PITLOCHRY FESTIVAL THEATRE
Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Scotland’s beautifully-located “theatre in the hills”, recently announced Vision 2021, a hugely ambitious, £25 million expansion programme. Developing both its building and its programme, the Perthshire playhouse’s plans will, no doubt, include efforts to further enhance its reputation as Scotland’s premier producer of stage musicals.
Its latest musical offering is Whisky Kisses by Euan Martin, Dave Smith and James Bryce. Set in and around a distillery in the fictional Highland location of Glenigma (via brief visits to New York and Tokyo), the piece was originally written forSir Cameron Mackintosh’s Highland Quest for a Musical, which culminated in 2007.
The winner of the Quest was the dreadful Edinburgh zombie caper The Sundowe by brothers John, Gerry and James Kielty. Whisky Kisses is not only a better musical, it is also a very good fit for PFT’s all-Scottish 2014 summer season.
Once considered the producer of one of Scotland’s greatest whiskies, the Glenigma distillery stands on the brink of closure. Run into the ground through the gambling debts of its now deceased owner, it has fallen to his daughter, Mary McGregor, to try to provide some kind of soft landing for the staff who stand to lose their jobs.
Her solution is to put the company’s prize possession, a century-old bottle of the Glenigma, up for auction. Cue a face-off between Ben Munro, a rich Scots-American businessman from Manhattan, and young Mr Yomo, sent to Scotland by his ailing father, the greatest whisky collector in Japan.
Nicely conceived though the piece is, James Bryce’s score flickers into life only occasionally. The opening number, Got to Have It, which is performed in Munro’s New York office, zips along nicely and sounds, appropriately enough, as if it has come straight from Broadway. However, the only other truly memorable song is The Unplayed Fiddle, an unaccompanied Gaelic ballad, sung beautifully by Mairi Morrison (who plays Mary and hails from the Isle of Lewis).
Morrison, curiously, is in finer voice in Gaelic than when singing in English, while the singing of Scott Armstrong (as Munro’s assistant, Jeff) shines in a cast which, with the best will in the world, might best be described as comprised mainly of non-singers. Jolly though Whisky Kisses is, one can’t help but feel that procuring actors who can also sing must be near the top of the list in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s development plans.
At Pitlochry Festival Theatre, various dates, until October 18: pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Teleraph on June 1, 2013
© Mark Brown