Churchill Theatre, Bromley – until 19 September 2015, then touring.
Guest Reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar
Puttin’ On The Ritz – which promises to take the audience back to the ‘golden age of Hollywood’ – has the potential to be a hit show. Billed as a ‘song and dance extravaganza’, it plays to the country’s fascination with ballroom dancing (as demonstrated by Strictly Come Dancing) and with the musical genius of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, whose hits caused many audience members to sing along.
But this show misses that stellar target. Opening to reveal a static set with two staircases either side, the suggestion is more of a wedding reception. And as the show begins it is also apparent that the design isn’t optimised for space, which results in some constrictions for the dancers. Curiously, above the stage is a screen which occasionally plays out clips of old Hollywood films, including snatches of Fred Astaire. This is a peculiar concept as it only really serves to highlight the gap between Astaire’s iconic magic and the live performances that don’t really come close.
There are, however, some notable highlights. Anya Garnis and Robin Windsor (from Strictly Come Dancing) masterfully deliver three pieces at breath-taking pace, with wonderful skill, fluidity and stage presence. Their final dance, set to Michael Buble’s version of Feelin Good, is superb. Ricky Rojas, one of the six singers, is also very much at ease in engaging with the audience and delivers some sterling vocals.
But the best performances come from Ray Quinn. Where Anya and Robin arguably fall short is in their failure to integrate with the other cast members in their delivery – their pieces are very much separate to the rest of the show – but Ray works with the rest of the cast. His solo songs are performed with conviction and personality, and he captures the essence of a seasoned showman. He also goes beyond singing to perform a couple of slick tap routines.
Heather Davis’ costumes are outstanding and if the show just sometimes doesn’t quite manage to put on the ritz, at least Davis’ designs deliver on the glitz.