In much the same way that global warming seems to be blurring all four previously distinct seasons into one, it’s beginning to feel a lot less like Christmas at this venue’s festive offering.
Take this first show in their own place from the previously successful team behind Layton Institute’s (and before that the Alabama Showboat) winter specials which, despite its title, turns out to be far more of “a show at Christmas” than “a Christmas show.”
All right, there’s a rather surreal and decidedly irreverent nativity-base opening, Leye D Johns does dress up as a roller skating turkey and there is a scattering of Christmas songs in the first third of the production but after that it’s very much a show for all seasons.
That said, most of the audience doesn’t seem to mind too much. They’re here to eat, drink and be very merry often at the expense of actually realising there’s a show taking place at all.
Matters aren’t helped by the fact that some of the summer sound problems don’t appear to have been entirely ironed out. Swapping to hand rather than head microphones helped a little but the former bingo hall is a big room to fill and it would take a rock band’s PA system to shut the rowdier audience elements up rather than just swearing at them and hoping for the best.
It’s a long night for three singers and four dancers to command and perhaps that’s why after a Grease medley followed by a Rocky Horror act one finale and a strange Elvis sequence closing the second, the company reverted to a rather more general showcase of pop classics to end the third and final act rather than a traditional full production routine.
Both the show’s featured vocalists ably tackle everything that is thrown at them – for Phil Jeffries that means from new Robbie Williams to older Abba, for Emma Norman it’s Adele big ballads to Beyonce foot stompers. And for both of them it’s all things in between as well.
And then there’s Leye D. Johns. As he has consistently revealed over the years he’s a trouper and all-rounder of the first order but on this opening night at least he didn’t always seem to be firing on all cylinders.
No such doubts with the four VIva! Showgirls. Choreographed by Lucy Gallagher, the quartet (Alana Stevens, Abbygail Hughes, Joanna Hilton and Tammy Harvey) are rarely far from the stage with a set of frequently raunchy routines often more akin to 50 Shades of Grey than the 12 Days of Christmas.