Preview – Bat Out Of Hell- The Musical

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Exactly one month to the day Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical will be all revved up and ready to take to the stage at the Manchester Opera House for the first night of an impressive seven week run of what is set to become one of the biggest musical theatre events of the year.

Originally called Neverland, and based on a futuristic version of Peter Pan which writer Jim Steinman originally work-shopped in 1974, Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical has been many years in the planning. Set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city adrift from the mainland we meet Strat (Andrew Polec) the forever young leader of The Lost who has fallen for Raven (Christina Bennington), who has been locked away in the palace towers by her Father Falco (Rob Fowler), the oppressive ruler of Obsidian. The show takes us on an adventure of romance, rebellion and rock ‘n’ roll and features many of the monster hits we all know and love including You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Bat Out Of Hell, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, as well as two previously unreleased songs, What Part of My Body Hurts the Most and Not Allowed to Love.

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We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview from the rehearsal rooms and boy is Manchester in for a treat! The large cast are absolutely full of energy and sounded incredible, Polec led the charge as we were given a taste of what to expect when the show premieres at the Opera House on 17th February. Directed by award-winning theatre and opera director Jay Scheib, Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is no doubt set to become a theatrical triumph , vibrant, sassy and full of attitude, the cast delivered each song with passion and were brimming with energy and the self-assured confidence you’d wish for from any rock star. The cutting edge and dynamic choreography of Emma Portner compliments the soundtrack perfectly and adds even more attitude to already explosive performances.

Sitting down with director Jay Scheib and producers David Sonenberg, Michael Cohl, and Tony Smith we heard more about the work that has gone into bringing this production together and the commitment they each have to ensuring the dream of seeing Bat Out Of Hell turned into a musical becomes not just a reality but an exciting and vibrant theatrical experience. Discussing the appeal and longevity of the music Scheib said, “You can have one perspective on the songs as a teenager and that perspective can shift as you move into different stages of your life, some songs get old where these songs just get different and their meaning changes, so they are always relevant”. David Sonenberg noted also that “Steinman first wrote the song titles then challenged himself to write a song that lived up to the title, he is a brilliant lyricist, just amazing at writing melodies”.

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It’s clear to see why Andrew Polec was given the lead role; the minute the music starts he is transformed into Strat, totally focussed and committed to delivering a performance Meatloaf himself would be proud of, if there is such a thing as having ‘it’ then Polec has got ‘it’ in bucket loads. It’s clear to see why the producers knew so quickly when Polec arrived at the open casting in the United States that he was “Born to play the part”, his casting in the role couldn’t be more perfect, Tony Smith states “You have to have an incredible voice for these songs, he’s not blown away by the scale of these songs, he’s amazing” Beautifully complimenting Polec’s strutting and rebellious Strat is Christina Bennington as Raven, she has the most beautiful voice and a wide-eyed innocence that’s just waiting to be corrupted by some serious rock ‘n’ roll, Bennington describes Raven’s meeting with Strat as a meeting of minds, “…she craves the love of her parents but feels suffocated by it, once she meets Strat she feels there’s the chance of a whole new kind of freedom but, she has an internal battle as she is torn between the love of her parents and her love for Strat”.

There is some real star quality involved in this new musical, the heartfelt delivery of new song What Part of My Body Hurts the Most by Rob Folwer and Sharon Sexton gave me goosebumps, emotional and touching the quality of the writing is so good it would be right at home on any of the Bat Out Of Hell albums. Fowler describes the songs as “…totally relatable, they tell the story for you, they’re full of honesty, even the new songs feel so familiar” a true sign of excellent writing. Likewise Danielle Steers and Dom Hartly- Harris give a powerful, emotionally charged performance of Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad that left me desperate to see more. Manchester audiences may also recognise Andrew Patrick-Walker, most recently seen in Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Andrew is thrilled to be returning to Manchester with such an exciting and ground-breaking show.

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There is some serious weight behind this production, the sets and costumes promise to be spectacular with the building of the set beginning at the Opera House almost 6 weeks before opening night it is a show of enormous scale. Following our discussions with the cast and creatives it is obvious that this show is going to be nothing short of epic, the care taken to ensure this production is of the highest standard is clear to see, the opportunity to get to know Bat Out Of Hell as a theatrical piece is going to be an absolute joy, roll on February!

Tickets are available now via http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/

http://www.batoutofhellmusical.com

17 February – 29 April 2017

Opera House, Manchester

Performances: Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, Thurs & Sat at 2.30pm (no matinee on Sat 18 February)

Tickets: from £17.50

Manchester Theatre Award Nominations Announced!

