JOYCE MCMILLAN on ALLAN STEWART’S BIG, BIG VARIETY SHOW at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 11.4.15. _____________________________________________________
4 stars ****
ALLAN STEWART’S BIG, BIG VARIETY SHOW shoots across the Edinburgh night sky like a slightly nostalgic comet, stuffed with familiar songs, rude jokes, and eye-popping novelty acts. It plays for four nights only, to packed audiences, and vanishes, leaving just one question in its trail; why, if audiences enjoy Allan Stewart’s variety show so much, are there so few similar shows around?
Perhaps the answer lies in a shortage of the right kind of talent, rather than in any lack of audience enthusiasm; for it’s true that the success of Stewart’s formula depends on the extraordinary comic chemistry – built up over years together in panto – between Stewart, the King’s Theatre’s beloved panto Dame, and his comic sidekicks Grant Stott and Andy Gray. It’s a long time since any live comedy routine made me laugh quite as much as Andy Gray’s antics on Thursday night, as a drunken barman listening to Stewart sing One For My Baby.
Around this comic core, Stewart wraps a series of other acts – this time around, it’s sexy female saxophone quartet Saxation, bold and cheeky pianist-comedian Kev Orkian, and lovely stand-up comic Jo Caulfield. Then he adds a fine seven-piece show-band, and polishes up his own remarkable voice for satirical numbers like his final medley of big finales from classics by everyone from Elvis to Pavarotti; and there’s a show that perhaps few theatres in Britain could assemble so effectively – and that sends audiences home delighted, after an evening of joyous grown-up fun and foolishness, with just a touch of glamour.
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