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Review: The Night of the Musicals at Pleasance EICC - Ed Fringe

Review by Carly Fisher


Promising to be ‘an electrifying evening’ of musical theatre, I was certainly keen to get along to The Night of the Musicals at Pleasance EICC for a night of Broadway end West End favourites - my favourite kind of night. Advertising a sold out London season and boasting one of the highest ticket prices I’ve yet come across at the fringe, the expectations are certainly set high.


Whilst the cast largely meets these expectations, overall, unfortunately, the production does not. I’ll get the critiques quickly out of the way so we can focus on the wonderful talents of so many young artists - so stay with me here…


My main disappointment honestly is that all of the songs are accompanied with backing tracks rather than live musicians, even just a pianist. It cheapens the show instantly and without the musical richness of live music, the show feels as though it is missing a fundamental part of and appreciation for one of the most important components of any musical - the orchestra. Live musicians would have immediately elevated this production immensely and given the performers a greater opportunity to grow their craft in pursuit of extensive professional careers.


The lighting was extremely dark but as the show was early in its short run here at the Fringe, I’ll hope that they managed to rejig the lights to better illuminate the excellent talent on stage. Additionally, the use of black outs at the end of every number was unnecessary and kept stalling the audience’s energy. Sound mixing well executed.


A mix between solos, duets and company numbers, the rhythm of the first half of the show flowed very well. Emily Rose Barker’s ‘Cabaret’ was the first solo, second performance of the night and remained the stand out to me for the duration of the production. Barker is an excellent talent who caught my eye amongst the large cast of 10 consistently through the production. I hope that Barker’s career takes her far and that all those in attendance at the EICC will say ‘I saw her when…’

Amber Turner’s ‘Me and the Sky’ from Come From Away is another solo highlight of the evening and is performed well, showcasing Turner’s vocals beautifully. Turner returns for a duet with Danica Enright, ‘I Know Him So Well,’ which is the duet stand out of the evening.


As far as the Company numbers, I think that their performance of ‘When You’re an Addams’ had to be the highlight of the night and the choreography here allows the team to show you that they are more than just great vocalists. Scott Johnston is the Director, Producer and Assistant Choreographer, along with Cally-Ann Callaghan as co-Assistant Choreographer and Dance Captain. There’s no choreographer credited so I will have to assume that Callaghan and Johnston are responsible for the bulk of the show’s choreo and they have done well!


Unfortunately, mid way through the show, once it had found a nice flow, we moved into a very lengthy Wicked segment that felt totally out of place. No longer were we spending a night at the musicals, but at a single musical in a rather amateur rendition of 3 Wicked songs in a row. It was long and totally broke the flow of the show and I would definitely encourage the team to reconsider the over representation of any one musical in this show. It’s success lies in the fact that it navigates its way through a great selection of musical numbers. It is bogged down in the second half but the indecisiveness of which song to pick from individual musicals.


When we finally make it through Wicked, Rose Oliver offers a beautifully executed ‘Part of that World’ and though the lighting is dark, Oliver’s stage presence is clear and her vocals shine.


It’s nice to see some dance focused numbers included in the line up, giving different performers the chance to shine. Callaghan is a big part of all of these numbers and pairs with Louis Doran to offer some great dance focused features.


I will admit, at the conclusion of the show I wondered if the song selection was simply too obvious…had we heard these songs just too many times for the show to be able to really take you by surprise. In the program, Johnston negates this well by explaining his reason for creating the show in the first place, and that is to take West End to regions of the UK that have little access to it and to musical theatre in general. It is a noble mission and I think that in pursuit of this goal, the song list is generally spot on (as I said, I would urge a slim down of the Wicked content). All the same, I commend Johnston for his mission and wish this production enormous success in its pursuits to tour the UK.


Edinburgh is a fringe festival but one where the calibre is very high. Despite this, the vocalists in this show stand up there with the best of them and have much to be proud of.

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