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Sep 9th

Hairspray the Musical at The Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
Hairspray the Musical

Welcome to the Sixties! Musical theatre’s most colourful and energetic touring production reached Edinburgh as HAIRSPRAY The Musical exploded onto the Playhouse stage with its trademark fun, verve and HUGE hairdoooos!!

For many, Hairspray epitomises a great night out at the theatre. The show is full of laughs, love, heartthrobs, catchy tunes and a couple of characters that you love to hate. The sixties setting provides a great opportunity to go overboard on zany costumes and scenery and there are more high energy chorus and dance numbers than you can shake a sixties stick at.

It’s 1962 and larger than life (in more ways than one) teen, Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton), dreams of appearing on the Corny Collins Show – Baltimore’s TV Dance sensation. Her (even larger) mother, Edna (Mark Benton), tries to keep her feet on the ground as she knows that “people like us don’t get on TV”. Determined to achieve her goal, Tracy learns some cool dance moves from her friend Seaweed (Adrian Hansel) but realises that she can never dance with Seaweed on TV because he is black and segregation is the norm in 1962. Tracy sets out to change all that …

Cultural change on racial segregation sounds like a heavy backdrop for a musical, but the innocence of Tracy’s character keeps the story lighter than light and the race issue only serves to identify who the ‘bad guys’ are in the tale. The overwhelming joy of the show comes from the sheer energy of it. Two huge song and dance chorus numbers are delivered before the first word of dialogue and the pace never lets up from the “Good Morning Baltimore” opener to the “You Can’t Stop The Beat” finale with every number in between a sure fire HIT.

Colourful costumes from William Ivey Long complimented whacky set design from David Rockwell. Director, Jack O’Brien, made the most of the contrasts of casting as contrast was a clear theme throughout. Tracy was big while her friend Penny (Lauren Hood) was skinny. Edna was tall while husband, Wilbur (Paul Rider), was small and this physicality was used to great comic effect.

Freya SuttonOn stage, newcomer Freya Sutton carried the narrative well and delivered a superb all round performance with a high energy level which shows no sign of flagging on this extensive tour. Double acts from Mark Benton / Paul Rider and Lucy Benjamin / Gemma Sutton (as the “we love to hate them” Von Tussles) produced some great entertainment with support from a fantastic ensemble cast. Lauren Hood was excellent as skinny pal, Penny. But the “blow your socks off” credit must be attributed to the incredible vocal talents of Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle. Her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” had the entire audience wondering where their socks had gone at the end of the night. She nailed the ‘money note’ 8 bars from the end and the audience couldn’t help but clap and cheer all the way through the final harmonies. Amazing.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to see this show before it leaves Edinburgh on 14th September. The tour continues to Aberdeen and Norwich. You can’t stop the beat!

HAIRSPRAY – The Musical

Tue 3 – Sat 14 Sept

Tue – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £22.40 - £52.40

Box Office 0844 871 3014 (Bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Aug 20th

Dreamboats and Petticoats at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
Dreamboats and Petticoats returns to Glasgow proving that this particular nostalgic musical has some staying power on the UK circuit.

Dreamboats and Petticoats

The nostalgic, retrospective musical show tour has become commonplace in our theatres … but their popularity does not guarantee that any particular production is any good. A cynical producer would insist that building a show around 45 classic chart hits from the 50s and early 60s would deliver a smash hit musical. But the audiences who were first attracted to the theatre to see “Buddy” have been suckered by a few badly produced, but similarly themed, shows since and have grown more sophisticated. The bar has been raised.

Dreamboats and Petticoats is a Juke Box musical in its purest form but it delivers more than you might hope for. OK, the story is light and the choreography is simplistic; but the music, humour, performances and blatant onstage FUN really lift this show out of the ordinary. The story is based around a church youth club and an entry into a national song writing competition. Almost as expected – girl worships boy from afar, boy doesn’t notice girl, girl makes boy jealous, boy shows interest, girl (apparently) changes her mind, boy gets sad, girl and boy finally realise their true love, the end. But writers Marks and Gran (of Birds of a Feather fame) have built in some instantly appealing characters and some regular chuckles along the way so that the story becomes a simple vehicle for delivery of the humour and the music.

Performances from this largely breakthrough cast were excellent. Leading actors Stephen Rolley, Matthew Colthard, Louise Olley, and Laura Sillett all delivered songs, dance and characters well. Newcomer, Hannah Boyce, sang particularly beautifully as Laura while Will Finlason astonished with an outstanding vocal and character performance in the role of her brother, Ray. The ensemble cast were impressive as they sang danced and played their way through the rock and roll songbook. Didn't I mention that the cast played their own instruments? Yep, put “Return to the Forbidden Planet” in a time machine and you’ll find yourself with “Dreamboats and Petticoats”! Somehow, amongst all of this talent, Chloe Edwards-Wood caught the eye in the minor role of Daisy and her significant role as ensemble dancer and tenor sax player (doing both to such a high standard at the same time demands this credit).

