Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Encore - The Customs House, South Shields

Reviewed by: Ian Cain

One of the best things about being a reviewer is that you get to see some great shows. Seems obvious, right? Not always! All too often, theatre critics are derided for ‘panning’ or ‘mauling’ productions that don’t come up to scratch – so, imagine what a feeling of elation we experience when we leave a theatre and can, in all honesty, put our hands on our heart and say: ‘That was fantastic.’

Encore are a cabaret group that combine comedy, song and sketches in the manner that was once the staple of Saturday night prime-time television. Now celebrating their tenth anniversary, they have brought their brand new show to The Customs House for a week long run.

In it, they take the audience on a magical, musical journey through many of the West End’s biggest box office hits, from ‘42nd Street’ to ‘Wicked’ via ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’ The group harmonies are perfectly arranged and delivered with polish and flair, while the solo performances allow individuals to shine out.

Songs are sorted into themed sections and performed as comedy sketches. A particular highlight is the pastiche of ’Allo, ’Allo, which incorporates songs such as ‘Thank Heaven For Little Girls’, ‘Je T’aime . . . Moi Non Plus’ and ‘My Cherie Amour’ and some risqué double-entendres with baguettes!

There is also a set devoted to Willy Russell’s devastating masterpiece, ‘Blood Brothers’ and a performance of ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ that is worthy of the West End. The group are backed by a fantastic four piece band that never hit a wrong note. Pianist Andrew Richardson even performs a couple of solo numbers, too.

In today’s fame-obsessed society, it is reassuring to note that Britain’s Got Talent – although you may not find it on Saturday night prime time television as much as was once the case. Instead, take a trip to your local theatre – you may be pleasantly surprised with what it has in store for you. One last question: Why don’t Encore have their own television show? They provide the kind of entertainment that we could do with a whole lot more of in recession-hit Britain.
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