REVIEW: That's Entertainment (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, August 6)
It's a show with a million sequins. And That's Entertainment is without doubt a show that is really a show that sends you out with a kind of a glow.
Introduced as a celebration of the great musical years of the 1940s and 1950s, it’s an odd concoction, with top sellers from the 1920s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s also thrown into the mix. One moment you are watching a brilliantly choreographed number, evoking the swanky Hollywood footwork of Fred Astaire, and the next you’re in the middle of a Cockney knees up that could have been plucked from the BBC’s The Good Old Days.
There is no narrative thread and at times the collection of material looks as though it might have been picked using a block of post-it notes and a dartboard.
It shouldn’t really work, but it does and it’s a hard show to dislike. Even as you think it’s the sort of fare you’d expect to find at the end of the pier on a balmy summer’s evening, or on a cruise ship populated by more mature passengers, you realise this has high production values, the most glittering of costumes, and a pleasing and utterly professional (if not entirely charismatic) company.
Spirit Productions are old hands at this sort of quality, good old-fashioned light entertainment, with an impressive portfolio of shows, which have been performed worldwide, under their belt. So it’s no surprise to find shimmering glamour, tight choreography and such a varied programme, ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein to the Rat Pack.
Director and choreographer Emma Rogers is to be commended for cramming so much detail into the numbers performed by four principals (in some venues there are six) and eight talented dancers, with some truly showstopping tap dance numbers trotting alongside such delights as the beautiful Carousel Waltz sequence.
It says a lot that there is not a dud number in the show, and if you fail to be set alight by the razzmatazz of the Gershwins’ I Got Rhythm, then there’s always the slick knee-slapping and hand-clapping routine accompanying It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.
It’s a shame the music is backing tracks rather than live – even a good quartet would have given that extra atmosphere and oomph to the proceedings – but principals Simon Schofield, Sean Smith, Loula Geater and Emma Kate Nelson certainly give their all and make the show all the more watchable. Stand out numbers include The Street Where You Live, If I Loved You, Get Happy, and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Each venue on this tour has a special guest and at Brighton the gorgeous vocal harmonists The Overtones take to the stage. The boys are big favourites in Brighton and it may well be that audiences are made up of fans who just want to see the three appearances they make in the show. Whatever the case, the five singers put their own stamp on such classics as Pretty Woman, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Why Do Fools Fall In Love? Timmy, Lachie, Mark, Mike and Daz add their special brand of sophistication to the production, so it’s good to hear they’ll be back in the town with their own show in December.
That’s Entertainment may be a simple premise but it is delivered with class, razzle dazzle, colour, and sparkle. And where else would you find an appreciative crowd singing along to I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts with such gusto?