4.5 ⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2015 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Scarlett Lane’ by October Boy Productions

4 and half

“LET’S RAISE A GLASS TO GROWING OOLLD TONIIIIGHT!”  …sorry I got caught up in emotion there but that’s what this musical does to you.

Anyone else who saw it would forgive me. The songs are of the kind that stick their heels firmly into the pleasure centre of your brain, so I’m surely not the only one still feeling the urge to bust them out at increasingly inappropriate times. That fact that I saw it twice should be enough to tip you off as to how I feel about this show. I’d have seen it more times were I able. I never came to the Fringe expecting to see an original musical of this quality, and I don’t expect to see one that matches it if I return the future. Unless possibly it comes from the same creators, so I can hope.

All praise and commendation possible should go to Adam Westley and Alex Vass (I think those names are right, correct me if not) for producing the magnificent score. It says a lot that my least favourite song in the show is still a damn good song that I could listen to without regret several times over. It only helps that a cast full of envious vocal ability are the ones to take it on. Having been raised by a music teacher, I like to think I have an ear for voices and harmonies, despite not being able to sing all that well myself. Too often when I see musicals performed by amateur or semi-professional companies, there will be times I’ll involuntary cringe or twitch at a flat note or off key moment. I had no cause to do so, as far as I can recall, at any point during ‘Scarlett Lane’. The vocal performances of all performers were near enough flawless, and the harmonies some of the most serene I’ve enjoyed in any medium.

Nobody could be more suited to the eponymous (well half the time anyway) role than Amy Spinks, who naturally exudes the kind of wide-eyed, endearing amiability that perfectly sets up the character as her original Tina Marshal incarnation, making the transformation into the alter ego all the more stark and distressing in contrast.  That, added to a voice that could soothe the roughest bar brawl in Glasgow into enraptured silence, makes for a strong core around which the rest of the show revolves. I could sing the praises (pun intended) of Amy Spinks, whose eyes incidentally would put the cutest woodland creature to shame, for several paragraphs more but I’ll move on for the sake of fairness and a desire to avoid sounding like an obsessive fanboy. Catherine Hearne’s devastatingly intense and emotional turn as the protagonist’s mother caused me to well up on both occasions I saw the show. Emma Hooker and Calum Macgregor also provided high memorable performances in terms of both voice and acting that seem deserving of particular comment.

Side by side with the music and cast, Callum Holt’s choreography is probably the final piece that slots in to create this wonderful show. It’s exactly what it should be but no less impressive for that. A keen mind clearly devised it and there were elements and sequences I found to be delightfully, and at times disturbingly, unique. Holt appears to understand very well exactly what movement and dance brings to a musical like this, and how to use the human body to great visual effect.

To only complaint (and I use the term loosely) that I can entertain of this show is that it feels not long enough. This can be attributed to time-constrains and/or personal choice but one feels that only good can come of expanding the show and fleshing out certain aspects of the show to a greater depth.

To summarise, though feel it unnecessary, a brilliant show that deserved the high numbers it had at its final showing, and frankly more. I have no qualms in saying ‘Scarlett Lane’ belongs both in the West End and on Broadway. It’ll be an absolute travesty if it doesn’t end up so one day.

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