Theatre round-up: 15 Nov 2015

How was your week? Mine was a pretty quiet one for a change, but naturally still included a couple of nights at the theatre. One was local, one was London, and they were about as different as two shows can be…

This week's theatre

Puttin’ on the Ritz (Orchard theatre, Dartford)

A song and dance extravaganza featuring star guests Trent and Gordana from Strictly, celebrating the Hollywood glamour of the 1920s and 30s. A talented and energetic cast give a polished performance, and although it feels a little bit like two shows in one, overall it’s a fun, foot-tapping production, packed with classic tunes from the likes of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

Puttin’ on the Ritz review

Staying Alive (The Pleasance, London)

This play from Blackshaw Theatre Company isn’t particularly easy viewing; it’s about a single mother coping with the tragic death of her young son, and her friends, who have no idea how to support her or each other. It’s a sad story, with moments of gentle humour, and a couple of particularly intense scenes that creep up on you. There’s also a wonderful performance from Rachel Nott as the grieving Mary.

Staying Alive review for LondonTheatre1

What have you seen at the theatre this week?

Next week’s theatre

Harlequinade / All On Her Own (Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company), Garrick Theatre

Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre

Review: Puttin’ on the Ritz at the Orchard Theatre

When it comes to glamour, you can’t really beat 1920s Hollywood. Puttin’ on the Ritz is an entertaining celebration of some of the best-loved music of the era, featuring a talented cast of singers and dancers, and an appearance by guest stars Trent Whiddan (who danced with Pixie Lott on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing) and Gordana Grandosek.

With music from Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, it’s not surprising that this is a show bursting with classic, toe-tapping tunes: I Got Rhythm, Cheek to Cheek, Top Hat, Anything Goes… we’re whisked from one to the next with ruthless efficiency, pausing only occasionally for an introduction by one of the singers (and just once for a spot of awkward banter with the audience; our finger clicking was quite good for a Tuesday, apparently). The dance ensemble, meanwhile, fling themselves with great enthusiasm into Charleston, tap, jazz, ballroom and more, all choreographed by Emma Rogers, who also directs the show.

The latest offering from producer David King is a lively and entertaining evening, with some impressive performances from its cast, and a seemingly endless array of beautiful costumes (once again, I want all the dresses). The show is very much an ensemble production, although Lucy van Gasse’s beautiful rendition of Summertime is a particularly memorable moment. The same goes for the hand jive at the end of the show, even if it does bear a strong resemblance to the one that concluded Spirit of the Dance, another David King production, a few months ago (including the double encore).

Trent and Gordana

Trent and Gordana are welcomed on to the stage a few times to perform alone; unsurprisingly, they’re brilliant, although it’s perhaps a little too obvious that they’ve been slotted into the programme (the guest stars vary throughout the tour, so I guess it’s easier that way). This doesn’t take away at all from the enjoyment of either their appearance or the show as a whole – it just feels a bit like two shows in one, especially since Trent and Gordana never appear on stage with anyone else until the curtain call. Fortunately, both shows are great fun, so having the guest stars there is basically just a bit of a bonus.

If you love Hollywood glamour, high-energy performances, gorgeous costumes and catchy tunes, you’ll enjoy this show. Puttin’ on the Ritz is a highly polished production, which packs an incredible amount into its two-hour running time – so there’s no hanging around, but this at least ensures we get a bit of almost all the classics. And whatever your taste in music, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your foot will be tapping by the time the curtain falls.

Puttin’ on the Ritz is at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until Saturday 14th November.