There’s a certain irony that as the first summer season shows prepare to close (it’s goodbye from Hot Ice and Booze, Birds and Blackpool Rock this weekend) the last of this year’s summer productions has opened its doors.
It’s also ironic that as clubs and pubs continue to close throughout the country, Blackpool’s cabaret scene appears to be booming and this historic venue is preparing for its centenary celebrations next year by revamping its annual summer season offering.
It’s the latest in a series of periodic changes over the last 42 years of summer productions during which time Layton Institute has seen off all competition to remain the last club standing with a fully produced, all singing, all dancing (and don’t forget the comedy) offering.
Handing things over to the former Alabama Showboat partnership of Leye D Johns and Martin Heywood was clearly a wise move. They have cleverly combined the new name and new look with a mixture of familiar and new faces and once a little tweaking is done (there are still some sound issues need resolving in parts of the cabaret room and the running time needs trimming for coach driven customers to catch the finale) it will have no problems retaining the reputation of being a major player on the (late) summer show scene.
The new look sees the previous one on, one off, approach towards its acts become much more of a production affair. Vocalists Rob Linacre, Darren Coulton and Jodie Kate obviously still have their solo slots but they are now sprinkled evenly across the evening together with duets and threesomes
That means one minute it’s Michael Buble material, the next Lady Ga Ga, with plenty of room for Britney Spears, Matt Monro and Frankie Valli plus a whole lot more.
Yes, it’s a heady brew of show stoppers and chart toppers and that’s before the two finales – the first half closing with a spirited medley from Queen musical We Will Rock You and the second one ending with an equally big sounding tribute to the best of Meat Loaf.
Retaining a dance team has always been of Layton’s strong point and this year the three Viva Showgirls look great and work exceptionally hard – whether strutting their stuff for a sexy Burlesque routine (vocals by Cher) or flashing some unexpected feathers for the aforementioned Meat Loaf medley, they are clearly the already full show’s secret weapon courtesy of Lucy Gallagher’s choreography.
Completing the bill each night is a rota of comedians (Carl Schofield – Tuesday, Terry Cotta – Wednesday and Thursday, Jo Little – Friday and Saturday and occasionally Nicky Newsome).
Hopefully they can all join in the proceedings as ably as Carl Schofield. Already a firm favourite, his first set is pretty much a fact finding mission but once he gets into the swing with more contemporary material and his always clever ad lipped rap he’s hard to beat. And he’s got a good soul voice too.
And now it’s up the audiences to put their faith in the show. Love it or lose it as they say.
Tuesday to Saturday to November 5.