Review: Save the Last Dance for Me, Edinburgh Playhouse

The cast belts out a musical extravaganza but is let down somewhat by a tenuous plot
The cast belts out a musical extravaganza but is let down somewhat by a tenuous plot
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The programme for Save the Last Dance for Me is worth forking out for.


There are some really interesting notes on songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who penned an impressive array of songs for The Drifters, Ray Charles, Elvis and others in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

But, more importantly, it carries a full track listing which lets you play a fun game of “guess the tenuous plot link” from one song to the next in this candyfloss-lite musical.

There are 37 songs in total. They were never all going to come through this Gleeful treatment unscathed, albeit few are murdered outright.

The victims are mostly herded to the first half and it’s really the two leads who don’t quite carry these early stages. Song choice may be partly to blame as both singers fare better in the second half, and the ensemble performers who also form the onstage band are musically mostly good, occasionally terrific throughout.

The plot scarcely rates a mention, with scripting and character development that wouldn’t grace even the worst Elvis movies. The writers’ credits include Goodnight Sweetheart and Birds of a Feather, so maybe this should be credited as period detail, or homage. Or something.

Whatever, two sisters go on holiday, meet a couple of GIs and, after some misunderstandings (spoiler alert), get along famously. There is some cack-handed race and gender politics, largely about as convincing as the nomadic accents of several of the cast.

None of that really matters though and, hopefully, it isn’t supposed to. This is entertainment as light as an empty bag of Maltesers, with all the depth of a burst paddling pool. The music is the thing and, from this point of view, the second half carries far greater momentum, with cast and audience alike visibly happier.

By the time Carlo the Brummy ice cream man and friends bust out truly a show-stopping doo-wop a capella Hushabye, then bring it all home with a rousing six-track finale that gets the crowd clapping and dancing in the aisles, things have progressed from a strong early urge to hunt down those responsible, through guilty pleasure to just about fun.

Run ends Saturday.