It’s true: All the nice girls really do like a sailor. On the night I attended the Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In, the group arrived in the courtyard of Summerhall and were instantly hit by a wave of women. Many of the crowd had dressed for the occasion - chic cruise veterans, 30s and 50s glamour-pusses, even the odd pirate (and I mean odd) circulated amid the mixed-up shipmates.
A salty sea-dog/Captain Haddock-like figure announced the imminent voyage and the audience flocked into the dissection hall of the old Dick Vets to find two saucy sailors contorting around hoops suspended from the ceiling like iconic WWII poster girls.The opening swing number unsurprisingly got some people up and dancing, though the initial excitement was allowed to slip a little by the lengthy time the band took to appear on stage. Next, out came Little Miss Loud (Heather McLeod, Admiral of the Fleet) with her suitably elastic vocals and the jitterbugging began in earnest. For the next song, ‘I’ve Got the World on a String’, another aerialist delighted the audience to the point of leaving many of the male members of audience with mouths agape.
Certainly, the first half of the show was filled with musical and visual delights: When Cera Impala and Gina Rae - notable singers in their own rights - join Miss Loud on stage, the harmonies were more Crosby, Stills & Nash than The Andrews Sisters, but nevertheless cast us adrift on a gentle swell of dreaminess. The remainder of the repertoire included smart reworkings of numbers by the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson, and even when the band took a break, the dancing continued - giving the less dextrous audience members (like me) something to watch and admire during the somewhat lengthy interval.
I thought I’d seen it all, from sparkly mermaids to luminous jellyfish. But no, the second half was even more spectacular. The guest appearance of jazz singer Fionna Duncan - looking exceptionally glamourous in a peacock-blue kaftan and exotic silver fish necklace - totally rocked the boat. Even aged 74, her voice still resonates like that of a 40-year-old. Charismatically growling through her rendition of the Nina Simone classic I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl, this was truly dirty blues. Duncan joined the band again for the encore, whipping up a tempo as strong as a tidal wave.
This super-fun night runs each Friday of the Fringe; set your victory rolls, slip on those spats and get down to Summerhall for the next incredible voyage.