In fact, my only gripe with this production was the shameless parading of Mark Wynter in the final 15 minutes which effectively transformed his casting in the minor roles of Phil / Older Bobby into that of "Aging Headliner" in some crazy justification of his stealing the final bow.

Producer Bill Kenwright has, once again, delivered something special here. Watch out for some cleverly penned contemporary gags … and a scene stealing monk!

Mon 19– Sat 24 August
Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £12.90 - £38.90
Box Office: 0870 060 6648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Aug 10th

Gyles Brandreth: Looking for Happiness at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe

By Clare Brotherwood

On 17 June at Birmingham University, Gyles Brandreth delivered the annual Baggs Memorial Lecture on ‘Happiness - what it is and how it may be achieved by individuals as well as nations’.

Such was the audience’s response that, just seven weeks later, his latest book, The 7 Secrets of Happiness: An Optimist’s Journey, has already been published.

Just 111 pages long, it is, nevertheless, packed full of facts, figures and philosophy, presented in an informed and entertaining style, along with anecdotes and glorious name-dropping (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elton John, The Duke of Edinburgh...).

But nothing can take the place of Glyes Brandreth in the flesh.

Looking For HappinessThe lecture had been the springboard for his latest solo show, Looking for Happiness - the culmination of a journey he has been on since his best friend, actor Simon Cadell, died 17 years ago - which he is performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before doing a national and international tour.

Dressed as a jester, his hat rather askew, he bursts onto the stage with his usual aplomb, a figure of fun or, as he describes himself, a jester of joy.

Vivacious, energetic and perhaps just a little bit manic, this writer, broadcaster, actor, former MP and Government Whip, always gives more than his money’s worth and, for the next hour, thrills us with more unique anecdotes involving additional name-dropping and worthy impersonations. He also performs an hilarious four-act melodrama (in 90 seconds!) and introduces a bit of audience participation - beware those sitting in the front row!

But these are just little asides. For the purpose of Gyles’ latest show is the pursuit of happiness and, unusually, there are a couple of times when he almost moves me to tears. He gives some good advice too, courtesy of the late ‘media shrink’, Dr Anthony Clare. But in order to learn the seven secrets of happiness you’ll have to see the show or/and read the book. I promise you won’t be disappointed - and you may end up being happier!

Gyles Brandreth: Looking for Happiness continues at the Pleasance Courtyard until 26 August and then goes on a nationwide tour 226 0000

0131 556 6550
Aug 8th

The Rocky Horror Show at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is back at the King’s Theatre Glasgow! Celebrating 40 years of stage success, this show is not one to miss!  The show is a mixture of powerful rock anthems, killer vocals and laugh out loud comedy.

The Rocky Horror Show

Its film adaptation in 1975 has given even more people around the world a chance to enjoy Rocky Horror's peculiar delights, but its roots lie firmly in the theatre. The audience gets a real chance to not only experience the production live but, in some cases, to interact with it.

Oliver Thornton gives a fantastic portrayal of Frank-N-Furter.  He plays his character with absolute enthusiasm and ease.  Thornton is without doubt the star of the show and would even give the legendary Tim Curry a run for his money!

Reality TV winner Ben Forster plays Brad brilliantly.  Actor Dani Harmer portrays both Janet’s gentle and wild sides incredibly well.  Both characters are a delight to watch and interact very well with one another as they unravel from geek chic couple to slinking about the stage in stilettos. Christopher Luscombe does a great job of narrating one of the most heckled shows in theatre.  Playing along well with the crowds shouts and getting some extra laughs with some improvisation.

With a very impressive and detailed set, an excellent live rock band and a very strong cast this show lives up to the expectations of all.  It is a faithful reproduction of the well-loved original.

The show features such classics as Sweet Transvestite and the pelvic thrusting Time Warp!  This show will have you singing along from beginning to end!  Do not miss out!

