The Red Hot Chilli Pipers – Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline – 30 December

There are traditions that have been established for many years especially at this festive time of year and then there are others that although fairly new seem to be just right. One of the latter is the visit of the kings of ‘bag rock’, those Red Hot Chilli Pipers, as once again they sold out the massive Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline at this festive time.

Way before start time the Chilli fans were gathering outside the historical theatre and being entertained by a local pipeband to help ward of the cold of this December evening and once the doors were open flocked into the sold-out venue in anticipation of the fare on offer.

Now the Alhambra stage is by no means the smallest around, and that is probably just as well considering the numbers of musicians involved. If good things come in threes then they have it down, three horn players, three drummer / percussionists, three others, keyboards, bass and bouzouki player Stevie Lawrence  and new guitarist Nick Hawryliw replacing The ‘G’Man and of course fronted by the three intrepid pipers Kyle Warren, Kevin MacDonald and founder and Musical director Stewart Cassells. The power of three was enhanced by the occasional injection of glamour with three Red Hot Chilli dancers in a few of their numbers too.

Since their formation in 2004 this band and their eclectic mixture of styles, traditional music, self-penned pipe tunes fused with classic rock numbers has been rapidly building up a following and it is clear to understand why. I must admit to not being a huge fan of bagpipes, but in the way they are presented by the Chillis, they are more than palatable and the rock classics they play are added to by their interpretation.

The recent release of their fourth album ‘Music for the Kilted Generation’, which carries on the ethos of previous recordings, is showcased in a lot of the set they performed on the night and in spite of the change in a couple of key players has expanded their repertoire to cover dance songs by C + C Music Factory and War in addition to rockier numbers and even vocals added to a couple of numbers. Be it old or new the experience was lapped up by the packed house of all ages ranging from early teens to those with bus passes such is their mass appeal.

Value for money is not in question either as they played for two hours non-stop barely pausing for breath between numbers.

But like all good things eventually they have to end and so this gig did too. Stewart Cassells in his final thanks to one and all indicated that the band would like to make this an annual event as they loved playing there and judging by the support and reaction Dunfermline likes them playing there too. So watch the Alhambra website www.alhambradunfermline.com to see if this does happen and book your tickets fast as they always sell out quickly.

For further information on the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and their forth coming gigs and even their on-line store, then go to their web site www.redhotchillipipers.co.uk

Reviewed by Geoff

The Royal Dunfermline Command Performance – 18 December – Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline

It hasn’t happened since the 60’s so what better way was there in assisting to close out the year long Celebrating Fife 2010 festival by packing the Alhambra stage with numerous performers, both professional and some very gifted amateurs too in a true homage to the contribution the Kingdom has made to the world of entertainment. From the opening fanfare delivered by Royal Marine Band Corps of Drums, through some 3 or more hours later to an all star finale, the performance directed by Susie Dumbreck was totally top draw.

All sorts of entertainment was forthcoming, following the fanfare a selection of musical numbers from Chicago! Featuring local lass come West End star Shona White set the bar way high and challenged everyone to attain the same standard.  This Kander & Ebb musical featuring numbers such as All That Jazz, All I Ever Think About is You and Mr Cellophane is a favourite of mine and the ensemble did each and every number total justice.

Our host’s for the night were another of two Fife worthies, Radio Deejay Edith Bowman and Pars legend and local hero Jim Leishman. These two supplied all the information and linked with some gag as well to keep everyone entertained while the set changes went on.

Mary Oliver, an opera star was next to hit the boards, and performed two numbers before Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was played by her pianist. All good stuff so far, and it was bound to continue.

Phantom of the Opera was featured next, when the local Dunfermline talent of Bobby Mitchell and Kim Shepherd were augmented by Edinburgh native Jeff Leyton as the Phantom. I have seen all three of the principals numerous times over the years but wow, what a combination. Kim was born to play Christine, Bobby excellent as Raoull and Leyton totally superb as the title character. Mix in an excellent backing from the orchestra under the baton of Paul Gudgin and the experience was complete.

A change of style followed, with Jimmy Shand Jnr and his band, accordion to the fore, delivering a short set of some of their finest tunes. A very popular act with the audience they were too.

Following a short interval, Dunfermline’s own Barbara Dickson and her band played a 45 minutes set comprising a selection of her own hits and show tunes she has been associated with too. Ms Dickson was totally professional throughout her set, and her voice, like fine wine, seems to get better with age. I’m sure she could have played twice as long and it would not have been enough for everyone. Let’s hope she returns before too long.

