It takes a brave actress indeed to decide to create your own solo show and take it on the road, especially an already successful one. Leah MacRae is well-known and loved as Julie in Gary: Tank Commander, Ellie in the Scottish soap River City and the lead in the spoof 50 Shades of Maggie, so you think she’d rest on her laurels. To lay bare your embarrassing teenage diary musings with the world and open up about your daily struggles with fat-shaming, and rejection in your industry, takes courage, even if it is couched in a musical comedy show.
The first impression of MacRae is that she is a fearless, bold, bigger than life personality, un-moved by the criticism of others, and to a certain extent that’s true (she bounds on stage looking like a bubblegum pink pantomime fairy), she even says: “if I were a size 10, I’d be a complete w****r”. However, as we scratch beneath the surface to get to the real message behind these stories and songs, there’s a world of hurt that’s had to be overcome. MacRae is here to spread the word about us all being a bit kinder to each other, that however positive a face we present to the world, these constant barbs and the constant career rejection because of your size, does hurt. That we should embrace and have confidence in who we are, whatever we look like. To never give up on our dreams. She hysterically cites Victoria Beckham as her unlikely inspiration, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think!
Split into two acts, there are few theatrical conventions the Glaswegian powerhouse doesn’t cover: there’s drama, lots and lots of comedy, funny songs, heart-breaking songs, big ballads, a mix-tape section!, dancing and a ton of banter with her hometown audience. While the first act is a mixture of all these, the second becomes a bit more reflective and the mood does take a bit of a dive, until we end with the ubiquitous This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.
There’s some good material here, but there’s a feeling it’s not all it could be. MacRae, talks about constant comparisons to fellow Glaswegian Michelle McManus. McManus has had her own one-woman show, also autobiographical, also funny and also featuring some knock out hits. While MacRae is a talented comedy actress, McManus is a natural born storyteller with an innate comic timing that can’t be learned, and an ability to gauge exactly what makes a perfectly pitched show. MacRae possibly needs some outside eyes to take this raw material with great potential and make it a knock-out from start to finish. There’s also the issue of nerves. MacRae is home, not only in front of her local fans, but her family and friends, and the pressure shows. She looks nervous and as a result the dialogue comes out so fast that it’s impossible to hear a lot of it from anywhere above the stalls.
It’s easy to warm to MacRae, this is an entertaining evening and it’s great to hear her unleash her big voice at full force, but there’s a lot of potential that’s not being fulfilled. Hopefully, there’s more to come. If this is the first version of her stage show, I can’t wait to see the next.
Leah MacRae continues to tour until June. See her website for details.
Runway Theatre Company again prove their worthy position at the top of the tree of amateur companies in Glasgow, reviving Meredith Wilson’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning, little-seen, musical theatre classic, The Music Man, with aplomb. A timely choice too, with the announcement that in 2020, Hugh Jackman will lead the first Broadway revival in nearly two decades.
It’s 1912 and the people of sleepy River City, Iowa really don’t know what’s in store for them when smooth talking swindler Harold Hill rolls into town. However, Hill’s plans to con the innocent townsfolk are foiled when his heart finally starts to rule his head.
Old-fashioned in the nicest possible way, this is a light-hearted, undemanding tale with a bunch of quirky characters and two of musical theatre’s most enduring tunes: the oom-pah-pah-ing 76 Trombones and the much-loved classic ballad, Till There Was You.
Its old-fashionedness is both its strength and its weakness. The public’s appetite for nostalgia is sated with the homely, feel-good storyline, the period costumes and score. However, the hokey dialogue has aged badly and the heightened characterisations required by the script, render it too caricatured at times. That said, any criticisms of this production are entirely at the hands of the source material not the actors or musicians.
