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West End in Blackpool – Winter Gardens Blackpool

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

 Director: Ashley Luke Lloyd

It’s the perfect time to remind ourselves of what summer entertainment used to look like to people in the UK. Forget weekenders in Berlin, Majorca or Rome – the famous seaside towns of Britain used to be the destination of choice for millions. These towns built a reputation for entertainment and delight – music, dance, and everything those two things can lead to.

This production seeks to rejuvenate the feeling of excitement the big stars created with a show in one of the buzziest seaside resorts the country ever had. Ashley Luke Lloyd’s film brings to mind great performances, and warm evenings at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The interviews with our assembled stars at the end of each number give us a potted and interesting history of this great auditorium and leaves us with little doubt of its place in the history of modern British theatre.

Jodie Prenger starts us off with a touching, calmly melancholic rendition of Send in the Clowns, from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Tom Lister follows up with a rousing and challenging Sinatra classic All of Me. Much better than an impersonation of Frank (which, in fairness, most singers can do), it feels like a smooth, deep homage with a punch of bravado. Kelsey-Beth Crossley (who also acts as compere and host for this variety show) gives us a beautiful Where Do I Begin from Shirley Bassey.

Then to celebrate the Winter Gardens’ strong track record of producing top-level musicals we have a forceful version of ABBA’s classic Winner Takes it All sung by Blackpool regular Laura Wilson. From musicals to dancing competitions, we move to celebrating the century- long association the place has with ballroom dancing. Charlotte Gooch and Alan Burkitt are in fine form to dance and roam through the full venue in a glamorous, smooth sequence accompanied by Cheek to Cheek from Fred Astaire.

Ramping up to a thrilling finale, director and choreographer Ashley Luke Lloyd leads a troupe in a celebration of dance set to There’s No Business Like Show Business. All this brings us to a vibrant performance of The Show must Go On from another British institution, Queen. Sung by Brooke Havana Bailey, it sums up a confident tone for the future of this great place.

It’s a wonderfully curated selection of classics, with engaging and polished performances throughout. They set out to showcase the magnitude and depth a night out with the stars in Blackpool could mean – and they’ve succeeded in a snappy 30 minutes.

Runs here until 9 July 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Wonderfully curated selection of classics

User Rating: 4.53 ( 2 votes)

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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