By Danielle Farrow
A spotlight before the raising of the curtain centres on a solo male singer whose gyrations make you wonder what kind of show Rhinestone Mondays really is, but certainly stimulate the predominantly female audience – and actually it is just a slightly raunchy rendition of a country song to start this light comedy.
The singer then moves into the set, a sparsely-furnished bar whose back wall is chopped off so that the street and stairs behind can be seen. This is the Warbleswick Social Club, it is Monday night and the members of the All Star Line Dancing Club start filing in. The solo singer is divorced Tom, the only real customer barkeep Brian has, who is in nightly to sing karaoke. The teacher of the line dancing, Annie (played by Faye Tozer), is a single mother and rather likes the sound of Tom’s voice, but a promising start soon becomes a strained and not particularly credible romance, its best parts being Brian’s attempts to help Tom in his wooing.
Annie and Tom’s relationship, along with a sidestep of Lyn Paul as the slinky, slightly bitchy Sophie (who also has an interest in woman-shy Tom), provides the ‘love’ part of the show’s tagline “Love, Life… & Line Dancing!” The ‘line dancing’ itself, though sometimes rather energetically flat in execution, is part of the action on stage throughout and does provide some fine participation at the end, fueled by the energy of the audience itself. For, onstage, ‘life’ is only found in the performance of Shaun Williamson as Brian – strong, energetic, amusing and in fine voice – with help from Anthony Topham’s believable and funny Tom. Some characters manage fine singing at times (Paul in particular, along with Tozer) and give quirky performances, but these can seem rather disconnected. Pace initially suffered from slow reactions and nothing can hide the fact that the plot is as thin as the sound of the pre-recorded music.
Aside from Annie and Tom’s difficulties, the focus is on a planned line dancing weekend and preparing for that, with questions about people‘s commitment and ability to learn the moves. There is entertaining humour in this, with Ian ‘H’ Watkins adding some camp fire, Ally Holmes mostly managing to move beyond caricature as a comedic struggling dancer, Phil Pritchard hamming up his character’s Clint Eastwood impressions and Pauline Fleming providing some bodily functions’ humour.
Overall, there is a hollow feel to Rhinestone Mondays and its direction, with a slim plot and slightly irritating sound, the cast’s energy not being in sync and not quite filling the Festival Theatre (Williamson being the outstanding exception). However, there is also entertaining humour and some very familiar country songs that will have people singing and dancing their way home, including Crazy, Stand by Your Man, When You’re Hot You’re Hot, Achy Breaky Heart and, of course, Rhinestone Cowboy. And the audience were very happy to start that singing and dancing for the finale.
Runs until 24th September at Edinburgh Festival Theatre.