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Nearly 90 performers or productions have been chosen in more than 20 categories for the Manchester Theatre Awards, picked by a panel of 10 regional theatre critics.

The winners will be announced live on stage at a red carpet event at Manchester’s HOME venue on Friday March 17, hosted by comedian, actor – and playwright – Justin Moorhouse.

After watching more than 200 theatre performances throughout 2016 the MTA Panel has narrowed down a shortlist that honours everyone from established star names in main house productions, to complete newcomers.

In the past Manchester Theatre Awards have often gone to actors and actresses who go on to become household or even Hollywood names such as Andrew Garfield, so who knows what the future will hold for those who have been given the nod this year.

Leading the way this year is the Royal Exchange picking up a massive 20 nominations – a double celebration in what is their 40th anniversary year of bringing acclaimed productions to Manchester. This year’s categories for Best Actress and Best Production also see the Royal Exchange and the city’s shiny new HOME venue go head to head for the coveted trophies.

Great news for Manchester’s emergent Hope Mill Theatre making its mark on the award this year with a nomination in the Best Musical category for its regional premiere production of Parade. This brand new fringe venue, in an old mill in Ancoats, has staged several ambitious productions in 2016 and there is a wealth of exciting projects ahead for them in 2017.

One nominee Opening Night would love to see pick up a gong on the 17th March would be Lisa Maxwell who is nominated for Best Actress in a Visiting Production for her portrayal of Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow at the Opera House. Maxwell was mesmerizing at the Hollywood musical star in her later tragic years and it would be great to see her get the acclaim she deserves for the role.

All nominees are invited to the awards event and if you are a fan of the theatre and want to go along on the day you can get a ticket via the HOME website www.homemcr.org or by calling 0161 200 1500. Tickets are priced at £15.

See you there!

Manchester Theatre Award nominations in full…

Best Actor

Rob Edwards, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre, Bolton

David Neilson, Endgame, HOME, Manchester

Daniel Rigby, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Don Warrington, King Lear, Royal Exchange

 

Best Actress

Niamh Cusack, Ghosts, HOME

Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Julie Hesmondhalgh, Wit, Royal Exchange

Kathryn Hunter, The Emperor, HOME

 

Best Production

Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Ghosts, HOME

The Emperor, HOME

Wit, Royal Exchange

 

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Raad Rawi, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Marc Small, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre

Miltos Yerolemou, King Lear, Royal Exchange

 

Best Supporting Actress

Natalie Dew, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Sharon Duncan-Brewster, A Streetcar Named Desire, Royal Exchange

Natalie Grady, Martha Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Octagon Theatre

Amy Nuttall, The Winter’s Tale, Octagon Theatre

 

Best Visiting Production

946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps, HOME

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Lowry, Salford

Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

The Encounter, HOME

The James Plays, Lowry

 

Best Actor in a Visiting Production

Edward Bennett, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

Rufus Hound, The Wind in the Willows, The Lowry

Simon McBurney, The Encounter, HOME

Michael Pennington, King Lear, Opera House

 

Best Actress in a Visiting Production

Lisa Dillon, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

Aoife Duffin, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Lowry

Lisa Maxwell, End Of The Rainbow, Opera House

Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins, Palace

 

Best Newcomer

Daisy Badger, Look Back In Anger, Octagon Theatre

Ben Hunter, The Girls, Lowry

Norah Lopez Holden, Ghosts, HOME

Kirsty Rider, Pride And Prejudice, Lowry

Holly Willock, The Wind In The Willows, Lowry

Young “Michael” cast, Billy Elliot, Palace

Young “Scout” cast, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre

 

Best Opera

Andrea Chénier, Opera North, Lowry

Billy Budd, Opera North, Lowry

Don Giovanni, ETO, Buxton Opera House

Tamerlano, Buxton Festival, Buxton Opera House

 

The Robert Robson Award for Best Dance

Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lowry

Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Lowry

The Red Shoes, Lowry

 

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, Palace

Parade, Hope Mill Theatre

Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

The Wind in the Willows, Lowry

 

Best Fringe Production

 Boomtown Gals, Various venues

Die Diana, Bandit, Mugger and Thief, Manchester

Multi Story, Monkeywood, Various venues

The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

 

Best Fringe Performance

Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals, Various venues

Sam Grogan, Waiting Room, King’s Arms, Salford

William J Holstead, The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Leanne Martin, The Brink, King’s Arms

 

Best Studio Production

 Dirty Pakistani Lingerie, Lowry

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, HOME

The Solid Life Of Sugar Water, Royal Exchange

Wish List, Royal Exchange

 

