Kicking off the Festival Theatre’s 2011/12 season is Rhinestone Mondays, a musical big-hitter which tosses up a mix between regenerated stage careers and renowned TV stars. We’re invited to join the members of the Warbleswick Monday Night All Star Line Dancing Club as they all argue and fight, falling hopelessly in and out of love to the sound of modern classics such as “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Stand by your Man”. There’s that one from Steps playing Annie (Faye Tozer), that other one from Steps playing Duncan (Ian ‘H’ Watkins), both singing and dancing alongside ex-New Seekers singer Lyn Paul. Perhaps the most exciting addition to the cast however: it’s only Barry off EastEnders playing Brian (Shaun Williamson), an introduction which the comedy fans among you might recognise from Stephen Merchant’s dialogue in his and Ricky Gervais’ series Extras.
While this show is of course a crowd-pleaser, it’s hard to argue with copious amounts of energy after the post-Fringe gloom and similarly murky weather. If anything, it’s just a chance to watch Shaun Williamson in a role which will contrast so heavily with his character in Extras; would love for him to even just pull out a picture of Stephen Merchant so we can at least imagine the pair back together. Maybe when Merchant gets up to Edinburgh for his Hello Ladies! tour in October, the pair can run up and down North Bridge for the rest of the year. Dreams aside however, the music is set to amuse and charm; and Watkins’s previous stage experience in Joseph and Fame has earned him the respect of musical theatre fans around the country. While it’s hardly agitprop theatre, there is a call for it after such dark, heavy items which anchor so much of our Fringe experience, and the Festival Theatre launches its season with what theatre as an art form is supposed to do in mind: entertain.