REVIEW: Encore, The Customs House, South Shields

CRACKING SHOW ... Encore at the Customs House, in South Shields.

CRACKING SHOW ... Encore at the Customs House, in South Shields.

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IT was a tough call – singing group Encore at the Customs House, or England versus Scotland on the telly.

In the end, I recorded the football and toddled down to Mill Dam – and I’m delighted that I did.

Encore’s latest show is a cracker, one of their best – despite a slow start. The introductory Anything Goes section took a while to get going, although by the time Janet Peel and the rest of the gang belted out Blow Gabriel Blow, the show was well and truly on track.

And the next medley of songs, based around the theme of ‘Women’ was exceptional. Andrew Richardson, Graeme Smith, James Taylor and Gareth Hunter produced a stunning version of Billy Joel’s Always a Woman, before Alan Davison sang a rousing version of Pygmalion’s Why Can’t a Woman? And Trish Whale and Joanne Carr kept the momentum going with a great rendition of Truly Scrumptious from Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

However, it was the last song in the section that had the audience roaring with laughter – Caroline Wells and Kathryn Atack making the most of Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern’s W.I. song.

The laughs continued throughout the next section, which was a brilliantly performed medley from Spamalot. The best hits from the musical comedy were delivered with real gusto – with Keith Whigham, Graeme Smith and Gareth thoroughly enjoying themselves. Alan Davison made a regal King Arthur.

The first half closed with a super medley entitled Haway in the Manger , which worked extremely well and was very loosely based on the Christmas story. Musical highlights were John Robinson’s Master of the House; Jolly Holliday, featuring Graeme Smith and Karen Aynsley; Joanne Carr’s Your Song; Keith Whigham’s Herod’s Song, and a memorable Silent Night from the whole group.

Encore traditionally start their second half with comedy – songs loosely tied to a theme, but with plenty of ridiculous costumes and loads of laughs. The Lost in Paradise theme was okay, but didn’t lend itself to too many laughs. My favourite songs were Trish Whale’s I Need a Hero and Caroline Wells singing Don’t Laugh at Me.

The following Miss Saigon section was excellent, but too short. A couple of verses from the musical’s best hits and it was over too soon. I would have liked to hear a great deal more of Why God Why from James Taylor and BuiDoi from John Robinson and Gareth Hunter.

The closing medley, entitled ‘A Bit of a Do’ was a bundle of movement, starting with an energetic version of Flash Bang Wallop. There followed a moving There’s a Fine, Fine Line from Janet Peel and Trish Whale a brilliant rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

And England won 3-1 – a great night was had by all.

The show runs until Saturday. To book tickets, go to the Customs House website.