Best Actor in a Studio Production

 Alexander Gatehouse, Ventoux, Lowry

Joseph Quinn, Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Rex Ryan, Pilgrim, Lowry

 

Best Actress in a Studio Production

 Erin Doherty, Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Sarah Emmott, Declaration, Lowry

Georgia Henshaw, Bird, Royal Exchange Studio

Molly Vevers, Ross and Rachel, Lowry

 

Best New Play

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, HOME

Bird, Royal Exchange Studio

The Emperor, HOME

Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

 

Best Design

Endgame, HOME

La Vie Parisienne, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

Singin’ In The Rain, Octagon Theatre

The Pitmen Painters, Coliseum, Oldham

 

Best Ensemble

946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps, HOME

Singin’ In The Rain, Octagon Theatre

The Pitmen Painters, Coliseum

The James Plays, Lowry

 

Best Special Entertainment

An Anatomie In Four Quarters, Lowry

Cirque du Soleil – Amaluna, Trafford Centre

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Old Granada Studios

The Peony Pavillion, Lowry

 

Youth Panel Award

NOTHING – The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

The Secret Garden – Octagon Youth Theatre

The Factory – The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

The Siege of Christmas – Contact Youth Company with Swung Low

 

 

 

 

Sleepless

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Fresh from last weekend’s Strictly Come Dancing final, it’s been announced that Danny Mac and his real-life leading lady Carley Stenson, will be playing the roles of Sam and Annie in the world premiere of Sleepless, the new romantic musical based on the Tristar Pictures Inc. film Sleepless in Seattle.

With a book by Michael Burdett, music by Robert Scott and lyrics by Brendan Cull, the production will run at The Lowry, Salford from 25th to 29th April prior to a West End run.

Like the much loved movie, Sleepless tells the heart-warming tale of Sam, who moves to Seattle with his eight year-old son, Jonah, following the tragic death of his wife. When Jonah phones a radio show, Sam is forced to talk about his broken heart and sleepless nights live on air, and he suddenly finds himself one of the most sought after single men in America and a great news story for feisty journalist Annie on the opposite side of the country.  A fresh and lively book alongside a brand-new musical score bring this most timeless of romantic comedies to life on stage.

Danny Mac is best known for playing the role of Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. He was given his first professional role as Gavroche in Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Les Misérables, a role he reprised in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre in 1999.  After graduating from drama school, he went straight into Wicked at the Apollo Victoria.  Most recently, he played Warner in Legally Blonde at the Leicester Curve.

Carley Stenson played the role of Steph Cunningham in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks for 10 years. West End credits include starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical and Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.  Carley also starred as Christine Colgate in the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Danny Mac and Carley Stenson will be joined by Jennie Dale as Becky and Cory English as Rob. Jennie’s most recent theatre credits include Maggie Jones in 42nd Street (Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris) Deb in Elf (Dominion Theatre), Dora in Singin’ in the Rain (Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris) and Mae in The Pajama Game (Shaftesbury Theatre).  On television, Jennie has appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show and Victoria Wood’s Mid-life Christmas and What LarksCory English can currently be seen in She Loves Me at the Menier Chocolate Factory.  His many previous musical theatre credits include Max Bialystock in the UK Tour of The Producers, Igor in Young Frankenstein and Max Bialystock in The Producers, both for Susan Stroman on Broadway, and Benny Southstreet in Michael Grandage’s West End production of Guys & Dolls.

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The Lowry, Salford

Tue 25– Sat 29 April 2017

7.30pm (Wed & Sat 2pm)

Tickets: £24 – £53.50 (Including booking fees)

Box office: 0843 208 6000

http://www.thelowry.com/event/sleepless

 

Witness

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Creator: Kate Jackson

Cast: Bettina Carpi, Jacqueline McCormick, Malachi Simmons, Lauren Tucker

Creatives: Mike Dunn, Rosalind Noctor, Richard Owen, Daniel Thomas

Witness is a truly unique immersive piece of work which sees performers and audience travel together through the stunning grounds at Tatton Park whilst offering an intimate and personal experience which explores the senses and draws you into the performances in an engaging and mesmeric way.

A beautiful cast of artists guided by Kate Jackson have explored immersive dance, focussing on the experience a performance offers an audience if delivered in a stripped back, raw and honest way. As an audience we are asked to surrender to our senses, to the sounds offered through the audio provided via individual headsets and to follow where we are led. We are guided and encouraged to trail their stories as we travel through this extraordinary all immersive experiences. Creator Kate truly gives her audience the opportunity to immerse themselves into the performance wholeheartedly, it almost feels like you are the only person there, observing the emotional performances as you travel from merry-go-round, to Stately Home gardens, to café effortlessly.

