Yank! Preview

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On March 9th award-winning venue Hope Mill Theatre will host the European Premiere of the much anticipated Yank! A moving World War II love story which will examine what it means to be a man, to be in love, and explore the struggles simply being in love can bring.

Based on the 2010 Off-Broadway production written by David Zellnik with a score created by his brother Joseph Zellnik the musical transports us back to the unforgettable sounds of the 1940’s, focussing on the life of Stu (Scott Hunter) who is called up to serve for his country. Stu meets and falls in love with all-American guy Mitch (Barnaby Hughes) and so begins a tougher and more emotional fight than Stu ever expected to be facing.

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Yank! will be the third in-house production delivered by the hugely successful paring of Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment, who brought runaway hit Parade and cult classic Hair to Manchester audiences last year. This pairing is clearly one which understands the importance of getting things absolutely right, they put their heart and soul into delivering emotional, powerful, dynamic and beautiful productions, the prospect of them handling something with issues so current and so important is utterly thrilling. Add to this the fact that James Baker (director of Parade) is at the helm along with the addition of a third co-producer, Ben Millerman from Mr Millerman Presents and you soon realise that this is going to be something very special, without doubt crafted with love.

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We were lucky enough to join the cast for a preview at Hope Mill Theatre and hear from director James Baker who shared just how thrilled he is to be given the opportunity to tell such a beautiful story and really examine what it means to love in a time when division is so rife.

“I read the musical and just absolutley adored it, I think for me it’s important that when I pick up a musical, I absolutely  fundamentally love the story, for me it’s always about the story and Yank! has such a beautiful story. It’s about two people, two men that fall in love in World War II  in America, that alone is an exciting prospect, a gay love story set in World War II, that was enough to hook me in, but then the layers, the questions, the things that it asks, made me think there’s much, much more to this musical”

The cast delivered several of the shows musical numbers including the beautiful Rememb’ring You, My Soldier and Your Squad Is Your Squad each of which were absorbing and really gave a taste for this vibrant and dynamic production. Scott Hunter and Barnaby Hughes’ voices perfectly complimented each other, rich and powerful with an enormous amount of warmth. Sarah Louise Young the only female in the production sounded exquisite as she delivered her piece with real emotion and heart.The 12-strong cast are hugely talented and totally committed to doing justice to this emotive and bold piece of theatre, we fully expect Yank! to follow in the footsteps of Parade and Hair in firmly placing Hope Mill Theatre on the cultural map as a groundbreaking and innovative venue and one of Manchester’s brightest and boldest assets, roll on opening night!

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Yank! will run for four weeks from Thursday 9th March to Saturday 8th April at Hope Mill Theatre. Tickets are available now. Previews £15, all other performances £16-£22

www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

Funny Girl

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Hot on the heels of it’s much adored, critically acclaimed not to mention record breaking West End run, Funny Girl embarks on a 22 city UK and Ireland tour with Manchester being its first port of call. Boasting some of the most recognisable songs in entertainment history, Don’t Rain On My Parade and People, the hugely iconic show tells the story of the delightful Fanny Brice (Sheridan Smith) a lovable comedic singer and dancer striving for a leap across the water from Brooklyn to Broadway.

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The recent West End revival was the first since the original 1964 Broadway production transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre with the one and only Barbara Streisand who then went on to immortalise the role on the silver screen, winning an Academy Award on her way. Big shoes to fill you might think? Enter Sheridan Smith! What a talent!

For anyone wondering how Fanny could be played by anyone other than Streisand wonder no more, book yourselves a ticket and see for yourself, Smith is quite simply perfection. Her characterisation and comedic timing is sublime, you can literally feel the audience fall more and more in love with her with every line she utters and every kooky facial expression she pulls, she is a true star. While she plays the clown perfectly she also has sass and class in bucket loads, she is utterly captivating. She gives the gutsiest of performances from belting out the iconic Don’t Rain On My Parade with heart and determination to her stunning rendition of The Music That Makes Me Dance beautifully tender and deeply moving. You literally cannot take your eyes off her. A personal highlight for me was You Are Woman, I Am Man, where she finally falls under Arnstein’s clutches, although who is seducing who is debatable, I had tears of laughter by the end of this riotous scene.

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Smith is joined by a fine cast who add to the joy of this brilliant production, the dashingly handsome Nick Arnstein, Fanny’s gambling chancer of a husband is played wonderfully by Chris Peluso. The show also has many impressive chorus numbers which are beautifully choreographed by Lynne Page and delivered with precision by the hardworking ensemble. The trio of Fanny’s Mother and neighbours, Mrs Brice, Mrs Strakosh and Mrs Meeker are terrifically entertaining (Rachel Izen, Myra Sands, Zoe Ann Brown). With stunning costumes from Matthew Wright and set design from Michael Pavelka, Funny Girl delivers everything you would hope for. It is no surprise that the audience leap to its feet during the finale, this show and Smith truly deserving of the full standing ovation they received.

