Nov 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Hedda Gabler @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

A room, filled with other people’s flowers with a smoking gun-cabinet in the corner pretty much sums up the mood. A bored ‘proud daughter of a dead general’ pretty much sums up the heroine.

‘Life for Hedda is a farce which isn’t worth seeing through to the end’ pretty much sums up the plot.

Hedda and new husband Tesman have just returned from a six-month working honeymoon and clearly things are not fine in honey-land.

Finances are on a tight-rope and expectations are, not to put too fine a point on it, stretched. Hedda tries desperately to manipulate those around her as the world she thought she owned disintegrates with every passing breath.

A small cast work a simple set.

There are no Aspidistras here and certainly no inklings of a dusty bygone era; for this is a new production of the Ibsen classic brought to the Aberdeen stage by the National Theatre. Plastic paint-pots house the flowers and an anguished Hedda tries frantically to mark off her territory with a staple-gun before resorting to much more desperate measures.

There is no happy ending here, and this is a harrowing play make no mistake about it.

Bordering on the demonic at points and at others pathetically sad, Lizzy Watts’ extraordinary portrayal of the doomed Hedda reaches deeply into the heart of the matter. Hedda does not own Hedda. Only everyone else owns Hedda. And there is no escape route.

In this age of quickie-divorce, there are still plenty of Hedda’s around. Trapped behind closed doors in strangely loveless marriage, they still seek solace in the gun-cabinet. Ibsen may have penned Hedda Gabler in a previous century, but the issues exposed remain completely relevant to a modern audience.

By Henrik Ibsen in a new National Theatre version by Patrick Marber, Hedda Gabler plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 25th November 2017.

Nov 082017
 

Sunset Boulevard @ HMT Aberdeen – A review by Duncan Harley.

Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre until Sat Nov 11.

A compelling study on how to grow old disgracefully this tale of manipulation, madness and obsession seems doomed from the start to have no happy ending.
As ageing silent-star Norma Desmond’s insanity blossoms, the tension builds to bursting-point whilst all around the gloomy interior of Sunset Boulevard the world moves on relentlessly to greater things.

Having failed to make the transition from silent-screen to talkies, Ria Jones’ Norma Desmond pens a clunker of a movie-script in anticipation of a return to those heady days of stardom.

Danny Mac’s Joe Gillis takes on the task of re-writing the ageing diva’s version of Salome. There are no renditions of ‘bring me the head of John the Baptist’ here though. Indeed, phrases such as ‘All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up’ might be mistaken nowadays as a prelude to an innuendo laden casting-couch moment, and Norma Desmond’s deadpan comment ‘I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!’ leaves little to the imagination.

Norma is of course ‘Mad about the boy’ – and where have we heard that before – in this case the boy is Joe. And, predictably perhaps, he is strung-along by mad Norma until he can take no more.

The tale is told from his viewpoint and his journey through Norma’s celluloid memories is at times a difficult watch.

Ria Jones’ powerful portrayal of Norma eclipses all on stage and rightly so. The deeply flawed Joe Gillis must come a close second. Danny Mac’s Joe is clearly on a treadmill to oblivion from scene one onwards and this portrayal of a kept-man on the road to nowhere leaves little to the imagination.

For my money though, Adam Pearce’s Vettriano-like singing butler, the scowling Max Von Meyerling, gets top marks. Suitably servile when it suits him, sternly efficient and quietly loyal to the very end; Adam’s Max lurks quietly in the shadows and perhaps his story, when finally revealed, is the saddest tear-jerker of them all.

Animal lovers might just shudder at the understated chimpanzee funeral but, in the big scheme of things, Sunset Boulevard presents as an entertaining and powerful musical melodrama graphically portraying the, sometimes wickedly distorted, dream-factory that is Hollywood.

Fast-paced throughout and with a wild car-chase worthy of no-glory San Francisco cop, lieutenant Frank Bullitt, this classic stage musical is well worth the seeing.

Directed by Nikolai Foster with Musical Direction by Adrian Kirk, Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday November 11.

Sep 222017
 

Take the plot of a 1968 Italian-shot slap-stick Hollywood sex-comedy, add in a big bunch of ABBA hits and what have you got? That would-be Mama Mia! of course.Duncan Harley reviews.