Kate has guided her performers through an exploration of well-being, mental health awareness and looked at depression, anxiety and isolation thinking about how all of these elements affect our lives, our interactions and our emotions. Inviting the audience to become aware of their own feelings and senses through interaction with the artists at one point makes for a very poignant moment in the evening, as I am led blindfolded through the courtyard my sense are on high alert as I experience a total trust in performer Malachi Simmons to guide me safely. A truly beautiful piece of work which not only delivers a powerful messages but challenges its audience.

 

 

Aladdin

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If you’re looking for a cracker of a show complete with flying carpet, dazzling costumes and laughs a plenty then look no further than Manchester’s Opera House where Aladdin has landed for the festive season!

Before the curtain goes up the audience are buzzing with excitement, eagerly awaiting their opportunity to boo, cheer and yell out the traditional ‘It’s behind you!’ that’s part and parcel of any good panto and boy is this a good one!

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The evil Abanazar (John Thomson) sets the scene by rubbing his ring (ooh-err) until fabulously flamboyant Genie of the Ring (Sherrie Hewson) appears all glitter and sequins and ready for some comedy capers. Cue Magician Neil Henry (Wishee Washee) who transports us to Old Peking with some festive tricks and so the fun begins as we meet our hero Aladdin (Ben Adams) and his larger than life washerwoman Mother the hilarious, Queen of all Pantomime Dames, Widow Twanky (Eric Potts).

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Writer/Director and Widow Twanky, Eric Potts has come up with an absolute gem of a panto, with all the usual thrills you’d expect from Aladdin, Chinese laundry hijinks where poor PC Pong (Phil Holden) gets more than he bargained for after wrestling with the mangle, menacing meddling from the evil Ababazar and enough brilliant local references to keep you giggling for days, Potts and Producers First Family Entertainment have gone the extra mile by sprinkling more sparkle on this production than even the Strictly final will see.

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Ben Adams makes for a brilliant Aladdin, cheeky, likeable and engaging, his voice is fantastic and he delivers each number with effortless style, he’s also rather easy on the eye which didn’t go amiss amongst the Mums in the audience! John Thomson and Sherrie Hewson make for a great comedy duo in their scenes together, it’s clear to see they are loving every minute of this show just as much as the audience watching, which makes you enjoy it just that little bit more. Bringing everything together in his own spectacular way is the marvellous Eric Potts, his Widow Twanky left me with streaked mascara and aching sides, he truly is Pantomime royalty, with perfect comedy timing and the most lavishly flamboyant costumes (designed by John Brooking) he lights up the stage and is an absolute joy to watch.

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Aladdin is pure fun-packed escapism with gag after gag that will have you laughing your socks off, the great performances and stunning sets will keep the little ones totally engaged while the cheeky jokes and knowing winks will have Mum and Dad sniggering all the way home. An absolute corker!

On at the Opera House until Saturday 8th Jan

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

Winter Wonderland

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Event City’s whopping 22,000sq m of exhibition space has been transformed once again into a fabulously festive ‘Winter Wonderland’ to both thrill and delight young and old alike.

Entering through the plush red velvet curtains with snow falling onto the revellers below it’s clear that fun and lots of is at the heart of Manchester’s Winter Wonderland, with giant Candy Canes and Nutcrackers adorning the space there’s a wonderfully festive feel from the minute you step inside.

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With over 50 rides and attractions all under one roof you really are spoilt for choice, from traditional merry-go-rounds to hilarious Bucking Bronco’s Winter Wonderland quite literally has something for everyone, with the best part being that they’re all included in your ticket price, so no need to worry about limiting the number of rides you go on or searching for loose change, you can literally go on each ride as many times as you like! We absolutely loved the fact that sessions are limited to avoid overcrowding, further adding to our enjoyment of this magical place.

For the littlest members of the family there’s a large soft play area as well as a meet and greet with Santa, numerous toddler friendly rides with flashing lights and beeping horns which kept my little visitors entertained long past their usual bedtime. For older children and adults there’s all the favourite classic rides you’d hope to see, the dodgems, the waltzers and a dizzying cyclone (which I’d advise going on before you enjoy a Bratwurst!)

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If this wasn’t enough there are some beautiful shows at various intervals throughout each session, a Princess show with Anna and Elsa, traditional fun with Basil Brush, Jedi training in a fabulous Star Wars themed show and an adorable mini Cinderella panto, all of which proved to be hugely popular. In addition to the family shows on the main stage is an enchanting Christmas Circus, you really are spoilt for choice.

