|2006 Showcase On Song|
Edinburgh Evening News
Showcase on Song
Church Hill Theatre
SHOW songs, classic rock and even a spot of country are combined in this year's invigorating production from Showcase, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Now in its 16th year, Showcase has become renowned for the high quality of its mix of big chorus numbers and solos, presented in dramatic twists of well-choreographed dance routines.
It was still brave to open this year's production with The Worst Show in Town from The Producers. It wasn't, of course. And with a couple of great performances from Gary Gray and Steve Hutchison in the title roles, the full company swept through a medley of songs from the show.
Choreographer Claire Smith stopped short of using a full-on collection of Nazi salutes for the ironic Springtime for Hitler. But her routines, with inventive direction from Andy Johnston, ensured that the medley told the convoluted story, about a Broadway production designed to be so bad that it flops.
Comedy and irony also combined well in You Gotta Get A Gimmick - the trio from the 1959 musical, Gypsy. Three girly dancers are demonstrating to a young Gypsy Rose Lee the tricks of their trade. Kat Smith's trumpet strumpet and Magdalena Przybyla's butterfly were entertainingly upstaged by Leylah Watban's flashing costume - lighting up in all the strategic places.
The success of productions such as Showcase lie in their structure. Dramatically, this was exceedingly well paced, with the lighthearted pieces adding depth and contrast to the big choral numbers with something more serious to say.
Vocally, both halves built up to a couple of real belters - from Meatloaf in the first and Abba at the end. But an early Fiddler On the Roof medley illustrated the difficulties of peaking too early. There was just a bit too much unwanted tension there from a cast who sounded as if they had not yet warmed up.
There was no such problem with the section devoted to the words and music of Jim Steinman. A pair of tunes from Whistle Down The Wind illustrated that this is a company who have a really strong ability in their choral work.
The staging was excellent too. Edindra Robbin joined Steve Hutchison in a darkly exciting Dead Ringer for Love, with Diane Dootson and Jacqui Mills creating a hugely dramatic version of Total Eclipse of the Heart - only to be outdone as Keith Kilgore's strong performance of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell was rounded off with motorbike on stage.
Such songs do, however, stretch the abilities of performers who are better on the technical side rather than belting out the stadium anthems. And, ironically, it was during a set of country numbers that both Nine to Five and Things allowed the soloists to really articulate the drama of their material.
Choreographically, Claire Smith used all her dancers exceptionally well. Led by Elizabeth Platfoot and Peter Twyman, whose professional ability lifted those around them, the dance troupe were consistently good to watch - while the whole chorus were used according to their own abilities in a way that allowed them to shine without showing them up.
With a cast of 27 to contend with, many big dramatic numbers and a costume change for every other song, the back stage staff also do great work on a show which flowed from start to finish.