine’s favourite line was, “Ladies and Gentlemen and for the ones that are nae sure”. This was a performance that reached out to everyone’s inner She-Male. Every heart in the Playhouse shone tonight, to the delight of Kinky Boots.

Absolutely Fantastic
5 Stars All Round
Bravo
❤ Divinexx

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

five-stars

The Producers

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The Pleasance Theatre
Edinburgh
27th November – Saturday 1st December


It was a mild wet and windy night as I cut across the city, not too dissimilar to August Fringe time. The last time I had been at the Pleasance was for a Fringe Production. Tonight was like a step back into August. Having never seen Mel Brooks’ film The Producers before, tonight’s brilliant and very clever cast were going to have to sell it to me. My beautiful companion Natalie was well versed in tonight’s proceedings. The theatre was comfortable. And with a full orchestra warming up, it set the tone for this all singing, all dancing romp through the Third Reich.

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A producer (Max Mclaughlin) and an accountant (Rob Merriam) have set out to create a musical in as bad taste as possible, Creating a Broadway smash when it was intended to be a flop at the box office, for dodgy accounting purposes. A musical within a musical. Titled Springtime For Hitler. Just to piss off any real Nazis, the SS were all camp queens. With a very clever use of a few props and stage lighting, the scene changes were very convincing. Each of the characters was faithfully portrayed, this is dark comedy indeed. Reproduced beautifully and with the perfect song. The accountant’s neurosis was a touch unconvincing, the shouty bits were the only reminder that this was a Fringe show. That all changed once he fell in love with Ulla (Georgie Rodgers). Ullas’s singing voice was fantastic.

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On the whole the subject matter is too disturbing to be light-hearted entertainment. How Mel Brooks got away with it in the first place bewilders me. In equally bad taste as Theresa May The Musical would be. The ironic thing is, Mel Brooks was a Jew. Interestingly, male homosexuality had just been made legal in 1967. The Producers was released in 1968 to a British audience. I wonder how well it went down? In 2019, however, all the cast members and orchestra involved in this Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group production put in maximum effort and gave 100%. Well done everyone.

Review: Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Photos: Gav Smart

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Motown the Musical

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Edinburgh Playhouse
Until December 8th

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Motown the musical is a jukebox jamboree, with superslick set changes which painted a picture of the era to perfection. Berry Gordy was the mastermind behind the Motown explosion, with this retrospective being based on his own book, To Be Loved: the Music. The Magic. The Memories of Motown. He is played by the wondrously voiced Edward Baruwa, whose drive, motivation & precise ear for what sells is retold with a series of lyrical & poetic vignettes. His love affair with Diana Ross is a major subplot, with Karis Anderson pulling off a stella & Diva performance. Add these to an extremely strong supporting cast, & of course those hit-hit songs, then we have a consummate mix.

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This is a tale of dreams & ambition replaced by a Shakespearean finale tilted on power & money. All the greats are present; Nathan Lewis depicts Smokey Robinson with youthful cheeriness. Shak Gabbidon-Williams was a marvel as Marvin Gaye, while the boy who played the young Michael Jackson, altho’ not quite to the levels of the original, which made one realise just how brilliant Michael Jackson was in his pre-teen pomp. With its iconic costumes & that eternal soundtrack, one revels in the former glories of superstars, & enjoys a real foot-tappy sing-alonga joy-ride.

Damo

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Saturday Night Fever

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Edinburgh Playhouse
October 23-27 (19:30)

Book: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars Performance: five-stars  


I love disco me, its well funky, & in the timeless masterpiece that is the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever, the music & the moves find a cosmic synchronicity. Forty years later it has hit the stage under Bill Kenwright’s umbrella, & we’re winning before we even sit down. I mean, I watch’d La La Land for the first time a couple of days ago, & found the songs quite insipid really, but SNF gets down to the grooves of the Bee Gees at their peak, whose beat-defining soundtrack album is the second biggest seller of all time after Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard.

In the film, America’s biggest secret at the time, the smooth-struttin’ 22-year-old John Travolta, was magnificent, a bar set very high indeed. Luckily for us, the stage representation’s Tony Manero is Richard Winsor; a class act of accent, acting & slightly synthetic but passionately accurate dancing. This was done on a disco floor, which was angled into the aesthetic by a large mirror at the heart of the set. The scene changes were astounding, & the way the action moved about them stunning, & I really loved the bite-size snippets of plot which echoed the movie & kept things trucking.

About Winsor buzzed a great supporting cast, ballooning through a Brooklyn-youth vibe which mixes West End Story & Grease. Above them a band play’d the songs live, which were sang by a Bee Gees tribute group at the very summit of the set. This glossy musical is a pure wonder, pulsing with witty one-liners & sweetening sub-plots, & with a seminal soundtrack, sensational sets, pin-perfect performances & dedicated dancing, Saturday Night Fever is a cut above the rest.

Damo

five-stars

Madagascar

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Edinburgh Playhouse
2nd-7th October

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Dreamworks’ Madagascar movie has turned out to be a modern classic for the kids, a primal story of freedom & adventure full of quirky animal characters &, in the hands of Grammy award-winning George Noriega & Joel Someillan, bursting with funky tunes & meadow-whistling harmonies. Madagascar the Musical is touring the country as we speak, a more than fine production for kids, lets say nine & under – & parent alike. I was loving it, actually, as was my nine year old, but my eleven year-old was proving disinterested in a pre-teen way – that’s a good gauge, & like I said nine & under is the best age.

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The cast are young & full of life – recent graduates of establishment temples such as the Italia Conti, Rose Bruford & the Urdang Academy. The latter produced Antoine Murray-Straughton, who sizzled in his role of Marty the Zebra. Up front beside him was the X-Factor 2016’s winner, Matt Terry, who shared wonderful performance energy with Marty as Alex the lion. We also had the other denizens of Central Park Zoo – the ‘hip-hop’ hippo, the hypochondriac giraffe, the wise, old monkey -, all played impeccably well.

Madagasacar the film is most memorable for the penguin posse, given extremely believable life & vocals on stage by puppeteers, directed beautifully by Emma Brunton. The costumes were also top-grade, & overall the stagecraft was a pleasure to witness. The show is film length – plus an interval – so its just within range of maintaining a young child’s interest, or indeed the young child still dwelling inside the old uns soul. Imagine the Singing Kettle on an epic stage & you’d pretty much get what Madagascar the Musical is all about – great fun!

Review: Damo

Photos : Scott Rylander

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