The Gang Show – Festival Theatre

Directed by Andy Johnston

Musical Direction by Andrew Thomson

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It just hasn’t been the same without them.

Relocating from their traditional home at The King’s Theatre whilst it undergoes restoration, The Gang Show finds itself upon the Festival Theatre stage until Saturday, and even with the upscale venue size – it’s only just big enough to fill the commitment, energy, and talents exuding into the building.

It’s quite something to see the changes and decisions altered by the entire production given the enormity of changes over the course of three years since the show’s original debut date. Usually in the Gang Show from year-to-year recognisable faces appear and a sense of flow attributes to the cast who ‘graduate’ from the show – but after three years, the fresh faces offer a re-vitalising lift. But there are some things which the show could never have accounted for.

The passing of the guard with Monarchy, War in Ukraine, and a revolving door of Prime Ministers have meant the jokes and sequences of the show have evidently gone through revisions and changes – a testament to the Gang’s ability to Be Prepared and roll with the punches to continue delivering entertainment to the masses of Edinburgh. It’s a tribute to regional advisor Alan Hunter’s perseverance, and Johnston’s direction to still produce a quality show.

Song, music, comedy, and of course – dance. And though much of the Gang Show’s repertoire is situated around musical theatre numbers, the choreography this evening perhaps takes the cake, the biscuits, and whatever other sweet treats the Bar is selling. Louise Williamson and Jemma Crawford have outdone themselves this year, utilising the teams’ specialised dancers with a clear-thought process to lift up routines with tap, forms of cheerleading, and country.

And as an extra special treat, audiences are lucky enough to catch one of Musical Theatre’s triumphant successes, as Six makes a surprise appearance seven months ahead of its Edinburgh Playhouse performances! Lara Brechin, Beth Gardiner, Ina Hwang, Megan Maclean, Charlotte Schlegel, and Ava Smith lead a corral of eager Brownies and Guides in a stage-storming performance.

It’s a quick-paced number, with big ballad moments and intense notes – so hats and neckerchiefs off to Andrew Thomson’s musical direction, and the commitment of the band to performing a soiree of unique musical pieces. All the classics are here for eager fans, from the aforementioned Six, to Fame and the mighty Les Misérables. The latter of which opens the second Act, and by word, the emotional strain and conviction that Matthew Knowles carries through Empty Chairs at Empty Tables are absurdly talented, capturing a genuine sense of agony, carrying the solo piece tremendously.

Indeed, several of the soloist performances stand the test of the imposing Festival Theatre stage – designed to heighten and carry vocals, the likes of Pippa Belfall and Ella Howell’s The Edinburgh Song swan across the stage and out across the eager audience – the pair doing remarkably well to hold diction through their numbers. The Edinburgh Song in particular, (a riff on Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire) offers tribute to the city’s history, present, and arts community – a touching thought given its less-than-hopeful status as of late.

And that is precisely what The Gang Show is: Edinburgh. Or rather, community, a collision of past and contemporary to harken back to the group’s history and their continued perseverance in the new age. And it’s in the comedy, oh the comedy, where it strikes harder in the past than the present. All PG above board here folks, and it must be said that the nerve to deliver most of these with a straight face is a remarkable feat – with special praise to the cast of the Animal Magic sequence, and a genuinely hilarious off-stage Giraffe.

But where the comedy melds exceptionally well is with the stellar face-off between Charlotte Dickson and Honor Dobbie. It has been three years. Three, long years for this pair. As they’ve rehearsed, rehearsed, and rehearsed for their time in the spotlight – and now they have it. The issue is, no one told them they would be sharing. Taking to the stage, Dickson rounds out a charming rendition of Fame’s Out Here On My Own. But she isn’t alone for long, as the spotlight flips to Dobbie, delivering a stunning performance of On My Own. Not only with superb vocals, but the comedic timing the pair share is a genuine highlight for the night, as they bicker and destroy the set-pieces in a quest to claim the solo-spot light. But the real kicker is still to come for this pair…

There is nothing like The Gang Show. The memories forged on this stage will likely never fade from the cast, crew, band, and audiences having, for some, the highlight of their year. Expectantly, the sense of communal spirit thrives this evening, who are Back in Business, back in the game, and back for good

How You’ve Been Missed

The Gang Show runs at the Festival Theatre until November 5th.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

Photo Credit – Ryan Buchanan

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