AJ Holmes @ Underbelly Cowgate

AJ Holmes offers a musically adept hour that could do with more edge

Review by Rob Young | 09 Aug 2019
  • AJ Holmes @ Underbelly, Cowgate

AJ Holmes is a Broadway star, and boy does he want us to know it. The persona adopted for this sporadically amusing live lounge – at least, it had better be a persona – is the cocky yet emotional troubadour: he’s a fuckboy, but he’s totally talked it through with his therapist and he’s got, like, all these feelings and stuff.

Despite being listed as a comedy, Holmes’ hour of personal growth works best as an intimate showcase of his musical talents. Obvious given his Broadway background, Holmes has a superb voice, and the show is elevated at the two or three points where he hits his astronomical top range. Elsewhere, some button-pressing wizardry leads to some delicate looping, not least in a surprisingly sweet song about pooping, while a move to the acoustic guitar makes the wafting pheromones of the audience truly visible.

But those who have turned up because of Holmes’ star turn in The Book of Mormon and writing work on South Park will be disappointed by the largely toothless comedy. There are flashes here – a Prince-inspired track about making creepy eye contact with girls offers a much-needed change of pace – but coupled with trite explorations of mums on social media and overly sentimental granny anecdotes (granecdotes?), the show feels hampered by its own forced sincerity. 

That said, there is no denying that Holmes is an engaging talent, and only the heartless would not be imagining walking down the aisle with him by the end of the show. In a self-effacing moment, he wryly notes that he has gone from Broadway to the sewers (referencing his room’s subterranean bleakness): if only he had dispensed with some of the leading man wholesomeness and instead embraced some Fringe grit.

AJ Holmes: Yeah, but Not Right NowUnderbelly Cowgate (Belly Dancer), until 25 Aug (not 12), 4.30pm, £8-10