Review by Christopher Lowe

The Rocky Horror Show

Tue 6th – Sat 10 Aug

Tue –  Thu eves , 8pm

Wed, Fri & Sat 5.30pm & 8.30pm


Tickets £10 – £32

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Aug 5th

West End At The Fringe – The SPACE @ Symposium Hall (Venue 43) - 2nd – 24th August 2013

By Jon Cuthbertson


It’s always hard to decide what to see at The Fringe – so many shows, so little time. Even narrowing it down to deciding on seeing a musical can see you leafing through pages of the Fringe brochure trying to pick the one to see. Well, if it’s musicals you are looking for, I can save you some time. West End At The Fringe is a revue show that has pulled together a great selection of songs from musicals, added some great young talent and set itself in one of the comfiest theatres you will find on the Fringe.

Revue shows can very much be hit or miss – the song selection needs to be clever and producer Emma McGuire seems to have had a checklist to create this show as there was definitely something for everyone. From classics from Andrew Lloyd Webber, to some lesser known Sondheim, via modern musicals like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee the variety was a smart mix of ballads and comedy numbers, solos, duets and group numbers to make sure that if you didn’t like a certain song, then something would pop up next to take your fancy.

However, it is all very well having the song list, but you need voices to make it work. Will Hawksworth’s rendition of Til I Hear You Sing from the Phantom Of The Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, was both emotional and flawless as a performance – this is a name for the future. Another name for the future is Emma Ralston. Her version of Worst Pies In London let us see that not only did she have the voice, but had comic timing too before wowing with her version of Wizard and I (with the obligatory green spotlight!). James Irving had seemed to be a supporting cast member until his touching rendition of I’m Not That Smart and he made the most of his moment in the spotlight. Vanessa Carr was the bubbly blonde of the cast – and seemed to use the smile as a cover in the first few numbers, however her truthful performance in With You from Ghost The Musical was genuinely touching. Natalie Law looked to be genuinely enjoying her time on stage and made the most of the interactions between songs – but don’t let that fool you – she has the voice to match and rocked out during Hammer to Fall and alongside Vanessa and Emma gave my highlight of the show – Let Me Be Your Star from Smash (ok – they cheated – it’s never been on in the West End – it’s from a TV show – but I’m forgiving them because it’s a brilliant song and they do it so well!).

All this would be nothing without music and Musical Director Ross Leadbetter makes a single keyboard suddenly sound like a full orchestra! I’m pleased to see a live musician as part of this show as all too often these revue’s on the Fringe are to recorded music, but live performances should be just that – live! So all credit to MCG Productions for putting the money where their mouth is.

At an ideal lunchtime slot, this is a great way to start off your day out at The Fringe, so if you are in or visiting the East Coast, go to West End At The Fringe. And don’t forget – genuinely the most comfortable seats on The Fringe – they should have it on the flyer!


2nd – 10th August @ 12pm
12th – 24th August @ 1pm (excluding 18th)

Tickets £10/£8

Box Office: 0131 510 2385

Web: or

Jul 4th

Bohemian Rhapsody at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Christopher Lowe

Bohemian Rhapsody is the spectacular tribute to rock legends, Queen, and runs at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday.

Bohemian Rhapsody

This rock show will blow your mind featuring Queen's biggest hits live on stage. We are the Champions, Killer Queen, Under Pressure, Don’t Stop Me Now, A Kind of Magic, Another One Bites the Dust, Bicycle, Bohemian Rhapsody and so much more!

Featuring an amazing cast of dancers, singers and a powerful rock band the opportunity is too good to miss!

Nathan JamesNathan James really captivates the audience with his powerful and grizzly rock voice that sends shivers up your spine. It is no wonder he has led a very successful career! Featuring in the top 100 of the voice, gaining a top eleven place in ITV and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber TV search “Superstar” and joining the top prog-rock supremos the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! (

Let’s not forget about Amy Diamond, Kelly Ann Gower, Rebecca Kelly, Ben Smith and Giovanni Spanó who all delivered fantastic solo and group performances.

The dancers really accompanied the singers well and kept the show buzzing from start to finish. Of course, the performance would be nothing without the fantastically talented musicians who replicated all of Queen’s greatest and classic hits.

The show begins with the introduction of the classic song “One Vision” the crowd has already begun to clap, stamp and cheer before the show has even begun!  The atmosphere is electric, exciting and inviting!  The performers interact well with the audience and encourage everyone to join in and sing along to every hit. Every song played has the audience tuned in from start to finish and even the guitarists took centre stage to show off their incredible skills. Towards the end the crowd are ecstatic. Everybody was cheering and clapping their hands to the climactic songs “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”.  It was a very emotional and a well fitted finish for the show.

This breath-taking rock concert has sold out in concert arenas all over the world!  So don’t miss your chance to see them while you can!!!!

