Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Sound Of Laughter Review Royal Hippodrome Theatre Eastbourne

The Sound Of Laughter
The Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne
March-November 2009
Performance seen Last Night 4th November

Cast (in programme listed order)
Georgia Lee
Dean Winters
Gary Richard (& Gizmo)
Ben Nickless
Wayne Champagne
Zoe Lee
Jo-Anna Pitt
Hayley Kember
Donna Pitt

"Appearing tonight will be an outstanding array of artistes who will mesmerise you with their fast and dynamic performances; they are with no exception all potential stars and whether they make you laugh or charm you with their vocal ability they will most definitely amaze you with their versatility."

That's just the first paragraph from the programme's full page introduction for Eastbourne's 9 month variety show. It's quite build up for what could easily turn out to be a run-of-the mill "holiday camp type" variety show.

I will point out now that there is one huge mistake in that first paragraph - I'll return to that at the end.

This is a show we have meant to see for all of its long season. We know an Eastbourne theatre regular "George" who, when we last saw him a few months ago, had seen the show some 8 times and said it was brilliant and said he was going again. At Forever in Blue Jeans a guy sitting next to us asked if we had seen it and was raving about it. We knew we had to judge this for show for ourselves.

Something must be right with this show - many productions with well known acts have struggled to get an audience of over 400 this year and yet this show has managed to continue to run for 9 months pulling in good sized audiences time and time again.

By sheer coincidence we ended up seeing the last night performance and I am glad we did.

Although a little early Father Christmas was there watching the show too from one of the "Royal Boxes" left of stage. Santa Claus turned out to be our aforementioned elderly friend George who was back, yet again, to see the final show and he felt it fitting to dress up for the occasion. We discussed that George must have seen the show at least 10 times by now.

From curtain-up though it is quite apparent why this production has had the success it has achieved in a 9 month period. It is because it is exactly nothing like a holiday camp type performance.

It is not your usual one act-on, one act-off production. There is no lead star and nobody tries to be king or queen of the stage (I lie -Gary is clearly the queen!). On most occasions in this long 2 hour show the artists share the stage and the banter. Comedians with singers, singers with dancers and full company performances.... oh and a dog!

Georgia Lee is not only an incredibly versatile vocalist but she also choreographed the show. Wonderful choreography it is too with local girls Hayley, Jo-Anna and Donna putting on a stunning show whilst Zoe Lee also accompanies Georgia with her superb singing voice.

So the sound is great but now we need laughter.

This is provided in abundance by the very funny, cheeky looking, Dean Winters who has over 20 years experience in laughter-making having started out as a Red Coat.

Dean is joined by the amazing master of campness Gary Richard (with his lovely dog Gizmo making a guest appearance). Gary's humour was very well received by the large crowd at this final show.

Ben Nickless is an amazingly versatile one-man-comedy-package with moments that remind you of Joe Pasquale type humour, excellent impressions, effective (and it has to be said extraordinarily different) ventriloquism and the ability (again like Joe Pasquale) to make people laugh by saying very little.

Wayne Champagne, last but not least, is renowned for his "Wild, clean and cheeky" stage act. That is a very good description of great all-round-entertainer Wayne who turned professional way back in 1993.

I can honestly say that in all 120 minutes of on stage action there is never a moment when this feels "just another variety show".

Musically it is superb, the choreography is excellent and (unlike with Buck'a Fizz) well implemented and appropriate. The costumes are bright, glitzy and stunning.

The comedy is funny and fresh. Freshness of humour is important as it was nice to go to see comedy where the old jokes aren't recycled yet again. It's a good mixture of humour too - lots of general joking, topical humour and a good splash of sexual inuendo too caters for most comedy tastes without ever pushing the limits of decency.

What is also apparent though is the camaraderie that exists between all these performers. They are clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience. It shows and that just adds to the good feeling you are left with after this show sadly comes to an end.

But end it had to and going back to our friend George he was presented with a poster and card signed by all the cast. He had actually been to the Hippodrome an incredible 25 times during the season. It was a lovely touch and I too would gladly have seen the show again but even with the fresh humour included in this production I do feel any joke would lose its effect after 25 presentations.

With the exception of Georgia Lee who somehow managed to bypass us we got the opportunity to meet this talented friendly cast after their final act of the season.

You could see that after such a long stint working together farewells between cast members and between cast and production team were emotional farewells.

But better to be emotional after a roaring success rather than a flop and this for Eastbourne is definitely the former. Thankfully many of the stars of this years production are back here next year whilst the others will inevitably give audiences a lot of pleasure elsewhere.

We're already looking forward to next year's production and I'm sure many more who went to the Hippodrome this year, Geoge included, will be joining in that anticipation.

Finally back to that horrendous error in that opening paragraph from the programme.

"Appearing tonight will be an outstanding array of artistes who will mesmerise you with their fast and dynamic performances; they are with no exception all potential stars and whether they make you laugh or charm you with their vocal ability they will most definitely amaze you with their versatility."

Potential! Thats ridiculous - whoever inserted that single word should be shot! Everybody in this show is a star already. With no huge egos in sight all these performers are completely talented professionals.
5 out of 5 for The Sound Of Laughter at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne 2009 Print This Entry

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