Seriously: Pet Shop Boys. Reinterpreted *****
Rocket, Roxy Art House
WITH so many productions lazily cobbled together from the back catalogue of pop and rock stars these days, it's easy to assume people might label Seriously: Pet Shop Boys. Reinterpreted. as the Pet Shop Boys musical.
It isn't - that was the short-lived Closer To Heaven, a whole other story.
This is a tale, told using the lyrics from Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe's compositions, about love, hate and relationships, with each act subtitled to set the scene - Ambition, Rendezvous or Nightmare.
No, there isn't any dialogue and yes, every line is sung; but the narrative and characters are explained without a word having to be said.
A wife (Maria Mercedes) is being cheated on by a husband who is in pursuit of a young starlet, while their son is falling in love with a man who didn't think love possible, and all to the accompaniment of a grand piano and string quartet. When it was originally staged in Australia 18 months ago, the show sold out and the Pet Shop Boys themselves were "knocked out" by the performance. It's not difficult to see why.
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Now updated to include material from their most recent album, Flamboyant, the whole production is understated yet staggering and perfectly located in the grand surroundings of the Roxy, where the cast can lean against a stone pillar when belting out a sad song.
While all the cast are fantastic, Mercedes (who has appeared in Neighbours and Prisoner Cell Block H) is of particular note, especially during the argument with her unfaithful partner, and during a moving rendition of So Sorry, I Said.
By stripping a hi-nrg record of its dance beat, the heartbreaking story behind it is revealed, emphasising the lyrical genius of Tennant and Lowe.
This is not a greatest hits package or a singalong akin to a hen night, this is spine-tingling stuff, and that's just the prologue. Created by the writer of the Australian Kylie Minogue musical I Should Be So Lucky, the producers listened to more than 200 songs - including material written for Liza Minnelli and Dusty Springfield - to build the story.
Some of the numbers will be unfamiliar to many: b-sides or lesser known album tracks, but the beauty of Seriously... is that it is not exclusively for fans of Pet Shop Boys music, it's a tale almost everyone can identify with in some form.
Many songs dovetail into others, with some broken down to become duets which completely change the emphasis of the original track. It's all extremely innovative and completely engaging.
Some things really are worth waiting for, and Seriously is definitely one of them, so queue around the block for tickets.
• Until August 27
The Discotivity ***
Gilded Balloon, Teviot
BET you never thought you'd see Michelle McManus swinging baby Jesus around her head during a dance routine when you were voting her in as the winner of Pop Idol.
But you'll have a fairly good indication of the kind of entertainment you're letting yourself in for at Discotivity, when the Glaswegian takes to the stage as Mary in this new version of the Nativity to the strains of Madonna's Like A Virgin.
In this modern - and quite unique - adaptation, Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem to pay a bill (no, really) with the head of a Beyonce-esque donkey called Tiffany.
"Joseph," says McManus, "when you promised me the ride of my life, this wasn't what I was expecting." When Tiffany the donkey complains that Mary "ain't no Posh Spice", Mary retorts that "we all have our cross to bear".
And if that calibre of gag isn't enough for you, they've only gone and added a sub-plot where Mary considers entering the Bethlehem Pop Idol.
Okay, so it's an excuse to let McManus sing No More Tears (Enough is Enough) but she does have a fantastic voice, and there are several great numbers for her to belt out, considering (as the title should suggest) this is the story of the birth of Christ set to disco music.
The Discotivity would be a lot more fun if it wasn't on quite so late and didn't feel so rushed. There are moments where you are laughing too hard and miss what happens next, although there's certainly nothing wrong with milking a pun - especially when there are so many casually dropped in.
It's cheesy and its fun, but get a few drinks in you first and go along for the last show of the day, it's supposed to be a party.
• Until August 27