Act three saw the Royal Marine Band Corps of Drums open proceedings with a short glimpse of what they are all about. It certainly was different than the fare on offer previously, but as a popular attraction that they always are, their few minutes were very well executed and received by the packed house.

Again in complete contrast Zee D C dance crew hit the stage next. This host of dancers? gymnasts? acrobats?, in truth a combination of all three and you are getting close, took the house by storm. Their blurb says from ‘Britian’s Got Talent’ well I can tell you this young bunch certainly do. I for one could have seen a whole lot more than the few minutes they were allotted.

With time a pressing it was straight onto the ‘Les Mis’ section. Now this musical is into it’s 26th year and it’s popularity is certainly not diminishing, in fact the opposite is the case. This section saw Jeff Leyton slip back into the role of JeanValjean to great effect. He has always set the standard for his version of Bring Him Home, and years after first hearing him sing this it still makes me tingle as to his voice control. Again ably supported by a whole host of local talent including Bobby and Kim again, this was a veritable feast for those of us ‘Glums’ lovers.

It was nearly over now, but there was still time for Jackie Storrar, together with a backing choir to entertain with a version of Dougie McLean’s ’Caledonia’ which she also released sometime ago.

And that was just about that. Thanks is due to all the performers who entertained so royally, to the production crew and techies who kept it all together and the management and staff from the Alhambra Theatre for so royally entertaining one and all.

Same again next year guys?

Reviewed by Geoff

Stand Comedy Club 18 December

It’s the season to be jolly, the Xmas party season, and for those in the licencing trade, and the comedy trade for that matter the last Friday before Christmas is known as Black Friday. Why? ‘Cause these establishments are overrun with office parties, groups of semi-drunken people at best, al intent in enjoying themselves and to hell with everyone else. Now the management policy of the Stand Comedy Club try to mitigate the problems by refusing to take large party bookings, but it is inevitable that some get through the net. It was apparent that a few had on Friday.

The lady with the unenviable task of compere was the irrepressible, ebullient Susan Morrison. Now Susan is a comedy legend and more than capable of dealing with rowdy behaviour and her style of rapid fire gags, information gathering and warming up the laughter muscles was tested at times as one or two of the punters sought to take her on. Brave, but foolish individuals. Not only did she have the mike, but more than enough in the way of retorts to these attempts. Susan did a grand job as always and introduced the opening act, Alaskan born, New York based comedian Hailey Boyle.

Ms Boyle came with a growing reputation from her home land and I was looking forward to seeing what she had to offer. She tried to deliver her set of well crafted stories to the masses, but maybe because of the make up of the audience, or maybe the humour didn’t cross the Atlantic as she may have hoped, but I feel she struggled a little to make real headway on the night. Hailey certainly has stage presence in abundance and is not afraid to react with her crowd. I’d like to see her again with a ‘real comedy audience’ where I’m sure she would be a sure fire hit.

The act following the first interval was Jim Park. Now I have not always been a fan of this guy in the past, I will be the first to admit, however on a difficult night like this was I saw another side of him. He is still quirky in his material and delivery, but the way he won over the room was inspiring. Certainly members of my gang were well impressed. I had seen some of his material before, but there was more than enough content to entertain one and all and I include myself in this. Well done Mr Park.

Superstar in waiting Daniel Sloss was the closing act of the second section. Now those of you who follow this site will know that we are huge fans of this barely out of his teens comedian from Fife. Numerous TV and radio appearances together with sell-out Edinburgh Fringe shows auger well for his future and I have really seen him progress over the couple of years I have seen him perform. Sloss has enough quality material to do several hours, stage presence, personality and style in abundance added to control and confidence all mark him down for a contender for the very top. And he is a really nice guy as well. Anyway Daniel wowed the difficult crowd as always. He elicited laughs from the four corners of the club and I feel no one could have been left in any doubt that they were in the presence of a real comedy talent.

Following the prize draw, headliner Ryan Stout took to the stage. Another comic from across the pond, LA based Stout resplendent in a suit and tie expounded his material for the closing session.

This was the first time I had seen him so was unaware as to what to expect. Like his countryman Boyle before I felt he struggled at times with the Scottish party night audience, and whether it was his norm, or felt he had to spell it out, almost explained the gags to us occasionally.

He is hard to pigeonhole, at times a little like Jimmy Carr, occasional touches reminded me of Stewart Francis and they have done okay. His set was often self-depricating and the whole performance, although skating around a few delicate subjects was delivered without one single swear word. Amazing.

