REVIEW: That's Entertainment!, Newcastle Theatre Royal, until Saturday, July 9
When all was said and done, dazzled and sung, pranced and flung, this was a pretty mixed-up show!
Billed as 'the greatest hits of the '40s and '50s' and trumpeting 'the golden era of the Hollywood and Broadway musical', there was a lot more going on besides.
The show boasted an eclectic selection of songs. Quite how the likes of The Candyman, which featured in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Frank Sinatra's 1963 hit That's Life and a curious mash-up of Cockney anthems, such as Knees Up Mother Brown, fitted into either category beats me.
And throw in the brilliant harmonies of boy band The Overtones on numbers by Roy Orbison, Frankie Valli et al and the confusion was complete.
But hey ho, that's entertainment! It was all good fun and very professionally executed.
The main theme held up well through collections of tunes from South Pacific and Carousel, with the well-drilled regular cast reminding us of those days of yore when musicals were spectacular, glitzy, glamorous and honest. The performers may not be household names but they were stars in their own right - the routines were dynamic and colourful, and the voices faultless in their whistle-stop tour of the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, among others.
Talented Simon Schofield led the audience through the evening, introducing the special guests for their three all-too-brief slots and bringing energy, a super singing voice and competent tap-dancing to the party. His renditions of the aforementioned That's Life and You'll Never Walk Alone, originally from Carousel and not the terraces of Anfield, received the biggest cheers of the night.
He was also a perfect foil for Emma Kate Nelson, another all-singing, all-dancing favourite, in the quirky, humorous A Couple of Swells.
Diva Loula Geater belted out a couple of power ballads, including Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody, and Sean Smith was ultra-cool when it came to the Rat Pack segment.
There were sequins aplenty, various forms of dance from ballroom to tap, a happy-clappy-slappy song, another involving playing the spoons, a raunchy burlesque feather-fan routine - it really was like watching a Royal Variety Performance. The lads did particularly well during There Is Nothing Like A Dame.
Then there was the main attraction - The Overtones - with their smooth delivery and slick choreography, they were crowd-pleasers indeed. They attracted a pocket of their own fan club, which added to quite a lively atmosphere from a largely older audience. In other venues on the national tour of the show, the special guests include Ruthie Henshall, Jane McDonald and Elaine C Smith - I think we got the best deal!
They ramped up the tempo with Do You Love Me, Runaround Sue, Why Do Fools Fall In Love and Pretty Woman, and invited a singalong on the chorus of Can't Take My Eyes Off You.
It was a shame their sound took a while to bed in and an overpowering backing track masked their fine harmonies somewhat. I would have preferred a few a cappella numbers to really show off their incredible voices. Still, the feelgood factor was at its max and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
The backing track also took centre stage unnecessarily during some of the dance routines, with some extra tapping, clapping and spoon-slapping when none was really needed. Oh, how I yearned for a real band.
Disjointed it may have been, but you can't argue with the enthusiasm and sheer effort the entire cast put in.
Tickets are from Â£19.50 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal box office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).