Putting’ on the Ritz
In the beginning I thought – concert with dancers, at the end I still thought concert with dancers. One set throughout, two wide silvery staircases sweeping down either side of the stage, a balcony above with a space below for cast to come and go. The backdrop, stars shining out of the blackness. We had entered the golden age of Hollywood on a budget and, as the orchestra (sadly on tape or the 21st century equivalent) belted out ‘I’ve got Rhythm’ a screen above the balcony showed silent movies of the real McCoy, Ginger and Fred, Judy Garland and the like.
Then on come the cast all teeth and tits, five couples first, men in black tie and tails, girls in 1920 glitz. Next come the singers, three men, three women, with top of the bill four dancers from Strictly Come Dancing, Katya Virshilas, Jared Murillo, Trent Whiddon and Gordana Grandosek; the audience obviously identified with them and gave them a warm welcome.
The words and music of Gershwin, Berlin and Porter just kept coming, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Another Opening Another Show, Fascinating Rhythm. There was a lot of eye contact and a lot of big smiles aimed at the audience and amazing enthusiasm all round, certainly the cast gave us their best. But it was one little section that was the show stopper and it didn’t involve singing or dancing. Toward the end of the show the dancers sat along the front of the stage their legs dangling and to fast and furious music – it might have been Maple Leaf Rag but I was so enthralled I’ve forgotten – did a hand jive which was mesmerising. One false move and it was over, get behind the music and you’re done for but their timing was perfect and the audience applause and whooping was loud and prolonged.
The sound was interesting. At times it seemed that the singing and the tap routines were boosted by some external source, a ‘click’ track as it’s called in theatre. It was just too fulsome to be completely true although every step was danced and every note was sung on stage but it’s a small cast for such a big show so perhaps a little help was needed.
This isn’t theatre nor is it a musical, it’s somewhere in between, you’ll enjoy it if you like Strictly, you’ll enjoy it if you like the music of the 20s and the Cotton Club and even if you don’t fall into that category, you’ll come away singing.
Review by Anne Hailes
Grand Opera House until Saturday 27th June 2015