Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Forever In Blue Jeans Congress Theatre Eastbourne 14th October

Forever In Blue Jeans
Congress Theatre Eastbourne
14th October 2009

For those who have never seen Forever In Blue Jeans (FIBJ) it's a sort of primarily country music tribute with splashes of Rock 'n Roll from the 50's and hits from the 60's and 70's thrown in together with "side splitting comedy" (their words not mine).

The band is led by Bob and Carole Newman. Carole is also a tribute artist for the late Karen Carpenter and they often stage Carpenters shows separate from this mixed offering although The Carpenters always feature in this show too.

We have now seen Forever in Blue Jeans several times in the last 5-7 years. Though traditionally they have appeared at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre rather than the larger Congress Theatre.

The Production Company is Full House Productions but with barely 200 people in the 1700+ seating capacity theatre it was anything but a full house.

In the years we have been going audiences have got smaller and smaller - this is for good reason. Compared to other variety acts the colour in Forever In Blue Jeans is now fading fast.

There have clearly been changes to try and grab the audiences attention but it clearly hasn't worked.

Many years ago FIBJ was actually reasonably entertaining.

The comedy was ok. Side-splitting? Not by any means but ok for a one-off.

However many years later "up and coming" singer/comedian John Clegg is still repeating the same jokes and exactly the same musical impressions - quite frankly it's excruciatingly boring now. Having heard the Ronan Keating, Joe Pasquale, Julian Clary, Billy Connelly, Spice Girls and others so many times now I find myself clapping more out of sympathy that nothing else appears to exist in John's comedy repertoire. If this is "up and coming" please will somebody inform me when he has eventally arrived and stopped going up?

Carole Gordon is still lead singer and is perfectly capable but the "new shows" still deliver a heck of a lot of previously seen and heard tracks. With so much material to chose from the 50's, 60's and 70's and 80's there really is no excuse for so much repetition.

In the days when Sarah Louise Day was part of the touring group everything just seemed that more professional. I understand that she remains the group's choreographer but the choreography is nowhere near as polished as it was - in fact there's nowhere near as much of it either. Sarah's vocal talent was also a big asset to FIBJ and I think her departure was a big loss. Currently in the national tour of the musical Beauty and The Beast she has moved on to bigger and better things.

Rachel Cantrell has become a formidable, confident vocalist since joining FIBJ but when you now see her up there delivering such a strong performance to so few people you can't help feeling that she is now so wasted in this production.

Nicholas Hamilton has joined the other band members this year, replacing somebody else who decided to move onto something more entertaining. Very good he is too but this production is not something that can be improved by replacing people. It's like an old derelict house that needs demolishing and rebuilding from the ground up.

The costumes are looking tired and don't seem to fit some people properly. The routines are predictable, the comedy isn't funny anymore. In fact the whole thing is now as bad as their official web site (If they actually pay somebody to produce this site I'd ask for a refund - It resembles something that was built when the internet was first invented).

I'd love to see Bob, Carole and the rest of the FIBJ team turn around the fortunes of this production and get somebody on that web site who actually has the time to update it and cares about presentation.

At the moment we have clearly talented and I must say very friendly individuals seemingly locked in a constant cycle of repetition. This won't encourage a loyal following ,which is what many similar acts have. All it will do is keep the odd camp site entertained for half an hour or drag the odd person from their hotel room or out of the rain.

I've also never understood the logic with FIBJ getting everybody on to their feet at the end of the show only to sing about 2 lines of lyrics.

The only plus point from the current production was the excellent use of the steel guitar - an instrument we don't see played to often.

It will be interesting to see where FIBJ goes from here but in relation to Eastbourne's other superb shows this year this is looking a very tired production.

Oh I almost forgot..... dropping the one song which is actually the title of your show... where is the logic in that? Forever In Blue Jeans is the one repeat track you would expect as the "signature tune" and it used to be a fitting end song when introducing all performers. But that has gone... a very strange decision.
2 out of 5 for Forever In Blue Jeans

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