This is a show with a rousing chorus, the ensemble fill the auditorium with the biggest, most glorious sound you will have the pleasure to hear, and the quartet comprising Tom Russell, Ross Nicol, Cameron Leask and Bob McDevitt are just heavenly sounding. Brendan Lynch (Harold Hill), once again proves to be an adept leading man and a true triple threat, and Catherine Mackenzie (Marian Paroo) is a beautifully toned soprano. The costumes are of an excellent quality. The set and lighting are functional and easy on the eye and the transitions, especially in a theatre with no fly tower, are smooth and pacy. The child actors, of which there are many, are drilled to perfection as are the dancers – it’s unusual in an amateur production to have such universal quality.
A warm and comforting and very welcome blast from the past that will leave audience members of all ages thoroughly entertained.
2019 marks 50 years since The Beatles walked over that famous crossing on Abbey Road, 50 years since they played on the roof of the Apple Corps. building on Savile Row and 49 years since they released their last album. Seen by over two million people worldwide, Let It Be, continue their celebration of the music of The Beatles with a brand-new show for 2019.
The revamped show is split into two halves: the first a potted history of the Fab Four, starting from the famous Royal Variety Performance in 1963, through Shea Stadium to Sgt. Pepper and beyond. The second, is set a decade after The Beatles went their separate ways. It’s the 9th of October 1980, John Lennon’s 40th birthday, the band reunite for one night only for “the ultimate concert that never was”. Here we get a chance to hear some of the hits from each Beatles’ solo careers.
Let It Be is the Rolls Royce of Beatles celebration acts and the quality of the musicianship is outstanding. Emanuele Angeletti (Paul McCartney), John Brosnan, Ben Cullingworth (Ringo Starr) and Richard Jordan (John Lennon), go beyond simple impersonation. To the ear, this is as close as you are going to get to the real thing. Every specific tone and intonation of each man is captured in impressive detail.
While fans of the original show may wish to see something a bit different from the usual history and greatest hits of The Beatles, it is understandable that after seven years the performers and producers might want to shake things up a bit. This production is very much a show of two halves and while the quality of the vocals and musicianship never dips, the choice of songs in the second half mean that there’s a distinct shift in atmosphere. The joyous celebration of The Beatles early years is replaced by some more sombre moments from their later careers. That said, the whole evening ends on a high and with the audience on their feet, a series of Fab Four classics sending the crowd out into the rainy night with these musical masterpieces ringing in their ears. Well worth catching if you can.
Eight years in the making and after months of anticipation since its announcement, Hugh Jackman is finally in town to kick off his world tour.
The man is truly a global superstar, there are few corners of this world where he’s not recognised. He’s Wolverine for goodness sake! the star of a legion of other hit movies, a Tony Award-winning stage superstar and let’s not mention the star of a certain movie and its soundtrack from 2017. As a result, the atmosphere is tangible and the reception he receives as he steps onstage is ear-splitting. When the night is over, the reaction is actually deafening – and deservedly so.
This is a great big, old-fashioned variety show delivered by a truly gifted, multi-talented performer. Accompanied by a 20-strong orchestra, ten backing dancers, a local choir, two didgeridoo players, two indigenous singers, and fellow star of The Greatest Showman, Keala Settle, Jackman manages to encompass his entire life and career and a greatest hits of popular entertainment, in the space of a few hours.
The atmosphere is a joy throughout, a coming together of fans of the man – utterly celebratory. There’s singing, of course: from the inevitable tunes from TGS, through the songs of the golden age of Hollywood movie musicals to some personal stage favourites, including a touching rendition of fellow Ozzie Peter Allen’s Tenterfield Saddler, there’s also a celebration of Australian music with a moving Aboriginal song; there’s a bit of acting – Jean Valjean’s soliloquy from Les Mis; tap dancing à la Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire – Jackman proves to be a stunning dancer; many anecdotes from his life and career, including a very personal moment about his world turning on its head at eight years old (referring his mother leaving him and his brother in Australia with his father, as she took his sisters back to England); we’re treated to the famous Wolverine roar and a drumming section. Is there anything this man can’t do? – err…no.
It’s one of those nights that will truly blow you away. It’s taken a few days to write this down, but the feeling stands, the warm and fuzzies are still here – one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.