The original Hollywood story-line involved Gina Lollobrigida as Italian housewife Mrs Carla Campbell who, following a short but ultimately successful war-time tryst with three US servicemen, tries to frantically to maintain a cover story which has led to three separate sets of child-support winging their way across the Atlantic for the past 20 odd years.

The film was titled Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, Carla Campbell was named after a famous soup brand and the alleged fathers included Phil Silvers and Telly Savalas. You really couldn’t make it up.

Mama Mia! the Musical of course is set in the 70’s, involves a bunch of liberated ex-back-packers reunited at a Greek wedding and, instead of highlighting benefit fraud, focuses more on female emancipation and freedom of action. Laudable sentiments indeed.

Basically, the musical begins on an Aegean Island. Single-parented child Sophie Sheridan, played by Lucy May Barker, is due to marry fiancée Sky but has no dad to walk her down the aisle. Fortunately, Mum’s secret diary has been compromised and bride to be Sophie has invited three paternal candidates – Sam, Bill and Harry –  to the wedding. Seemingly dads in Sophie-world are like buses, you don’t see one for a couple of decades and then they all come at once.

Unfortunately, ex-pat taverna owner mum, Donna –  Helen Hobson – is not amused. Elements of farce follow; closely interspersed with a jukebox-full of Dancing Queens, Super Troupers and Voulez-Vous. Unsurprisingly, the wedding does not go off as planned.

Entertaining from the word go, this colourful and extravagantly costumed musical punches high. Fans of high-heels, wide-flares and Lycra will not be disappointed. Nor will aficionados of dancing men in dresses or indeed dashingly athletic men in wet-suits and flippers.

Yes, there is an occasional bumpy moment where the transition between the dialogue and the musical numbers appears just a smidgen contrived and yes there is that panto-land-parody climax where everything really seems awfully rushed and everyone is suddenly getting hitched.

But in the big scheme of things this is simple good old-fashioned entertainment on a grand scale and it works surprisingly well.

Jukebox-wise, the show squeezes in around twenty Benny and Bjorn numbers. Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Dancing Queen vie with Thank You for the Music, SOS and Winner Takes It All for prominence alongside that ABBA classic Mamma Mia.

The Broadway version of Lollobrigida’s Buona Sera Mrs Campbell seemingly stalled at the box-office but no such fate awaits the touring version of Mama Mia!
This is a show which will have you rummaging frantically through your cupboard looking for those long-lost dancing shoes.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday October 14th.

Sep 012017
 

By Duncan Harley with thanks to Erica Banks – Communications Officer at HMT Aberdeen

Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Lowe stars at HMT next Monday alongside Strictly champions Louis Smith MBE and Jay McGuiness in a brand-new theatre show called ‘Rip It Up’.
Rip It Up’s promise is to bring the fabulous sounds of the 1950’s to life in an explosion of song and dance that will see Natalie, Jay and Louis swing, bop, jitterbug, lindy hop, jive and ballroom their way through the greatest songs from the greatest decade of music; from romantic ballads and crooner classics to many of the era’s defining pop and rock ’n’ roll hits.

Brought to you from the producers and director of 2017’s smash tour Remembering Fred, which stars Come Dancing’s Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec.

Says Natalie,

“To be able to work with these two incredible Strictly champions and choreograph routines with them to the music from music’s greatest decade is something that we are all very excited to be working on. Together we will dance through some of the most fantastic songs ever created.”

Jay McGuiness is best known as a vocalist in the boy band The Wanted, whose debut single ‘All Time Low’ hit the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart in 2010. The band went on to have a further three No. 1 singles, including the global hit ‘Glad You Came’. In 2015, she was confirmed as a celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, partnering professional dancer Aliona Vilani.

The couple were to steal the public’s hearts with their routines, becoming the series winners to lift the Glitterball trophy. The pair’s now infamous jive to the Pulp Fiction-inspired medley of Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ and Dick Dale & The Del Tones’ ‘Misirlou’ has become the show’s most watched routine ever, amassing over 5 million hits on YouTube.

