REVIEW: Showtune, Union Theatre

This lively showcase for Jerry Herman’s music is a very satisfying tribute to his work.

(c)Jamie Scott-Smith.

Celebrating the work of renowned Broadway musical composer Jerry Herman and conceived by Paul Gilger, Showtune is a warmly affectionate tribute to his contribution to musical theatre. It is presented with great energy and enthusiasm from both director and choreographer Luke Bryne and a talented cast who thoroughly embrace the music.

Balancing out a number of heart rendering ballads such as a wonderful rendition of ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ with more fun numbers such as ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’, the show successfully blends a huge range of songs to transport audiences into musical theatre heaven. There are moments in which it would have been lovely to have a bit of background and insight into some of the songs and the musicals they are from to give a bit of extra depth to the show but as it is this is still a pleasantly enjoyable production.

Luke Bryne’s production has plenty of energy and creativity about it, making full use of the stage to transform the vibe of the show effectively particularly during the transition between numbers – which are all very sleekly carried out. Meanwhile, his choreography is consistently playful and inventive, as seen through numbers such as ‘Just Go to the Movies’ and ‘Before the Parade Passes By’.

But the production is also helped by Matthew Swithinbank’s gorgeously soft lighting, that really evokes the feeling of being transported back into the golden age of musical theatre, while James Followell accompaniment on the piano offers some beautiful moments such as during a wonderfully wistful and dreamy renditions of ‘We Need a Little Christmas’ and ‘Song on the Sand’. Every song transforms from one to the other effortlessly, with the structure and placing of songs having clearly been cleverly thought out.

The cast perform with great gusto, delivering great personality with every song that they perform that keeps the audience thoroughly engaged. Particular highlights include an enjoyably lively performance of ‘Movies Were Movies’ from Mack & Mabel and a thoughtful rendition of ‘ I am What I am’ from La Cage Aux Follies. It is clear to tell that the cast are all enjoying themselves immensely, which then reflects positively on the audience’s own reaction.

Nostalgic and entertaining, this is certainly a show that fans of Jerry Herman’s work will appreciate. If however you are slightly more unfamiliar with his compositions – it is slightly more of a struggle to fully appreciate it due to the lack of context but is still working taking a trip to the Union Theatre to see. Thoroughly enjoyable.

By Emma Clarendon

Showtune will continue to play at the Union Theatre until the 24th August.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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