Blackpool's Biggest Show
Grand Theatre, Blackpool

See them as you've never seen them before, the posters claim.

"Dancing" says Roy Walker, "singing," says Les Dennis, "sober" says Su Pollard, "together" possibly says the audience.

While the Grand Theatre and Opera House may quibble at North Pier's main season summer offering billing itself as Blackpool's Biggest Show, there could be few people who would disagree that it is the resort's most ambitious one.

A few eyebrows were raised at the choice of this particular trio as headliners but director and choreographer Chris Baldock writers Paul Minett and Brian Leveson, musical supervisor Sean Whittle and music director David Lloyd Price aren't so far off moulding a very special sort of show on what was traditionally the pier where box office records were only made to be broken.

Having worked together for two seasons in Don't Dress for Dinner, Dennis and Pollard have an instant stage rapport and together launch the proceedings as a pair of anorak-wearing holidaymakers. It leads into a production opener which reveals Dennis to be no Fred Astaire but at least he is willing to have a go.

Walker follows with the first of three scene-stealing solo spots opening with a gutsy James Brown number before moving into some fresh comedy material. A second spell sees him on more familiar territory - though he wins the best reception of the night with a tingling version of How Are Things In Glocca Morra to prove those singing lessons have been worth their money.

Pollard and Dennis continue their double act with the first ever on-stage meeting of Hi De Hi's Peggy and Coronation Street's Mavis Wilton.

They are also allowed to flex their own talents - the wafer-thin Pollard proving she is a better singer than a comic and Dennis reminding us he is a better impressionist than he is a joketeller.

But the show is more than just their three acts - for a start there is a team of dancers and singers helping the impressive colourful Copacabana first half finale. Along the way there is also this year's flavour of the month - an energetic version of Riverdance.

Completing the bill is Richard de Vere and Company, reviving a 1962 Russian Roulette stunt to great effect and doing the oddest things with his Roly Poly sized assistant Caro Cartiny.

Some trimming of the opening night version was needed here, some tightening up was needed there, but given time to feel its way into the end of the pier venue and Blackpool's Biggest Show looks set to surprise its doubters and almost live up to its provocative title.

The company is completed by Kerry McLaughlin, Gayle Thomas, Francesca Newitt, Lara Cottrell, Alison Brown, Kerry Salmond, Lee Ives and Marc.

Robin Duke

The Stage
August 1995