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With tickets prices held at 2015’s prices, £19.50* (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee) per ticket for adults and children aged 3-16 (under 3’s free) or £64 for a family of four, Winter Wonderland really is excellent value for money, each sessions last for four hours and I can guarantee you will love every minute of it! My family and I left feeling festive and giggling about all the fun we’d had whilst planning our next visit to this enchanting place, an annual visit (or two) will no doubt become a new tradition not just for us but all who are lucky enough to visit.

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Open from 10th December 2016 until 1st January 2017, booking is highly recommended as some dates are already sold out, tickets are available here; www.winterwonderlandmanchester.com

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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Last month Amazon Prime launched Jeremy Clarkson and Co’s latest offering, The Grand Tour: which in effect is three big kids getting into scrapes at home and abroad with cars. Well that isn’t too dissimilar to the plot for the Ian Fleming, penned Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However that’s where the similarities end and quite frankly the world is a better place for it.

The 1968 film version is as much a part of Christmas as the Queen’s speech, turkey dinner and indigestion so it seems only right that this much loved classic is The Lowry’s big show for Christmas wonderfully brought to life the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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Set in 1919 we find the rather eccentric widowed father, Caractacus Potts trying to forage enough money to save a bent and broken race-car from the scrap heap. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has become the beloved plaything of his two children Jeremy and Jemima. However the family soon find themselves in great danger as the evil Baron and Baroness Bombast of Vulgaria also have designs on the former Grand-Prix winning race car: dispatching a couple of dodgy spies, the might of the Vulgarian navy and the truly terrifying Childcatcher. Can the Potts family save themselves and their beloved car? Will they all live happily after? Here’s hoping!

Director James Brining has the monumental task of transferring the magic of the film onto the stage and it’s fair to say he pulls it off magnificently. Aided and abetted by designer Simon Higlett and video designer Simon Wainwright, Higlett’s set design is wonderful: from the Potts family windmill house to the Baron’s fortress – they are all stunning. Wainwright’s video is first class as it manages seamlessly to transfer us from one location to the next: one minute we’re on an idyllic drive through the countryside and the next you’re involved in a gun battle at sea.

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As we all know the car is the star of the show but it is supported by some fine performances. Jason Manford in the lead as Caractacus Potts is likable as the doting father, he brings warmth and charm to the role: sometimes he grins and gurns a bit too much, maybe he was channelling his inner Dick Van Dyke, but that was Mary Poppins not Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However Manford’s main strength lies in his singing voice: he is a very talented singer indeed highlighted in the beautiful Hushabye Mountain. Charlotte Wakefield is on good form as the fabulously named Truly Scrumptious bringing a touch of spirit and zest to the role. The on stage chemistry between the two is a joy to watch, especially during Doll on a Music Box. The Potts children are delightful, played by three teams rotating nightly they give a beautiful performance.

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There are also fine performances from Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as the Vulgarian spies Boris and Goran, both are great fun and very nearly steal the show as they get all the best lines and lots of laughs. There are some jokes which are pretty near the knuckle but will fly over the younger audience members heads and amuse the adults; they had both audience members young and old alike howling with laughter. Claire Sweeney is fabulous as Baroness Bomburst with her exaggerated accent and almighty performance of The Bombie Samba. Phill Jupitus offers a bizarre turn as Baron Bomburst: flip-flopping between over exuberance and looking completely disinterested: frequently breaking between his over the top Vulgarian accent to a dead-pan delivery. It’s not abundantly clear what he is trying to achieve by this but it certainly is what can best be described as a ‘Marmite’ performance. Jos Vantyler is outstanding as the Childcatcher, helped along with a wonderful piece of lighting from Tim Mitchell; we have a villain as wicked, as sinister and even more terrifying than the original.

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There were a few technical difficulties on the night which stopped the show for roughly 10 minutes which upset the momentum slightly, however the cast carried on like true professionals. The main problem with the show is its pacing: acts one and two are quite bloated and do become slightly drawn out at times. Whilst the ending seems slightly rushed with the payoff not justifying the lengthy build up. Overall this a good solid family fun show, filled with fun and adventure, it just needed a few more thrills and spills, it is probably not suitable for young children as it will not keep them engaged for the duration of its running time.

Judging by the impromptu audience clap-along as soon the signature Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tune is played there is plenty of love for our “fine four fender friend”, she just needs to heed the warning of those motorway signs about tiredness.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on at The Lowry Theatre till the 15th Jan 2017

http://www.thelowry.com/event/chitty-chitty-bang-bang