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

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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