Running from the 26th February to the 2nd of March, Allan Stewart’s “Big Big Variety Show” promises a night of laughter, feel-good music and above all, on-stage talent. Boasting a “rocking Soul Nation Choir”, “one hilarious magician” (Mandy Munden) and “one hilarious musician” (Kev Orkian), this show was versatile indeed; the only hiccup being Alan Stewart himself, whose cringe-worthy antics were, frankly, a chore to endure.
Repetitive marketing aside, (I mean, just how big can a “big big” variety show be?) Stewart’s performance was painfully self-indulgent. The 80s impersonator talked at, rather than to, the audience, for an entire two hours, reminiscing about his heyday in unnecessary detail (complete with overhead projector slides).
With the help of Grant Stott, Stewart seemed desperate to create a charismatic persona, by clinging to “the good old days”. This unfortunately fell flat, and simply didn’t work – a bit like the faulty overhead projector and microphones that ceased to function. This in itself isn’t entirely surprising, given the purported rehearsal time of 24 hours.
Though few and far between, this show did have a few saving graces in the form of supporting acts. The show opens with a well rehearsed orchestra, courtesy of Andy Pickering and a beautiful set design of twinkle mood-lighting and a single spotlight.
Soul Nation gave a wonderful rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, and “Oh Happy Day”. All vocalists performed well, and there was a wonderful variety of voice sounds and styles that blended flawlessly. Lead vocalist Chris Judge was outstanding in his rendition of “Higher and Higher”, though I felt that the closing number could have been given a little more energy and may have been a little too ambitious, given that the song had to be lowered by a couple of octaves, which made it lose some of its punch.
By comparison, Stewart’s opening rendition of “Get this Party Started” brought to mind the “drunk uncle karaoke” vibe that may have been more appropriate at a family wedding, and not in front of an audience of over 1,000 people. Though a great vocal impersonator, with an impressive rendition of ‘Ant’ (as in Ant and Dec), Stewart’s efforts are undoubtedly best utilised in pantomime and comedy. Musical talents? Not so much.
After Soul Nation’s performance, the show went steadily downhill.
Though purporting to have the backing credentials of Jules Holland, humorist Kev Orkian spent the majority of evening criticising British political correctness in what can only be assumed as an attempt to appeal to the more conservative age range of the noticeably older audience. Despite being a talented pianist, Orkian opted to chat extensively about the painfully cliché topics of Brexit and immigration. As a strong Elton John impressionist, it was a shame that Orkian spent the majority of his act engaging in self-deprecating commentary about his Armenian heritage.
Magician Mandy Munden however, was the biggest disappointment of these three acts, especially given her credentials as a Britain’s Got Talent Finalist. Munden’s act consisted of giving away trade secrets, which removed the “wow” factor from her performance entirely. Filled with disingenuous gaffes, and awkward flirting with (clearly uncomfortable) audience members, this act was sub-par.
The second act sees Grant Stott explore the cultural misunderstandings over the word “shaggin” which, aside from British euphemisms, also refers to a dance popularised in North Carolina in the 1980s. Though potentially aimed at an older demographic, this felt, yet again, very low register humour, that was then followed by Alan Stewart singing about “pills, peeing, and farting”, complete with crass noise imitations of the latter two. I can’t help but wonder if Stewart’s toilet humour would appeal to a more youthful audience, i.e. 13 and below.
Though this show may not have been aimed at our demographic, from a young perspective, this washed-up comedian needs to clean up his act.
PHOTOS: Capital Theatres
Latest posts by Daniella Cunliffe (see all)
- Keep On Walking Federico – Traverse Theatre - 15th May 2019
- Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show – King’s Theatre - 1st March 2019
- When the Rain Stops Falling – Bedlam - 11th February 2019