Ed Byrne – Crowd Pleaser – 27 April

Those of you who regularly follow our site may recall that back in the end of October last year I didn’t review Ed Byrne when he appeared at the Edinburgh Stand as part of his Warming up in the Cold Tour as it was a work in progress for the major 2011 tour ‘Crowd Pleaser’ I can tell you know that I thought it was the best show I had seen from this charismatic Irishman so I am now delighted that the restraints have been lifted as the proper version rolled into Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre last night as the tour continues.
Now it is not unheard of for major touring shows to have a warm-up act prior to the main event. But what is unusual when Byrne does have an opening act, it is Ed himself who opens actually warming up the crowd for the warm act, something that I have always thought of as a nice touch, so it was little surprise that along with around 750 other liked minded souls I was in place to see the entertainment unfold.
Byrne took to the vast Alhambra stage and for the  first ten minutes or so did oh such a great job of loosening off the chuckle muscles, stretching the stomach muscles for the belly laughs to follow and generally getting the atmosphere spot on for the night.
It was the task of Karl Spain to do the opening set. Now Spain is a big name in his native Ireland, but less so over here. I have seen this excellent comedian though a number of times in various Edinburgh Fringe Festivals so knew what a high standard to expect and I’m delighted to say not only did he achieve this, he surpassed it by far. Everyone I spoke to afterwards thought he rocked his set. He certainly has garnered a whole host of new fans that is for sure.
As usual the native of Limerick had a well crafted set, packed solid with quality material all delivered with style. There is a reasonable amount of Irish based humour, their successful cricket team, his home town, the celtic colouring and life style were just a few of the topics, but other sections on practical jokes, Facebook visits to Thailand together with the occasional bantering with the audience gave plenty of scope for this well-rounded and hilarious opening set.
Following the interval giving the public a chance to catch their breath and replenish their glasses, Mr Byrne returned to the stage and proceeded to rule the massive room for the duration of his all to short set.
Now it was more than a few years ago that I first saw Ed perform, probably in the late 90’s and from that moment I have been a fan. Numerous live gigs topped up with the frequent doses of TV such as ‘Mock the Week’ and ‘Have I got News for You’have kept the pot boiling, but there is nothing to beat a live performance when he is on fire, as he is with this show. I loved what I saw in the preview back in October, but whereas the essence of the show is the same, the added polish that has been added since then does make the difference.
Ed has changed a little over the years and as  married man with a brand new addition to the family, his baby son Cosmo, has opened up a whole new avenue to the Byrne experience. He is as always witty, able to respond to audience interaction, delightfully engaging and belly laugh funny, but there is at times a slightly gentler side to his show these days. What has not changed is his ability to construct and deliver in excess of an hour of the very best comedy material anyone could ever want.
Some of the topics that he expounds on include geeks, the baby experience, camping, inappropriate clothing on kids, religion and animals, and boy does he have some lines and laughs built-in though out.
ED is still on tour for a while yet so to see if he is playing anywhere near you, and if he’s not travel, then check out his website www.edbyrne.com and for forthcoming Alhambra shows visit their website www.alhambradunfermline.com
Reviewed by Geoff   Photography by Colin Young

Comedy Bites :- Friday 6 May

Following on the undoubted success of this venture, Abby Shovlin and her team have put togetehr another excellent package for Friday 6 May. As well as a two course meal prepared by quality chefs, the comedy features two of the funniest women around in Jojo Surherland and Jo Caulfield together with Ray Bradshaw as compere. Further details can be found on the attached flyer. We al at one4review wish this venture success and when you go wish you a great night out.

