Show arranged by Spirit Productions
Executive Producer: David King
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
It’s all glitter and sparkle, and a true journey back to the Golden Age of Hollywood at its best. The whole bedecked stage and cast of beautifully costumed dancers and singers epitomises the extravagant style of the 1920s and 1930s, proving that there really is “no business like show business”.
Spirit Productions who are responsible for this feast of showbiz glamour, hails from over the pond in the USA, produce lavish performances seen all over the world in venues as diverse as casinos, grand theatres, cruise ships and even private corporate events. Puttin’ on the Ritz is just one example from their vast portfolio of shows available ‘for hire’ complete with production team, cast, costumes and design elements. Their only omission is some kind of show programme to be made available to the audience detailing their talented performers, who can otherwise be given no credit in reviews.
Everything twinkles and sparkles as the curtain rises to begin ‘putting on the ritz’, and ‘who could ask for anything more?’ as the journey begins to chart the wonderful music of those classic greats: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and honouring legendary performers such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly. A star cloth sporting all shades of coloured stars backs a set with two glittering staircases down which the team of six accomplished vocalists descend for each number. They are complemented by 16 talented dancers – some of whom are rumoured to have taken part in TV’s Strictly Come Dancing – who can carry off any dance style from an elegant ballroom waltz to a raunchy sleaze club scene. The dancing is heavily supplemented by special guests Trent Whiddon and Gordana Grandosek who are five times British Championship finalists, and perform spellbinding cha-cha, rumba, tango and foxtrot routines to name but a few.
We are treated to a feast of greats such as ‘Let there be love’, ‘In my Easter Bonnet’, ‘Side by Side’, ‘Anything Goes’, ‘Night and Day’, ‘Someone to watch over me’ and more too numerous to mention; then transported ‘Up a lazy river’ to the Cotton Club in 1928 with its Louis Armstrong influence ‘Making Whoopee’ and experiencing the ‘Birth of the Blues’, alongside the Charleston and a row of Black Bottoms. Yes, it’s all go in this show! The tap dancing is almost infectious (despite a guilty suspicion that the ‘taps’ are TOO perfect in rhythm and tone to not be pre-recorded?), and the audience sings along nostalgically to a large proportion of the well-known songs. Numerous costume changes in all hues of the rainbow make the show a real spectacle, with full length ball gowns, tail coats and dickies, swirling frills, red evening suits, short figure-hugging tunics all putting in an appearance alongside sequins, sequins and more sequins! For all this though, it never comes over as ‘trashy’, it is just pure showbiz grandeur of a past age – “was anyone here alive in the 20s?” asks one of the singers, and yes, a smattering of hands raises on the night of the review in Sheffield’s grand Lyceum Theatre (a venue that incidentally does total justice to an elaborate whirlwind of a show like this). A screen at the rear of the stage provides additional reminders of the era with original projected movie film footage, which no doubt many audience members watched first time round!
All in all it’s a visually stunning and wonderfully entertaining night out that still has its place in modern-day theatres. Comments ranging from “that’s a proper show!” to “where do they get their energy from?” are heard on the way out, but there’s no requirement to be of the older generation to enjoy this feast, and all the songs are easy to learn! The dancing could take a while longer to master though …
Runs until: Saturday 20 June 2015