Bucket List

(c) Alex Brenner

Following an award winning Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, the internationally acclaimed Theatre Ad Infinitum bring their latest powerful piece Bucket List to the Lowry.

The all-female cast tells the story of Milagros, a spirited Mexican orphan who tragically sees her mother murdered during an anti-corruption protest. Milagros is left with only a bloodied list of names, names of those responsible for her mother’s death. Milagros soon realises her only option to make them pay and find her vengeance is to destroy them, one by one.

(c) Alex Brenner

Ad Infinitum’s style of story-telling is exceptional, physical, effusive and hugely powerful. The piece at 90 minutes straight through with no interval flows rapidly and packs a punch, raising a fist of defiance to the powers that be. The ensemble cast successfully take on a number of roles; once you get into the flow of how this innovative company share their tales you are soon scooped up and hooked by their charismatic and emotive style.

(c) Alex Brenner

(c) Alex Brenner (info@alexbrenner.co.uk)

Director Nir Paldi perfectly illustrates through her cast the desperation and frustration of living in a place where poison not only flows through the rivers but right to the core of the establishment. The cast made up of Tamsin Clarke, Charli Dubery, Luisa Guerreiro, Orian Michaeli, Deborah Pugh, Shamira Turner portray this tangled web of hurt and pain magnificently, there are many light-hearted moments of joy as we see Milagros childlike, innocent as she has fun with her young friends before the brutality of real life takes over. An interesting and clever narrative of a chess game flows through the piece, offering tactical advice on how best to make the next and most deadly move whilst offering up the suggestion we are all just pawns in a bigger and much more terrifying game.

Bucket List is passionate and incredibly moving, intricate and brilliantly delivered, physically charged theatre at its best. On at the Lowry until Thursday 27th April tickets available here; https://www.thelowry.com/events/bucket-list

Casanova – Preview

Internationally and critically acclaimed company Northern Ballet brings the World Première tour of Casanova to the Lowry’s Lyric theatre next week, inviting audiences to unmask and be seduced by history’s greatest lover, the passionate, scandalous and oh so seductive Giacomo Casanova.

Consumed by his desires, which ultimately lead to him living a life of scandalous and hedonistic excess resulting in his imprisonment and exile, Casanova is a deliciously sensual piece which will thrill and enthral audiences in equal measure. Well known for their bold and dynamic works Northern Ballet have once again put their innovative and unique stamp on a classic story breathing life and spectacular artistry into this new piece. We are delighted to bring images from the rehearsal rooms to you today which truly illustrate the visual delight which awaits Lowry theatre goers next week.

Choreographed by award-winning Kenneth Tindall, most recently nominated for Best Classical Choreography and the Emerging Artist Award at the 2015 National Dance Awards, the production will be set to an original score by modern classical, film and television composer Kerry Muzzey, played live by the superb Northern Ballet Sinfonia, whisking theatre goes to 18th century Venice, where this thrilling piece will awaken our senses and delight in its magnificence.

This sumptuous spectacle which will be performed at the Lowry from 3rd – 6th May, is the first of an unprecedented three full-length World Premières to be held by Northern Ballet in 2017 which also include the much anticipated World Premières of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Little Mermaid, further evidence of Northern Ballet’s dedication to pushing the boundaries when it comes to delivering dance in its most stunning of forms.

Buy your tickets now for what will be undoubtedly one of the most visually spectacular events of the year. Tickets are available via the following link; https://www.thelowry.com/events/casanova

 

 

Wonderland

Wonderland Promo Image 2 Kerry Ellis

Not to be confused with the Blur frontman, Damon Alban’s musical that kicked off Manchester International Festival two years ago, Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy’s Wonderland is a new musical adaptation of two of Lewis Carroll’s classics – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

Having already enjoyed a stint on Broadway the show is on its UK and European premiere tour with an impressive cast that includes West End leading lady Kerry Ellis, musical theatre veteran Dave Willetts and former Coronation Street star Wendi Peters.

On paper Wonderland should be a sure-fire hit – it’s based on one of the most popular children’s stories of our time, the music is by a multi-award winning composer and you have Ellis, the woman who made Wicked’s Elphaba a hit in the UK at the helm.

Unfortunately it does not live up those expectations.

Wonderland

Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy have created a book for stage that sees Alice no longer a little girl but a 40 year old single Mum disillusioned with the cards life dealt her and wanting to escape the ‘real world’. Cue a visit to their high-rise block of flats from the White Rabbit (Dave Willetts) who takes her, her teenage daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris) and geeky love-struck neighbour Jack (Stephen Webb) down the lift shaft – a modern day rabbit hole –  into the frantic world of Wonderland.