Scottish Ballet has announced that the company will be joined by Senior Guest Artist Cira Robinson for the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s The Crucible. The first major commission of Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary year, the production will open the dance programme at the Edinburgh International Festival, 3–5 August 2019.
Cira Robinson in The Suit
As part of a longstanding collaboration between the two companies, Ballet Black’s Senior Artist Cira Robinson will join Scottish Ballet to dance the role of Tituba. Bringing a breadth of experience, Cira will play a vital role in developing this rich and complex character in Arthur Miller’s drama of power and persecution. A story as relevant today as when it was first written, Miller’s 1953 masterpiece explores the impact of the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts.
Ballet Black is the UK’s professional ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian descent. Their goal is to see a fundamental change in the number of black and Asian dancers in UK ballet companies. By creating a central black female character, rarely seen in the UK outside of Ballet Black repertoire, the two companies aim to openly address the challenges of diverse representation in UK ballet (on and off stage), and particularly the lack of black British female ballet dancers.
Scottish Ballet CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson is a Board Member of Ballet Black and has choreographed two works for the company. Continuing the creative collaboration, Scottish Ballet’s former dancer and Artist in Residence, choreographer, Sophie Laplane was commissioned by Ballet Black to create her latest work CLICK!, which premiered at the Barbican in March 2019.
Christopher Hampson, CEO / Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, said:
‘We are very excited to present the world premiere of The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival, as part of Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary. Furthermore, we’re delighted to be working with our friends at Ballet Black and welcoming one of the UK’s leading dancers, Cira Robinson, into Helen Pickett’s production. We’re also thrilled to be giving the U.S. premiere of The Crucible at the prestigious Kennedy Center in 2020.’
Cassa Pancho MBE, Founder & Artistic Director of Ballet Black, said:
‘I’m delighted that Scottish Ballet have invited Cira to guest with them at the Edinburgh International Festival this summer. Cira is one of the most exciting and versatile artists I have worked with, and I am thrilled that she will have the opportunity to share her talent with audiences at the Festival.’
Cira Robinson, Senior Artist at Ballet Black and Senior Guest Artist with Scottish Ballet said: ‘I am thrilled to be guesting with Scottish Ballet in their performances of The Crucible at Edinburgh International Festival, and honoured to be given the opportunity to explore this role.’
Helen Pickett, Choreographer of The Crucible, said:
‘It has been an incredible collaborative process working with Scottish Ballet to bring my vison of Arthur Miller’s play to the stage. I am working with an exceptional creative team, Peter Salem, James Bonas, Emma Kingsbury and David Finn, and together we have translated this iconic drama into the powerful medium of dance. I am also thrilled about the partnership between Scottish Ballet and Ballet Black, this collaboration highlights the strength of unity and inclusion. We are honoured to present The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival among the very best arts companies in the world.’
Fergus Linehan, Artistic Director of Edinburgh International Festival said:
‘Scottish Ballet has been inspiring audiences at the International Festival with unforgettable performances since the 1970s and we’re thrilled to welcome back the company as it celebrates 50 years. It’s especially exciting to open our 2019 dance programme together with a premiere of this scale and scope and look forward to sharing The Crucible with audiences from all over the world’. Following the world premiere of The Crucible at Edinburgh International Festival, the production will tour to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness in autumn 2019, before transferring to the USA in spring 2020.
The Crucible will have its U.S. premiere at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in May 2020. The company will also return to perform in New York and other U.S. cities in 2020, with full programme to be announced. This comes after Scottish Ballet’s hugely successful USA tours of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The Crucible will be the first major commission of Scottish Ballet’s Five in Five, an ambitious new commitment to stage five new full-length ballets over five years; one for every decade of their history. In total, the company seeks to raise £5 million over five years to deliver these new works, and associated access and engagement programmes.
As part of the Five in Five fundraising campaign, Scottish Ballet launches the Millinery Appeal to help make this production of The Crucible possible. Designed by Emma Kingsbury, hats play an essential role in adapting Arthur Miller’s play for dance: they help to define the hierarchy and status of each character. In total, 36 different hats, that each take up to eight hours to make, are being handcrafted by an experienced milliner.
