Theatre review: The Star
Anniversaries are always a time for celebration, and in the case of the Playhouse Theatre’s 150th year; the occasion has been marked in quite a special way. ‘The Star’ takes us back to the theatre’s first incarnation – The Star Music Hall and in doing so, allows us to meet the weird and wonderful acts that writer Michael Wynne has created. The mix of over-looked raw talent and over-egged comedy presents a perfect mix of moving scenes and light-hearted slapstick.
The Chairman (Michael Starke) takes us through the story of a theatre that opens up the world of music and performance to the people of Liverpool in the mid-eighteen hundreds. The working classes are enabled to experience music and culture in a way that lifts and empowers them – very much to the disapproval of those with a bit more money in the bank. At times the dialogue becomes quite heated in its references to politics and capitalism, but this does well to reflect the struggles and tensions of that time and indeed, the present also!
The talented Eithne Browne performs exquisitely as Ellen; singing old favourites with such exuberance, you can’t help but sing along. Her long-standing rival, Ida (Michelle Butterly) soon makes an appearance and claims the lime light. The resulting animosity and sniping is done in a way that would make any scouser proud and the one-liners come thick and fast.
It’s not long before romance becomes the focus of the plot, and the incredible voice of Helen Carter (Dora) sets the mood with her performance of ‘Are We to Part Like This, Bill?’ Her admirer, Jack (Jack Rigby), works as hard at trying to win her heart as he does moving props, singing, acting and even standing-in for the odd magic show!
Danny O’Brien keeps the tempo of the show upbeat as Arthur Crown. His antics are hysterical and his wackiness perfectly complimented by The Chairman’s dry introductions. The clever use of props, magic and comedy is the fun side to balance the darker narrative of a new owner with a despicable plan for the theatre’s future. Kevin Harvey depicts Mr Charles as a fabulously wealthy character and his singing and acting are no better showcased than his rendition of ‘Champagne Charlie’.
‘The Star’ is a show guaranteed to lift spirits and have your foot tapping at the very least. With the show running until the 14th of January 2017, be sure not to miss out on this brilliant tale of one of Liverpool’s finest buildings.