Music review: An Afternoon at the West End, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

The return of live performance to Pitlochry Festival Theatre, courtesy of its new outdoor stage, was an emotional affair, writes David Pollock

Lauren Samels and Daniel Boys in An Afternoon at the West End at Pitlochry Festival Theatre's new Bandstand venue PIC: Melanie Brockway

Music review: An Afternoon at the West End, Pitlochry Festival Theatre ****

"I’m not crying at your singing, honestly,” said Daniel Boys midway through the show, just after Lauren Samuels had delivered a tempestuous solo performance of Don’t Rain on My Parade. “It’s hay fever, my eyes are streaming.” His singing partner at this small but all-encompassing package performance series of West End hits fired back, “why not?”

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This silly, friendly exchange between two experienced West End performers summed up all that we’ve missed in the last, almost concert-free year: the personal connection, the body language, the sense that other people who we don’t know are sharing recognisable human moments, unmediated by rehearsal for an online screen.

For this first proper show at Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s new outdoor stage, a runny nose was a small price to pay to see live performance back. Led by their indefatigable artistic director Elizabeth Newman, PFT has striven to be a community hub as much as an arts centre in the last year, and the outdoor stage which the venue has built on their grassy outdoor slope down to the River Tummel brings together both aspects. A simple, circular wooden bandstand which provides a point of focus and shelter for the performers if they need it, it faced approximately 50 paying customers on the verge, sitting on socially distanced camp chairs and picnic blankets.

Yet outdoor diners at the riverbank pub and dogwalkers passing by also waved their hands slowly to the sound of You'll Never Walk Alone, which Boys dedicated to Captain Tom Moore and the NHS, and must have found their hearts touched by I Dreamed a Dream or the very appropriate lyrics to Rent's bittersweet song of love, loss and remembrance, Seasons of Love. Certainly, there were plenty of dancers to Boys' smooth Can't Take My Eyes Off of You and the charismatic couple's closing medleys from Grease and Mamma Mia! If there were tears after all this time, there was no need to blame the pollen.

For details of Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer season, visit https://pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com/

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