While producer Colin Matthews adheres to his tried and tested recipe for a balanced variety bill, the success, as ever, is in the mix. The new Babbacombe season features familiar faces with fresh routines, and much attention is given to creating a spick-and-span show. The atmosphere Matthews evokes around the musical numbers is particularly impressive.
From Wayne Champagne strutting his way through The Midnight Hour from The Commitments, to Keedie and Paul Cobley duetting in the powerful Starlight Express ballad Only You, the choice of songs and their settings make a positive impact on the production’s texture.
Matthews crafts the settings, bathing them in rich, yet sometimes restrained, lighting, as in the dramatic delivery of Unchained Melody. Here the soaring vocal unison of Lisa Walker, Keedie and Cobley is subtly counterpointed by the balletic choreography of resident dance team Danze Chique.
Comedy is largely in the hands of Phil Lowen and Ben Nickless. As well as stand-up slots, Lowen delights in physical sketches such as his expanding Pavorotti and take on the Titanic complete with inflatable love interest.
Nickless showcases his impressionist skills with the “Celebrity Alphabet – 26 impressions from Z to A” in five minutes. His rendition of When I Fall in Love, learned from a damaged record complete with glitches, is a gem. But his best and most risque piece is a hilarious silent magic act – conjuring an assortment of objects from his open flies while looking at the audience in innocent incomprehension at their escalating hysterics.
Champagne impresses as high-collared Harry Hill in a Stars in their Eyes skit – including Walker as Kate Bush and Nickless as Dolly Parton, complete with bouncing pneumatic boobs.
The Full Monty line-up of Lowen, Champagne, Nickless and Cobley as they struggle with their garments in You Can Keep your Hat On was another classic from a company where versatility is key to this enjoyable celebration of variety.
February 10 (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)-October 21, PN February 25