Doctor Doolittle heads to The Lowry!

Dr Doolittle

A brand new stage production of Leslie Bricusse’s family favourite Doctor Dolittle will be heading to The Lowry for Christmas 2018!

Produced by Music & Lyrics Limited who recently brought The Addams Family and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Salford venue, Doctor Dolittle will stay for the entirety of the festive season opening on Tue 11th December 2018 and running through to Sat 5th January 2019.

This all new production which will feature stunning visual puppetry, a stunning soundtrack including Academy award-winning “Talk To The Animals” as well as the hilarious Pushmi-Pullyu and Dolittle’s trusty sidekick Polynesia the parrot.

Booking is now open for Lowry members with general sale soon to follow, more information can be found here

Crazy for You

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Starring Strictly champion Tom Chambers alongside a fabulous Gershwin brothers score, the acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of musical comedy Crazy For You arrives at Manchester’s Opera House this week as part of a 2017/18 national tour.

Privileged New Yorker Bobby Child (Tom Chambers) has been sent to close down the theatre in deepest darkest Deadrock, Nevada. Banker Bobby however harbours a not so secret desire to tread the boards himself, cue thrills, spills and laugh out loud silliness as Bobby disguises himself as Hungarian theatre impresario Bela Zangler in order to put on a show and save the theatre.

Tom Chambers shines as Bobby Child, he has the strong physical comedy skills needed for the role as well as an impressive voice and impeccable dance ability. He bursts with charisma and boundless energy and seems to be having as much fun with the role as the audience are having watching him.

Leading lady Charlotte Wakefield as Polly is perfection. Full of sass and spark her warm characterisation is a joy to watch, she literally bursts with personality. The scenes between Wakefield and Chambers are magic, both incredibly skilled dancers they work their socks off throughout the entirety of the show.

The static set is put to good use with changing backdrops and ambient lighting, allowing scenes to change from NYC to Nevada convincingly.

Despite the 1990’s reworking of the show by Ken Ludwig the characterisation and storyline does however remain a little weak, so much so that things just seem to happen with no explanation, fiancé’s swap fiancé’s while hardened New Yorkers move to the Wild West and shack up with the local saloon owner without batting an eyelid. That said the excellent performances and big hitters such as I got rhythm and They Can’t Take That Away from Me are fantastic, all are delivered with high energy and great confidence from the cast of actor musicians.

The cast work incredibly hard, dancing one minute then playing the fiddle the next, all are enormously talented. While there may be less impact from the tap numbers due to actors doubling up as musicians the skilful multitasking roles they deliver entertain adequately.

Crown pleaser Tom Chambers delights with his charming and confident take on the character while Charlotte Wakefield delivers a confident and commanding performance any leading lady would be proud of. All in all Crazy For You is a light-hearted, uplifting and all round fun show.

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 2nd Dec, tickets available here

Nativity! The Musical

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Eight years ago back in 2009 Debbie Isitt’s film Nativity! was released and immediately captured the hearts of the nation; it spawned not one but two sequels and has now been followed by a translation to the stage in Nativity! The Musical. The production follows the same storyline many of us know and love as we head to St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School for their annual nativity.

We begin by meeting three best friends, Paul Maddens (Daniel Boys) Jennifer Lore (SarahEarnshaw) and Gordon Shakespeare (Andy Brady). Jennifer and Gordon have big plans after drama school while Paul is happy to become Mr Maddens at the local primary. Paul and Jennifer fall in love and live happily together until one Christmas Jennifer receives a call from Hollywood and decides to follow her dreams leaving Paul and their dog Cracker behind.

Paul is stuck in a failing school which doesn’t even rank high enough to receive an Ofsted rating while Gordon has progressed to headmaster at the nearby snooty Oakmoor Prep. Oakmoor excels every Christmas with the most extravagant of nativities while St Bernadette’s can’t even muster a one star review, cue head teacher Mrs Bevan (JemmaChurchill) instructing Mr Maddens to lead this year’s nativity with the help of clueless new classroom assistant Mr Poppy (Simon Lipkin). Daniel Boys is exceptional as Mr Maddens, delivering a perfectly judged performance, warm and charismatic yet enormously frustrated with his lot. Boys is endearing and hugely likeable as we see his character soften and develop under the influence of the bonkers but brilliant Mr Poppy.

