Showcase 2015

May 30, 2015 | By | 2 Replies More

★★★★☆    Showstoppers

King’s Theatre: Fri 29/Sat 30 May 2015

Working the surprise factor to great effect, Showcase rises to the challenges of staging a big choral show on the King’s stage with significant success.

As a celebration of the company’s 25 years of raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Care through annual staged concerts, this strikes all the right notes as it works the selection of numbers from the last quarter of a century.

Craig MacBeth and male chorus. Photo Showcase Musical Productions

Craig MacBeth and male chorus. Photo: Showcase Musical Productions

It rings the changes between big choral numbers, overblown pop and rock numbers, quirky orchestrations of the most popular of tunes, clear solos and heartfelt ballads.

Moreover, it generally plays to the strengths of the company, finding suitable solos for a wide range of performers, and bringing back previous members to relive their glory days. In particular, it is a real treat to see Showcase co-founder Bobby Harvey duetting with Susan Broadfoot on The Rest of My Life With You from the 1994 musical Napoleon.

It’s a while before the strength in depth of the company kicks in, however. The sequence of opening numbers does no favours for their performers or the company. The combination of Music and Live & Let Die is fair enough and works well as a bit of a throat clearing while the levels get sorted.

The less said about the inclusion of A Whiter Shade of Pale, Mr Blue Sky and I Don’t Feel Like Dancing the better. There were certainly sound issues and getting the balance between the singers and the onstage orchestra took some time.

Stunning

But from the moment the production let itself go back to basics, with a stunning solo start by Louise Hunter with Adele’s Someone Like You, it found both balance and a power which had hitherto been lacking.

Hunter, alone in the spotlight, finds all the nuances you could want from both the tune and the words. While the chorus, brought in gently as the number progressed, demonstrate the clarity with which musical director David McFarlane creates the mood for the whole show.

Ibiyemi Osinaike - Amazing Grace. Photo Showcase Musical Productions

Ibiyemi Osinaike – Amazing Grace. Photo: Showcase Musical Productions

Uniquely for this production, Showcase have brought in a junior chorus. Given a big medley of Take That songs – ironically starting off with Never Forget and suitably finishing with Kidz – they show their adult counterparts a thing or two about precision and performance on the King’s stage.

Having now found its stride, the production opens up and lets rip as it sets off towards the end of the first half with a succession of tunes from the shows, many of which are showstoppers in their own right.

Alan Hunter and Ross MacTaggart, decked out in orange overalls, set it up brilliantly with a strong, emotionally take on the Proclaimers’ Life With You – once again with the chorus appearing from out of the dark behind to provide depth and punctuation to the number.

It continues through Empire State of Mind, opening a New York sequence in which Aghogho Ogunlesi demonstrates a considerable vocal prowess, and the likes of Arlene Cassidy and Kym Robertson finding the emotion and depth to In His Eyes, from Jekyll and Hyde.

The first half of Wicked finishes with its big showstopping number, Defying Gravity. And while Cassie Dougal, with solid support from the chorus and some great bits of choreography from the dancers, gives a performance which is worthy of finishing any first half, there is still plenty to go.

Tanya Williamson leading the female chorus in I Don’t Know How to Love Him and Keith Kilgore giving his all in Gethsemane, demonstrate just why Jesus Christ Superstar was such a hit for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

sets the heather alight

But it is the every wonderful Ibiyemi Osinaike who really sets the heather alight in the Act One closer, soloing the opening to Amazing Grace, before he is joined on stage by pipers and the full chorus. But Osinaike’s voice rides high over the top. It’s a powerful end to a seriously powerful piece of programming from director Andy Johnston.

It’s not all big emotion and stirring, heartfelt numbers, however. Johnston, McFarlane and choreographer Claire Smith know how to have fun. The Act Two opener, Keith Hendrie leading the male chorus in Monty Python’s The Lumberjack Song is hilarious in its own right, but also allows the company to send itself up.

They sequence of popular beat combo hits  which follows is fair enough. Happy/Get Lucky, Roxanne and Like a Virgin are simple meat for the likes of Showcase. The first two pass by conventionally enough, although it is to Moulin Rouge that this Tango de Roxanne owes most.

But when it comes to Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Craig MacBeth is channelling neither Madge nor Jim Broadbent, but Stephen Fry. It is one of those brilliant moments in live performance where the enormity of what they are seeing shocks an audience into audible gasps.

With Leylah Watban and Alan Gow quickly getting things back on track in their duet on Under Pressure and Diane Scougall leading the chorus into Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever, from here on in, the show is cruising at optimal speed.

Stars, One Day More, Barcelona, Bridge over Troubled Water and Hey Jude are all given big, memorable productions. James Gow helps hugely with lighting design that matches the performances for power and invention.

But the final standout moment goes, as it seems to have increasingly done in recent years, to Osinaike. His take on Lavbe Siffre’s (Something Inside) So Strong seems to sum up the whole Showcase ethos, about standing up to adversity.

All that remains is an extended You Can’t Stop the Beat for it all to be rounded off to perfection.

Running time: 3 hours 5 minutes (including interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Friday 20 – Saturday 30 May 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm, Sat matinee: 2.30pm.
Tickets and information from http://www.edtheatres.com/showcase

Macmillan Cancer Support website: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/
ENDS

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