Review: RESPECT- THE ARETHA FRANKLIN SONGBOOK, Edinburgh Playhouse

By: Mar. 25, 2019
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Review: RESPECT- THE ARETHA FRANKLIN SONGBOOK, Edinburgh Playhouse

Review: RESPECT- THE ARETHA FRANKLIN SONGBOOK, Edinburgh Playhouse Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook is a live concert that pays tribute to the Queen of Soul. Before heading out on tour later this year this is a run of three UK shows (Birmingham, Edinburgh and London) with a world class lineup of talent.

When Cleopatra takes to the stage as the first vocalist, the sound is uneven and it isn't until midway through the first track you can hear her at a comfortable level. Jaki Graham is up next and she performs with great enthusiasm but the band is just too loud and at points I could feel the bass vibrating through my seat.

The talent onstage is spectacular. Alongside Cleopatra and Jaki Graham, we are treated to spellbinding performances from Amber Riley and Mica Paris. The singers have been well chosen and definitely do justice to incredible songs such as 'God Bless The Child', 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Respect' and 'Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves'. One of the highlights of the evening for me was when the four sang together for the act one closer 'Natural Woman' which was utterly captivating.

The strength of the expertise onstage makes the format of the show all the more baffling. Alongside The London Community Gospel Choir are two backing vocalists and it all feels a bit unnecessary with such strong lead performers.

These four incredible female vocalists have been assembled to pay tribute to this absolute powerhouse of a woman, yet after most tracks they are interrupted by a preacher man. It is no reflection on Mensah Bediako's performance as the preacher but it just doesn't seem to belong in the production. Although he is talking about Aretha Franklin's background, I don't feel as though I know any more about her life than I did before the beginning of the show and it really disrupts the flow of the performance.

Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook is heading out on an extensive UK tour later this year and this performance was only its second outing. While a range of price points were available, the top end was set at £65 which is pretty high for a regional theatre and a show that had so many sound issues. The running time is printed as two hours in the programme yet the performance over ran by 30 minutes.

Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook is at its strongest when it allows these incredible performers to sing these wonderful songs but it doesn't seem to have the balance right between theatre and concert format.

Autumn 2019 tour dates to be announced soon at www.respectaretha.com



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