Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
King’s Theatre favourite Allan Stewart is back to host his Big Big Variety Show for a fifth year with a packed line up featuring some of his best showbiz pals.
This isn’t a rerun of previous incarnations, the 2018 Big Big Variety Show is fit to bursting with a new lease of life. Gone are the tired old routines of Jacko singing George Formby; whilst never losing the likeability of an Allan Stewart show, the whole setup has a new and exciting feel.
Comedian and musician Phil Butler makes a strong debut at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. Though his humour may not necessarily be suited to the audience in front of him, he certainly does the job of warming the crowd.
Seventies sensations The Three Degrees prove they are far from dated with a stirring medley of their hits, concluding with the crowd-pleasing When Will I See You Again? The Degrees work the capital city audience well and bring a real touch of class to the evening. A live vocal that chart-toppers these days would be envious of, combined with the instantly recognisable dance routines, prove impossible to fault.
Act II brings Perthsire comedian Fred MacAulay, a tried-and-tested favourite amongst a Scottish crowd, and the return of infamous Effen duo The MacRobert Brothers, Stewart and Stott’s side-splitting, if stereotypical, musical siblings.
Kate Stewart, the daughter of the headliner but industry star in her own right, makes a return to the King’s stage following her turn at the first Big Big Variety Show. Since then, she has not only made a name for herself on the pop scene, but her voice has matured and confidence grown. Her voice truly is a powerhouse; she offers a bare-naked, astounding vocal on Whitney Houston’s Run To You and is worth watching out for as a rising star on stage.
From the very outset and throughout, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott, the King’s Theatre panto baddie and all round affable guy, offer their irresistible comedy gold. Their ‘preview’ of Beauty and the Beast, this year’s King’s panto offering, has to be seen to be believed, and their sketches throughout hit the mark without exception. Their duo commands the love and respect of the whole auditorium, and for good reason.
Stewart tops his evening off with an astounding best-bits sequence from his West End stint in Jolson and Co., the musical celebrating the life of Al Jolson. We see a performer truly at the top of his game, offering a heartfelt tribute to a showbiz great and a total lack of regard of the fact Stewart himself is, unbelievably, 67 years old. He performs the role like no other can and in these totally serious moments, there is real insight into the incomparable genius of the man himself.
Only a man with such extraordinary talent and love for his craft could put together a theatrical experience as entertaining as this. Its audience may well have to dig their way through snow storms to make it, but this year’s Big Big Variety Show is entertainment epitomised and should not be missed at any cost.
Runs until 2 March 2018 | Image: Contributed