Bohemian Rhapsody : A spectacular Tribute to Queen
Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 6th July
Tue – Sat eves 7.30pm
Sat mat 2.30pm
Tickets £10 – £27.50
Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)


Jun 19th

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The MusicalEvery now and again along comes a show that makes no pretence about being clever, delivering a message or educating the audience.  It neatly sidesteps topical issues, slips seductively past moral argument and focusses 100% of its energy on entertainment.  Priscilla is the poster child of that show.  It wow’s the audience from the outset, blasts a fanfare of catchy tunes in the welcoming ear, dazzles the eyes with sequins and glitter balls and tickles the audience with feather festooned costumes.  Glasgow … prepare to be tickled, as Priscilla Queen of the Desert makes a scheduled stop in town!


Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical

Everybody’s favourite Neighbour, Jason Donovan, reprises his West End role as Tick / Mitzi in this runaway successful national tour.  Mr Donovan was clearly suffering the effects of a cold last night as we could hear from his uncharacteristically croaky dialog but this did nothing to dampen the energy and character of his performance.  The show must go on, as they say, and Mr Donovan delivered a first rate performance including strong vocal harmonies and some quite touching solo pieces.



The show marches on like a carnival parade delivering hit after hit in a time honoured juke box musical style.  From “It’s Raining Men” though “Venus”, “Go West”, “I Love The Nightlife”, “True Colours” and “Colour My World” to “I Will Survive” - these are just some of the highlights … of the FIRST act!  And just like the best parades, the costumes (designed by Tim Chappel and Kizzy Gardiner) become more and more elaborate throughout! The audience can feast their eyes on over 500 outfits in a dazzling rainbow of colour, sequins, heels, silks and footballs (you would have to see it to believe it).



There were laughs aplenty from the outrageous script based on the MGM movie; “If we wanted to give the world an enema, I think we’ve found the point of entry” Bernadette suggested, smoothly.  As camp as Christmas at Pontins the show gets maximum laughs as the principals comment dryly on everything they encounter on the road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs in Priscilla, their newly christened tour bus.  There may well be a message in here somewhere but, if so, it’s buried under a ton of feathers, glitter and pink paint and is being drowned out by more hit songs than the Elton John back catalogue.  Judging by the reaction from the audience, this formula works very well indeed.


Jason Donovan was supported by a fabulously talented and energetic cast including great character and dance performances from Frances Mayli McCann and Alan Hunter (as Cynthia and Miss Understanding) and outstanding vocal performances from the 3 Divas played by Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell.  Graham Weaver showed off astonishing triple threat gifts as Adam / Felicia.  But it was TV soap heartthrob, Richard Grieve, who impressed by contrasting with all those around him as Bernadette.  Mr Grieve gave a stylish and sophisticated performance as the experienced transsexual former star of “Les Girls”.


Get yourself down to The King’s Theatre before this bus leaves town for good!


Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical

Mon 17 – Sat 29 June

Mon – Thu eves 7.30pm

Fri 5pm & 8.15pm

Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £37.50

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Jun 14th

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Cottiers Kelvinbridge Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

“The Bee”, as this lengthily titled one act musical comedy is affectionately (and justifiably) known, does exactly what it says in the title.  That is, it is set entirely during a youth spelling competition in Putnam County.  How dull, you might say.  How wrong you might be!


The Bee

Against the backdrop of youthful enthusiastic American competition is delivered a touching and intelligent study of character with an uplifting score and some genuine poignancy (P-O-I-G-N-A-N-C-Y).  As the six competitors (and three adults) are introduced and begin their spelling challenge, we get to know them, their backgrounds and their life goals; and we are quickly drawn into this quirky bright and engaging tale.  To add to the complexity of this nine part ensemble show, four members of the audience (recruited earlier in the evening) join the cast onstage as guest contestants; adding more fun and a random element to an already laugh-out-loud show.


Staging was necessarily simple at the new Cottiers Kelvinbridge venue.  Direction from Sarah-Elizabeth Daly was crisp, lively and genuinely touching at times.  Music and Lyrics by William Finn supported character throughout with energetic and comedic numbers balanced beautifully by wistful soliloquies (S-O-L-I-L-O-Q-U-I-E-S) as the audience glimpsed back stories that the principals kept hidden – even from each other.  Particularly effective was the structure of some of the songs which could be highly complex and often left the performers exposed against clashing harmony from chorus or band.  This emphasised the vulnerability of characters and was beautifully executed by the cast and band under the direction of Connor Going.


