Queen Charlotte Rooms
Mon 10 – Fri 14 June
Review by Thom Dibdin
It’s a bijou night out at the Queen Charlotte Rooms this week, where local big stage musical specialists, Tempo, are putting on a smooching cabaret-style affair in the upper room as part of the Leith Festival.
But if you thought such a move would mean putting the brakes on, you’d be wrong. This is Glee for grownups; a coven of crooners who have more tunes in their personal songbooks than many will hear in a lifetime, getting their pipes round the classics.
With a three piece band stuck away in the corner and six excellent singers to strut up and down the dance floor between the seating booths, it is a format that can switch from intimate to vivacious with the twitch of an eyebrow.
The biggest thrill comes from seeing the singers up close. These are performers who most regular attendees at Edinburgh amateur musicals will recognise. Peter Tomassi, Darren Coutts, Lesley Ward, Pauline and Jamie Dickson and – of course – Mrs Tempo herself: Norma Kinnear.
Not that it is volume you get, but an intimacy with the performance. The engagement between singer and audience in You Do Something To Me is one thing in a big stage – but when Lesley Ward is just a couple of feet away and looks you straight in the eye on the line “Do do the voodoo that you do so well,” she adds an extra level of tingle to the song.
When James Dickson breaks in the middle of Cole Porter’s Unforgettable to let Ken Thomson take the tune a couple of times round the block on saxophone, Dickson has nowhere to hide but to stand out in the middle, keeping the beat going and letting the sax float out over the room.
An old fashioned song, sung in an old-fashioned way
The tunes are ones that these rooms – a place of social celebration – will have heard many times over the years. And when Pauline Dickson launches into I Get a Kick Out of You, her phrasing really catches the lyrics and gives them a lift. Here is an old fashioned song, sung in an old-fashioned way, to great effect.
It isn’t all quite as subtle. The basic trio are excellent with Thomson joined by Kenny Kinnear on bass and Julian Wagstaff on guitar. But they are augmented by pre-recorded tracks which don’t always add as much as they might. At times it is far too much – Ward’s Summertime is drowned – at others there is not enough.
More to the point, the presence of a backing track means that the singers aren’t adjusting their timing to suit the venue and audience, but to fit in with a preordained timing. That said, the orchestrations do add a fullness which would otherwise be unavailable – and the show certainly never drags.
In fact, this is an all round cool night out. You get to see Tomassi going into his tap routine in I’ve Got Rhythm, Ward take utter joy in the internal rhymes in Someone to Watch Over Me, James Dickson and Darren Coutts getting all Rat Pack-ish in Swell Party – and all three of the female singers giving it laldy for a great version of I’m A Woman.
Not to mention a rousing finale with Kenny Kinnar, complete with natty hat, giving it his all from behind the bass for rabble-rousing Minnie the Moocher. He’s not quite Cab Calloway, but its a great ending to a great evening.
Runing time 1 hr 50 mins
Run ends Friday 14 June
Tickets £8 on the door.
Queen Charlotte Rooms, 56a Queen Charlotte Street, EH6 7ET. 8pm.
Tempo website: www.tempo.org.uk