Edinburgh Playhouse – until 4 June 2016
Guest reviewer: Martin Gray
A supposed tribute to Hollywood musicals proves a bit of a headscratcher but That’s Entertainment.
Remember those old British comics, Whizzer & Chips and Shiver & Shake? Their gimmick was that they were ‘two-comics-in-one’, with one themed insert pulling out of the other and readers encouraged to declare a preference. That’s this show, that is. It’s sold as a celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood but is utterly derailed every time Special Guest Star Jane McDonald shows up.
I’m a fan of Jane McDonald, for parlaying the publicity she received as resident singer in BBC docusoap The Cruise into a sizeable showbiz career, with tours, a gig on the Loose Women panel and even a part in Cats. She’s got a pleasingly big voice and an even bigger personality, she’s always ready with a great line or three to show us what an ordinary English Northern lass she is. And I believe it, I believe that Jane McDonald is just like us.
But that’s not what was needed tonight. Jane needed to go full-on Hollywood goddess, using her voice and curves to become Marilyn Monroe or Carmen Miranda.
What she gave in her occasional spots were numbers from her own repertoire, the likes of Downtown, Do You Know the Way to San Jose? and You’re My World, delivered beautifully and with conviction… but nothing at all to do with Hollywood. McDonald admitted after her first number that she only knows one Forties song – so what the heck are you doing here, pet?
That’s Entertainment is one of those touring shows that slots different guest stars into the mix according to who’s interested and available (next week’s Glasgow run features Elaine C Smith, a woman not unfamiliar with showtunes so I suspect audiences there are in for a treat). Fitting around the guest star are singers and dancers who actually do tackle favourites from the musicals, relatively unknown but very talented young folk who can’t depend on a fanbase for their applause.
The That’s Entertainment Ensemble
So step forward, and fast, Simon Schofield, Lauren Atkins, Loula Geater, Andy McGuire, Emma Kate Nelson and Sean Smith, who together with the Ensemble and a recorded soundtrack, gave us the likes of A Couple of Swells, They Can’t Take that Away From Me, On the Street Where You Live and medleys from South Pacific and Carousel.
An underpowered Trolley Song was made up for by rousing renditions of another Garland favourite, Get Happy, and We’re In The Money. The tap-happy Good Morning and I Got Rhythm (which at one point gave us tap in a step dancing style) were the standouts, along with It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), which began as a vocal duel and turned into something of a dance contest; everybody won.
A Rat Pack ‘celebration’ was nicely done, though it’s connection to the Golden Age of Musicals was a tad tenous, but that was nothing compared to the medley that ended Act One – a Cockney Knees Up? I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, My Old Man… and asking a Scottish audience to sing along with Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner with no discernible irony was just crackers. Yes, Me and My Gal was a popular stage musical a couple of decades ago but Golden Age of Hollywood? Cricklewood more like.
It’s likely that as many members of the audience came for La McDonald as the promise of Hollywood, so there was applause aplenty, and I don’t begrudge David King and Emma Rogers’ production that – the show was bemusing, but fun, with some electric moments. But tighter reins on the concept could give us a really memorable show
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 31 May – Saturday 4 June 2016
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds, Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/thats-entertainment/edinburgh-playhouse/
That’s Entertainment website: http://thatsentertainmentshow.com/
That’s Entertainment on tour:
31 May – 4 June
0844 871 3014
7 – 11 June
Elaine C Smith
0844 871 7647
14 – 18 June
0844 871 3017
20 – 22 June
0844 871 3024
23 – 25 June
0844 871 7649
28 June – 2 July
020 3285 6000
5 – 9 July
08448 11 21 21
12 – 16 July
0844 871 7645
19 – 23 July
0844 871 3011
26 – 30 July
0844 871 7607
2 – 6 August
0844 871 7650
0844 871 7646
5 – 10 September
& Ruthie Henshall
01603 63 00 00