Whilst Grace Smart’s costumes perfectly evoke the essence of Carroll’s creation with a melee of colours and craziness about them, Andrew Riley’s set however is sparse and changes very little throughout the performance with just additional props wheeled on, such as the Looking Glass and Mad Hatters’ Tea party table. I wanted a magical world to unfold beneath my eyes and be dazzled at the grandeur but it all felt a little flat.

There was magic however when it came to the performances. Kerry Ellis is just incredible to watch and her vocals exquisite, so too was Natalie McQueen as the Mad Hatter giving her just the right amount of zaniness and proving a perfect match for Ellis in their powerhouse duet This Is Who I Am. Wendi Peters also went down a treat with audiences for her portrayal of the Queen of Hearts and her number Off With Your Head left you wishing she had more time on stage to fully develop her character.

Wonderland Promo Image - Wendi Peters

Wonderland’s main flaw is that it makes you feel like you are watching a pantomime – there’s lots of fluff and not enough jeopardy to take the show seriously as a musical, which in reality is competing against the likes of other new creations such as Hamilton and Groundhog Day. At times I half expected the characters to address the audience and get them involved in the action. The production would be the perfect vehicle for Christmas time with its sickly sweet message of ‘not being afraid to be who you are inside’ being drummed down your throat at every stage but for now it needs more work on making the songs memorable and the story slick enough to turn it into a real contender.

Runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Sunday 30th April

*Britain’s Got Talent’s Rachael Wooding will guest star as Alice for the Sunday matinée performance in Manchester.

 

 

Ghost

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Bill Kenwright Productions brings Ghost the Musical to the Lowry stage this week as the last stop on its UK and Ireland tour which began at the New Wimbledon Theatre back in September 2016.

Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s much loved 1990 film, starring the legendary Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, with music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and lyrics from Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard, Ghost the Musical tells the tragic love story of Brooklyn residents Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Kelly Hampson) whose lives are torn apart when Sam is tragically murdered in the street in a robbery gone wrong. As Sam watches the scene of his death from a distance he realises he has become stuck between two worlds, torn away from his idyllic life and one true love, Sam soon realises this was no tragic accident and his beloved Molly too is in danger, he must find a way to connect and ultimately protect her. His method of protection takes on the form of the outrageous, hilarious and hugely entertaining psychic and spiritual healer, Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois).

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Kelly Hampson covering the role of Molly tonight on behalf of the indisposed Carolyn Maitland (get well Carolyn) does a fine job, her voice is sweet and strong and the chemistry between her and Sam (Andy Moss) endearing, she embodies the grief of losing her lover tenderly and with real heart. Moss makes for an enormously likeable Sam, fun, playful, and full of life, making the scenes where he realises he has died all the more poignant. His commitment to protecting his love from danger is hugely moving while his interactions with Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois) are simply brilliant. Dubois was born to play Oda Mae Brown, bold, brash, outrageous and full of attitude she is a joy to watch with razor sharp comic timing Whoopi Goldberg would be proud of.

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The staging of this production allows for some clever effects and the strong supporting cast directed by Bob Thomson deliver fine performances with special mention to both James Earl Adair and Gerry Lee Netley who play the hospital ghost and subway ghost superbly.

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Ghost is a highly entertaining show, with beautiful music and solid performances, you will most certainly laugh, quite probably cry and as soon as you get home will be digging out that old DVD when you remember just how much you love this beautiful story. An engaging and beautifully delivered production.

On at the Lowry until Saturday 29th April, tickets available here!

https://www.thelowry.com/events/-ghost-the-musical

 

Running Wild

RW

War Horse author Michael Morpurgo has created yet another stunning story which has now been adapted for stage, this time aimed at a younger audience.

Running Wild tells the tale of 9-year old Lilly (Jemima Bennett) who is struggling to come to terms with recent death of father, a soldier in Afghanistan. To ease her loss her Grandma suggests she takes a trip with her Mum to Indonesia for Christmas to make new memories and get the chance to ride her favourite animal, the elephant. When a tsunami hits the island though tragedy strikes again and Lilly is whisked off into the jungle on the back of Oona the elephant and about to face some of the biggest challenges of her life.

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Morpurgo based Running Wild on real life events he read about in a newspaper back in 2004, when a tsunami hit Sri Lanka killing over 300,000 people. Out of all that tragedy came a shining light – an uplifting story of a little boy who got stranded in the jungle after the elephant he was riding on charged off as soon as the quake hit, saving the boys’ life in the process.

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In the stage adaption by Samuel Adamson the boy in the book becomes a girl, played during this Children’s Touring Partnership production by three alternate young actresses. Jemima Bennett played Lilly on the night we saw Running Wild and gave a polished performance as the feisty tomboy. Bennett takes on the huge role with a professionalism beyond her young years, and demonstrates Lilly’s sheer determination to survive everything the jungle throws in her way.

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There’s a plethora of spectacular puppets on display created by former War Horse Puppetry designers and directors Fin Caldwell and Toby Olie; from Sumatran tigers, to crocodiles and Orangutans. All of them are beautiful crafted and expertly handled by the talented team of puppeteers that bring them to life onstage and give them a heart and soul.

James Whiteside compliments the thrilling action with his atmospheric lighting design which evokes the mood changes of each scene perfectly. Whiteside effectively uses frantic flashes of strip lighting to signify danger and beautiful firefly-esq lights that highlight moments of serenity.

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Running Wild isn’t a sugar coated ‘George of the Jungle’ story you might expect it to be, in parts it is quite upsetting and, for the younger children in the audience, a bit scary (I’d advise to ignore the guidance of age 6+ to be safe and take those aged 8 upwards). However, it is also a play that excites with its adventure and manages to leave both children and adults with some important moral messages about our society today and our relationship with animals.

Runs at The Lowry, Salford until 22nd April. Tickets available here; http://www.thelowry.com/events/running-wild

 

 

Cyrano

Cyrano 3

Northern Broadsides together with New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme bring their swashbuckling tale of the legendary Cyrano De Bergerac to the Lowry this week in a newly adapted production from award-winning playwright Deborah McAndrew. Delivered in verse and littered with delightful blasts of baroque music director/ composer Conrad Nelson’s Cyrano is a gloriously fun interpretation of Edmond Rostand’s romantic comedy about unrequited love.

Husband and wife team McAndrew and Nelson stage this European classic with wit and regional charm and although we are in Paris amidst the golden age of the musketeers it is warm Northern voices which deliver the verse. A hint of “Robin Hood Men in tights” in its bold and clever comedy this new adaptation is bright and brilliant.

Cyrano 2

Christian Edward makes for a charismatic and commanding Cyrano, entirely confident and cool unless his massive conk gets a mention. Retired to his fate that he’ll never find love with a hooter so large Cyrano becomes third wheel in the fledgling relationship of the blindingly beautiful Roxanne (Sharon Singh) and the ever so handsome Christian (Adam Barlow). Cyrano releases his inner longings for Roxanne onto parchment which she is led to believe comes from the hand of the perfectly formed Christian, who sadly flunked school when it came to prose. It is only many years later Roxanne learns the truth and realises the man she loves has been nose to nose with her for her entire life, quite literally.

Cyrano 4

Edwards is exceptional as Cyrano, instantly likeable with bucket loads of swagger he is proud and combative but really loveable at heart. Throughout the piece we see drunken poet Ligniere (Michael Hugo) act almost as a narrator, vocalising the woes of our characters and commentating on the pains that are the Parisian nobles, Hugo is brilliant fun, entertaining and very witty. Francesca Mills takes on multiple roles and is exceptional in all, quick witted and engaging she makes for an excellent pick-pocket sidekick to our hero Cyrano.

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Northern Broadsides have succeeded in making their Cyrano both cheeky and passionate, the entire ensemble cast work brilliantly together, with laughs a plenty as well as tender and touching moments Cyrano has got it all, wit, vigour and the most impressive hooter you’ll ever see!

On at the Lowry until Saturday 22nd April tickets available here; https://www.thelowry.com/events/cyrano

Boris – The Musical

Main_BoristheMusical_HeatherIsobel

Established in June 2016 as a response to the Brexit referendum, Blowfish Theatre brought their satirical comedy-musical about the rise, fall and unfortunate rise again of politiclown Boris Johnson to a packed out Dance House theatre last night.

Directed by Kyle Williams and writer Laurence Peacock, Boris – the Musical is a great fun show which gently illustrates just how bonkers the world of politics truly is whilst offering many, many laughs along the way.

2_BoristheMusical_HeatherIsobel

David Burchhardt, is excellent in the role of Boris, his portrayal is weirdly accurate even down to the hideous blond thatch, he greets audience members on their way into the theatre in true bumbling and bombastic Boris style. He is energetic and engaging as he commentates on his life story being acted out on stage. We follow Boris through his days at Eaton and Oxford with a visit to the Bullingdon Club as this political romp illustrates just how ridiculous our political leaders really are. We meet snooty and condescending ‘Dave’ Cameron as well as the painfully ambitious Michael Gove, continually waiting in the wings for political puppet Johnson to stuff up.

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Liz Kearney and Polly Bycroft-Brown take on several roles in the production including Dave and Gove, both have great stage presence and strong vocals which really compliment Burchhardt ‘s bungling Boris. With songs such as Born to Rule, Super Mayor and a hilarious Sound of Music reincarnation in the form of How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Boris, Blowfish theatre offer a sharp observation of the calamity that is Boris Johnson and the absolutely absurd political landscape he currently resides in. A great fun and hugely entertaining piece, highly recommended.

Boris – The Musical 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 tickets available here; www.boristhemusical.com