Sidekick to Boys is Simon Lipkin who is perfectly cast as the brilliant Mr Poppy, a big kid with an even bigger heart, his enthusiasm and energy is infectious. He portrays the lovable Mr Poppy superbly; he is incredibly funny, demonstrating a very natural comedic ability that leaves the audience roaring with laughter every time he takes to the stage, an absolute joy.

Watching the relationship between Mrs Madden and Mr Poppy develop is a tremendously entertaining element of the show, their interactions are incredibly funny as Mr Maddens frustrations at Mr Poppy’s OTT enthusiasm for everything takes its toll, however who could stay mad at Mr Poppy for long? Not us!

Each character is so wonderfully defined from the camp and catty local theatre critic (Jamie Chapman) to the power obsessed Mr Shakespeare (Andy Brady), this is storytelling to perfection, with every cast member an absolute delight to watch. David Woodhead’s set as you would hope is a sparkling spectacular sight, versatile and inventive, beautifully lit by Tim Mitchell.

Of course no nativity would be complete without children and plenty of them and boy do they sparkle and shine! From hilarious auditions for a part in the nativity right through to the finale when they deliver the final and fabulously finished production. The honesty and pure innocence of their performances is an absolute thrill, they are sweet, silly, hilarious and enormously endearing with bucket loads of charm thrown in for extra cute factor.

Nativity strikes the perfect balance between being a real show stopping spectacle and delivering genuinely real, relatable and honest theatre. It’s uplifting, hilariously funny and enormously entertaining. Your heart will be warmed and your funny bone well and truly tickled by this sparkly, joyful, festive treat. The standing ovations will no doubt be repeated night after night as this real gem of a production warms hearts with every performance, my only criticism would be that we only get to have it in Manchester for one week, please Nativity! The Musical, come back soon!

On at the Palace theatre until Sunday 3rd December tickets available here

Elf the Musical

Elf

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

West End smash hit Elf the Musical arrived at the Lowry this week for a festive six week stint.

Based on the much loved 2003 film with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf tells the popular tale of Buddy the Elf.

After crawling into Santa’s toy sack as a young orphan boy Buddy finds himself living amongst the elves in the North Pole, with an inability to make toys even half as fast as his fellow workers and being twice the size of every other elf there Buddy realises it’s time to face the truth and admit perhaps he isn’t an elf after all. With Santa’s permission Buddy heads to New York City in a bid to discover his true identity, find his father and hopefully spread some Christmas cheer along the way.

Elf 3

West End favourite Ben Forster reprises the role he won rave reviews for and it’s clear to see why, he commands the stage with his witty, warm and charismatic take on the loveable Buddy. His confused interactions with the hardened New Yorkers are hilarious and his innocent boisterous wooing of Jovie (Liz McClarnon) is a delight to see. Forster is perfectly cast, he completely makes the role his own, no easy task for such an iconic character made so famous by Will Ferrell. Forster bursts with enthusiasm and Christmas cheer, he entirely captivates with his joyful characterisation, his voice is smooth, strong and pitch perfect.

Forster is joined by a talented cast including Liz McClarnon as love interest Jovie. McClarnon is superb as Christmas pessimist Jovie, with the most beautiful of voices and strong characterisation, Jovie’s ice maiden persona takes some melting, she is witty, sarcastic and the perfect sour to Buddy’s sweet.

Elf 4

Tim Goodchild’s sets are lavish and impressive, sparky and slick as scenes move effortlessly from one to the next. The additional use of Ian William Galloway’s video design further adds to the wow factor of this big budget production. Sue Simmerling’s costume design is perfection, glitter, sequins, red and green for the North Pole, sharp grey suits for NYC.

