Let’s Face the Music and Dance 2018

Nov 28 2018 | By More

★★★★☆    Packed

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 27 Nov – Sat 1 Dec 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s so much quality on stage at the Church Hill Theatre this week in choreographer Janice Bruce’s portmanteau production Let’s Face the Music and Dance, that you could easily make two programmes out of it.

Here, in six themed sections, Bruce and MD Alison Rushworth have a packed show which interrogates both the light and dark sides of musical theatre, treks over into the insouciant arts of the Bond hero and goes off to get all colourful before happening on a spot of Christmas fall out. All in a benefit for Leukaemia CARE.

There is so much talent on stage that you might even call it an embarrassment of riches. Bruce’s long-standing role in local amateur companies as a choreographer and director has brought some of the Edinburgh’s brightest amateur performers to the stage in the aim of raising £10,000 over the week for the charity.

It’s common to see big choruses and a strong but not over-represented dance troupe at such affairs. Bruce has reversed the trend, with two dozen dancers and a chorus of only thirteen. But the fact that most of the dancers are quite capable of holding their own when it comes to vocals – and several are right up for taking a solo – means that this was never going to be just a simple dance show.

After a bit of comedy business with MC Derek Ward and an opening medley built around Another Opening, Another Show which proves that the singers can also do characterisation, it is off to the Glitz and Glamour section.

Straight off, the dancers in the money. We Are What We Are is danced and sung by six male members of the dance troupe in glorious and glamorous drag – huge glittering wing-like extensions and big fluorescent colours.

attention to detail

Besides producing and choreographing, Bruce also designed the costumes. There is real attention to detail, particularly in the first half and during the Danger sequence which opens the second.

Lets Face the Music and Dance in Rehearsal. Pic Ric Brannan

A version of One Night Only, sung by Jennifer Lane, Claire MacLean and Cara Baikie, really illustrates the depth of thought which has gone into every aspect of the show.

The singers are glamorous enough, in shiny outfits with a black and gold zig-zag effect. A troupe of seven dancers provide visual backing in glittering affairs – but when they disappear off stage, they are replaced immediately with a replica troupe except they are in black versions of same outfits.

It’s a clever little effect – and only enhanced by Bruce’s neat choreography which sees the dancers starting out at sixes and sevens before one set of movements works its way through them all and, as the moves gradually merge, they end up dancing in unison.

There are proper tingles up the spine, too. The Taptastic second section opens – as it probably should – with 42nd street. And with tight support from the pit under Alison Rushworth’s direction, Ibiyemi Osinaike nails it. He is clear but almost understated in its opening, building the tension so he can really belt it out when the dancers arrive to go into their routine.

The After Dark section’s big sense of danger is laced with something a lot more ironic and sensual. Starting out with a couple of numbers from Little Shop of Horrors, it hits its peak with I Wish I May and Dance with the Devil from The Witches of Eastwick.

The downside to this wealth of talent is that there can be too much. And after an electrifying El Tango, the sequence of Defying Gravity and Thriller feels like too much. Either could have been first half finales but together it just feels like overkill.

There’s more danger than just in the name of the second half opener. It also shows the danger of using recorded music. An 007 sequence with just the dancers feels somewhat disconnected in a way that the numbers with live music are not. Although that particular piece is worth it just for its surprise final scene which it would be pure spoilers to discuss.

And then there is the Bright and Beautiful section. It’s great. But really it feels like a section too far. There are brilliant moments – Colour My World is pure inventive fun – but the show would be equally as good if the whole section had been left over for another year.

Finally there is the obligatory Christmas section. The quality of which, in the face of Christmas sections which can get far too saccharine, is really rather good. There is a bit of sauce for both goose and gander and a real burst of fun in what can sometimes all feel a little po-faced.

A great evening of music and dance – just don’t book an early carriage!

Running time two hours and 50 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday  27 November – Saturday 1 December 2018
Evenings: 7.30pm, Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.

Tickets and details:  Book here.



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