Puttin’ on the Ritz Edinburgh Playhouse

I was brought up on a diet of Hollywood musicals and have vivid memories of Sunday afternoons with the family in front of the black and white telly, mesmerised by the song and dance routines of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers and other stars of the silver screen of the 30s and 40s. It seems like there were a lot of similar souls in the audience judging by the age range but there were a few younger faces as well, proving that the appeal of good music is universal.

This production showcases the timeless music of the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. There is, fortunately, no loose storyline or attempt at a plot vehicle – it is simply a rendering of a selection of these wonderful songs sung by some excellent singers and accompanied by a group of talented dancers. The icing on the cake is the inclusion of guest star Lorna Luft, the less famous daughter of Judy Garland but no less talented. What a voice – rich, earthy and with the unmistakeable tones of her mother and sister, she can still belt out the top notes with the best of them. She is worth the price of the ticket all on her own.

There is no live orchestra, just a soundtrack, and there seemed to be a few problems with the sound in the first half with some feedback and a tinny sound system drowning out the singers at times. Luckily that got fixed and the sound quality improved in the second half. The stage looks a bit bare and sterile at first with the cool white costumes of the dancers and the white backdrop and lights but a few colour changes in the backdrop and costumes soon warms up the stage as we go through our musical journey.

The audience needed a bit of warming up too – they were very polite in the first half but soon got into the swing of things and were whooping in delight by the end. I’d love to have had a few more dancers on stage as well but hey, you can’t have everything. What you do get are some fabulous songs – I Got Rhythm, Easter Parade, Night and Day, Top Hat and Birth of the Blues to name but a very few. Highlights for me were the Lorna Luft sets, the Cotton Club sequence and the jaw-dropping speed and synchronicity of the dancers’ hand jive number. This is a great show which will have you tapdancing out of the theatre and singing on the bus all the way home.

Irene Brownlee