Musical Review – Whisky Kisses

May 19 2010 | By More

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Masashi Fujimoto as Yomo. Photo credit: Callum Mackay

Brunton Theatre
By Thom Dibdin

Wise, witty and whistle-able, Whisky Kisses the Musical arrived at the Brunton Theatre for a one-night stand last night, delighted its sold-out audience with its light tone and deep-running sense of cultural awareness before whisking back off to the Highlands from whence it came.

As the “new Highland musical”, Whisky Kisses from Right Lines Productions at first appears, horrifyingly, as if it were about to trade heavily in Brigadoonery and its ilk. Fortunately such misty-eyed tartanisations are quickly put in their place – on the other side of the Atlantic – and a rather more palatable approach sets in.

In the remote Highland glen of Igma, the distillery is about to go silent. The recently deceased owner, ruined by his gambling habit, has left his daughter Mary broke and forced into selling her one remaining liquid asset: the last ever bottle of the fabled 100 year-old Glenigma single malt.

But before Mary and the distillery’s two employees Lachie and Dunc can trouser the proceeds, they will have to honour the Old Man’s dying wish. Those bidding for the bottle will have to appear in person at the distillery if they wish to take part in the auction.

In New York, the Glenigma is a must-have for whisky collector Ben Munro (George Drennan) and, despite the protestation of his secretary Jeff, he is willing to travel to get it.

If the outline looks good, the initial set-up is a touch unrefined. Indeed, if it were a bottle of whisky itself, it would be raw spirit, fresh from the still. The plot unfolds succinctly – it is the telling of it which lacks finesse.

Alyth McCormack (Mary) and George Drennan (Ben) contemplate those Whisky Kisses. Photo credit: Callum Mackay

While Drennan has a lovely mellow tone, the company’s New York accents are more raucous than anything else and the routines seem to have been telegraphed in from places elsewhere.

If this is a failing, it soon ceases to matter. The jokes set in, the tunes begin to take hold and the plot develops a bit of edge as it emerges that Ben is preparing for his favourite time of year, Tartan Week.

And a nicely segued-in introduction later – to Masashi Fujimoto, playing Japanese businessman Yomo, who equals Ben in his self-belief that the whisky will be his – and the whole production is on course. The rough edges are smoothed out and even the production’s low-budget and touring constraints become a virtue rather than a burden.

Once in Glen Igma the whole production takes off. Alyth McCormack is much more in her vocal comfort zone as Mary, with Natalie Toyne excellent as a backpacking Australian who works in he B&B. Ron Emslie has exactly the right dour humour as Lachie; Paul Harper-Swan rounds the whole out nicely as he provides the love-interest with Jeff.

Moreover, the plot keeps on with the knowing digs at a contemporary society in which heritage has been mistaken for culture, as the record breaking price reached in the auction is rendered redundant with the arrival of Trevor Allan Davies as the man from the ministry.

There is a period when the plot becomes somewhat becalmed in the second-half as the company begin to go through their party pieces. It’s good enough to listen to, with McCormack in wondrous voice for a spot of Gaelic singing and Davies embarking on most satisfying G&S-style patter song. But you can’t help thinking the tension needs to be ratcheted up a little further.

All told, a thoroughly satisfying piece which, if it doesn’t have its own distinctive style, borrows well enough to blend its composite parts into a well-rounded whole. It could do with a spot more maturation, to bring out the strongest elements and let the longeurs wither, but this is definitely a contender.

Hopefully Whisky Kisses will be back at some point, bright and ready to tour round the country and beyond. It certainly deserves a much wider audience.

Right Lines Productions’ website

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