Photo - GlasgowTheatreBlog.comThe cast were universally excellent.  And I mean that (E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T).  Completely flawless in their delivery of comedy, song and childlike choreography (by John Gerard McFaulds).  An incredibly diverse range of characters were rendered and all with complete conviction and in the absence of unnecessary stereotypes (S-T-E-R-E-O-T-Y-P-E-S). There were particularly impressive vocals, incredibly funny mannerisms, hilarious physical comedy … all of the ingredients were just right.  Without exception, Rachel Sheinkin’s side-splitting book was delivered to maximum effect.


Did I mention that this is an amateur production? A-M-A-T-E-U-R!!  In aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (L-E-U … you get the picture!).  Presented by Mad Props Theatre Company as their inaugural production.  This is definitely a company to watch for the future; particularly as their next production is Avenue Q.


The best £12 you could possibly spend this weekend.




12-15 June 2013

Cottiers Kelvinbridge

416 Great Western Road
G4 9HZ

Tickets £12

BUY ONLINE (Booking Fee)

Photo above courtesy of Sarah-Elizabeth Daly and 
Jun 13th

Sleeping Beauty On Ice – Theatre Royal, Glasgow – 11th – 15th June 2013

By Jon Cuthbertson

After the success of their previous productions, The Imperial Ice Stars return to Glasgow to present Sleeping Beauty on Ice.


I have always been impressed by this company, and the amazing work they can do on the ice and was looking forward to seeing their interpretation of this story. Again they have brought an extremely talented cast of skaters who show off an amazing array of skills while displaying a dazzling array of costumes.


In the title role, returning performer Olga Sharutenko (recently seen partnering Keith Chegwin on TV’s Dancing On Ice) has a grace and beauty as a skater that suits the character of Princess Aurora. Her dreamlike appearance during the forest scene in the second act was a great display of those skills. In contrast Iuliia Odintcova as the evil fairy Carabosse had the exciting and dramatic style of skating that gave the upbeat sections of the story an equally important presence. Her work with Jurijs Salmanovs as her shadow had great flair and when joined by Carabosse’s Retinue they created some of the most dramatic throws and flips that will ever be seen in live theatre.


Yulia Ashcheulova as the Lilac Fairy was more than just a skater, her ballet section (yes, she did indeed perform en pointe on the ice!) was exceptional. Volodymyr Khodakivskyy and Fiona Kirk had minor roles as the King and Queen, but their unnamed roles where they performed their aerial duets showed their great skill as gymnasts. The entire company (too many to mention) show exceptional skill, which definitely outweighs the tricks you can see on TV, particularly in a space less than half the size of the usual ice rinks and this is seen no better than in the thrilling encore section of the show where each of the cast has a chance to show off some signature moves.


For want of a better cliché, get your skates on now to grab a ticket to see this show!




Tue 11 – Sat 15 June

Tue - Sat eves @ 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £29.50

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (Bkg fee)



Jun 5th

Evita at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

The Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Weber masterpiece, Evita, returns to the King’s Theatre this week.


It is easy to see why this musical has become one of the most loved and enduring successes of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice partnership.  With an appealing score carrying the real life narrative including musical favourites like High Flying Adored, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me and, of course, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina the show lives long in the memory of the audience.  The drama, too, is hard hitting set against the backdrop of civil unrest, a military coup and the untimely death of Eva Peron aged just 33.

This is a show of contrasts as unusual rhythms and jarring harmonies often resolve into beautiful, well known, melodies.  A tale of political corruption and subterfuge is interspersed with moments of levity, fun and lively dance sequences as the people live their lives innocent of the power plays in the higher echelons of society.

Bill Kenwright’s production, as we would expect, brings the story to the audience with authority and a high presentation standard.  The set, by award winning Glasgow trained designer Matthew Wright, brought an extra dimension to the performance with a flexible system of balconies, pillars and sweeping staircases which effectively represented interior and exterior scenes.  Choreography from Bill Deamer firmly placed the story in Latin America and added energy to several scenes.



Performances were excellent throughout.  Marti Pellow has rightfully established his place as a UK theatre star and seemed very comfortable as Ché.  This is a demanding pivotal role as the character is rarely off stage and, as the narrator, drives the story forward. Mark Heenehan was convincing as Peron and Sarah McNicholas delivered a lovely rendition of “Another Suitcase In Another Hall” as the Mistress.  But the spotlight must rightly remain on Madalena Alberto as Eva.  Her voice had a beautiful quality; raising hairs on the back of the neck more than once.  Vocal control was superb and particularly impressive during the dance sequences (which she appeared to relish).  She balanced the (sometimes cold) ambition of Eva with her passion for the people of Argentina to ensure that the audience were ready to shed a tear upon her death … and they leapt to their feet in ovation for her curtain call.


King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Monday 3 – Saturday 15th June

Tickets £10 – £29.50

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)