The production remains true to the film but is so charming in its storytelling that those who haven’t seen the film (yes they do exist) will thoroughly enjoy the musical regardless. There are the classic lines we would all wish for hilariously delivered, a stunning score with catchy uplifting songs which you’ll be humming for days, the score literally has it all from stand out beautifully choreographed showstoppers to a witty yet moving solo from Jovie (Liz McClarnon).

Elf 2

Elf is a heart-warming, sparkly, spectacular. The message of love, hope and family is a special one, wonderfully and hilariously delivered. The audible gasps of joy from the audience will warm the coldest of hearts and will ensure you’ll leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, offering hugs to anyone who will accept one and maybe even a few to those who won’t! Elf delivers the most perfect escapism from the crazy times we’re living in, funny, feel-good and oh so fabulous, a festive treat for all the family.

On at the Lowry until Sunday 7th January tickets available here

Around The World in 80 Days – Interview with Matthew Ganley

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Matthew Ganley

Manchester born Matthew Ganley will spend Christmas at home in Salford after spending the year touring the UK in the stage adaption of Around The World in 80 Days. The New Vic Theatre’s celebrated production of Jules Verne’s famous novel, that follows the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he travels the world in a race against the clock, plays at The Lowry for a 6 week run over the festive season.

Opening Night caught up with Matthew to get the lowdown on the high spirted escapade before it opens in Salford on 5th December.

ON: What can we expect from Around the World in 80 Days?

MG: It’s a fast paced epic journey with a lot of action, fight sequences-there’s a circus, an elephant, lots of twists and turns and plenty of audience involvement. It’s quite an unforgettable experience!

ON: There’s only 8 of you in the cast playing 125 different roles-what’s the challenge of doing something like that every night?

MG: It’s keeping your stamina up as there’s never a dull moment. You run on stage as one person, you run off, do a quick costume change and you are back on doing something completely different. I go from an English aristocrat to a Bombay street seller in one of the changes between scenes!  

ON: It sounds like quite a spectacle we are in for…

MG: There’s obviously lots of different countries that Phileas Fogg travels to and in a short space of time we portray each of those environments with different sounds, feelings and accents. It’s a real visual treat for the audience.

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Around The World in 80 Days, photo credit: Andrew Billington

ON: Now you are a local actor, from Salford and this show sees you play your home ground for Christmas at The Lowry, how does that feel?

MG: I’m really chuffed to be at home for Christmas and it’s so nice to have friends and family that I can spend time with and share this great show with as they come to see me in it.

 ON: This isn’t the first time you have been on stage at The Lowry is it?

MG: Yes, over the years I’ve been in a number of different shows and I always love going back to The Lowry, it’s such a great theatre.

ON: Do you find things have changed now for northern actors such as yourself now we have these amazing theatres in the North West bringing some big productions to our stages?

 MG: Absolutely, particularly the Manchester Fringe scene. It is so vibrant now and there’s so much great work which gets produced.  That all feeds into the arts scene as a whole and it makes Manchester and Salford a very exciting place for outside companies to come and visit.

Listings:

Around the World in 80 Days

The Lowry, Salford

5 Dec- 7 Jan 2018

https://www.thelowry.com/events/around-the-world-in-80-days

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Salon

Telling the story of soon to be divorced Carol and her colleagues, ditzy X Factor wannabee Tia and Shelia who doesn’t want much in life other than a toy boy with the stamina of a marathon runner, The Salon makes a welcome return to St Helens Theatre Royal this week.

The show is a hilarious behind the scenes look at the outrageous daily happenings in your average high street salon when you’re struggling to get over a broken heart and the local gangster has launched a hostile takeover bid on your business and will do anything and sleep with anyone to get it.

Penned by former Hale and Pace sketch writer and Liverpool playwright Drew Quayle, The Salon boasts a stellar Liverpudlian line-up including Radio City favourite Leanne Campbell, Brookside’s Sarah White and Phillip Olivier and Blood Brother’s Olivia Sloyan as well as Emmerdale’s Peter Amory and Towie’s Harry Derbidge.

