Reel to Real, The Movies Musical Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Beijing Huairou State-Owned Assets Management Company, Beijing Rouyuan Culture Medium Co. ltd, Broadway Asia Int., Warner Brothers Theater Ventures
Kincaid Jones (book), Lynne Taylor-Corbett (director), Doug Oberhamer (musical supervision), Jeff Sugg (projection design)
Jeremy Benton, Ellen Zolezzi, Shaun Parry, Vanessa Parry, Jose Luaces, Doug Stender; and the Ensemble company
Running time

Reel to Real is a new multi-media musical that blends clips from original film footage of old Hollywood movies with live performances of favourite songs from the shows. Every musical needs a storyline so here we have twins Jack and Jill Cheever, approaching their thirtieth birthday, sent by their father on a round the world race to compete for the inheritance of his movie empire.

The palatial Pleasance Grand theatre is a great space for this large scale production. Sophisticated technology is used to screen extracts from the movies across the Proscenium arch stage with interactive video appearances by Mr Cheever, together with some magical illusions.

The opening credits for On the Town roll on screen featuring the Bernstein song, New York, New York, while the ensemble sing and dance live on stage in synchronised style. Their global journey then takes them to Hollywood, London, Paris, Tahiti and Beijing, with a strange, eclectic mish mash of songs which do not always seem to illustrate the destination.

A neat scene is the company tap dancing with great energy while Fred Astaire shows off his masterly footwork in a clip from Putting on the Ritz. A classic extract from Casablanca is screened with Jill "in conversation" with Humphrey Bogart, her romantic hero. It’s a fast paced show, with amazing costumes, set changes and scenery.

Unfortunately, the plot becomes more and more contrived with a poorly scripted narrative and “Marilyn Monroe” (aka Bombshell) and a baseball player joining the twins on their trip. The final 15 minutes abandons the Hollywood musical theme totally and turns the show into a Chinese Circus with acrobats and dragons. Taking the place of Musicals on screen, are scenic tourism films of the Great Wall of China.

Some of the synchronised numbers are neatly choreographed (e.g. Singing in the Rain), but many songs are completely unknown (Shoeless Joe, Life’s Montage, Mystical Lanterns, etc.) and while the very popular The Sound of Music is on the list of musicals, it's not included.

This is a high-financed, well-hyped, epic Fringe production, but to describe the show as a Movies Musical featuring the “greatest songs of Broadway” and “classic Movie musicals” is misleading and overall, a great disappointment.

Show times
Till 30 August, 6pm

Ticket prices
£13.50 / £15 (£12.50 / £13.50)