Showcase 2017

September 27, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆  Exquisite

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 26 – Sat 30 Sept 2017
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s more than a little love, a big nod to popular dance and a timely sense of introspection in this year’s Showcase, which is playing at the Church Hill Theatre all week.

The annual trip into matters pop, rock and musical theatre often turns into something rather more than an escape into a collection of great songs, well sung. And this year’s is no exception, seeming to capture the zeitgeist of a time when things are not quite as they might be.

Showcase 2017. Pic Diane Scougall

The show kicks off with a big nod to popular dance however. There’s a strictly familiar tone to the overture, nicely finessed by MD David McFarlane. A tone which returns for the second half overture, too, when McFarlane shows he has a can can do attitude to what his 14-strong band can can achieve.

But whatever emerges from the pit – and its all pretty funky stuff – McFarlane knows that this is really about the singers on the stage. There’s plenty of power under his baton, but there are many times when he keeps it admirably under control to allow the voices to shine.

Director Andy Johnston knows that this is about the songs, too. So he should, it is his 19th in charge. But it is also about song choice and the first one sends out a strong message of intent as Craig Young gets his lungs around Rick Astley’s Keep Singing. It’s not just a call to music, however, but a song of hope for a better future as Young’s voice rises out of the massed chorus, all done out in red with an added rose-wash to the lighting.

Fire, there will be, is the signal. A strong, warming blaze of the type which will sustain you through a winter night. So as the evening progresses, it is no real surprise that the pop songs represented are not of the bright-eyed, yearning puppy love kind, but more mature celebrations of love, lost, found and kept.

thoroughly urgent

The first sequence – 21st century Divas – sets out with a very sweet take on Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons from Cassie Dougal and Jacqui Mills, but really begins to shine when Lynsay Magro delivers a thoroughly urgent and powerfully mature version of Emeli Sande’s Hurts.

Cameron Kilgore and the ensemble. Pic Diane Scougall

Things are not all completely serious, however, as you might expect from a Little Mix cover. And if the slightly bemused boy dancers for Black Magic have what you might call timing issues, by the time the weekend comes round they will no doubt be thrilling any hen parties in the house with their big moves.

The male dance troupe is not much deployed by choreographer Claire Smith however. They are mostly there to serve as support for the six strong female dance troupe, who provide strong visual support when needed. All six are great, with plenty of scope to shine throughout the production, but Jemma Crawford deserves singling out for her casually effortless moves – indeed, she never seems stops dancing.

George Michael comes in for a celebration with no less than nine songs he performed featured in the evening. The first seven-strong sequence is particularly notable for another stand-out performer, with Cameron Kilgore hitting up Freedom and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go in a medley with The Edge of Heaven he shares with Ruth Cowie.

Sixteen year-old Kilgore is making his full member debut with Showcase this year, although he has been involved in musical theatre for at least a decade. Given his Showcase performances (he solos in four numbers), we should be seeing a lot more of him in the future.

real maturity

Indeed, in the American Showtunes section he is the best of the four soloists in a Jersey Boys Medley. A quartet which includes his own father, Keith Kilgore, who is himself no slouch when it comes to singing. While his solo on Love and Mercy in the finale displays a real maturity on stage – where he clearly both belongs and is very comfortable.

The Finale. Pic Diane Scougall

There are great vocal performances throughout. But where this particular showcase really excels is in when it allows the soloists voices to rise naturally out of the 50-strong chorus. Gaynor Boe has a lovely warm rounded voice to do justice to And I’mTelling You I’m Not Going from Dreamgirls returning to duet gloriously with Jennifer McIntosh on When You Believe.

Then Cassie Dougal does a similar trick in There You’ll Be in the Music from the Movies section. The whole company is done out in black and white outfits for the section, giving a nice twist as these are all songs in glorious technicolour – not least Craig Young with a remarkable Your Song.

There is plenty of quirkiness and comedy around – Harry Dozier knows exactly how to bring a gentle sense of humour to Faith from Sing, for example. But for all the lightness, it is the power of song to provide a focus for hope in a better future that endures – and for that, there is nothing quite as exquisite or heartbreakingly tender as Joanne Skilling’s gorgeous rendition of Don’t Worry About Me. A real reminder of what this is all about – a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Running time two hours 40 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 September 2017
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets £15 (£10 for under 16s at Sat Matinee).

Ticket booking: http://www.show-case.co.uk/nextshow.htm

Facebook: @ShowcaseEdinburgh

ENDS

 

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  1. Keith Kilgore says:

    Thanks for the +ve review. It’s now official. No slouch, but not even the best singer in my house!!! (Proud dad)

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