Showcase 2015

September 24, 2015 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆    On song

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 22 – Sat 26 Sept 2015

Returning to the Church Hill Theatre for their 25th annual production, Showcase provide a fitting tribute for the theatre’s own fiftieth anniversary on 25 September 2015.

Showcase has become renowned by its pacing and the power with which it delivers its mix of big show tunes and top hits from popular beat combos.

Showcase 2015. One Voice. Photo Diane Innes

Showcase 2015. One Voice. Photo Diane Innes

Any doubt that this Autumn show could pull away from the shadow of May’s celebratory event down at the King’s appear to be quickly dispelled, with the opener One Voice, led off by Jen McIntosh, Keith Kilgore and Leylah Watban.

For sheer simplicity and an example of form demonstrating function, it would be hard to beat. One voice becomes two, then three harmonising and finally the full, 58-strong company let rip – demonstrating the interconnectedness between soloists and chorus and just how good those soloists and company can be.

As delivered, One Voice has a bona fide tingle factor and a presence all of its own, enhanced by some excellent lighting effects, designed by James Gow.

And Act One has a fair number of such moments. The first tribute session, to Elton John, eventually works up to an excellent take on Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with Matt Hall really grabbing the song and owning it, as he leads the chorus and, once again, Gow provides the sort of lighting which enhances the meaning of the song.

Oomph

The Elton John section finishes strongly too, when Cassie Dougal gets her warm voice in amongst I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues. Both numbers show the chorus providing strength and depth, enhancing the soloist and giving an oomph to the number.

A tribute section to Jacque Brel starts brightly, with Harry Dozier relishing the words of Madame – a translation into English of Brel’s Les Remparts de Varsovie. A little more nuance in the translation would not have gone amiss, however, and Dozier could afford to sell the song even more.

A Stage Classics section also provides a few pearls. Aghogho Ogunlesi has the kind of voice which curls around the notes. She brings a real sense of longing and regret to Maybe This Time from Cabaret. She uses the top of her range almost exclusively, but hints that she also possesses a very strong lower register which would be a real treat to hear at full power.

Showcase 2015. Photo Diane Innes

Showcase 2015. Photo Diane Innes

A trio of numbers from the Kinks musical, Sunny Afternoon, brings out an excellent pairing of All Day And All Of The Night with You Really Got Me. It gives the band, under MD David McFarlane, the opportunity to give the whole evening a bit of punch, while the chorus get right into the groove and Joanne Skilling nails those vocals.

If this first half doesn’t always deliver the sense of occasion that it might – and there are several moments when you can’t help thinking of a rather swish Karaoke session with live backing – Gaynor Boe brings it home with a brilliant finale of Everything’s Coming up Roses from Gypsy, for which Imelda Staunton has earned herself a nomination for best musical performance at this year’s UK Theatre Awards.

Act Two has an altogether more rounded feel to it. The popular beat combo recognised here is Fleetwood Mac, whose songs are much more suited to this framework than Elton John’s. There is a much fuller feeling to the band in the arrangements and Ken Thomson clearly relishes the opportunity to get his saxophone out and let rip.

light and lilting

Indeed, Tanya Williamson sets it all up beautifully with an authoritative rendition of Dreams. She sets the tone for the big difference to the first half as each soloist seems to take their number and inject something of themselves into it.

A section of cover versions helps break away from the expected. When Joanne Skilling sets off into Don’t Stop Me Now, it is not Freddie and Queen who she is channelling, but the Foxes’ bouncy, light and lilting version for Doctor Who. Paloma Faith’s take on Never Tear Us Apart is packed with drama and oomph with Lynsay Magro and the chorus really going for it.

Showcase 2015 Finale. Photo Diane Innes

Showcase 2015 Finale. Photo Diane Innes

But it is in Only You that the whole evening hits its highest note. Not the Yazoo original but the Flying Pickets’ acapella version, which is perfectly suited to a choral delivery with 58 singers on stage.

Staging for Showcase is always tricky given the size of the cast and the lack of space on the stage itself. Director Andy Johnston and choreographer Claire Smith have a strong understanding of how to use that small space and with judicious lighting, real magic can happen.

None better than in Constant Craving, with Jacqui Mills keeping static while around her the chorus provide flowing movement, leaving her isolated in the heart of a crowd.

There’s a bit of a surprising downturn to a Priscilla Queen of the Desert section that feels well intentioned but not quite as well rehearsed throughout as it might have been. Still the costumes are, as always, both glorious and fun.

Director Andy Johnston knows all about finishing big. And with a couple of numbers from Les Mis – Susan Broadfoot soloing on Bring Him Home and Keith Kilgore with the chorus performing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables – followed by Aghogho Ogunlesi leading the chorus on Stand By Me, and the whole company giving their all on He Ain’t Heavy, you can’t help but leave the theatre on a high with the realisation there is not such thing as a duff production of Showcase.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 September 2015
Daily: 7.30pm, Saturday matinee: 2.30pm
Tickets from http://www.show-case.co.uk/nextshow.htm

ENDS

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