Looking forward to being part of ‘Rip It Up’, Jay said,

“To perform with Radio Two’s Leo Green and his band, as well as share the stage with Natalie and Louis and such a talented cast of singers and dancers should be quite an experience. We have some great ideas and are looking forward to bringing them to the theatres around the country, singing and dancing to some of the greatest songs from one of the greatest decades.”

Louis Smith MBE is one of Britain’s sporting superstars after winning medals at three separate Olympic Games. He shot to fame at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by winning a bronze medal in the pommel horse, before winning silver medals at both the London 2012 and Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

After the London 2012 Olympics, Louis took part in and won that year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, lifting the coveted Glitterball trophy with his professional dance partner Flavia Cacace.

Louis will be returning to training shortly in an attempt to win a medal at his 4th Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Before that, however, he is delighted to be part of the cast of ‘Rip It Up’.

Louis said,

“A lot of people think of the music of the ‘50’s as just rock ‘n’ roll. Whilst this was the decade that brought us Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard and more, we will also be celebrating the music of Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and all the beautiful vocal harmony groups from that special decade.”

Classics such as Why Do Fools Fall in Love and Good Golly Miss Molly feature in the show alongside Unchained Melody, Mona Lisa and of course that classic Put Your Head on My Shoulder.

What more could anyone want?

At HMT Aberdeen for the one night only – Monday 4th September – tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Sep 012017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Jane Eyre @ HMT, Aberdeen.

Locking-up a mad spouse in the attic is rarely a good idea.

If she’s not busy sharpening the axe, she’ll likely be playing with matches and, as Mr Rochester finds out to his cost, the malevolent spectre in the loft is never likely to go to rest peacefully.

Indeed, pyrotechnics are to the fore in this National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic collaboration, which brings Bronte’s Jane to life in a new adaptation of the novel for the stage.

It’s difficult to say anything much new about Jane Eyre. I mean, Bronte covered just about all of the bases.

Set in the Reign of Mad King George, the story has been told and re-told endlessly in print – the original ran to 400 pages or so, three volumes and 38 chapters – and the tale of resilience against overwhelming odds has seen film, television and opera take up the challenge of re-telling and re-interpretation.

Somewhat refreshingly, this staged version takes the raw essence of the original and portrays the essential Bronte themes in an intense and often moving way.

The central theme remains Jane’s mighty journey and, appropriately perhaps, the play opens with her birth.

Along her path to fulfilment we meet disillusionment, anger, grief and betrayal. Throughout however, Rochester’s dog ‘Pilot’ – played with delightfully canine humour by a whip-stock brandishing Paul Mundell – reminds us that there is indeed such a thing as unconditional love. As Tim Delap’s Rochester clumsily flirts with Jane, Pilot lends hilarity to the proceedings and lightens what is otherwise a largely gloomy tale.

Not that this is your standard period drama. Far from it! With a set fresh from flat-pack heaven and a delightful musical score including gems like Coward’s Mad about the Boy, nothing about this production is at all standard.

Yes, the period costumes are to the fore and yes, we are talking regional accents here; but the dressing room is the stage and the Bronte words are neatly cocooned within composer Benji Bower’s lively score.

In a recent interview, Nadia Clifford – who plays Jane – explained to sincerelyamy.com that she wanted to make Jane as human as possible in order to allow the audience to relate to her. If last night’s performance is anything to go by, she has certainly succeeded in this ambition and it would be difficult to fault her performance in any way.

Diva-wise, Melanie Marshall’s violently insane Bertha Mason is central to this stage adaptation and her haunting presence as the mad -spouse-in-the-attic works splendidly. With a list of credits including Broadway and Guys and Dolls her musical pedigree shines through.

All in all, Jane Eyre is one of those touring productions which comes under the category of must see. Highlights include a distinctly un-Brontian set of loud expletives uttered by an unsaddled and severely rattled Rochester plus of course the rare opportunity to witness the on-stage pyrotechnics as Thornfield Hall burns to the ground.

Directed by Sally Cookson, Bronte’s masterpiece plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday September 2nd.

Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

North-east artists have been adding their own splash of colour to Aberdeen city centre as part of an annual project to promote arts and culture. Aberdeen Inspired’s Summer of Art programme is already in full swing this year with a range of creative projects being held across the city centre, including the Painted Doors project.

