PUT a former footballer at the top of an old-fashioned cabaret billing and my panto-detector sounds an alarm.
Not that panto isn’t great fun, but there’s a time for silly celebrity shenanigans. Christmas.
When said sportsman is appearing in a song and dance tribute to the Swing Era — a something close to my heart, as a pianist and dance teacher — my palms sweat.
But when the man in question is former Northern Ireland international Jim Whitley, such fears are very poorly-founded indeed.
Whitley stole a very strong show with his whisper-quiet quips, punctuated by boisterous bouts of Sammy Davis Jr and blistering tap dance.
His sports career shortened by injury, Whitley has focused his energies on the stage with world class results.
Teamed with Roman Marek and Philip Barley — both Rat Pack re-enactors extraordinaire — the results were (eventually) splendid.
To begin with, there wasn’t much chemistry between the capable crooners, their ad libs feeling forced and their banter a bit monosyllabic.
But as the show went on and the starched collars came off, so did the gloves. By the end, the three bounced off one another (and parts of the set) with gusto.
To be fair to them, this was the show’s debut and they did have one particularly persistent heckler to contend with(If you’re reading this, shame on you).
That being said, the noisy drunk did tee up a hole in one put-down for the increasingly unamused trio.
Slurring “fly me to the moon” at full volume, she prompted the boys to fire back in unison with a perfectly-timed: “Fly yourself!”
If the first act seemed under-scripted, the second was a riot of choreographed crooning.
Starting with a strange, reverse burlesque routine, the crooners’ slick set becomes increasingly unraveled by infighting and pratfalls.
The singing itself remains of a very high quality — both the boisterous group performances and superb solos.
And all are backed fabulously by the very talented Mini Big Band — a globetrotting outfit founded by Rotherham's own Hibbard twins.
Taken together, it’s a storming swing sensation.
q For more information, including future dates, see www.croonerstheshow.com.
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