Puttin' On The Ritz - September 2015
'The Golden Age of Hollywood that’s when it all began so sit back and let the magic and music begin,' so ran introduction for the touring production of Puttin’ on the Ritz at the Bristol Hippodrome this week.
And for two hours the packed auditorium on opening night were presented with a nostalgic song and dance extravaganza featuring a host of timeless classics from music maestros George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
The 40 or so musical numbers included old favourites such as There’s No Business Like Show Business, Puttin’ On The Ritz, Easter Parade, Let’s Face the Music and Dance, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, Anything Goes and I Got Rhythm.
Presented as a slightly hackneyed cabaret style review, the team of four vocalists - Emma Nelson, Hannah Kilminster, Lance Ellington and Ricky Rojas - and 10 dancers delivered their whirlwind trip back in time accompanied by Strictly Come Dancing favourites Anya Garnis and Robin Windsor and Trent Whiddon and Gordana Grandosek.
The vocalists, accompanied by low budget taped music and with hand-held microphones, were competent enough to give the songs enough joie de vivre to do them justice and the troupe of dancers gave it their all with well-choreographed dance routines, albeit with an abundance of fixed grins.
Although they were, as you would expect, hopelessly outclassed by the ‘Strictly’ professionals whose routines were spellbinding.
Dancing on Ice winner and X-Factor runner –up, Ray Quinn, displayed his considerable talents with a number of songs including Mack the Knife and Portrait of My Love.
His rendering of Cry Me A River was particularly well received.
The staging was fairly bland with an unimaginative glittery set - never to be changed - incorporating a staircase and raised balcony, which for Hippodrome tour standards was very disappointing.
Lighting consisted of spotlights and an array of coloured stars, which may have struck the right note for one or two numbers but were inadequate for a whole show.
The choreography was always fast paced and upbeat with a good mixture of ballroom, jazz, tap, swing and Charleston, performed in a slick and polished fashion.
And there were enough sequins, feathers and glitz to satisfy even the greediest of ‘Strictly’ fans.
The most memorable parts of the evening were towards the end of the second half of the performance, when the dancers sat on the edge of the stage and launched into an adventurous and energetic routine followed by an atmospheric and polished performance in the Cotton Club section.
These were in direct contrast to an otherwise safe and somewhat mechanical rest-of-show.
An undemanding but reasonably entertaining evening, the show was more cruise ship cabaret than West End spectacular, but the majority of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves and some were even moved to give a standing ovation.
It plays Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, September 12.