Review – Circles of Love

August 9, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩  Uplifting display of singing

EMT's Circles of Love, finale. Photo © Gerlof Griesel

EMT’s Circles of Love. Photo © Gerlof Griesel

St Andrew’s and St George’s West (Venue 111)
Tue 6 – Sat 10 August 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Edinburgh Music Theatre’s Circles of Love is an enjoyable and skilful journey through the Disney songbook at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church.

A quick scan through the list of songs in the programme could easily produce puzzled looks. Three songs from Mary Poppins, but Let’s Go Fly A Kite aside, they are not what you could possibly predict. And when was the last time you saw Aida or Newsies in a child’s DVD collection?

It soon becomes clear that the material here is taken from Disney Broadway musicals rather than animated features. This means that, apart from the aforementioned Kite and Circle of Life, there is nothing that could remotely be described as overly familiar. It turns out to be an inspired move, as the relative freshness of the material means the audience can concentrate on the strong and tuneful performances.

Circles of Love is described as a ‘revue,’ but is really closer to a concert performance. There are occasional clever juxtapositions of songs, and some attempts at joining them together with wordless acting, but nothing that could really be called a story.

After a stunning opening with Circle of Life, when the company matches Ellie Mckearnon’s huge voice with clever use of the auditorium, Michael Richardson’s direction is a little underpowered at times. Having the whole company on stage throughout is an excellent idea, but with some notable exceptions such as the dancing in Let’s Go Fly A Kite and the finale, they are underused, and occasionally left sitting or standing, looking a little awkward.

Every singer who takes part distinguishes themselves

Most of the attention seems to have gone into the singing, and what singing it is. There are too many featured artists to list them all, but there are some particular highlights. Rachel Flynn and Colin Richardson both display great tone and power, separately and in duets. Indeed, their power in Written In The Stars threatens to overwhelm; they could consider reigning in some of the power and looking for a little more subtlety.

Hazel Beattie and Kenneth Pinkerton both display great control and variation, while Andrew Todman provides one of the night’s most memorable moments with an emotional performance of Santa Fe. Every singer who takes part distinguishes themselves, helped by the three-piece band led by musical director Neil Metcalfe.

The most impressive aspect of the performance, however, is the onstage signing pioneered by the company in previous productions. This is far from a gimmick, being fully integrated into the action; indeed the signers often provide the most dramatic part of the evening.

BSL co-ordinator Christopher Cameron deserves great praise, not least for the extraordinary finale of Anything Can Happen, where the sight of the full company of thirty at once singing and signing is both refreshing and uplifting.

The departing duo of Messrs Richardson and Metcalfe deserve immense credit for this small jewel of a show, which sent the audience out into the rainy night far lighter of heart than when they came in.

Running time 50 mins.
Run ends Sat 10 August 2013
Daily, 7.10pm and 8.40pm
Venue 111: St Andrew’s and St George’s West, George Street, EH2 2PA
Tickets from www.edfringe.com
EMT website: www.edinburghtheatre.co.uk

ENDS

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