The project will see artists work on decorative paintings on doors of local businesses, shops and other premises on Langstane Place, Windmill Brae and around Aberdeen Market until the end of the month.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The Summer of Art programme is about working in partnership with local artists to make art accessible to all, as well as being a fantastic way to utilise and brighten the city centre.

“Our Painted Doors project is underway again following a very successful debut last year. Several new doors have already been completed and there are more in the pipeline to be completed before the end of August.”

As part of Summer of Art, plans are also being developed for the city centres first outdoor creative space which will allow artists to use a wall in the near Aberdeen Market at the East Green, as a canvass to create their own colourful murals following the successful Nuart Aberdeen Festival earlier this year.

Mary Butterworth, Summer of Art Curator, said:

“It has been an amazing year for art and culture in Aberdeen, it’s been a joy to see it all so well received by the public and the creative community is buzzing. 

“Last year’s Summer of Art was a catalyst for change in the city and I was proud to curate the Painted Doors project with Aberdeen Inspired. The project recognised our city’s artists and put stunning artworks on the street for the public to enjoy. Public appetite for street art is overwhelming and this was demonstrated by the success of Nuart Aberdeen.

“Aberdeen’s own creativity, sometimes overlooked, has always been here but now we can see it every day, in our doorways and on our streets.

“This year we’re adding new doors and artists to the Painted Doors line up, building upon the foundation we laid last year. Seeing art and all forms of creativity and culture on the streets is a vital part of the energy and atmosphere of any city. 

“We have worked hard on creating some new initiatives for this year’s Summer of Art, including developing plans for a creative space, to inspire the public to get involved and unleash more of that local creative energy.”

Aberdeen Inspired is also now reviewing applications for its Grass Roots fund which was launched to support the delivery of local and independent creative arts projects and interventions in the city centre over the summer.

The programme aims to cultivate and support ideas and talent in Aberdeen whilst enriching the heart of the city with street and visual arts as well as music and drama this summer. Applications were sought from individuals and groups for grants in three categories: up to £500; up to £2,000; and more than £2,000.

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Aug 112017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – at HM Theatre, Aberdeen.

The last time I reviewed Curious I was over the moon.
A complete blast from beginning to end, the production enthralled, captivated and amazed.
Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the audience experience.

It’s more of an immersive introduction to the reality of not being able eat the yellow portions of a Battenberg cake – the pink squares are OK –  and finding that the toilet is out of bounds because a complete stranger has used it.

Based on the book of the same nameThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time highlights some of the issues faced by those who come into contact with those who differ markedly from the norm and of course many of the issues faced by those who are by nature quite different.

The book’s author Mark Haddon comments that:

“Curious is not really about Christopher at all, it’s about us.”

He may have a point.

Christopher, played by Scott Reid, exhibits what can really only be described as mind-blowingly challenging behavioural traits. He cannot bear to be touched, he becomes unbearably swamped by external stimuli, he cannot use a stranger’s toilet, he cannot tell a lie and takes everything completely literally – the list goes on and inevitably ticks all of the diagnostic boxes.

The play presents as a reading of Christopher’s own written thoughts, read aloud in segments mainly by his mentor and school-teacher Siobhan, played beautifully by Lucianne McEvoy. The unfolding story takes place within a high-tech multi-media cuboid-set representing a gateway into Christopher’s consciousness. The drama literally takes place in Christopher’s head.

When Wellington, the next-door neighbour’s dog, is found impaled; fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician with some pretty complex personal issues, turns sleuth.
Emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, he must solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ pet and absolve himself of complicity.

After a long and often painful journey, including the realisation that Holmes was in fact a fictional detective, he solves the crime and is absolved. However, in the course of the exhaustive investigation he discovers skeletons galore in the family cupboard.

At times funny, often terrifyingly intense and always challenging, Curious is a superb production and Scott Reid’s performance as Christopher is both electrifying in its intensity and engaging in its complexity.

There are lighter moments. Animal lovers will drool over the cute Andrex Puppy.

They may even take a fancy to Toby, Christopher’s pet rat.

David Michaels and Emma Beattie excel as the long suffering and often desperate parents, kindly neighbours peek into his life and at one point a cheerily upbeat railway policeman takes time out to help him on his quest but it has to be said that this is essentially a stage show all about Christopher.

