Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show – Review

Mar 8 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Pure showbiz delight

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh: Wed 5 – Sat 8 March 2014

(NB: This review is for the 2014 production. The 2015 review is here)

Looking at this week’s offering at the King’s Theatre, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s panto season. There are star turns by Andy Gray and Grant Stott. A supporting cast of talented young lads and lasses. A speciality act or two…

But it’s not panto, it’s Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show. The King’s dame of the last cough years has gathered a bunch of pals to create the kind of show “they just don’t make anymore”.

The Tootsie Rollers. Photo © Justin Grainge

The Tootsie Rollers. Photo © Justin Grainge

Well, they made this one, and the packed houses will be hoping there will be many more to follow. Because from first to last, this is pure showbiz delight, fun for all the family and perfect for Edinburgh audiences especially.

I was half-expecting this to be a stripped-down show, with modest production values. But no, there’s a good-sized, great band led by Richard Anderson, glam costumes, and lighting to rival the best of the West End.

It’s almost a shock to see Stewart out of a dress, but he looks great. He makes the most of the chance to showcase his talents for impersonation alongside the singing and comedy skits for which he’s more familiar – these days, anyway, I’m old enough to remember him being billed as ‘TV’s youngest impressionist’.

Stewart brings the house down with Bohemian Tramedy, a brilliantly clever, hilarious spin on the capital’s long-running tram saga, while his take on Michael Jackson doing George Formby is perfect for the all-ages audience. With the exception of an off-colour gag about the NHS, Stewart doesn’t put a foot wrong.

Panto pals Stott and Gray show their comedy chops at various points. Stott desperate to sing his signature That’s Fife; Gray stripping off for a diet Coke. But it is never to better effect than when they join Stewart as the MacRobert Brothers, Scots folkies from the village of Effin. There could be a whole show in these three.

“a pot pourri of pleasure to blow away the winter blues”

A different brand of comedy comes courtesy of ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, aided by partner plush puppets Sam and Albert, and ‘human puppet’ Selwyn, a game audience member.

Camp Britain’s Got Talent chap (“I was beaten by a dog”) Edward Reid displays vocal talents of a very different kind: one minute channelling Julie Andrews to lead a rousing audience rendition of Do-Re-Me; the next delivering nursery rhymes, diva style.

The eminently likeable Reid has quite the set of pipes – as does Kate Stewart, who belts out power ballad And I Am Telling you. Yes, she’s our host’s daughter, but every variety show needs a straight singer and when you happen to have one this good in the family, including her is not nepotism, but savviness.

Songs with a side order of irony come courtesy of the Tootsie Rollers, six feisty gals inspired by the liked of Doris Day, Judy Garland … and Beyoncé, Britney and co. Their set spans everything from the Andrews Sisters’ Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and they sell the songs with equal skill and charm.

The bows bring a nice surprise as Stott invites the audience to join the cast in a rousing rendition of Status Quo’s Rocking All Over the World, traditionally the King’s panto closer, and controversially dumped for last year’s Peter Pan. But here it is, two months later, giving the audience a sense of closure while making us feel like part of one big, very happy, family. Somehow, I can’t see it being absent from this year’s Aladdin.

Meanwhile, Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show is an experiment that’s proven a big big success, a pot pourri of pleasure to blow away the winter blues. It is tempting to add “2014” to the show’s title, in a bid to ensure it’s an annual event. Then again, why wait – anyone else up for Allan Stewart’s Big Big Summer Special?

Running time 2 hours
Run ends Saturday 8 March 2014
7.30pm. Matinee Sat 2.30pm.
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tickets from


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