There are some great performance in this riotous production directed by Sylvie Gatrill. Leanne Campbell plays recently heartbroken salon boss Carol to perfection, pitching her character just right as she battles through daily life in the salon while her ex and his new girlfriend have moved in across the street, she is the calm in the storm of salon life, instantly likeable, she has the audience rooting for her from her first line.

Managing the sex obsessed Sheila, played brilliantly by the sharp and sassy Sarah White and fame hungry, nice but dim beauty therapist Tia (delivered perfectly by OliviaSloyan) isn’t easy for Carol, not only is she nursing a broken heart but is agony aunt to salon owner Neil (Peter Amory) while trying to ward off local gangster Tony’s (Philip Olivier) advances.

There are some real laugh out loud moments in this adult comedy including an eye watering waxing session with some great comic timing from Philip Olivier and a scarily realistic boozy breakdown from jilted Carol.

Regal Entertainments Ltd set is impressive and authentic, allowing for scene changes within one static set, with the Salon taking centre stage and owner Neil’s fabulously flamboyant flat situated above.

The Salon makes for a great night out, flirty, filthy and full of fun!

On at St Helens Theatre Royal until Saturday 25th November tickets available here

Cilla The Musical

Cilla-3

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Developed from BAFTA award winner Jeff Pope’s critically acclaimed 2014 ITV mini-series starring Sheridan Smith, Cilla the Musical is a new stage biography which tells the story of Liverpool’s most famous red-head, from her early rise to fame to the start of her much celebrated TV career.

Detailing her fierce ambition, the complexities of her relationship with boyfriend then Manager then husband Bobby Willis and the close friendship they both had with troubled Manager Brian Epstein, Cilla is a nostalgic and heart-warming jukebox musical featuring both Cilla’s hits and other fan favourites from the period, including The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Mamma’s and The Pappas. Cast-of-Cilla-The-Musical-Liverpool-Empire-Photo-By-Matt-Martin-004-1Kara Lily Hayworth more than succeeds in stepping into Cilla’s footsteps, having won the role through a tough open audition process, Hayworth belts out showstopper after showstopper with ease and oozes style. With stunning vocals, perfect Cilla like mannerisms and a flawless Scouse accent her performance is superb. When Hayworth closes Act I with Cilla’s 1964 number one hit ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ she literally brings the house down, goose-bump inducing brilliance, expertly delivered.

Both Carl Au as Bobby and Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein are excellently cast. The chemistry between Au and Hayworth as Bobby and Cilla is wonderful; Au adds great depth to the character who many of us knew little about other than him being ‘our Bobby’. Lancel plays tormented and troubled Epstein sensitively, a true gentleman always having time for his acts despite his own personal demons.

Gary McCann’s set is impressive, the Cavern, various recording studios, the London Palladium, and even Cilla’s childhood home, all feature, contained within a series of proscenium arches, expertly lit by Nick Richings. Cilla Cilla the musical has clearly been a labour of love for director Bill Kenwright, offering audiences a charming and nostalgic walk down memory lane, act one for me lingers slightly too long in the Cavern days, although the performances are exceptional (Michael Hawkins as John Lennon is fantastic) the pace becomes a little slow, shaving a couple of the songs from this section wouldn’t be of any detriment to the story and would keep the audience fully engaged for the duration. That said, Cilla the Musical is a fantastically fun show, which at its heart is ultimately a love story, not one love story but several, the love story of Bobby and Cilla, Cilla’s love for the music, Brian’s love for his artist, Brian and Bobby’s at times love/hate relationship with each other and even our love for the Scottie Road girl who rose from rags to riches but always remained true to her Liverpudlian roots.

Cilla the Musical is a celebration, funny, charming and chock-full of superb showstoppers, a hugely entertaining night out and fully deserving of the standing ovation received.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 25th November tickets available here.