Actor, singer, comedian and all-round impresario, Allan Stewart swore he would never bring his variety back to the King’s Theatre in 2020. But a lot has changed since then, in ways no one could image. We live in a world where panto runs can be cut short, which for the likes of Allan Stewart fans is a devastating world to live in, indeed. Bringing back one of Edinburgh’s best loved shows was the perfect tonic.
As the curtain rises, we’re joined by the legend himself with the fantastic Andy Pickering and his orchestra. Andy Pickering’s orchestra hold the pace all evening, delivering hit after hit with prowess. Tonight’s show, is as you would expect it, filled with Easter egg surprises. After Stewart’s big opening number, we’re joined by panto legend Grant Stott, fresh from ongoing star turn in River City to begin an absolute marathon of a variety night. Throughout, Stewart champions new and upcoming talent, giving them the honour of being on this prestigious stage. The glamorous Nicola Meehan gives us some fantastic performances, her highlight being ‘Never Enough’ from The Greatest Showman. Jersey Boys tribute band, Big Men in Town have the audience singing and dancing in their seats. Tonight’s unsung hero though, is ventriloquist Max Fulham. At only 22, has the talent of someone who’s had 22 years in the business. Smashing all the preconceptions of antiquated ventriloquism out of the water, we’re introduced to Gordon the Monkey and Grandad Eugene, as well as some of the best handled audience interaction you’ll see in a long time. The timing and ad lib, is rather old school, in a loveable charming way, and you’ll grow to love it. Fulham is, beyond all doubt, worth the ticket price alone and hits the variety nail on the head.
From a dancing Dame Auntie May to the McRobert brothers from Effen, Stewart and Stott are back, with some absolutely nonsensical sketches. The audience love it, there’s some laughs, some gags, a lot of love, and albeit, bittersweet sympathy from the audience. The Edinburgh comedy giants are clearly missing the third of their trio, the much loved and missed, Andy Gray. At the end of the show, Stott and Allan present a heart-warming tribute to the man the audience has been missing, with photographs, videos, memories and a genuinely moving musical interlude.
If you’ve never stepped foot Edinburgh, been to a King’s panto, or been near the King’s- this show isn’t going to make much sense. It’s a variety show in every sense of the word; act after seemingly disparate act, interspersed with audience interaction, and some seemingly baffling references. But, if you love the King’s Theatre, the King’s panto, and you’re fans of the Scottish Stooges (both as a trio and now as a duo), tonight is the perfect night for you. Don’t expect to leave early though because Mr Stewart’s determined to give you your money’s worth.
So, it was apparently the end of the Big Big Variety Show? Well, it was until it came back. And this fantastic return has all the promising makings of a regular affair again that could really be a staple of the Edinburgh theatre calendar with some tweaking and developing. Is this the end Mr Stewart? Never say never!
This production runs at the King’s Theatre until Saturday 2 April. https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/allan-stewart-2022
Reviewer: Melissa Jones
Reviewed: 30th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★