From the opening number That’s Entertainment dazzles with a multi-talented cast delivering old school tap routines and show-stopping songs from a golden age of Broadway musicals.
The revue, which is currently touring the UK, opened last night at the New Theatre, Oxford, and it went down a storm.
There is an awful lot to like in this spectacular production – not least Emma Rogers and Innis Robertson’s splendid choreography and the drop-dead gorgeous costumes which bring back the glamour and glitz from a vintage era of film and stage shows.
The 1974 film version of That’s Entertainment took viewers for a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the blockbuster gems of the MGM back catalogue. It was visual feast for fans of Astaire, Kelly, Rogders & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin and the rest.
This musical, from Spirit Productions – a team which specialises in successful song and dance shows shows – is wall-to-wall big numbers from an ensemble of outstanding young performers, with a guest star sandwiched into the mix.
There’s a rotation of guests and this week Oxford has former Loose Woman and cabaret star Jane McDonald who proved a big hit with the mainly elderly first night audience.
On the plus side she is a consummate entertainer who is funny, charismatic and has an easy-going, self-effacing charm, not to mention a powerhouse voice and a sensational wardrobe of sparkly diva dresses.
But That’s Entertainment is billed as The Greatest Hits of the ’40s and ’50s and McDonald’s three sets were nothing whatsoever to do with the eras.
The songs were marvellous but came straight from a cruise or Vegas cabaret turn and jarred with the overall theme of the production.
And, if we’re being picky and pedantic, more than half the show’s numbers are from outside the ’40s and ’50s remit, ranging from a 1912 song right up to Leslie Bricusse’s 1971 hit, The Candyman.
But we are treated to captivating performances of Puttin’ On The Ritz, 42nd Street, I Got Rhythm (and an incredible tap dance finale); plus exquisite medleys from South Pacific, Carousel (and an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone) and The Rat Pack.
Simon Schofield, Andy Maguire and X Factor finalist Sean Smith, from ‘Same Difference, lead most of the numbers alongside three almost identical blondes – Lauren Atkins, Loua Geater and Emma Kate Nelson (so alike with their stage make-up on that it was impossible to tell who was who).
This is a must-see show for fans of old school tap and classic musicals. I was in seventh heaven. My only regret is that the producers’ pockets aren’t deep enough to include a live orchestra right up there at the back of the stage. That would make it five-star perfection.
That’s Entertainment runs at New Theatre, Oxford, until Saturday.
2016 Tour Dates
May 24-28, ORCHARD THEATRE, DARTFORD, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones
May 31-June 4, EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE, Special Guest Star, Jane McDonald
June 7-11, GLASGOW THEATRE ROYAL, Special Guest Stars, Elaine C Smith
June 14-18, LIVERPOOL EMPIRE, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones
June 20-22, YORK OPERA HOUSE
June 23-25, REGENT THEATRE, STOKE
June 28-July 2, CHURCHILL THEATRE, BROMLEY, Special Guest Star, Ruthie Henshall
July 5-9, THEATRE ROYAL, NEWCASTLE, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones
July 12-16, NEW THEATRE, WOKING, Special Guest Star, Ruthie Henshall
July 19-23, NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM, Special Guest Star Ruthie Henshall
July 26-30, AYLESBURY WATERSIDE THEATRE, Special Guest Star, Ruthie Henshall
August 2-6, THEATRE ROYAL, BRIGHTON, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones
August 16-20, WIMBLEDON NEW THEATRE
August 24-28, CLIFFS PAVILION, SOUTHEND, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones
September 5-10, THEATRE ROYAL, NORWICH, Special Guest Stars, The Overtones & Ruthie Henshall.
That’s Entertainment is a dazzling spectacular of old school tap routines and big production numbers, performed by a multi-talented ensemble, from the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood musicals.