Variety shows are an adored form of theatre, loved by millions of people worldwide who just simply want to be entertained. An accumulation of different performers; styles, genres and experiences but all having the same final goal in mind – entertain the audience. If anyone knows what it takes to put together a star-studded, hilariously outstanding show, it’s Allan Stewart. Allan’s final Big Big Variety Show at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh is filled to the brim with amazing performers such as his old pal Grant Stott, singer Nicola Meehan, ventriloquist Max Fulham and Jersey Boys tribute Big Men in Town. Prior to the show, my knowledge of the 3 acts wasn’t much, however, some beautiful singing, some hilarious comedy and some Jersey Boys – by god I was excited.
Let’s start with Allan Stewart. This man just oozes confidence. Whenever he is on stage you can see how much he loves his job, how much he loves performing with his friends, and how much he loves the King’s Theatre. It was referred to a few times throughout the show about being back in the King’s theatre but you could see in Stewart’s face and in what he was saying that his love for the theatre was genuine, as if it is his home away from home. Stewart started the show off with an energetic opener, grasping the audience and playing off of their excitement of seeing him for the first time in 2 years (if they didn’t manage to catch ‘Sleeping Beauty’). During his involvement within the show, he showcased his singing, his character work and “dancing” as Auntie May and Wee Boaby, a hilarious sketch routine with Grant Stott. Stott and Stewart bounced off each other so effortlessly, their banter and comfortability with each other allowed the audience to enjoy every second of them being together. Even if they went a bit off script, their comedic reactions lured the audience in and made them howl with laughter.
Grant Stott was excellent from start to finish. His comedic timing and chemistry with Stewart on stage was so smooth that he made it look easy. Stott brought a great energy, plus rapport with the crowd, he broke up the show nicely, matching the energy and charisma of Stewart in every scene. His characterisation brought to life every character he portrayed and had the audience wanting more.
Nicola Meehan was the first act in the variety show and she set the bar with an unbelievable standard. Her stage presence and aura was impeccable from the moment she appeared on stage. The song choices Meehan chose were incredibly smart as it allowed her to showcase every side of her amazing singing ability. Opening with ‘Man! I feel like a woman’ brought the audience into the set, dancing along to an iconic hit by Shania Twain. It allowed Meehan to show off her stage presence and charisma as well as introducing newcomers to her vocal ability. ‘Feeling good’ was a stand-out performance as Meehan took the opportunity to show every aspect of her vocal range within 4 minutes. From bass notes to falsettos and power notes, she grabbed the attention of everyone and never let it go. The lighting during this song was also a highlight as the white lights turning Meehan into an angelic silhouette at the start before bursting into the powerful chords of the song was a brilliant image. The closing song being ‘Never Enough ‘allowed Meehan to hit some impressive belt notes and falsetto, leaving the audience in awe of the performance. Meehan did all this whilst being 28 weeks pregnant which was an amazing moment she shared with the audience on stage. What a way to open the night.
Max Fulham followed and for a 22 year old comedian, the talent and confidence he showed was astonishing. His ventriloquism skill set exceeded those of professionals with 20+ years experience. Fulham impressed the audience with his professionalism and slick ability straight away by easing us into how good he really is. Each character got more and more intricate, highlighting different aspects of vocal and physical comedy and ventriloquism.
Fulham worked very well with the audience members who were chosen as targets and his improvisation was on point during these segments. He impressed the crowd, showing some unique skills such as juggling whether that was one-handed or on one foot, whilst Gordon the Monkey levitated and said the alphabet backwards. Also displaying some excellent ventriloquist skills as he performed with a mouthpiece on that forced his mouth open. The audience didn’t seem to take to Fulham right away. Maybe with some jokes not landing at the beginning of the set, it did seem to knock Fulham’s confidence slightly, as he appeared to notice some of the material missing the mark. However, once Gordon the monkey came out, Fulham gained a new form of energy and seemed in his element. For being 22 years old, his talent and craft is so well rounded that he can only improve and reach new heights from here and the sky’s the limit for Max Fulham.
Big Men in Town brought some fun, 60s/70s charisma to the show in the 2nd act. The Jersey Boys tribute act didn’t disappoint with some fantastic renditions of classics such as ‘Sherry’ and ‘Walk like a Man’, entertaining the audience with the amazing vocals, harmonies and polished choreography. The group were very charismatic and proper showmen, encouraging the audience to sing along and get involved. Surprisingly, the audience were kind of reluctant to join in, with crowd-pleasing music and some fun choreo, you would expect the audience to jump at the chance to sing along, this wasn’t the case though. Once ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ began however, the crowd felt the power of the music and sang along to their hearts were content. During certain moments, different members would sometimes fade into the background, if everyone’s confidence matched the energy of the music and performance then no one would seem to fade, however this didn’t take away from their great performance.
The lighting and sound through the entire production was spot on (pardon the pun). The use of lighting to enhance stories being told through everyone’s performances and create different atmospheres was perfect, fulfilling every emotion portrayed by the performer, making each act visually appealing on the stage.
Andy Pickering and his Orchestra were a fantastic accompaniment throughout the variety show. The chemistry between band members and the musical talent was captivating. Never missing a beat, getting involved in the jokes and banter towards cast members made them feel part of the show, it emphasised their role in such a successful performance.
The final part of the show was a lovely heartwarming tribute to the late great Andy Gray. Stewart and Stott spoke about their friend and colleague, showing unique pictures and videos whilst walking us through these funny, endearing memories. You saw them both reliving these moments as they spoke about their time with their Big China, it was a very captivating time. The two hosts mixed the sentimental aspect of the tribute with comedy and a closing comedy sketch which provided laughter in a time of reminiscing. It was a touching moment for Stott, Stewart and the audience.
In conclusion, Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show is a must-see hit on its final run at Edinburgh King’s Theatre. It is a fantastic show that puts to the forefront some unbelievably talented performers who all bring something different to the table and together build a show to be extremely proud of.
Get your tickets for Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show below: