Boris – The Musical Preview

Main_BoristheMusical_HeatherIsobel

Established in June 2016 as a response to the Brexit referendum, Blowfish Theatre bring their 5* debut show ‘Boris – The Musical’ to Manchester’s Dance House theatre on Saturday 15th April. Made up of students, alumni, and staff from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Huddersfield, the University of Kent, and East15 Acting School, Blowfish make politically engaged theatre on a shoestring budget, working with nothing but talent, determination, a dodgy wig, and a little help from their friends.

2_BoristheMusical_HeatherIsobel

Described by director Kyle Williams as “…a huge amount of fun to make, but mainly exhausting.” Boris – The Musical covers the rise, fall and (unfortunate) rise again of our current Foreign Secretary. Part biography, part farce, part songtastic satire, “Boris” is the 5* musical for people who don’t like musicals. There will be punk, pop, gospel and even a sexy tango called Me and My Johnson along with additional (soon to be smash hits) I’m talking about Brexit! and Posh Lads plus many more. In these troubling times, we all need something to laugh about and who better to laugh at than Britain’s finest politiclown.

Boris will be played by David Burchhardt, of the role David says “There’s a real skill in trying to capture BoJo’s “off the cuff” approach to public speaking. Every night I have to use all my training to get that spontaneous feel. Any rumours that I haven’t learnt my lines are completely untrue, no matter what the writer tells you.”

3_BoristheMusical_HeatherIsobel

The show will be returning to Manchester in July for three dates at the city’s Z-arts venue on 27th, 28th,& 29th July before heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

In the words of Blowfish Theatre, “Come along and laugh your socks off for an hour at the state of the world…before returning to your grim, unavoidable reality”.

Tickets available now via the following link: http://www.thedancehouse.co.uk/events/2017/115-boris-the-musical

 

The Woman in Black

WIB 1

It’s hard to believe that The Women in Black is celebrating its 30 year anniversary, such is its reputation and reverence it seems to have been around much longer. Doing for the horror genre what The Mousetrap has done for murder/mystery, the two plays are held in such high regard that seldom is mentioned of the shocks, frights, twists and turns: it is more just a case of take a seat and go along for the ride.

Based on the 1983 Novel by Susan Hill and adapted for the stage by the late Stephen Mallatratt, The Women in Black sees retired solicitor Arthur Kipps attempting to tell the terrifying story of his time at isolated and desolate Eel Marsh House, located in the market town of Crythin Gifford. To fully do justice to the horrors he encountered, Kipps enlists the assistance of an unnamed actor to help tell his tale. The two men are at odds with what they want from the experience: Kipps wants the courage to finally finish his story and put the nightmare behind him, whilst the keen actor wants to tell a fascinating tale using all the craft of theatre and performance at his disposal. What follows is a nightmarish journey filled with laughs and frights as we witness the full horror of Eel Marsh House and the sheer evil of The Women in Black.

WIB 3

Both leads are outstanding: Matthew Spencer plays the confident unnamed actor, and the younger Arthur Kipps to perfection seamlessly drifting between brash showmen and a man trapped in a situation that is spiralling out of control. David Acton plays the older vulnerable Kipps as well as a variety of roles, both act as narrators throughout. Acton certainly borrows from Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Cornets to help with his transformation which is high praise indeed.

I would argue that the play has a third performer: the theatre itself. Within the first minute of the play Spencer strides from the back of auditorium and thus lets us know that space you occupy is part of the play and by design as the narrative progresses you aren’t safe in your seat either! Throughout the play you find yourself scanning the room to see where the next fright is coming. This is aided and abetted by some fantastic sound and lighting design from Gareth Owen and Kevin Sleep respectively.

WIB 2

The script is surprisingly funny: punctured with humour, I laughed more in the first 15 minutes than I have at most supposed comedies; however this is a ploy, designed to sucker you in and make you complacent so that when the first scare comes it smacks you like a spade in the face. As the play progresses the laughs diminish and the frights more frequent.

It is a credit to not only the two leads: but Robin Herford’s direction that the play has the right balance of laughs, drama, and terror that keeps you keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It is a slow beginning but once it hits its stride and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

WIB

I’m not going to spoil any frights or big scares, however what I will say is that the reaction of some patrons sat around said a great deal: one lady said she nearly lost her lunch (and later claimed she almost had an even worse accident than being sick), several people gasped our Lord and saviours name and my arm has some heavy bruises where my friend held on during some of the more terrifying scenes.

The Women in Black is what great theatre should do: take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, at times makes you laugh at the same time as scare the life out of you. This is a truly outstanding piece of theatre and one that will still be celebrated in another 30 years time. If I could give one piece of advice if you are going to see it may I suggest getting rid of that old rocking chair… it’ll be for the best.

WIB 4

The Women in Black is on at The Lowry until 25th March 2017, tickets are available here;

http://www.thelowry.com/events/woman-in-black

 

 

Bat Out of Hell the Musical- After Party interviews and ticket news!

Andrew Polec (Strat) & Christina Bennington (Raven) at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Tragen

Andrew Polec (Strat) and Christina Bennington (Raven). Photo:Phil Tragen

Opening Night were privileged to have access all areas at the Bat Out of Hell the Musical’s aftershow party at Revolution Bar De Cuba last week.

After one helluva performance the cast and crew of the spectacular show were ready for some serious rockin’ to celebrate the amazing reception they received from the Manchester crowd.

We got to catch up with some of the stars of the show along with one of the producers and director. It was clear all were in great spirits and deservedly so,  producer David Sonenberg explained just how much the show meant to him and the audiences going to see it.

“To go to a musical that has these great songs and get chills, again it is a tribute to Steinman, his lyrics are just epic. I see people who these songs are important to-at our first preview we had people from Seattle, Japan, Australia, Germany Belgium and tonight some of the same people came back again and they have tickets for the London Coliseum in June, so there’s a passion for this stuff.

For me it was very rewarding, like a long childbirth.”

The world’s first look at Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell the Musical has been greeted by 5-star reviews across the board (check out ours on an earlier post) – now, due to overwhelming public demand the producers have extended its season at the Manchester Opera House by three weeks, until 29 April.

One of the cast who will be celebrating their extra time in Manchester is local lad Andrew Patrick-Walker. Originally one of the Swing team Andrew actually got to step into a role he was understudying on Gala Premiere night. When the original performer of  Blake fell ill earlier in the day he had just a few hours to prepare.

Andrew Patrick-Walker told us how it was a special moment to get an opportunity like that in his home town:

“It feels amazing, I had my Mam and Dad here tonight and I can’t really describe it. We all got a bottle of Moet from Meatloaf and Jim Steinman sent us all cards and he’s been watching rehearsals all the time, he’s really happy with it and the producers are making sure his visions going the right way.”

Meatloaf hasn’t just been generous with champagne, he’s given leading man Andrew Polec (Strat) a few wise words of advice along the way.

Andrew revealed to us:

“He (Meatloaf) said these songs take commitment and as long as you work hard on them and fully commit to them then you  can make them your own  and once you make them your own you can give them as a gift to the audience.

What’s wonderful about the Mancunian audience is not only did they get the first concert of Meatloaf way back when but they just give it right back every night.”

Director Jay Sheib & Designer Jon Bausor at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Trage

Director Jay Scheib and Deigner Jon Bausor. Photo: Phil Tragen

Relative newcomer Andrew Polec wows the audiences in his role of Strat – and we thought it was very refreshing to see a production that doesn’t rely on ‘star’ names to carry the show but gives fresh talent a chance to shine. Director Jay Scheib told us:

“You know we decided not pursue ‘stars’ we  decided to audition as many people as possible and come up with an ensemble that were superskilled people no matter where they were and no matter what their experience so for many of them this is their first show. And there are some who are much more seasoned like Rob Fowler (Falco) and Sharon Sexton (Sloane).”

Rob Folwer (Falco) & Sharon Sexton (Sloane) at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Tragen

Rob Fowler (Falco) and Sharon Sexton (Sloane). Photo: Phil Tragen

All of the cast should be commended for their fantastic performances, they are clearly out there 8 shows a week giving it their all. As Andrew Polec explains:

“It takes a lot of hard work and commitment-we’re sweating up there and it seems like the Mancunians are sweating with us and enjoying the whole party and together we create a whole different creature.

I feel like the first time we did this show for a preview audience we had no idea what we were going to expect- I said the first line ‘I remember everything’ and the audience went uproariously into applause and cheer.

We’ll see what London thinks, it’s gonna be an adventure!”

I think we can safely say it will be a smash in the West End and, if you haven’t got your tickets to see it in Manchester yet, the 3 week extension is a lifesaver. Extra performances are on sale now. Box Office: 0844 871 3018 (subject to booking/transaction fees)

http://www.BatOutOfHellMusical.com

FullSizeRender

Opening Night’s Nikki and Michelle rock out at the BOOH after show party!

 

 

 

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2017

clip_image0022

The Royal Exchange will be celebrating tonight after taking home an impressive 10 awards, including best actress for Julie Hesmondhalgh for her role in Wit and best actor for Daniel Rigby in Breaking the Code which also won best production. There was an impressive three awards for Wish List including best studio production, and best actress and actor in a studio production, won by Erin Doherty and Joseph Quinn. Sweet Charity also saw success with Daniel Crossley winning best actor in a supporting role and the production winning best musical.

It was double celebrations for Julie Hesmondhalgh as collectivly with Rebakah Harrison & Grant Archer they won The Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence for their political theatre collective, Take Back Theatre.

There was success for the Lowry with five productions taking awards including Rufus Hound winning best actor in a visiting production for The Wind In The Willows, best special entertainment going to The Peony Pavillion, Aoife Duffin took best actress in a visiting producion for A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, best opera went to Opera North’s Andrea Cheinier and best visiting production was won by The James Plays.

Home, where the awards were held won two awards including best new play and best newcomer for Norah Lopez Holden in Ghosts.

There were two awards for Hope Mill Theatre, The Trail which won best fringe production plus a hugely popular special recognition award for Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre.

Another popular winner was the Octagon theatre Bolton whose production of Singin’ in the Rain took home the awards for best design and best ensemble plus the young “Scout” cast were joint young newcomers along with the young “Michael” cast from Billy Elliot at the Palace Theatre, the latter providing one of the greatest speeches of the afternoon.

The 2017 winners in full

Best fringe performance
Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals

Best fringe production
The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Best musical
Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best special entertainment
The Peony Pavilion, the Lowry

Best Dance
Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace Theatre

Best actor in a studio production
Joseph Quinn for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Best actress in a studio production
Erin Doherty for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence
Take Back Theatre Collective

Best visiting production
The James Plays, the Lowry

Youth panel award
Nothing, Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

Best opera
Andrea Chenier, Opera North at the Lowry

Best newcomer
Norah Lopez Holden for Ghosts, Home

Best young newcomers
Samuel Torpey, Henry Harmer and Elliot Stiff for Billy Elliot
Jasmine de Goede and Lucy Doyle Ryder for To Kill a Mockingbird

Best new play
The Emperor, Home

Best supporting actress
Natalie Dew for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best supporting actor
Daniel Crossley for Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production
Rufus Hound for Wind in the Willows, the Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production
Aoife Duffin for A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, the Lowry

Best design
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best studio production
Wish List, Royal Exchange

Best ensemble
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best actress
Julie Hesmondhalgh for Wit, Royal Exchange

Best actor
Daniel Rigby for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best production
Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Special achievement award
Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre
Philip Radcliffe, critic and founder member of the Manchester Theatre Awards

Yank!

Yank! is a story which needs to be told, it teaches us about love, and shares a poignant and heartfelt message inspiring audiences to love freely and with no time to waste.

Yank! is the third in-house production born from the hugely successful paring of Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment, who together brought both Parade and cult classic Hair to Manchester audiences last year, with the addition of third producer Ben Millerman, Yank! further confirms their commitment to delivering new and innovative theatre as this beautiful production is brought to life by Director James Baker and his stellar cast.

IMG_4391

Based on the 2010 Off-Broadway production written by David Zellnik with a score created by brother Joseph, Yank pays homage to Rodgers and Hammerstein and charmingly evokes the time period of the unforgettable 1940’s. The scrip has both great humour and enormous heart as we follow the journey of Stu (Scott Hunter) after he is called up to serve for his country in a war he doesn’t fully understand. As a vulnerable and scared young recruit Stu meets and falls in love with macho and self-assured, all-American guy Mitch (Barnaby Hughes), the two merely want to survive the war so they too can live and love their own American dream, sadly such a simple wish proves to be more of a challenge than any military battle they face, and so an emotional and complex uphill battle just in trying to be true to themselves begins.

IMG_4392

Scott Hunter gives an exceptional performance as Stu, we see how love changes him from a fearful and weak new recruit into an assured and quietly confident man whose inner strength and belief in his right to love is unshakeable. The relationship between Hunter and Barnaby Hughes (Mitch) is heart-warming, delicate and pure with a strong on stage chemistry, you desperately want them to make it. The whole cast are superb, each character is delivered with colour and is strongly defined from the swaggering, larger than life, Czechowski (Kris Marc-Joseph) to the flamboyant and fabulous Rotelli (Tom Lloyd) every single cast member makes their mark. Special mention must go to both Chris Kiely who plays Atrie the toe-tapping photographer who takes Stu under his wing and Sarah-Louise Young who plays multiple female roles and delivers each and every one with style and sass.

IMG_4390

There is stunning choreography from Chris Cuming culminating in the most beautiful of dream sequences which is a real highlight of this lovingly crafted production and again shows the sheer level of talent in this small cast of twelve.

Yank! is a delight, full of emotion and performed with true heart and soul, at a time when division is so rife it is crucial we see the importance of love, are able to love whom we choose and be loved back without question or complication. A truly special piece of theatre which delivers a powerful and honest message, Yank! is absorbing, dynamic and deeply moving.

Tickets available via http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

 

Hope Studios

1 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

MEET, REHEARSE, CREATE

An new and exciting addition to the city opens its door for business this month! Hope Studios comes from a collaboration between the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre, Play With Fire Productions and Aria Entertainment. The new independent rehearsal workspace based will be based in the Northern Quarter and will be open to performing arts, television and production companies based in the city, or visiting Manchester from across the country.

Located on Newton Street, Hope Studios takes over the first floor of Marlsboro House, the building that used to be home to Sunshine Dance Studios, and will offer up to six studio spaces with accessible prices. With the growing number of theatre, television and dance companies relocating and visiting Manchester every year, the team found that there was a gap in the market for affordable rehearsal spaces.

8Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Drawing on years of experience, Hope Studios understands the needs of rehearsing companies, and the team has created a collaborative and creative space, incorporating Play With Fire’s extensive Play Library for actors to borrow scripts for rehearsal or simply reading in the comfortable communal area. It plans to become a community and networking space for the performance sector, and offer development support.

Joseph Houston, Artistic Director of Hope Mill Theatre and partner of Hope Studios said: “There is such need for studio space like this in the city as the rising number of creatives making work in Manchester is at an all time high.”  He goes on to say: “It is an extremely exciting time in Manchester for the theatre industry. Artists are realising this is the place to be and we hope that Hope Studios meets a much needed requirement for quality, accessible rehearsal studios for people to create their work.” He added: “We are thrilled to be partnering up with Hannah and Dan from Play With Fire Productions, an incredibly exciting company that has staged two major productions at Hope Mill, and Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, who has been our in house producer at Hope Mill since we opened last year and has collaborated on all the musicals.”

13 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment comments: “I am proud to not only be resident producer of Hope Mill Theatre but now a third partner in this fantastic venture in Manchester’s Northern Quarter; A hub of creative individuals and companies working under one roof is just what Manchester needs and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

Hannah Ellis from Play With Fire Productions and partner of Hope Studios comments: “We are so proud and excited to be working with Hope Mill and Aria to offer these studios. As a producing body for the last four years, finding rehearsal space is often the most stressful element of any project. This is a worthy and vital new project; filling an important gap in the Manchester creative scene. We want Hope Studios to be a thriving hub of creativity, with not just rehearsal space, but also community areas, a marketing aid, lessons, collaborations and much more.”

7 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Hope Studios will be officially available for bookings in March 2017 through their website www.hopestudios.co.uk

Address: 52 Newton Street, M1 1ED

Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical

img_4176

Over 50 years in the planning and boy is it worth the wait, Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical explodes into life from the minute you enter the theatre, the looming set is immense, the transformation of Manchester’s Opera House to accommodate this ground breaking world premiere is astonishing. The set designed by Jon Bausor uses every inch of height available; it is vast, intriguing and innovative. If you weren’t sure before you certainly are now, Bat Out Of Hell is without doubt the biggest theatre event of the year.

Set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city we meet Strat (Andrew Polec) the forever young leader of The Lost, a tribe of wasted youth who will never grow old. Classed as mutants by Falco (Rob Fowler) the oppressive ruler of Obsidian, The Lost live for love, freedom and of course rock ‘n’ roll. Falco’s daughter Raven (Christina Bennington) gets a taste for life on the dark side when she meets Strat on the eve of her eighteenth birthday and from that moment on things will never be the same again.

img_4347

Telling Strat when he sneaks into her bedroom at Falco Towers, “If you don’t go ‘over the top,’ then how are you going to see what’s on the other side?” Raven and Strat begin their adventure and take the audience on the ride of their lives. The talent on stage is staggering, Andrew Polec embodies absolutely everything you would want from a rebellious, tribe leading, rock God, he is wild, wired, dangerous and utterly mesmerising. His performance is quite simply incredible, strutting and swaggering he draws you in and completely seduces you, the chemistry between him and Christina Bennington (Raven) is pure magic, their relationship a total meetings of minds. They perfectly illustrate the angst and heartache of forbidden love, Bennington’s vocals are heavenly, at first seemingly delicate and pure she soon morphs into the ultimate rock chick, the power in her voice is astonishing, we soon realise the wide-eyed innocent daughter of Falco and Sloane (Sharon Sexton) has been waiting to be corrupted as she discovers a whole new kind of freedom with Strat.

img_4345-1

Of course Strat and Raven’s relationship was never going to be accepted by Falco, who sets about destroying what they have found, trying to end things before they have even had chance to begin. Rob Folwer as Falco is exceptional, brooding and intimidating; he has great stage presence and a superb rock voice. Falco’s seemingly long suffering wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) delivers a fine performance, constant cocktail in hand she is so bored with this life yet so tied to it she is lost in a seriously wretched place. Their scenes together offer some real stand out moments, Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a riot, raunchy, wild and superbly staged, they deliver the narrative exquisitely. Both give a deeply heartfelt performance of new song What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, emotional and moving the quality of the writing is so good even for a new song it feels strangely familiar.

BOOH 2

Danielle Steers and Dom Hartly- Harris as Zahara and Jagwire give knockout performances, powerful and emotionally charged their interpretation of Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad is insanely good, they really feel the music and deliver Steinman’s lyrics with real heart and grit. Their second act performance of Real Dead Ringer For Love is bursting with attitude and sass, backed up by a magnificent ensemble who give absolutely everything to this production.

This is a piece that proudly showcases the talent on stage; Director Jay Scheib really has created something magical here. Cutting edge and dynamic choreography from Emma Portner compliments Steinman’s lyrics and Scheib’s direction perfectly and adds even more attitude to already explosive performances. Special mention also must go to Giovanni Spano (Ledoux) and Andrew Patrick-Walker (covering as Blake) who together with Dom Hartley-Harris deliver a strikingly heartfelt rendition of Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.

BOOH3

The staging of this production is truly something spectacular, designed by Jon Bausor, it’s a struggle to find words to do it justice, the set continually evolves to deliver more and more intricate layers and surprises you just didn’t see coming, add to this the innovative use of multiple screens and live filming projected over almost every inch of the set, it’s quite literally a multimedia masterpiece, it feels as if the set is alive, I’ve never experience staging like it, it’s such a visual feast. The beauty of this multi-layered, multi-levelled set is that it allows every person sat in any seat within the theatre to feel part of the production, in effect breaking down that third wall, you are scooped up into the action and fully immersed in the experience. Costumes from Meentje Nielsen combined with video design from Finn Ross and lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe further confirm the sheer quality of this production.

img_4346-1

Bat Out Of Hell is astonishingly good theatre, immersive, incredible and utterly mind-blowing, there is no doubt in my mind that Manchester has witnessed history in the making tonight. This is a journey that is only just beginning, the success of this show is unlimited, a stunning production with the most sublime of casts, a monster of a hit, which oozes world wide appeal. Spellbindingly epic, an absolute must-see!

Verdict: Undoubtedly 5 star theatre, bold, dynamic and sexy as hell! *****

Tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/