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Theatre's variety show is hot stuff

By This is Devon  |  Posted: March 04, 2011

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A QUARTER of a century of sussing out your audience has delivered Heatwave, the best Colin Matthews production I've seen (and I've sat through a few).

Production values hit the mark at every stage. I'm not quite sure how you'd better it as a variety show.

There's new material from productions not on the West End Stage yet, young talent developed under guidance, innovative lighting and staging, traditional variety humour with a new edge, great choreography, and a hand-picked bunch of entertainers that, together, are the best combination I've seen.

Plus it's hilarious.

Take Ben Nickless for instant. His Amy Winehouse, Anne Robinson and Michael Jackson sketches brought the house down. I've seen the Ronan Keating routine before and found the anticipation actually made it even funnier.

Andy Oakley held the show together, a safe pair of hand from an affable anchorman.

Paul Fordham can certainly hold a tune as could Johnny Edwards who threw some well received comedy into the mix too.

Duos that have perhaps in the odd previous production lagged a bit, sprung to life.

Singer Lisa Walker was right on the mark too, but what was really lovely was the upcoming talent and how it had been developed as part of the show.

It seems Torbay's Got Talent winner Stephanie Blacker can dance a step or two as well as sing, blending in well with Danze Fantazy.

Instead of being given a single set piece she is woven into the fabric of the show and used to her full potential. Home had me welling up in my old age.

Her progression from pluck songstress to all-round performer is a triumph.

And fellow winner Holly Cosgrove is just astounding. Her voice, mannerisms and persona hits well above her age. It seems like the Babbacombe Theatre will continue to be a breeding ground to stars for some time to come.

Lady Gaga and Shrek The Musical routines were brave but successful choices by Mr Matthews. The gamble really worked, bringing fresh lively material into the mix. The Les Mis arrangement was delightful, a little piece of that phenomenal O2 concert brought back to Babbacombe.

Heatwave runs until, er, October. The team have done everything they can to make the 25th anniversary production their most successful yet.

JONPAUL HEDGE

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