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If Manchester didn’t feel lucky enough to be the opening stop on the tour then the we must be pinching ourselves knowing that Funny Girl complete with Sheridan Smith will be returning to close the tour in August, tickets are available now but will no doubt be snapped up so act quick! Funny Girl is just magical, an absolute triumph! A five star masterpiece!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/funny-girl/palace-theatre-manchester/

Palace Theatre – Saturday 18th February – Saturday 25th February 2017

Returning Monday 7th August – Saturday 19th August 2017

 

Danza Contemporanea De Cuba

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The three works explored a huge celebration of cuban culture, talent and the collision of contemporary and cuban techniques. Each of the pieces ask so differently of the dancers we see the power of their embodiment transform throughout the evening.

Reversible by Anna Lopez Ochoa immediately introduces us to the intimacy of the work to come, two statues framing the stage. Man and Woman dressed only in underwear both bare chested, raised high by a circle of supporting dancers. The hugely talented 25 strong cast weave through duets designed to break force and stretch intention in combined forces meeting their equal intensity, the engagements explore provoking couples who resists and draw out and detach, playing with attraction and sensuality the choreography finds new ways to move without losing contact, with fluidity the cast fall through the space. With moments of outstanding dancing from bodies moving in totality the company dance as one body of movement one voice heard in 25 tones, Ochoa is looking at the essence of humanity when caught in the broils of love and attraction. The bare chested men and women is unquestionably identifying strength and sensuality within humanity. Costumes by Vladimir Cuenca style men in skirts and women in trousers suggesting gender equality.

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The Listening Room by Theo Clinkard, sets the stage for a thoughtful performance sending a blanket of silence across the audience he opens with a line of dancers quietly engaging with the soundscape they are hearing through their own set of headphones, each are set up with an mp3 player. We’re witness to their interpretation. The authenticity in the concepts that were being delivered brings a new light to the stage, a humanness which is celebrated through the choreographer, later in the after show talk Theo Clinkard talks about his focus to see instinctive choices. This is apparent and resonates with moments of authenticity and humility. The cast find it a pleasure to play in this arena, which is also deeply crafted in movement and phrases of choreography. We can see that they have enjoyed this creative process. Really stunning lighting accompanying the piece is designed by Fernando Alonso.

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Matria Etnocentra by George Cespades is an ultimate delivery of cuban rhythms beaten together with an army soldiers solidarity and so fierce and passionate. They dance from their hearts with rhythms so complex and with furious speeds but with a dignified cool. Army boots, khakis and tanks, sometimes underwear, sometimes work wear.The cast move easily in the complexity of the formations, they thrive as the layers get more intense – a build of endurance fighting within the formations and the rhythms. Choreography that we would normally see as celebration is reversing its position and driving this work as a protest. George Cespedes is prehaps staging his protest. Matched by electronic duo nacional Electronica and Hermanos Exposito.

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A really brilliant triple bill, with outstanding talent, it was a pleasure to hear the director talk about his interest in Contemporary Dance and Cuban Dance ‘colliding’ to make progressive world class dance Miguel Iglesias which is certainly what he is delivering. They will take Europe by storm wishing them the very best with their tour.

Guest reviewer – Kate Jackson

 

Target Live to open Manchester Office

 

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Fantastic news for the Manchester theatre scene today as Marketing and PR agency Target Live announce they are to open a new Manchester office.

 

The newly established team is made up of three firm favourites from the Manchester theatre marketing and PR scene, Emma King, former marketing manager at ATG, who takes on the role of account director for marketing. Emma is joined by Anna Whitwood, who was a founding member of AKA North and is current marketing and communications manager for Manchester’s Palace Theatre and Opera House, and Kate Goerner, who has been press officer for the Palace Theatre and Opera House for the past eight years.

 

Bought by global communications firm Havas Group last year, the new Manchester team will be based at Havas Village on Princess Street, right in the heart of the city.

 

Describing Manchester as “a high priority” for the company, Havas Media Group chief executive Paul Frampton highlights the importance of Manchester not only in the North West but also nationally as a hub for not only touring productions but new and innovative pieces of theatre.

 

Target Live’s current clients include Bill Kenwright a firm favourite on the touring scene, revival musical 42nd Street which begins previews at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in March and Opera North who regularly visit the Lowry with their touring productions.

 

We’d like to wish Target Live, Emma, Anna and Kate every success in this exciting new venture, a team we have always enjoyed working with, we’re thrilled to hear this wonderful news!

 

 

 

Dark Hearts of Space – The Lowry

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Dark Hearts of Space, realised and perform by Dasha Rush & Stanislav Glazov explores offered visuals and sounds which filled the stage as the cinematic images were visualised through a double screen. Projectors filled the syc back stage and a huge gauze screen up stage giving a 3 dimensional effect which was was highly engaging. The 40 minute performance displayed a way to escape, a space to expand your mind, it was ever so cool.

