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That’s Entertainment – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Director and Choreographer: Emma Rogers
Reviewer: Clare White

That’s Entertainment is billed as a song and dance extravaganza, showcasing some of Hollywood’s greatest stage and screen hits from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. From the producers of Puttin’ on the Ritz, it is a dazzling production full of energy, glitz and glamour, featuring timeless tunes by legendary composers including Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

The show features a different guest star in each city and in Birmingham musical theatre legend Ruthie Henshall takes top billing. A star of West End and Broadway, and a self-confessed fanatic of the golden Hollywood MGM era, Henshall is a class act and right at home in this musical celebration. She delights with performances of All That Jazz from Chicago and Some People from Gypsy, although she appears on stage alone and there is a feeling that with a cast of dancers waiting in the wings, a choreographic trick has been missed.

Henshall joins a talented touring ensemble of eight dancers and four principle vocalists – Loula Geater, Emma Kate Nelson, Simon Schofield and Sean Smith. Each gets their chance to shine – Nelson and Schofield make a fabulous singing/tap-dancing double act, showing perfect comic timing in Good Morning and A Couple of Swells. Geater gives a vocally stunning rendition of Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody and Smith (formerly one half of X Factor brother/sister duo Same Difference) excels during the Rat Pack tribute with Ain’t That a Kick. Collectively, their group performance of Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1945 classic/Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone is particularly moving.

As well as the Rat Pack tribute, there is a colourful South Pacific segment and a tribute to London’s Pearly Kings and Queens, which is a little confusing in a production of ‘Hollywood’s greatest hits’. While I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts is wonderfully entertaining, its inclusion seems slightly misplaced here.

The tempo is raised a notch in the second act, with fabulous performances of We’re In The Money, Get Happy and It Don’t Mean A Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing), all bursting with energetic dance sequences and stunning sequined gowns.

Director and choreographer Emma Rogers has created a great celebration of some timeless tunes. While That’s Entertainment doesn’t always stick to the narrative and at times suggests a show confused about what it wants to be, it exceeds in delivering an evening of feel-good entertainment.

Runs until 23 July 2016 | Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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