REVIEW: Ali McGregor’s Alchemy – Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012

A Summer Full of Peaches Review Ali McGregor's Alchemy

The cabaret section of the Fringe guide is often one that I leave ignored, without good reason, to be fair – I love music, theatre and comedy, and I’ve probably missed some good shows. However, Ali McGregor’s show quickly caught my eye – I’d seen the poster about town, and the synopsis lured me in: “Unique mash-ups and genre-defying versions of Madonna, Salt-n-Pepa and Kiss, sung by a 1940s style siren with live band in a Las Vegas club.” Nice.

Due to illness, Carley was unable to make the show, but a mutual friend of ours was on hand to take the ticket. He and I both love a bit of jazz and swing music, so it definitely appealed. The inside of the venue was not what I expected – gone were rows of seats in parallel rows, and in their places were round tables gathered near the front of the stage, fanning backwards. Combined with the dim lighting and a soft red glow, it did feel like a ‘real’ jazz club – the three piece band were even playing us in as we took our seats. I know I’ve just spent the better part of a paragraph talking just about the venue, but the setting really added to the feel of the whole show – much like how the staging in The Ruby Dolls‘ show  did.

Ali McGregor's Alchemy

McGregor herself looked stunning, and from the first couple of lines of her opening number – an even more sultry version of “Tainted Love” – she had all of my attention. Between numbers, her charisma was wonderful – there was the right amount of humour and chatting, and I certainly didn’t find myself thinking, “Just get on with it, love.” I particularly enjoyed her explanation of the show’s title, Alchemy: taking trashy songs and, with some help from the jazz world, turning them into musical gold. Clever, eh?

Musically, the whole show is superb. Looking back at the set-list, and remembering some of the songs she performed, it does make me go “Really?! You’ve ‘jazzed’ that song?”, but McGregor and her musical director, Sam Keevers, have ended up with some brilliant arrangements. McGregor’s vocal prowess is undoubtedly impressive, too, and she performs the varying styles across her set-list with equal amounts of strength – there was no weak number, if you will.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show – I had a grin plastered across my face from start to finish. It only took a couple of lines before you worked out what song McGregor had plucked from the 80s/90s, and found yourself singing along – it was wonderfully nostalgic, and will be to anyone of a certain age. I don’t want to “spoiler” you, as it were, but I will tell you this: I’m not going to be able to listen to “La Isla Bonita” the same way again.

This is a show not to be missed.

5 stars


  • 15th – 26th August 2012 (not 20th)
  • Elegance, Assembly George Square
  • 21:10 (1 hour)
  • 14+
  • Find tickets here – Ali McGregor’s Alchemy

If you’re looking for tickets to a fringe show, or just want to find out about events going on in Edinburgh, I wholeheartedly recommend Clicket, who provide great information about upcoming events!


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