Brash musical theatre
Edinburgh – Pleasance Courtyard – 4 – 30 Aug 10 – 17:00 (1.00)
Reel-to-real is a bright, brash piece of musical theatre with a simple message, and a rather complicated way of purveying it. The unique selling point of Reel-to-real is the clever incorporation of classic black and white film footage into a new story told through the medium of musical theatre. Therefore, the experience would be enhanced for those with some knowledge of classic films. For those lacking in such knowledge, the merging of the two media is still a clever and amusing trick, although a little confusing for the plot at times. Characters interact with former film stars, and objects are apparently magically exchanged between the film set and the stage, making a transition from 2D film to 3D stage. This may not be the most exciting, tear-jerking or showstopping musical on offer, but Reel-to-real remains an entertaining show.
A set of twins, one boy, one girl, come of age, and by a set of contrived circumstances, find themselves on a race around the world in opposite directions, apparently in order to impress their father and gain access to his fortune. While this makes for a very neatly packaged collection of characters and situations, it is actually a bizarre storyline, ending with the inevitable conclusion that competing against your twin is not advisable, and sticking together would be a much better idea. Various settings are recognisable by stereotypical monuments and locals, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall and street sellers of China. Visiting a carefully chosen collection of countries to correspond with movie clips, along the way the twins meet friends and love interests of the generic happy ending variety.
Supporting this insipid storyline are some extraordinary special effects and exceptionally swift scene changes. One of the most inventive scenes involves clever rhythmic gymnastic trickery using coloured fabric alongside lighting effects to represent a storm. While the effects might, at times, be truly mind-blowing, the songs and the singing are much less often, and the storyline is ultimate American cheese. The shining star of the show is its choreography. Tap routines rival the old greats, and are performed alongside movie clips, sometimes complementing, sometimes synchronising with them. The dancing and choreography is something to behold, and seems in a separate league to the other elements of this uplifting but superficial piece of theatre.
For a show incorporating so many effects whilst combining film and theatre, the result is surprisingly one dimensional. A strange mixture of top quality dance, slick stage management and standard singing and storyline, this show could be fantastic fun for fans of Mamma Mia! A great time will be had by audiences who enjoy a sing-along style, a bubblegum colour scheme and a predictable ending, but are not too critical of the quality of the plot or the depth of characterisation. Reel-to-real is fabulous in theory, pretty good in practice.
Cast credits: Jeremy Benton – Jack. Craig Blake – Swing. Joe Grandy – Chorus. Danielle Jordan – Chorus. Jose Luaces – Benson. Kelly Lynn Cosme – Swing. Shaun Parry – Joe. Rebecca Palmer – Chorus. Kiira Schmist – Chorus. Vanessa Sonon – Bombshell. Joe Sparks – Chorus. Doug Stender – Cheever. Ellen Zolezzi – Jill.
Company credits: Writers – Kincaid Jones. Director – Lynne Taylor-Corbett. Musical Director – Doug Oberhamer. Choreographers – Lynne Taylor- Corbett/ Jeremy Benton. Set Designer – Beowolf Boritt. Costume Designer – Fabio Toblini. Lighting Designer – Vivien Leone. Projection Designer – Jeff Sugg. Sound Designer – Christopher Cronin. Props Designer – Matthew Hodges. Wig and Hair Designer – Robert-Charles Vallence. Conductor – Tom Nazzioli.
(c) Claire Higgins 2010