So that was Black Friday out of the way for one and all. However the Stand does have an awful lot more shows, both in Edinburgh and in Glasgow to come both this year and next. Check out their web site  www.thestand.co.uk for all the details and I look forward to seeing you there.

Reviewed by Geoff

Hairspray – Original UK Tour

Since the original movie released in 1988 starring Devine, through the original Broadway production in 2002, to the film remake in 2007 starring John Travolta there has been a huge cult following of this feel good, fun for all ages, musical. Having opened in London also in 2007 it has been doing great business and now the original UK Tour is in full swing and if the audience at the opening night in Edinburgh Playhouse is anything to go by then it will carry on for a very long time too.

Set in 1962 in the Maryland town of Baltimore, ‘pleasantly plump’ teenager Tracy Turnblad, Laurie Scarth, has a dream to be famous and to dance on the TV dancing programme The Corny Collins Show. She takes the chance to audition for a role on the show but racist and sizeist producer Velma Von Tussle, Gillian Kirkpatrick, try’s to veto her and promote her own daughter Amber, Clare Halse. Show heartthrob Link Larkin, Liam Doyle, and Tracy form a mutual attraction, yet he is supposed to be with Amber so a love triangle ensues. She is always in trouble at school what with ‘excessive hairstyles’ and the odd truancy often lands her in detention where she meets with black dancer Seaweed Stubbs, Wayne Robertson, whose mother Motormouth Maybelle, Sandra Marvin, runs a record store and hostess of Negro day, the once a month special.

Back in 62, integration of the races was not allowed, the black community getting a one day a month special only, but this is something Tracy is determined to address and with the assistance of friend Penny Pingleton, Emma Dukes, and the black community which leads them into a number of scrapes.

Throughout an upbeat production there is always the underlying message of racism and sizeism bubbling under the surface, but the fun and comedy values that exude take away any edge of preaching that may be otherwise a bit of a downer. Highly to the for with the comedy roles are Tracy’s mum, Edna, Michael Ball and father Wilbur, played by ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz. The script is full of comedy material, and these two ‘veterans’ extract every ounce of value from it.

The direction of the show is superb; there at times seem to be thousands of cast manoeuvring around on stage, yet complex dance routines pepper the entire production and are executed with aplomb.

As one would expect the quality of the singing is superb throughout the cast, both principals and ensemble, and the colourful costumes certainly add to the spectacle on offer.

I was aware of a couple of the better known numbers prior to going to the show, but was generally impressed with the ‘other’ numbers too. There is really no downside to this production. The energy and talent that flow out across the auditorium and engulfed everyone, and was reflected in the standing ovation that was unanimously drawn from the packed opening night.

Long before the opening night this show was quickly heading for a sell-out but there may be an odd ticket or two available, and if you can get one please do, you wouldn’t want to be the ones to miss out.

Check out where the tour goes next and a whole host of other information on their website www.hairspraythetour.com

 

Peter Pan on Ice – Wild Rose Productions- Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline

The great J M Barrie classic novel Peter Pan is given a rather special treatment in this production currently touring and I have to admit it is an amazing spectacle. I managed to catch up with this at Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre on 11 December.

With the weather outside such as I imagine they could easily perform this show in the car park, huge audiences have never the less turned out to witness this outstanding experience, and left some two hours later extolling the show as absolutely magnificent. And no wonder. It was probably better than that.

Now I am no expert on ice dance or ice skating in general, but having seen Dancing on Ice on the TV, I am aware how difficult it can be even on a big rink, let alone on a theatre stage, with scenery, props and occasionally upwards of twenty fellow skaters there too. But then that was where the production company have got clever, employing the Russian All Stars as the performers and this troupe of amazing skaters make the splendid choreography, the wire work, fire juggling and the circus skills all seem positively easy, something they certainly are not.

The story sticks closely to Barrie’s original with a selection of Lost Boys, Red Indians, crocodile, Peter himself obviously Captain Hook, Wendy Tinkerbell et al illustrating the tale without a word spoken and only the music and the skating to relate the plot.

The design and staging aided the production to extremely high standards; the whole experience was charming, elegant and enthralling throughout.

Unfortunately I saw the last performance of the week, which was a crying shame because had I been able to see an earlier one, I would definitely have been back.

To check out where they are moving onto next, then the details are to be found on their website www.wildroseltd.co.uk and for the wide range of quality shows at the Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline, check out their website www.alhambradunfermline.com  

Reviewed by Geoff

Comedy at The Clubhouse – 4th December

As a lover of live comedy I am often prepared to travel a good distance to see shows so it was a very pleasant surprise to be able to actually walk to a gig for once. One of my local hostelries, The Clubhouse Dalgety Bay, were trialling what may be the first of many monthly comedy shows dependant on how well it went down . And if was free!! A bonus? Well maybe.

