Shout! The New Swinging 60's Musical - Review

Shout! The Musical: Edinburgh Playhouse
by Edinburgh Evening News

Enthusiastic ensemble performances and a great choice of songs combine with a top performance from Su Pollard to ensure that this 60s musical does, indeed, swing.

Sadly for the production, Pollard does not have the lead role and since Claire Sweeney, who does, is the least effective singer on the stage, any real swinging is little and far between.

Shout! is what you might call a "time-travel" show, designed to transport the viewer back to a particular era. More cabaret than musical theatre, the flimsy plot is padding for the songs, which are chosen for their ability to conjure up the chosen time.

Which, in the case of Shout! means the 60s. Not the 60s of hippies, counterculture and psychedelic music, but the 60s of Twiggy, short skirts and pure pop, as experienced by teenagers everywhere in the UK.

The plot involves three girls, Ruby (Sweeney), Georgina (Donna Steele) and Betty (Shona White) who go down to London from "up North" to find their fortune. Instead, they find Ruby's aunty Yvonne (Pollard) and her hair salon in Peckham, where they spend a decade hanging out in short skirts, reading teen mag Shout!

Which gives plenty of opportunities for Howard Jones as Tony T, Shout!'s editor, to bring a whole load of 60s adverts and editorials out from the page and onto the stage. Welcome the Pill, cigarette adverts, "groovy" lingo and, as the interval starts, a visit from the Milk Tray man.

There is so much potential that it is painful to see good ideas wasted under Sweeney's lead. She is so meandering that, despite tight singing and dancing performances, Steele and White are unable to do anything about it.

Winking at the audience to indicate her character is a bit of a goer and grinning in a manner that, in horror movies, is reserved for characters about to morph into werewolves, Sweeney is actually fine when called upon to sustain a note.

Ask her to sing anything resembling a tune, however, and her voice fades in and out faster than Radio Caroline on a windy night in the North Sea. In dramatic terms, these boots were made for gallumphing, not walking.

Rather greater skill is shown by Shona White, soloing in songs such as I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself and Little By Little. She is not overly subtle but is at least effervescent in her approach to the music.

It takes Su Pollard's rendition of You're My World to show how it should be done. Her start is so understated you think she might be faltering. But then she builds, and continues to build, until the audience are in raptures.

If all the performers could use the material with a fraction of her sense of drama and understanding, this would be a brilliant night of crystal clear 60s pleasure. Instead, it is the 60s recalled through a haze – and not a purple one, either.

Edinburgh Evening News
February 2008