Show tribute to musical giants

Putting on the Ritz SUS-140309-160833001
Putting on the Ritz SUS-140309-160833001

Puttin’ on the Ritz

Congress Theatre

Until Saturday, September 6

Review by Roger Paine

Taking its title from Irving Berlin’s classic 1929 song, this show is as much a tribute to that great songwriter as it is to his two contemporary giants of musical theatre, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

Their combined output remains as popular today as when our great, great grandparents were humming their tunes.

Devised and directed by veteran David King for Spirit Productions, this touring production gives aficiniados of musical theatre everything they desire.

Memorable songs, I’ve Got a Crush On You, They Can’t Take That Away From Me; the snappiest of dance routines, Steppin’ Out With My Baby; back-projected clips of black and white movies; glitzy stage lighting; a plethora of contrasting costumes and an overall ‘feel-good’ factor.

Two hours of musical escapism at which only curmudgeons would cavil. Except that it would have been even more entertaining if the show had a live orchestra or band.

Musical director Clive Dunstall deserves full credit for his arrangements and the sounds his recorded numbers produce but when there are no live musicians some of the zip-factor goes awol too.

Here 16 immaculate guys and girls, exuberantly choreographed by Emma Rogers, danced their hearts out while six talented singers sang each timeless song before moving seamlessly onto the next.

Although on the first night it took until Act 2 to get up to full speed with Yes Sir, That’s My Baby; a sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-stage version of the Charleston - all synchronised arms, hands, legs and feet; and Up A Lazy River in The Cotton Club of 1929 number, to show what this production was all about.

A bonus was the guest appearance of Lorna Luft, daughter of Hollywood legend Judy Garland, who at the age of 11 made her stage debut with her mother.

Her powerful voice turned-back the clock with Rock-A-Bye Your Baby and Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart.

Unashamedly billed as ‘The Song & Dance Extravaganza’ but what happened to the live music..?