Showcase 2019

Sep 18 2019 | By More

★★★★☆     Melodic juggernaut

Church Hill Theatre: Tues 17–Sat 21 Sept 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Showcase 2019 at the Church Hill Theatre is an object lesson in how to ring the changes on a familiar formula and keep the result delightfully fresh.

The annual song and dance collection of numbers from shows, movies and the charts, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, has been helmed by director Andy Johnston and MD David McFarlane for more years than anyone seems able to remember, but retains a remarkable degree of novelty and fun.

Fiona Jackson and company. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

A cleverly selected and ingeniously programmed selection of songs, with a succession of arrangements by McFarlane for a large and enthusiastic band, keeps energy high throughout the evening. At times there is undoubted proof that you can have too much of a good thing; just because you can have three finales in a row at the end of the first half it does not follow that you should actually do it. However, the sheer commitment and drive of the huge company always overcomes any objection.

There are too many featured singers to mention everyone, but the standard is extremely high. What is particularly interesting is that, despite the undoubted talent on show, there is very little in the way of showing off. Instead, the various singers are more interested in selling the songs through drama and remaining true to the originals. Sometimes this means that the versions skate a little close to impersonations, but even then there is always interest and commitment.

fine featured spots

An early segment paying tribute to Neil Diamond does not always convince, with the songs not sitting comfortably with the emphatic arrangements and stomping choruses, although there are fine featured spots for John Whelan and Keith Kilgore (who also later channels Roger Daltrey to great effect).

Things really kick into gear with a Guilty Pleasures section. I have never been a fan of this term, and it has to be said that a couple of the songs so christened are better than just about anything else here. The term does, as hinted in the programme, just mean numbers that do not fit in elsewhere. Harry Dozier’s take on Take On Me features some outstanding falsetto, a Carpenters medley is tastefully done, Craig Macbeth leads a pleasingly pantomimish National Express and Cameron Kilgore and Eilidh Campbell’s version of Never Forget is beautifully judged.

The Showcase 2019 company Pic: Ryan Buchanan

The sequence of numbers from stage musicals has strong features for Clare Henderson, Daniel Cook, Harry Dozier and Jude Edie before Andrew Edmonstone turns in a wonderfully heartfelt This Is The Moment from Jekyll and Hyde. This would have been a fitting end for the half, but it is topped by Jennifer McIntosh, beautifully backed up by Jimmy Redmond, on Blood BrothersTell me It’s Not True.

This is where the too-many-finales effect kicks in, with the closing Raise You Up from Kinky Boots seeming redundant. It does, however, feature one of the many well-constructed dance routines choreographed by Claire Smith.

a chance to shine

While the singing is remarkably consistent, the dancing does vary from the extremely accomplished to the odd couple who still seem to be finding their feet. However, Smith makes a virtue out of this, giving the featured dancers a chance to shine and giving the others simple but effective routines.

This is particularly in evidence in the second half’s Bee Gees medley, where Andrew Jack, Daniel Cook and Ross MacTaggart shine as the singing trio. Jack again, Louise McLaren and Jacqui Mills add a vulnerability to songs from A Star Is Born, while Kym Robertson adds similar emotion to Aladdin’s Speechless.

The Showcase 2019 company Pic: Ryan Buchanan

As well as featuring some disco costumes that tend to the fancy-dress, this At The Movies section does – like much of the second half – drag on just a little. The following Queen At Live Aid segment does have the excuse of following the original, and features a variety of impressive lead singers in Cassie Dougal, Joanne Little, Matt Fullerton and Andy McCarry, but does tax the patience of all but Queen die-hards ever so slightly – especially considering that the (final) finale is another Queen song. However, this boasts possibly the evening’s outstanding vocal by Toni MacFarlane on Somebody To Love.

When the show could be any length it chooses, there has to be a genuine case for truncating the second half. The closing section does feature at least one uplifting song too many, although Arlene Tonner, Gaynor Boe and Cassie Dougal put real emotion into I’ll Fight, Rise Up and Brian Wilson’s Love and Mercy.

There could be a little more light and shade in the whole affair – the band, good as they are, do drown the more subtle chorus numbers. Subtlety, however, is not necessarily the keynote here, as it so rarely is when the stage is crammed with over 40 performers. Instead, it is all about the unstoppably tuneful feelgood momentum that overrides any false steps or odd choices.

Running time 2 hours 50 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 September 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets:


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