The experience was a visual play of many different black hole creations which credits the visual Graphic Designer Stanislav Glazov the male part of this charming duo, as later in after show talk we hear that the technology and artistry is extremely advanced. To an untrained eye, it was a little disparate. The shift of ideas felt more of a scratch performance making the whole experience very open ended and non-directional and I didn’t feel a connectivity to couple that with a philosophical notion or spiritual notion, the abstract determined non attachment to the ideas that were playing out.

Dasha Rush played an electronic sound score that washed over the subconscious mind and supported the visual lead, I found this quite meditative. A unique piece in which the cosmic space created in this collaboration was at times spellbinding.

 Guest reviewer, Kate Jackson

 

Babe, The Sheep-Pig

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It’s almost time to meet the lovable Babe in a heart-warming tale of friendship, adventure and bravery. Adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel which inspired the Oscar-winning 1995 film, Babe, The Sheep-Pig will be brought to life on stage in an enchanting new production. Featuring stunning puppetry, an original score and an utterly charming ‘baa-ber sheep’ quartet, Babe and the residents of Hogget’s Farm will visit The Lowry from Tue 11 to Sat 15 April as part of a major UK Tour.

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When Babe arrives at Hogget’s Farm he is taken in by the trusty sheep-dog Fly, and soon discovers a talent for herding. With the help of his adopted Mum, the polite piglet soon wins over the most suspicious of sheep. But can a small pig make it in a dog’s world, and when his farmyard friends are in trouble can Babe save the day?

Babe, The Sheep-Pig is adapted for the stage by Olivier Award-winning playwright David Wood OBE, who is best known for his adaptations of classic family titles including Goodnight Mister Tom, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. It is directed by Michael Fentiman, whose productions include The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus (RSC), and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Kensington Gardens) which he co-directed with Rupert Goold.

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The residents of Hogget’s Farm will be brought to life by beautiful hand-crafted puppets, created by award-winning puppet designer Max Humphries (Chief Puppet Designer, Cirque de Soleil) and Dik Downey, with the ensemble cast delivering masterful puppetry by puppetry director Matthew Forbes (Associate Director in Puppetry & Movement, War Horse).

Book your tickets now for this delightful adventure for all the family, on at The Lowry from Tues 11th – Saturday 15th April.

http://www.thelowry.com/event/babe-the-sheep-pig

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The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

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Returning to The Lowry as part of a new 25 city tour, The National Theatre’s multi-award winning production The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, is as spellbinding and incredibly moving as ever. Adapted by Stockport born Simon Stephens and directed by Manchester’s own Marianne Elliott, Curious introduces us to a very, very special person, the utterly extraordinary, Christopher Boone.

 

The story follows fifteen year old Christopher (Scott Reid) upon his alarming discovery of the murder of his neighbour’s dog Wellington, whom he has found speared with a garden fork. Christopher, wrongfully under suspicion makes it his mission to solve the mystery of the murder by documenting the facts he discovers through his thorough and detailed investigations. Christopher is a complex yet truly remarkable boy, like many autistic people Christopher sees the world very differently to perhaps you and I, for one he truly ‘sees’ the world, he notices each and everything around him, he observes and processes every physical detail in his environment, colours, sounds, textures, everything Christopher sees is in exact and minute detail. His brain is as complex as it is fascinating, metaphors don’t make sense and people are generally confusing.

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Scott Reid as Christopher is fantastic, he makes such a physically and emotionally challenging role appear effortless, he is hugely likeable and engages the audience from his very first scene, you quite literally fall in love with Reid’s Christopher, you want him desperately to succeed and to be happy, safe and secure. The relationship he has with Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy) his teacher is beautiful; she calms and soothes Christopher when things get too much and he stops being able to process the endless information his brain is constantly receiving, more importantly she totally and utterly believes in him.

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As the story develops we soon realise that Christopher like many people on the Autistic Spectrum is uncomfortable with touch, the amount of physical contact he will engage in is minimal and must be on his terms, this is beautifully directed and makes for some of the most poignant and emotional scenes in whole production as we witness Christopher’s parents battle to simply comfort their child.

Director Marianne Elliot along with Movement Directors Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett and Adrian Sutton have created something truly unique with their cast, from weightlessly floating through space to the trauma of using the unwelcoming and chaotic underground the way the cast move is mesmerising. The organisation and exact movement of the cast is outstanding, their fluid movement so intricate.

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Complementing the brilliant cast is a truly stunning set, it is in effect part of the cast as it is so involved in every aspect of what happens on stage, the cast and the set at times almost become one, moving fluidly together to astonishing effect. Designer Bunny Christie, Lighting Designer Paule Constable, Video Designer Finn Ross and Sound Designer Ian Dickinson have created something truly magical here.

Curious is a production that leaves an huge impact, at times heart-warming and funny it is also through provoking and incredibly moving, without doubt an absolute must see.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 4th February

http://www.thelowry.com/event/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time