Music: George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter
Director: David King
Reviewer: Laura Hesketh
A tribute to the musical legends who epitomised the Golden Age of Hollywood,Puttin’ on the Ritzis great for those wanting a night out full of timeless classics – if they don’t mind going without a live orchestra.
The iconic songs from George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter are brought to life by a troupe of ten talented dancers and four singers, who Cha-Cha, Rumba and tap dance to well-known tunes such asAin’t Misbehavin’, Top HatandThere’s No Business like Show Business.The dancers’ polished routine to Scott Joplin’sMaple Leaf Ragis certainly memorable, as is their performance in the Fred Astaire Medley.
Audiences are also treated to enthralling dance routines from Strictly favourites, and the entrance of Trent Whiddon, Gordana Grandosek, Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis is received with rapturous applause. Of course, the dancers ooze sex appeal and mesmerise with their flamboyant and fast-paced routines.
Despite the brilliance of the Strictly dancers, their dances feel half-heartedly slotted into the programme with the purpose of entertaining audiences during the plethora of costume changes. Through no fault of their own, the perfect routines are treated as separate performances from the rest of the production; they only perform one pair at a time, never with the main troupe and the majority of their dances are not even accompanied by live singing. One cannot help but feel that the main incentive of casting household names in the show is to put bums on seats, rather than to aid the musical tribute.
The celebration of songs which have stood the test of time is also not accompanied by a live orchestra. A huge flaw for the production, the lack of live music cannot be ignored and is most apparent during instrumentals, as the singers are at a loss as to what to do to fill the empty stage; such moments would showcase the talent of a live orchestra but instead audiences are left with rather an awkward clicking, tapping of the feet and a pre-recorded CD. Ultimately, the songs of the Roaring Twenties fail to roar in this show and even the most glittery of costumes fails to boost the somewhat flat atmosphere.
The four singers do give it their all – of course with big grins and jazz hands – and Lance Ellington, also a Strictly regular, steals the show with his soulful voice. His performance of Nat King Cole’sLet There Be Lovebriefly gets the show swinging.X Factor finalist Ray Quinn also impresses with his tap moves and proves he has the ability to become a musical theatre star.
Billed as a “song and dance extravaganza”, the production is moreSaturdaynight TV on stage than a West-End sell-out. It has all the elements to potentially be a major hit, but the show falls flat in its attempts to celebrate Hollywood heavyweights – who were obsessed with live music – without a live orchestra.
Runs until Saturday, 12 September 2015 as part of a UK tour.