entertain head

That's Entertainment

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT, the musical revue featuring the music and dance of the Golden Era of Hollywood, tap dances its way on to the Alexandra Theatre Stage with enough high energy and high kicking to leave you out of breath just watching.

Even so there was little air to do that, with temperatures outside hitting the mid-thirties, the heat rose in the theatre from both the weather and the onstage performance.

The show is not exactly a rich glittering affair with the stage setting showing obvious signs of a touring production. It was enough though and with a few minor changes and a handful of props throughout the evening it was adequate for the company to perform against.

It’s also not a large ensemble with a total of just 12 performers who in the big numbers at times appeared underrepresented on the stage.

Throughout though, their exuberance and show biz razzmatazz was not lacking and songs like I got Rhythm, the show finale, got the full works, featuring a full company tap dance routine and some great costumes.

The show featured cameos from guest West End musical star, Ruthie Henshall . It was clear that she was the logistics cover for the cast to change costumes from number to number, but her presence often slowed down the proceedings a lot when all we wanted were the well-known songs.

Sounding a lot like Judy Garland she covered several songs from her repertoire. However dipping into anecdotes from her own life and career became a distraction and although many may have known her previous stage work, this seemed out of place in this, at other times, flowing musical revue.

The choice of songs during the evening also veered away a lot from the That’s Entertainment theme. A section entitled Cockney Knees Up accounted for nearly half of the first Act featuring seven songs like Knees Up Mother Brown and with everyone dressed as pearly kings and queens it was good fun but a long way from Hollywood.

The smaller duo staging of numbers like A couple of Swells and Good Morning were delightful and certainly a few more of these would have added extra value.

The main vocalists were billed as The Overtones featuring Loula Geater, Emma Kate Nelson, Simon Schofield and Sean Smith. Each of them handled songs like They Can’t take that away From Me, and a selection of the Rat Pack tunes with ease. Miss Geater was especially authentic to the era handling the ballads with power and clarity.

Topping it all were the dance routines and costumes. Director and Choreographer Emma Rogers has a rich history of moves to plunder and the ensemble were excellent. The show is performed against a prerecorded sound track, no doubt because of the orchestration needed for many of the songs. It all seemed a little dry and karaoke like at times and a small band or piano accompaniment would have lifted the performance atmosphere, considering the vocal work was so good.

You cannot beat the Hollywood era for sheer glamour and joy. The costumes added that touch of class missing from today’s casual look even when the set didn’t. Together with the songs from the likes of Oscar Hammerstein and Gershwin, all delivered with sophistication, energy and classic choreography, That’s Entertainment shows exactly why the classic Hollywood era remains such a golden period in entertainment history. To 23-07-16

Jeff Grant

19-07-16 

And being entertained

****

WEST End and Broadway star Ruthie Henshall is the big name in this sparkling show which features hits from the great musicals of the 40s and 50s.

The mother-of-two has filled many of the major roles over the years, and she impresses with a string of popular numbers after recalling how she first appeared at Birmingham in A Chorus Line while marvelling at the improvements that have taken place in the city since then.

Guest artist Ruthie’s contributions in both acts – particularly with All That Jazz and The Man That Got Away – are certainly enjoyable, but she finds herself outshone here by a wonderfully talented group of singer-dancers, The Overtones . . . Loula Geater, Emma Kate Nelson, Simon Schofield and Sean Smith.

Supported by a glamour-packed ensemble of four men and four women, they deliver a cracking programme ranging from Puttin’ on the Ritz to A Couple of Swells, and a very lively Cockney knees up in smart Pearly King and Queen outfits.

There is also slick tribute to The Rat Pack with numbers like Luck Be a Lady, The Candyman and That’s Life.

Costumes are a delight, too, and director-choreographer Emma Rogers has created some excellent dances for the cast, including tap and ballroom.

That certainly is entertainment. To 23.07.16

Paul Marston

20-07-16 

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