With not too much advance publicity in evidence it was pleasing to see that on my arrival that there was a healthy crowd already in place, but a little disconcerting that there was a pool table well in use and a number of tellies all showing football in full flow. The comedians were all there but it seemed the punters had little idea that they were in for a comedy night.

Eventually however the management turned off the football and stopped the pool and compere for the night Jojo Sutherland started off proceedings by setting the scene for the night ahead. Now I have seen this lady perform a number of times and know what a capable comedian she is and yet inspite of the funny stuff that was flowing from the stage, it was obvious that a fair percentage of the people present had little or no interest in listening, such was the level of chatter going on. She tried to get order a number of times and occasionally succeeded, I really felt for her.

Opening act Mikey Adams is another well experienced pro who I had seen a few times before and although he is fairly young has a wealth of experience and funny material in his locker. Glaswegian Adams certainly gave it his all, eliciting laughter from those who deemed to listen through out his well crafted set. Again the crowd were not giving the best of order and it spoiled it somewhat for those of us who were there for the comedy.

A brief interval followed and then Jojo wrested control back with a healthy dose of her funny stuff prior to introducing Daniel Webster to do a short set. Again he has been around for a few years and had some nice material, but the constant battle with the noisy venue detracted from his performance. Again like those before the listening audience enjoyed his set, it’s just a shame that the non-listeners were so vocal.

Closing out the gig was the vastly experienced and extremely funny Vladimir McTavish. I have seen him perform numerous times too and know what an eloquent performer he is with enough material to play for hours. He carefully selected some of his greatest hits to offer to the public, but unfortunately as with the others a lot were more interested in their own conversations than listening to an extremely funny man. More fools them.

I have always had the feeling that free comedy gigs are a two edged sword. Yes it gives the chance for newcomers to this world to experience the phenomenon, but by not having to buy into, or invest in the show tend to treat it as a background noise such as a jukebox, and often fail to give the performers the respect they deserve and merit. Certainly my heart went out to all of the comedians at this gig.

Save The Assembly Rooms Edinburgh

The following document is  a copy from an appeal from Assembly Theatre who have been successfully running this as a Fringe Venue for 30 years. It is an institution within this Festival and we at one4review feel we should lend our support to the campaign. Please read it and if you agree please sign the petition

On the 13th December this year the Assembly Rooms will close its doors. This is to allow the Edinburgh Council to start a programme of work that will see the downstairs of the Assembly Rooms turned into three shop spaces at the front of the building on George Street; and a “fine dining” restaurant at the back with an entrance on Rose Street. We believe this is a terrible way to address the issue of upgrading the building and will severely damage one of the city’s most wonderful, iconic buildings.

We don’t believe the public have been properly informed about this development or the impact it will have both architecturally and on the current users. Assembly Theatre has operated the building during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the last 30 years will lose five of the temporary theatres that it creates – the Edinburgh Suite, Supper Room, Wildman Room, West Drawing Room and Scott Room; as well as the famous Club Bar. These spaces played to 68,000 people during the 2010 festival, equivalent to more than half the audience of the Edinburgh International Festival. There is a unique quality about the building which makes it an extraordinary festival hub. What Assembly does during the festival has been described as magical. This will be lost.

If you have a view on this we would appreciate both your comments and support for a petition to try and persuade the Edinburgh Council to re-think their plan. Assembly have proposed a simpler plan to improve the building, which would involve a reduced capital expenditure from £9.6m to £4.6m. We have also offered to run the building on a year round basis without any public subsidy – where the current Council plan will require this.

You will find on this site some further information so you can understand the issues around this subject including, The Edinburgh Council Business Plan; comments that were made two years ago by other venues in Edinburgh which have never been properly responded to; a video presentation of comments from the festival industry; some comments from local shops; and the Powerpoint plan that Assembly Theatre presented to the Council, which has been rejected. You can also find all the Architectural Information that makes up the Council planning application for the building.

We want your comments about Edinburgh Council’s plans for The Assembly Rooms. You can Sign The Petition if you disagree with their plans, watch our Video Briefing or leave us your views about this proposal to close one of the country’s most famous venues. Have Your Say about The Assembly Rooms here.

If you would like to find out more or help
Save The Assembly Rooms
please get in touch:
Phone: 0131 623 3000
E-mail: contact@savetheassemblyrooms.com