As someone who was raised on a diet of the films of the golden age of Hollywood and classic MGM Musicals; and as someone who finds a full on show-stopping musical dance break hard to beat, the lure of a musical revue of the songs of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter proved hard to resist.
Putting together a collection of some of the most timeless and well-known songs, including “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, “Top Hat”, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”, “Anything Goes” and “I Got Rhythm”, the soundtrack was top notch and a real demonstration of the enduring appeal of these masterfully written slices of perfection. There was a pleasant spread of songs, taking into account the upbeat numbers, but also slowing the pace with some ballads, including “Someone To Watch Over Me”. There were a few odd choices – a rather over the top performance of “Summertime”, a couple of instrumental songs which really should have been sung (“Cheek to Cheek”) and a few absent favourites, but overall, with such a vast catalogue to choose from, there was a good spread of the well-known and seldom heard.
Despite the staging being fairly bland; an unimaginative glittery set, a backdrop curtain with a cascade of fairy lights and a rickety staircase; the numerous costumes changes came thick and fast, with enough sequins, feathers and glitz to satisfy even the hardiest of ‘Strictly’ fans. Lighting and direction was fairly functional, but the choreography was fast paced, upbeat and a good mixture of ballroom, jazz, tap, swing and Charleston, performed in a rather polished fashion.
The low quality production values aside, the cast performed competently albeit with an abundance of fixed grins. The six vocalists were able to give the songs enough joie de vivre to do them justice, with the three male vocalists eclipsing the female trio. Trent Whiddon and Gordana Grandosek (from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’) were rather impressive, although criminally underused, making the most of their handful of routines, floating lightly across the stage and making the whole thing look absolutely effortless. The remaining cast of dancers did give it their all and the numbers were well choreographed, building nicely and feeling very playful.
The show is certainly more “cruise ship cabaret” as opposed to “West End spectacular”, but despite its low production values, slightly cheesy feel and constantly grinning cast, the show was foot tappingly entertaining where the stars of the show were the songs themselves. I’m sure that this was never intended to be life changing theatre, but it never pretends to be; and managed to completely sweep up the audience with its charm and its firm footing in the tradition of good, old fashioned entertainment. The running time of just over two hours went far too quickly, making this show a nice little guilty pleasure.
Puttin’ on the Ritz is at Sheffield Theatres until 20th June 2015 before continuing on its national tour, calling at numerous venues around the country until the 14th November 2015. For details, visit the show’s official website.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.