Lenny Henry: – From Cradle to Rave

Lenny Henry is an institution in the British entertainment industry. I first saw him as a teenager on ‘New Faces’ talent programme and later as one of the mainstays in the iconic Saturday morning show Tiswas and also as one third of ‘Three of a Kind’ in conjunction with David Copperfield and Tracey Ullman.
I have also seen him perform live on a couple of occassions over the years, but his profile has dropped somewhat recently if you ignore appearances on a TV advert for a hotel chain.
Yet Henry is currently on tour with his latest show and the bandwagon rolled into Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre last night. Unfortunately for him and everybody the space was anything but full, and maybe this detracted from the atmosphere. However Henry didn’t seem to be too phazed by this. This giant of a man launched straight into his show aided and abetted with references to his life and the music that punctuated it. The show is in essence a commentary of his life, told with amusing but true anecdote from this life from his chilhood in Dudley up to his first public apperance at a local ballroom diring the first segment, and his more successful part of his life after it.
Henry claims that all comedians are frustrated singers and he is no exception. He also wants to be a comedian and of course is a TV personality. He does have a pretty good singing voice, something he illustrates frequently throughout the two hours he is on stage. He relates the tale of a meeting with pop guru at the time Trevor Horn in an effort to obtain a recording deal. this was not forthcoming because Horn said he was toying with a musical carreer, not being totally committed to it. I feel that maybe his wish to diversify has had a detrimental affect on his comedy too.
There is no doubting he has presence, and personality to spare, but I feel the material, although amusing at times, was not up to the required standard, and certainly not up to quality of previous shows I’ve seen. There were times when there was only an embarassed giggle of laughter to some of this material.
The enevitable false encore saw him joined by a band giving him a chance to display his vocal talents. It was not funny songs that he played, but straight variety singing, demanding the crowd waved their arms, even forcing them to their feet to dance around, something they were somewhat reticent in doing.
I’m sure that there are few to rival him in his versatlility, but for me, this show came across as a bit jack of all trades, and was trying to cover too many bases. Sorry Lenny, I know you can do better.
For all future productions at the Alhambra check out their website www.alhambradunfermline.co.uk for details
Reviewed by Geoff

Why Not? Musical Theatre Company presents The Rhythm of Life

Okay, let’s get confession time out of the way first. I normally do not go to see Youth Theatre productions. Why? Well generally there are not enough quality voices to sustain a production, often the stage is packed solid with kids for the sake of it and frequently the production selected is  out with their capabilities.
And yet why do I always make a point of attending this company’s shows? Well they are always presented in a way to complement their cast, not to over extend it and there seems to be an endless conveyor belt of emerging talent on show.
Since forming the company in 2002, director Graeme Melvin, choreographer Therese Puddefoot, together with MD Alan Gibson and Assistant director Lynn Hannah have struck the right note of presenting challenging pieces for their young stars yet pitching it in such a way that is not out with their capabilities. The throughput of some of the young talent is never ending and the production team carefully nurtures the progression from back row of the chorus, to taking the leading roles.
The current production Rhythm of Life is a collection of various songs and dances, drawn from the world of musical theatre predominately, but with excursions along the way into pop, a Take That medley, Madness section, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Buble numbers as examples, not to mention the odd big band number too, giving a showcase for the 50, yes I did say 50, youngsters aged from 10 to 16 to showcase their exceptional talents and versatility.
It is a testament to the production team that even when all were on stage, somehow with spot on direction and inventive choreography the space never seemed overloaded.
Each of the numbers blended seamlessly into the next and although some performers were featured more heavily than others nobody got to hog the limelight all night such was the available talent at their disposal.
 The packed out Carnegie Hall on the Saturday night were rightfully full of enthusiasm for the show and for all of us it could have gone on far longer.
Now I know this was a true ensemble show that as a overall spectacle deserved to be treated as such, and an excellent show it was, and I hate to single out performers of such a piece, but I feel in this instance I have no choice. Every one was a star, but amongst the brightest for me Sarah Barton and Laura Grogan doing Annie Lennox proud, a magnificently mature rendition of Michael Buble’s ‘Home’ by Ross Johnston were standouts and two others in particular whenever they were on stage the eye was drawn to both Calum Pearce and Amber Russell, both for their quality performances and stage presence.
The whole show however couldn’t have stood up without a solid band and in that respect MD Alan Gibson, Tommie Travers, Jamie Craighead, Paul Castledine and David Wilson truly furnished a great sound.
So is the future of musical theatre safe? Certainly in West Fife it is as long as Why Not? are around. They deserve your support if you live locally, and if you don’t then think of travelling.
Their next venture, with the older cast members is to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they will be performing the musical ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ at Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons Venue 54 5th to 13th August. Get your tickets as soon as they are available.

Reviewed by Geoff