The technical aspects of the production are worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and have to be experienced to be believed. Aboyne born video designer Finn Ross has worked on everything from Festival Fringe through to Broadway and his expertise in combining live and pre-recorded imagery takes this live performance into exciting new realms. Lighting, sound and set design are likewise superb.

Ultimately this play examines the nature of abnormality and the challenge of defining limitations. Having solved the gruesome dog murder and dismissed lingering doubts regarding his mathematical ability Christopher asks teacher Siobhan “Does this mean I can do anything?”
She does not reply.

Somehow, Aspergers will never quite seem the same ever again …

Directed by Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 12th August.

Words © Duncan Harley and images courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Jul 212017
 

With thanks to Kieran Booth.

Following her hit 2015 show, Miss Myrtle Throgmorton OBE (pending) is returning to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new production.
The critics, in 2015, stayed away but the audience came in droves and through word of mouth, a brief stint with the Really Terrible Orchestra and some energetic flyering, the show was sold out most nights – and everyone had a hoot! [“Very, very funny” – STV]  

So the game old trout, ancient heckler and exuberant enthusiast for all things Scottish, is back, Stuffed and Mounted, mad-rabbiting on about the delights of a long life – giddy aunts, Burns, beards, Creamola Foam, Zimmer Zumba and much more.

Myrtle is created by former BBC Comedy producer Jennie Campbell / Chalmers, and has been developed over many years although Jennie admits that the original bag-for-life is now, worryingly, more ‘ego’ than ‘alter’.  Since her Fringe debut, Miss Throgmorton has been making appearances across the North East of Scotland at charity gigs, Burns Suppers and two sell-out runs at the Haddo Arts Festival.

Myrtle’s accumulated years are off-set by the youthful vigour of baritone, Colin Brockie and pianist, Richard Bailey who join her for the three-week run at the Fringe. The production could also be unique on the 2017 Festival as the cast and crew all come from rural Aberdeenshire: Colin from Ellon, Richard from Udny, and Jennie, Kieran and Mary from Barthol Chapel.

Myrtle is still chairman of the Surrey Association for Lonely, Misplaced Or Non-Domiciled Scots [ALEX] but has been rusticated from her sheltered housing scheme [a minor misunderstanding over a game of sardines with her friend Midriff Bulge] and now lives as the permanent resident in a once–grand hotel.

The audience will be her ‘fellow diners’ and much conversation and banter will ensue as she shares her opinion on pretty much everything [advanced age is so liberating], punctuated by live and original music from Richard, some ‘proper’ singing from Colin and a little nifty hip work from Myrtle herself.  

Once again, every show will end with a surprise guest joining Myrtle for cheery chat over the coffee and mints. The audience is completely unaware who the guest will be – indeed Myrtle herself may not be entirely up to speed until just before the off.

2015 guests included Rory Bremner, Arnold Brown, Lieven Schiere and Alan Cumming. 

It could be a TV celebrity, an acclaimed author, the face of a familiar radio voice, a rising star, an unknown character with a story to tell, someone with a great, undiscovered show or the joker from the café on the corner…  A truly potluck surprise, in the spirit of the Fringe, and every one a guaranteed delight!

After a brief career as a London lawyer, and a briefer one cleaning houses, Jennie Campbell joined BBC Radio Comedy as a producer of such programmes as Week Ending, The News Quiz and The Edinburgh Festival Compilations, scouting the Fringe in the 80s for hungry new young talent.
On moving to Scotland, she switched from satirical news to the real thing and has been variously a radio presenter [Newsweek Scotland], news and current affairs producer, director of theatre, opera and musicals, drama teacher, arts organizer, serial committee member and session clerk.

With Myrtle Throgmorton, Jennie makes a long overdue return to her comedy roots.

Venue: Mint Studio | Greenside @ Infirmary St. [Venue 236]                   
Dates: 4th – 26th August [not Sundays]                     
Time: 18.25 [55 mins]                                                          

Tickets: £10/£9/£5 

Box Office: edfringe.com / 0131 618 0758
Website: www.myrtleproductions.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/myrtlethrog
Twitter: www.twitter.com/myrtlethrog   (@myrtlethrog)

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Jun 302017
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Chess – The Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre. 

Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017.

Chess – The Musical comes to the HMT stage this week courtesy of Aberdeen Opera Company Productions in collaboration with Scott School of Dancing and despite the slightly clunky original storyline and often clichéd characterisation this production of the pop-opera easily transcends the limitations of the scrip and delivers a powerful and entertaining take on the politics of the Cold War era.

It’s Friday night and the lights are low. Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same.

In fact, “Nobody’s on nobody’s side” and those long daggers are drawn for all to see. For those who missed out on the Cold War, welcome to the dark world of international chess seventies style.

A musical game of stealth, dark deals and exploitation takes the theatre audience on a wild trip through the murky and mysterious world of international pre-internet gaming. As the USSR and the USA battle it out in icy Merano and steamy Bangkok, Indian Attacks and Paris Gambits are to the fore as the grandmasters battle it out.

Essentially a love story, Chess features a love triangle subjected to some pretty cynical manipulation by the forces of politics and commerce.

Scott Jamieson’s brilliantly dysfunctional grandmaster, the aptly named Frederick Trumper, loses both his title and his lady to Gavin McKay’s dignified Anatoly Sergievsky. As the minders look on and the manipulators take charge, Florence Vassy, played by Rachael Watson, switches sides and seizes the starring role with powerful numbers such as ‘Heaven Help My Heart’ and, in duet with Amanda Massie’s Svetlana, ‘I Know Him So Well’.

The Chess-set is utilitarian verging on the Brutalist, the music ranges from rock to light opera and the choreography is, to say the least, fast-paced and razor-sharp. The tournament scenes are simply spell-binding and stage-lighting is simple but stunning!

Fresh from the 2016 hit production of Sunshine in Leith, the AOC theatre group has once again delivered a triumphant piece of entertainment. A must see.

Directed by Judith Stephen and based on an idea by Tim Rice with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017

Words © Duncan Harley. Images © Rhea McKenzie Photography

Jun 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Wedding Singer at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

Once you get to grips with the schmaltzy ‘girls just wanna get married’ portrayal of the eighties which haunts this musical from the very start, The Wedding Singer is actually a whole load of fun.

Despite a story-line thin enough to gladden the heart of a coronary bypass surgeon and sufficient cheesy humour to keep McDonalds going in triple cheeseburger’s for a month, the entertainment value more than makes up for this sugar-sweet take on the Reagan decade.

Based on the hit 1998 film of the same name, the musical tells the tale of wedding singer and emcee Robbie Hart.

Robbie and his band ‘Simply Wed’ – yes you read that correctly – play the New Jersey wedding circuit making a precarious living on the back of those who have popped the question. Jilted and depressed he abandons the wedding gigs and comes of age on the bar mitzvah circuit. Predictably he gets the girl and equally predictably he gets invited to sing at his own wedding.

Starring Jon Robyns as the multi-talented Robbie Hart and X Factor/singer songwriter Cassie Compton as love interest Julia Sullivan, it would be difficult to imagine this production going far wrong really. Well known for roles including secretly-gay Rod in Avenue Q and Sir Galahad in Spamalot Jon’s performance literally shines.

Add in a mix of stars including Ray Quinn, as Glen Gulia, and Barbara Rafferty in the role of Rosie the rapping-granny and The Wedding Singer is off like the clappers.  A clutch of iconic dance-numbers including Saturday Night in the City and All About the Green plus some pretty dang impressive lighting and audio complete the line-up.

Alongside the main characters, the cast list includes a motley crew of ‘fake’ characters including Ronnie Reagan, Billy Idol, Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. Additionally, and I could be wrong, amongst the line-up in the bar scene I swear I spotted a suitably inebriated Charles Bukowski

As a feel-good, Aspartame sweetened heart-warming trip into the past, The Wedding Singer works really well although the story-line does pose awkward questions for those who were actually around at the time.

Will Hart get the girl? And does Julia really want to be Mrs Gulia? For a definitive answer or two you will just have to join the audience. Oh! And watch out for those brick-size cell-phones and, of course, that singing cake!

Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell/Sound Designer Ben Harrison.
The Wedding Singer plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 24 June
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA