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2005 - Be There....  George Square!

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Edinburgh Evening News:

Sounds good as Showcase stars keep it simple


Showcase 2005 - Be There, George Square

George Square Theatre


A BALANCED and accessible programme gives the soloists of this annual Macmillan fundraiser plenty of chances to get right into their songs and make them fly.

Musical director David McFarlane has gone straight to basics to ensure the success of his responsibilities. Before a single note is sung the overture shows an orchestra who are not only spirited in approach, but strong in output.

When the lights come down on the glitzy set, to allow Robert Walker to step forward and emerge from the dark singing One Voice, you know you're in for a good night. It is simple but effective stuff as the 29-strong company join him on stage and the music swells as the lights come up.

Choosing a different programme every year, and one that works, can not be easy. Suffice to say, director Andy Johnston hasn't got all his choices right. No sooner has One Voice succeeded in its simplicity than the rigours of disco number Relight My Fire provide a reminder of the depths to which such shows can sink.

To be clear, the singing is good throughout. It's the staging and technical support which needs to be looked at.

It's simple stuff too, such as using the facilities of the mixing desk to give Fiona MacFarlane's voice extra depth, like not putting dads who can't dance in the front row. Dropping the naff T-shirts would help too.

To be fair, it's the one big blip in an otherwise excellent evening and the costumes are otherwise superb. But it does indicate where the company needs to improve. Zoe Bellamy's choreography is great for big numbers like Sweet Dreams, with four silver-clad dancers in support, or the tightly worked version of Madonna's Vogue.

Yet she seems to have allowed some numbers to fend for themselves. A Phil Spector medley works well due to the vitality of Leylah Watban's lead vocals. But her backing vocalists in Da Do Ron Ron need to "do do" just that bit more. And once the whole company are on stage, such basics as swaying in time are not co-ordinated.

Conversely, the tricky passages are effortlessly performed. In a Leonard Bernstein medley, Susan Galloway and Pete Harvey shine in Dream With Me - turning the song into a duet between her voice and his cello. And everything works in America, as the chorus negotiate the rhythmic minefield of the big hit from West Side Story.

Programming a medley of hits from Phantom of the Opera was always going to be a crowd pleaser. But no one warned us about Magdalena Przybyla. She did not just shine but excelled with the purity of her voice as she hit the high notes of the show's title duet. Poor Dougie Walker's strong support was put right into the shade.

It's not always such sublime stuff and this is a company which knows how to have fun while it entertains, as the tongue-firmly-in-cheek rendition of 16 Going On 17 showed with Crofton Palmer and Susan Galloway making great sport of not being as close to those ages as they used to be.

Simple, effective and pleasing on the ear.