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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2024 Recommendations

Some shows make repeat visits to the Edinburgh Fringe – I’m finally hoping to catch a performance of Out of the Blue (Assembly George Square, 14:10, not 12 Aug), an a cappella vocal harmony group comprised of University of Oxford students. This year will be their twentieth year at the Fringe. As you can imagine, the lineup changes from year to year as its members graduate, so each year’s show is by definition different. Showstopper! The Improvised Musical (Pleasance Courtyard, 17:30, not 13 Aug) is a genuinely different experience each evening – I’ve seen the show a number of times over the years and no two shows are the same. These days, the audience is invited to text and tweet (or rather post on X) their suggestions as the show progresses.

Divas: From Stage to Screen at Edinburgh Fringe
Divas: From Stage to Screen at Edinburgh Fringe

One of my favourites from recent years is Divas: From Stage to Screen (Paradise in Augustines, 20:20, not 11 or 18 Aug), which is somehow both relaxing and exhilarating in a straightforward but successful formula of performing popular songs from film and theatre, with a live band. If you can stomach news and current affairs in today’s world, a musical satirical take is available from the team behind NewsRevue (Udderbelly, 19:30, not 12 Aug), a show that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The go-to show if you’re up at the Fringe and stuck for ideas (the 384-page Fringe brochure can be a bit overwhelming) is Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe (Pleasance Courtyard, 13:30, not 15 or 22 Aug) – there’s a good mix of music, theatre, comedy, circus, family shows and more.

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical (Gilded Balloon at the Auditorium, 18:00, not Wednesdays) is the story of what it’s like for people who pursue a career in musical theatre – the heartaches, the fears, the auditions and callbacks, the idiosyncrasies and contradictions, and even the smash-hit successes. Revised and updated for 2024, the show is written and composed by Alexander S. Bermange, and directed and choreographed by Matthew Parker. This year’s cast are Luke Harley, Sev Keoshgerian, Jessi O’Donnell and Julie Yammanee.

DIVA: Live From Hell! (Underbelly Cowgate, 20:30, not 12 or 23 Aug) stars Luke Bayer in a solo musical about rivalry, vengeance and killer ambition. As President of the Drama Club and star of every school show, Desmond Channing spent his short life in the spotlight, until a hotshot transfer student from NYC arrived to challenge his throne. Terry Eastham, reviewing the 2022 production at London’s Turbine Theatre, wrote: “…Luke’s performance is simply amazing. His vocals are great, he looks great and knows how to work an audience so that no matter how awful Desmond becomes, he is still someone you want to watch”.

A story about a 2016 ski collision that resulted in a 2023 court case has two stage adaptations at Fringe 2024. Awkward Productions’ Gwyneth Goes Skiing (Pleasance Courtyard, 15:30, not Mondays) is from the team behind Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. Terry Eastham’s review of the run at Pleasance’s London venue concluded this is “…a top-notch show that takes a seemingly innocuous subject and, while keeping the heart of the story there, makes a final event that is completely mad and keeps the audience entertained from start to finish.” The other show on the same subject is I Wish You Well – The Gwyneth Paltrow Ski Trial Musical (Udderbelly, 17:45, not 12 Aug), starring Diana Vickers with choreography by Dame Arlene Phillips.

If you really want satire and silliness with a capital S, perhaps Willy’s Candy Spectacular: A Musical Parody (Pleasance Dome, 15:00, 9-26 Aug) will do the trick. Inspired by an unlicensed event in Glasgow, Willy’s Chocolate Experience, which became sufficiently infamous to end up with its own Wikipedia page, the show’s website asks, “What happens when a man fuelled by a billion dreams and zero dollars turns to AI to create an immersive experience in a dingy warehouse in Glasgow that outrages parents, terrorises children and becomes an international media sensation?” (Answer: it becomes a musical.)

I’m personally looking forward to The Scot and the Showgirl (Pleasance Dome, 15:50, not Tuesdays), billed as a “true(ish) wee musical thingamajig about a perfectly imperfect relationship that began 28 years ago at Edinburgh Waverley train station”, and stars Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle and West End leading man Norman Bowman. As ever, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland present two musicals (Assembly Rooms, 10:00, in rep) – this year they’re doing Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and Tasha Gordon-Solmon and Faye Chiao’s Fountain of You, a new musical billed as “a dark comedy tackling youth and beauty, with a poppy score and ample gore!”.

Janie Dee's Beautiful World Cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe. Photo by Rich Lakos.
Janie Dee’s Beautiful World Cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe. Photo by Rich Lakos.

Janie Dee’s Beautiful World Cabaret (Pleasance Dome, 14:20, not 12 or 19 Aug) sees the Olivier Award-winning and critically acclaimed actress, singer and musical theatre turn audiences’ attention towards the climate crisis. It’s billed as “a playfully informative and inspirational journey of humanity and nature through song that is, at its heart, always hopeful”. Post-Fringe, the show comes to London’s Jermyn Street Theatre (24 to 28 September 2024).

In terms of comedy, Ali Woods: At The Moment (Underbelly Bristo Square, 20:30, not Aug) sees a rising star with a large and still growing social media presence return to the Fringe following his 2022 debut, Best Friend Ever. Reginald D Hunter returns to the Fringe with Fluffy Fluffy Beavers, written in response to being dubbed a controversial comedian. He hopes, so the press release says, to “rehabilitate his persona by manifesting images of well-coiffed river creatures building dams of chocolate in rivers of candy, whilst continually delivering pressure-inducing ideas to form diamonds of laughter”.

You may, of course, want to see something Scottish when in Edinburgh. A Giant on the Bridge (Assembly Roxy, 10:40, 2-6, 8-11, 13-18 Aug) is a gig theatre show. “Identity, family, community, restoration and injustice are explored through original songwriting, Scottish hip-hop and immersive storytelling by five of Scotland’s leading musicians”. A History of Paper (Traverse Theatre, dates and times vary), a co-production by Dundee Rep Theatre and Edinburgh-based Traverse Theatre is “a musical love story about a man and a woman and the little bits of paper that make up a life”. Finally, Captivate Theatre’s production of Sunshine on Leith (Assembly Rooms, 17:35) is the epitome of Scottish musical theatre created for Scottish audiences (and everyone else can enjoy it too).

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