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The Star at The Liverpool Playhouse

by Chris High. Published Wed 14 Dec 2016 10:19, last updated: 14/12/16
(c) Robert Day
(c) Robert Day

The heady days of the masterful performances led by Leonard Sachs on the BBCs The Good Old Days are impossible to ignore in the current Liverpool Playhouse Christmas production of The Star. Where the TV show had the cream of the crop appearing, however, The Star Theatre provides its Music Hall varieties through a mixture of the hopeful, the hopeless and those pining for “just one more shot” at the big time.

The Liverpool Playhouse is 150 years old, so an old styled trip down Amnesia Alley seems all the more fitting. The sets are big, the costumes are bright and the tunes are all fun and familiar. However, there is a reason that variety shows tend to be restricted to Royal Command Performances these days: they’re too hit and miss, which pretty much sums up The Star.

A la Noises Off, but less manically staged, The Star in part is an insight into what goes on back stage – with the venomous Michelle Butterly and the acidic Eithne Browne hamming it up beautifully – and the trials and tribulations surrounding Michael Starke’s energetic efforts of keeping the show on the road.

Jack Rigby and Helen Carter, the romantic sub-plot as the underlying fourth wall breaking dialogue informs us, are as always exemplary. Carter has a singing voice to die for and comic timing that drags the oldest of gags into the light. As for Rigby, his nice-but-shy lad stage hand is full of restrained vigour that simply oozes class. Despite the good however, and there is lots, the pace of the whole is far too erratic and there are also more than a few times it fizzles more than shoots.

When it zings it does so with an unbounded joy, exemplified by the equally brilliant Kevin Hartley as the dastardly New Owner and Daniel O’Brien as the hapless comic / escapologist / strong man / magician / (somewhat bizarrely) drag act. Yet a bit like when Mrs Brown isn’t on stage it, the pace dips more than a tad when these two aren’t involved and so the story rather dillys and dallys despite the best efforts of those others involved.

As somebody outside was heard to say at the interval: “It’s good … but it could be gooder!” which is probably as accurate a review as you’re likely to get.

The Star
The Liverpool Playhouse Theatre
December 9 – January 14, 2017
Author: Michael Wynne
Director: Philip Wilson
Cast: Michael Starke, Eithne Browne, Daniel O’Brien, Kevin Harvey, Michelle Butterly, Helen Carter, Jack Rigby
Running Time: 2 hrs 40 mins
PR Rating: *** FUN!!


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