When I was told I was going to see Allan Stewart’s new (and last) Big Big Variety Show, which was in celebration of his 60th year in showbiz, I thought I knew what I was in for. To a degree, I was correct, but I also could never have truly guessed what surprises where in store.
Stewart succeeds brilliantly in his choices of companions and guests on stage. Mari Wilson joins Stewart in the spotlight to perform several songs that mainly pander to the higher average age of the typical audience this kind of show attracts. Her silky-smooth stage persona and gorgeous voice help ease the audience into the evening. However, her presence on stage feels a little lacking in the shadow of Stewart’s ability to prance around the stage with the ease and willingness of a young spritely twenty-something. At points during her mini set of tunes, Mari stops to conduct the, frankly silent, audience to sing along with her to practically no avail. While this feels like a staged blocking choice, the Neasden Queen of Soul does the best with the direction she is given for her segment.
Next up is Mick Miller as the stand-up comic for the evening. His collection of punchy, quick witted and surprisingly dark or close-to-the-bone one-liners are rib aching at times. With punchlines that make the audience think, sometimes resulting in a millisecond of silence before the audience gets there, and an easy-going attitude, his stand up is a breath of fresh air in the flashy, showbiz lineup. The idea to spread his set across the two parts of the show was a clever one as he is never on stage too long and leaves you wanting more in the second half.
Of course, an Allan Stewart show just wouldn’t be the same without his two best pals. Joining, and strengthening, the lineup are Grant Scott and Andy Gray, who’s intoxicating partnership is a feast for all the senses and joyous in every sense of the word. Every skit, joke, song and moment including them on stage is truly exuberant. Whether it’s Andy interrupting Allan’s one slow ballad song of the show, coming on stage as part of a Scottish band from the town of ‘Effing’ or singing a song about how inseparable they are, these two jokers always deliver the goods and plant a smile firmly on the faces of every audience member. Even slight mistakes that have slipped their way into the finished product, an impressive feat considering the show was constructed in a day, are dealt with very well and add a sense of character and charm to the fun happening on stage.
Finally, our leading man, Allan Stewart. A career spanning six decades is sure to accumulate a certain comfort and ease on stage, and a talent of working an audience to get the utmost out of them. All of this, Stewart displays perfectly. In a show that is, at its core, a celebration of his long-standing career, the man never really makes it about him; allowing an interruption from Andy or a joke to break the tension at any serious point, or turning the point of focus to his kids, of whom, he assures us, he is extremely proud. So much so, that he even performs a song on stage that his own son wrote and produced for the Jonas Brothers. Allowing for the nostalgia, we take a moment with Stewart to look back on a very successful career, and to where it all started: at the age of 10 performing and playing guitar to a bemused audience in the early sixties. Making the audience appreciate the genius of our star of the show, and realise that you can do anything if you work hard enough.
As a variety show, this performance certainly delivers on that front, with a wide array of fun, exciting and hilarious moments for people of all ages to enjoy, ‘Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show’ ends on a great note, helping celebrate the career of an entertainer that has touched many lives over many brilliant years.
Written by Sam Eastop
Tickets for ‘Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show’ are available below: