This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
The Shuffle Show is not particularly intelligent, nor is it particularly witty. There are no elaborate costumes, no dazzling special effects, and no memorable props. There is simply Elena Gabrielle and Grant Busé, two microphones, one guitar, some immaculately rehearsed choreography and bundles of infectious energy. Staged in Assembly’s Box Theatre, a compact black-box venue that grows swelteringly hot during performances, The Shuffle Show is a vibrant, funny and thoroughly feel-good production, thanks largely to the commitment and talent of Gabrielle and Busé.
Loosely based on a visit to an Apple store (with the audience the ever-patronised customer), The Shuffle Show is essentially a series of musical mash-ups, with each constituent snatch of song tied together by a common genre or subject. These medleys are interspersed with brief sketches, in which Gabrielle and Busé play two ceaselessly beaming, Steve Jobs-worshipping, Apple Store geniuses, who are demonstrating how to make the perfect playlist to the audience – hence the musical numbers.
These short skits are incredibly slick, and the comedy is genuinely funny. A recurrent routine where either Gabrielle and Busé makes a terrible joke, laughs unctuously, sighs, then immediately explains the joke – “Wordplay”, “Historical reference”, etc. – is particularly well-received. But the duo’s real strength is elsewhere, in their irresistibly enthusiastic songs.
Musical mash-ups based on Scottish weather, female empowerment, sexual foreplay are all enjoyable. That last is perhaps most amusing – Gabrielle seizes an unfortunate audience member to take part in a more seductive number. The result is pure hilarity.
It is impossible to pass over the quality of Gabrielle’s singing. From shrill, soaring Opera, to spot-on impersonations of Celine Dion, slick Nicki Minaj raps, to suave, sexy Aretha Franklin, Gabrielle’s vocals are consistently impressive, and at times verge on breath-taking.
It is the shows finale, however, that truly ensures the audience leaves with smiles on their faces, music in their ears, and an overwhelming urge to dance the remainder of their night away. Gabrielle and Busé drop their microphones and perform a ten-minute dance routine to what can only be described as a series of stone-cold classic dance tunes. As they encourage the crowd to join them in their twisting, their moonwalking and their tailfeather-shaking, every face in the intimate, and by now stiflingly hot theatre, is grinning from ear to ear. As the audience skips joyfully from the theatre, they are walking on sunshine, like Katrina and the Waves. “Musical reference”, as Busé would say.