For more information, to book tickets to The Crucible, and to donate to the Millinery Appeal, visit: scottishballet.co.uk/event/crucible
A starry cast has been announced for Scotland’s much loved play, The Steamie. The revamped show – with more songs, more music and more laughs – will see The Dolls, Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens, marking their Steamie debut and playing the feisty Magrit and gullible Dolly respectively. Fiona Wood returns to the show for the third time to portrait the young, full of hope Doreen whilst Mary McCusker reprises the poignant role of Mrs Culfeathers. Harry Ward joins the cast as the lovable drunk handyman Andy.
Written and directed by Tony Roper with songs by David Anderson, this Hogmanay the show takes over Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, the largest entertainment venue in Scotland. Due to popular demand, an extra show on 28th December has been added to this special, limited run.
The Steamie is a Scottish theatre classic; an ode to the hard-working women of the 1950’s and to a bygone Glasgow. The young Doreen envisions a new future, while Mrs Culfeathers looks back to the past – the play is a snapshot of a society, of a time and a cross section of strong women, all rolled up in Roper’s hilarious comedy. As The Scotsman said in 2017, it is a “superb, funny and perfectly-observed play.”
This is the fourth time Neil Laidlaw has produced a tour of The Steamie, first in 2009, the 25th anniversary tour in 2012, the 30th anniversary tour in 2017 and now the revamped, steamier than ever special run at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro.
Neil Laidlaw said: “The Steamie is one of Scotland’s best-loved plays and I am extremely proud to be able to bring it back for another generation to enjoy, this time with new songs and a bigger cast and set.”
“We have brought together a fantastic cast: the inimitable Dolls – Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens who I know decided to be actors because of The Steamie – and Harry Ward are our newbies with the wonderful Fiona Wood and Mary McCusker reprising their roles of Doreen and Mrs Culfeathers. I can’t wait to get into the rehearsal room to witness another cast making this legendary play their own.”
Tony Roper said: “In my late forties I sat down with a biro and a jotter and wrote my first ever play. Over three decades later, the play is still getting the laughs and the cries, connecting with another generation of Scots. The Steamie is the nation’s favourite night out and I cannot wait to bring the show – with more music and a spectacular cast – to the country’s biggest entertainment venue, SSE Hydro.”
Joan Clevillé Dance comes to Platform with The North, the story of a young man who finds himself lost in a harsh yet delicate wilderness with only himself and two eccentric Northerners for company
Using dance, theatre, storytelling and puppetry, The North follows the story of John, a young man who finds himself lost in the harsh yet delicate wilderness of the North with only himself and two eccentric Northerners for company. Without any memory of who he is or where he comes from, John searches for meaning in an increasingly unpredictable environment where being lost is the norm and letting go the only way to survive.
The piece looks at choreographer Joan Clevillé’s own fascination with the idea of ‘North’ as a Catalonian living in Scotland: the landscape, the light, the creatures that inhabit it, but also the people, the dark humour, the silence. The piece deals with themes of identity, belonging, feeling like an outsider and finding your place in an uncertain world.
The North features original music and sound design by Luke Sutherland (former collaborator of Mogwai) featuring music from Wagner to Sinatra, and a striking lighting design by Emma Jones (Scottish Dance Theatre). Dancers Solène Weinachter and Newcastle born John Kendall who starred in Plan B for Utopia are joined on stage by Eve Ganneau (Scottish Dance Theatre, Andersson Ensemble).
Artistic Director Joan Clevillé said “We are delighted to be on the road again with The North. People have very personal reactions to the piece, first of all, everyone carries their own, very intimate idea of what the north is and what it means. But the performance also talks about uncertainty and how we become comfortable with it (or not!). I think this really touches people, as we are living through very unstable times on many different
Rather than realistically describing one environment, which cinema is so good at, I am more interested in the human experience. I wanted to evoke a sense of disorientation, of being humbled by an environment that is stronger than us and that forces us to let go in order to survive. Our followers will recognise the playfulness and versatility of our performers, but this new work has an intriguing, almost cinematic feel, that we hope will take audiences on a completely different journey’.
