Puttin’ On The Ritz

Sep 17 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Glitz and Glamour

Edinburgh Playhouse 16 – 20 September 2014

Spirit Productions takes the audience on a journey back to 1920s Hollywood in a glitzy, glamorous production of Puttin’ on the Ritz.

A dance sequence from Puttin' on the Ritz. Photo: Spirit Productions

A dance sequence from Puttin’ on the Ritz. Photo: Spirit Productions

Director David King creates a musical journey of famous musical moments from the last 50 years of the golden age of Hollywood. Featuring some of the most popular songs of the time by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, the show is a celebration which delivers hit after hit.

Puttin’ on the Ritz shows, or in many cases reminds, a very different world to that of today. There’s a sense of grace, charm and wonderment which is enchantingly portrayed by the singers and dancers. They have different ways of moving, different ways of singing and different ways of thinking; there’s a certain magic and glamour that’s somewhat missing from the world today.

A magically twinkling scene opens the show, with the singers and dancers emerging as the band sets the tone with old favourite, There’s No Business Like Show Business. However, instead of being striking and exuberant, the performances feel a little flat and subdued.

This continues throughout the first half. The numbers are performed with technical skill but the charisma is somewhat lacking. While King undoubtedly seeks to provide a distinction between the two halves of the production highlighting the contrast in the musical influences of the period, a little more lift is needed to sustain the first half of the show. That said, the wonderful addition of leaping scarlet men in Alexander’s Ragtime Band provided a delicious distraction and a much needed burst of energy.

wonderfully choreographed

The production really comes into its element in the second half as it flips through the silent movie era and into The Cotton Club in 1929, bringing with it the Jazz Age and the famous Charleston. The energy on stage is palpable and the dancers deliver a wonderfully choreographed trio of visual spectacles that really captures the new styles of dancing and dressing of the time.

Lorna Lufts. Photo: Spirit Productions

Lorna Lufts. Photo: Spirit Productions

Each act is broken up with an interlude from the Lorna Luft show. As Judy Garland’s daughter, Luft is able to add a unique insight into life at the time to accompany heart-warming stories of her childhood and powerful and impressive, albeit at times overwrought, vocals.

As a decadent visual treat, the production largely achieves its aims. Costume designer Heather Davis showcases a plethora of magnificent outfits with costume changes galore. The main staging matches these shining spectacles. Although the edges of the flooring, visibly stuck down with wonky strips of masking tape, detract somewhat from the otherwise opulent atmosphere.

The cast add wonderful vocal performances to outstanding characterisation. Principle singers Emma Kate Nelson and Paul Hazel in particular seem to embody the era with effortless grace – and look like they were born to their parts. Nelson particularly shines with Simon Schofield in their duet of It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing; together they prove that they definitely have got that swing!

The ensemble dance numbers could do with some sharpening in the first act, when they are not as synchronised as they ought to be and the on-stage spacing is not consistent. However, by the second act the cast have settled into the performance with particular note to with the seated arrangement in the Cotton Club which is flawless and shows what exceptional timing they can achieve.

On the whole, Puttin on the Ritz is a wonderful reminder of times gone by. With a little more attention to detail, it should prove to be a truly glittering show and a fantastic celebration that the era deserves.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
16 – 20 September 2014
Edinburgh playhouse

Running time 2 hrs 30 mins (including interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 16 – Saturday 22 September 2014
Daily 7.30pm; Sat 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website: www.atgtickets.com

Puttin’ On The Ritz on tour:
Tue 16 – Sat 21 Sept Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Tue 23 – Sat 27 Manchester
Opera House
0844 871 3018 Book online


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