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Review: That’s Entertainment at New Theatre Oxford

Esther Lafferty on an energetic performance of twentieth century classics by very talented singers and dancers with wonderful choreography


"Jane added an extra dimension, bringing the light-hearted approach of a cruise ship to the show"

That’s Entertainment is a musical journey, a series of songs from the decades when Hollywood was at its most glamorous and romantic and when, in the 1940s and 50s, the stars of the day, with looks, talent and charisma took some of the best songs written in the twentieth century and claimed them as their own.

 

Last night’s cast promise that just as all the world’s a stage so too is the stage a world, and they open the show in stylish shimmering monotone at The Roxy beneath the bright lights of a New York back-drop. The glistening gowns and top hats, tails and tap-dancing toes are a throw-back to dance hall days of the middle of the last century and the talented cast of sixteen were sequins and smiles throughout, with immaculate dance routines, wonderful choreography and great voices. Simon Schofield’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II 1949) was spectacular, and Emma Kate Nelson, one of three leading ladies, was also of particular note.


 

There was a rainbow of costumes, an array of colour and sparkle, with bikinis and sailor hats for a South Pacific sequence (‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’; ‘There is Nothing like a Dame’) and rather fantasy city-dweller outfits for a ‘Cockney Knees Up’ which included ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’.

With this last song, dating from 1919, and a Rat Pack celebration touching the 60s and 70s, there’s a good sprinkling from both and earlier and later decades, all with a charming innocence in comparison to today’s explicit lyrics.

The set of songs is punctuated with guest appearances, different Special Guest Stars in different venues each adding their own flavour to the show, and in Oxford, we are treated to Jane McDonald of The Cruise and Loose Women fame – and she certainly had a fan base who had come specifically to see her on stage. These guest appearances by a modern celebrity with a very different style (despite equally gorgeous costumes) were rather at odds with the wonderfully choreographed sequences of sequins between which they were interspersed. However, Jane added an extra dimension, bringing the light-hearted and friendly approach of a cruise ship to the show, engaging directly with this appreciative audience, laughing, joking and encouraging everyone to sing along and make merry. This was a hard task on a cold damp Tuesday yet the audience, while fairly undemonstrative throughout the evening, showed their appreciation at the end with a standing ovation!

That’s Entertainment is just what it says on the tin, and a little bit more – an energetic performance of twentieth century classics by very talented singers and dancers with wonderful choreography punctuated by appearances by the much-loved Jane McDonald. An entertaining evening out!

 

- Esther Lafferty

 

Presented by Spirit Productions | Produced by David King | Choreographed by Emma Rogers | At New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 21st May

 

Related Articles: Review: American Idiot at New Theatre Oxford | An interview with Jane McDonald