WEDNESDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 2017 – Liverpool Playhouse Theatre – Review by Tate James, originally written for The Reviews Hub
It is 150 years since the theatre we know today opened its doors as the Star Music Hall and, to celebrate the anniversary, the Liverpool Playhouse have made the Star the titular character of their Christmas offering as they invite us all to step back to the days of Variety with magic, comedy and many a sing-along ditty in true Music Hall style.
Taking us back in time is The Chairman, the harried master of ceremonies played by the charismatic Michael Starke. As he introduces the cast of caricatures, the action flips from on stage to back stage with the threat of the theatre’s closure from its new mysterious owner, a budding romance between the young stage hand and the dresser and an old flame returned to grace the stage once more.
Leading lady Eithne Browne has heart and humour as Dame Ellen, the ageing chanteuse whose every performance could be her last. She meets her match with the return of Michelle Butterfly’s Ida Valentine, complete with over-the-top costumes, saucy cabaret numbers and and regular flow of tongue-in-cheek remarks to the audience. Helen Carter and Jack Rigby bring lovely romance in the sub-plot that outshines the bigger plot, as the underdog (Carter) takes to the stage discovering both her confidence and her true love in a rousing rendition of Burlington Bertie from Bow, just one of the many traditional Music Hall numbers crammed into this production that you’ll be surprised you know.
This “Entertainment”, as writer Michael Wynne chooses to describe it, is not complex or thought-provoking, nor does it try to be. It does what the Music Hall would to do in its glory days: it takes us away from everyday life to smile, laugh and sing along with songs that have outlived the Music Hall itself.