Director – Iain Gordon
Lighting Design – Scott Gordon
Musical Director – David Halford
Choreographer – Lynsey Brown
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Jock n’ Roll salutes the music that the nation that gave us whisky and haggis has given to the world through the years. Whether the show does this Scottish back catalogue justice, however, is less certain.
Act one opens with such Scottish classics as “Stop Yer Ticklin’ Jock” and progresses to hits from Marmalade, Lulu and the Bay City Rollers. The Swingcats provide well-sustained harmony and backing vocals, though struggle more when solo. Scottish variety legend Christian (Chris McClure) sounds a little crackly, though moves about the stage with energy and pace. Pavilion stalwart Dean Park has the audience in his palm from his entrance and provides all the variety of a cruise ship entertainer simply oozing patter. Between Park and Christian, the Glasgow chit chat flows with ease and tickles the audience sufficiently to cover up what appears to be an under rehearsed and substantially thin first act. What it seems to lack is a drive towards an end point: by ignoring any form of narrative, the audience is left to endure song after song until a sudden halt brings us to the end of act one.
For many of the songs, the audience sit unresponsive to tunes they do not know very well or express disappointment at the abrupt end of those they want to sing along to. It seems the production has missed a trick by focussing more on the quantity of songs rather than quality and although the promotional material boasts 50 songs, it would probably be more enjoyable to have chosen 25 songs done well and in their entirety.
Act two is similarly paced, with no real end point in sight and the patter begins to wear thin. Again, Christian bounds around the stage to keep the audience interested and Park, though unmistakably pantomimic, continues to provide laughs to keep the production ticking along. Act two is much easier watch than the former; whether due to the 15 minutes of respite from the stale first act or that the songs are more upbeat and well rehearsed it’s hard to tell, but it is clearly slicker and the cast seem more comfortable. Chris Sougal the last of the performers, has a more prominent rôle in this act, providing the older demographic of the audience with all the flirtatious mannerisms trademarked by much-loved crooner Daniel O’Donnell, though Sougal lacks the charisma and voice of the aforementioned star. While the audience remain in their seats until prompted in the final song, the Proclaimers medley at the end was sure to rouse the Glasgow audience, and the cast receive a warm reception to bring the production to a close.
Certainly more a set of music than a jukebox musical, the productions strength lies in its ability to tap into the nostalgia of Scotland of olde, from Harry Lauder to Wet Wet Wet. The lighting was overall well executed, though at times resembled a Pink Floyd concert, with lasers appearing during slower songs. The live on-stage band are tight and make up for what are at times weak vocals from all cast members. It would appear the main flaw in the production is the inability to choose a particular demographic to aim for. Whereas previous Pavilion productions, such as Magic of Scotland or Jukebox Memories, pick an era and do it well, Jock N’ Roll tries to please older audiences as well as younger, without successfully pleasing either.
Though it makes no bones about being an entertaining night rather than a slick Broadway-style musical, Jock N’ Roll could use some TLC – Tartan Loving Care – to remedy it’s superficial and unflattering tribute to Scottish music.
Runs until 10 May.