Joan Clevillé Dance is an independent dance company based in the city of Dundee, Scotland. Led by Artistic Director Joan Clevillé, the company aims to create intimate works that are honest, original and thought-provoking, inviting audiences to share the performers’ enquiry about themselves, each other, and the world we live in. Joan has recently been appointed as Scottish Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director and will take up the position in April 2019.
In 1999, the BBC’s documentary series Trouble at the Top featured Steve Pateman and his century old, struggling shoe manufacturing business in the village of Earls Barton in Northamptonshire. Pateman’s way out of trouble (unfortunately only temporarily) was to create a line of fetish shoes, Divine Footwear. His story inspired the 2005 Geoff Deane and Tim Firth film Kinky Boots and in turn the 2012 Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical from Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell. Like his inspiration, Charlie Price inherits his father’s failing shoe factory, when a chance meeting with drag queen Lola, leads him down a path to survival, producing a line of high-heeled boots for men. Largely following the movie storyline, albeit with a considerable number of Americanisms removed from the Broadway version, the musical preaches a largely predictable message of tolerance and acceptance all festooned in sparkling sequins.
Essential as it is in building the narrative and developing character, the production takes a little while to hit its stride, and it takes Lola and The Angels’ arrival to breathe life into the show and so it remains throughout: there are lulls in the action which are thankfully alleviated when the sequin-clad lovelies appear. Performance wise, as much as Joel Harper-Jackson (Charlie) is vocally excellent, he’s a little hard to warm to, and his vehement outburst at Lola and her lifestyle is a bit too quickly and easily forgiven as we hurtle towards the feel-good ending. Kayi Ushe as Lola, is a star – tough and sassy but equally damaged and vulnerable, it’s a fine line to walk, but Ushe does it with class and grace and a beautifully toned singing voice. Paula Lane imbues her performance with life and humour as Lauren, however her vocals are not exactly musical theatre standard and her diction is tremendously lacking. Collectively the Angels are multi-talented and on-point throughout, as are the entire ensemble.
Cyndi Lauper’s songs for the show include moving ballads, some big ensemble anthems, a few uninspiring fillers, with many having a whiff of the 1980s about them, and all sung with an annoying American accent despite the rest of the dialogue being delivered in a strangled Northampton one. To their credit though, most nicely match the emotions of the narrative, and the rousing feel-good numbers serve the production well in getting the audience on-side and up on its feet.
For all its faults, you will be sure to walk out feeling thoroughly entertained and not a little uplifted – well worth watching.
Set in a steampunk landscape inspired by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne: a wicked queen, a handsome prince, a damsel in distress, high priests, a comedy side-kick, magical instruments, a serpent and some sorcerers are all given new life in Scottish Opera’s revival of Sir Thomas Allen’s joyous production of The Magic Flute.
While the work’s misogyny and Masonic undertones have been long debated, it is impossible to judge an opera written in 1791 by 2019’s standards and this utterly charming, gorgeous looking and sounding version is guaranteed to win over even the hardest of hearts. Its three-hour run time passing by in the blink of an eye.
Of note are the irresistible Papageno, so cleverly and cheekily played by Richard Burkhard, his bang up-to-date, witty asides and ability to wrap the audience around his little finger are a delight; Dingle Yandell’s beautifully sung Speaker; a sure-sounding Sarastro in James Creswell; Gemma Sutherland – a radiant and glorious Pamina, and talent to look out for, Julia Sitkovetsky, who handles Der Hölle Rache, one of the most famous arias in all opera, absolutely beautifully.
This five star production is thanks to the stars aligning in every aspect of its creation: sure-footed direction, lively conducting, a laugh-out-loud and oh-so clever translation, perfect casting, an orchestra on top form and an innovative and captivating stage design. It’s not often achieved, but this is as near to perfection as it’s possible to get.
Runs until 18 May 2019 then touring. Images – James Glossop.