Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland 2016 promo

Event City’s mega 22,000sq m of exhibition space has been transformed once again into a fabulously festive Winter Wonderland which will undoubtedly thrill young and old alike.

Now in its 5th consecutive year, Manchester’s biggest attraction boasts more rides than you can shake a candy cane at, as well as shows, festive food and drink and of course no Wonderland would be complete without the big man himself, Father Christmas! There are even a couple of very special guests to entertain the little ones this year in the form of classic children’s favourite’s, Rainbow’s George and Zippy!

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With over 50 rides and attractions all under one roof you really are spoilt for choice, from an indoor circus to classic fairground favourites Winter Wonderland quite literally has something for everyone, with the added bonus that everything (apart from food and drink) is 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 enjoy the rides as many times as you like from the minute you arrive!

For the littlest members of the family there’s a baby chill out zone including 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 visitor entertained long past her usual bedtime and although this is Christmas you can even take a trip to the seaside at the giant sandpit. A huge positive is that sessions are limited to avoid overcrowding, which further added to our enjoyment of this incredibly magical place.

Winter Wonderland

For older children and adults there’s all the favourite classic rides you’d hope to see, the dodgems, the waltzers, hilarious bucking broncos and an enormously fun cyclone (which I’d advise going on before you enjoy one of the delicious bubble waffles!)

If this wasn’t enough there are lots of fabulous shows at various intervals throughout each session, Rainbow Live with Zippy & George, a fabulous Christmas Circus, The Ice Princesses, Jedi Knight Training, an all-new Daisy & Ollie Show from Cartoonito, as well as an opportunity to enjoy a Christmas Melt-Down – fun and dancing on the main stage with Winter Wonderlands crazy DJ!

Winter Wonderland 1

With tickets prices, £20.50* (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee) per ticket for adults and children aged 3-16 (under 3’s free) or £70 for a family of four, Winter Wonderland really is excellent value for money with each session lasting for four hours. My group and I left feeling festive and giggling about all the fun we’d had whilst planning our next visit to this magical place, an annual visit (or two) has quickly become one of our favourite Christmas traditions, with fun and lots of it guaranteed!

Open from 9th December 2017 until 1st January 2018, booking is highly recommended as some dates are already sold out, tickets are available here.

 

 

Around The World In 80 Days

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Photo credit: Andrew Billington

Who knew that we could take a trip around the world without even having to leave Salford?

Laura Eason’s fast-paced adaptation of the Jules Verne’s classic novel sailed into Salford last night, as it continues its Christmas run at the Lowry theatre.

The 1872 classic tells the story of the mysteriously wealthy Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard), who puts his life savings on a bet that he can travel around the world in just 80 days, whilst avoiding the devious Inspector Fix (Dennis Herdman), who believes he’s a bank robber.

Passepartout is Fogg’s lovable companion, played by Michael Hugo who certainly knows how to steal a show. Hugo and Passepartout are a match made in heaven, superbly displaying his skills as an actor, from martial arts to his improvisation with unfortunate members of the audience – which was particularly impressive.

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Photo credit: Andrew Billington

Director, Theresa Heskins pieced the whole show together in a staggering 25 days and the hard work has truly paid off as she’s transported the classic book onto stage effortlessly.

The brilliance that is set designer, Lis Evans can’t go unmentioned either. Evans easily transports us around the globe with her simplistic set design of suitcases and maps. These objects may seem relatively uninteresting, however in this case with the help of choreographer Beverly Edmunds, the duo manage to turn a set of old battered suitcases into stairs, trains and even boats with the blink of an eye.

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Photo credit: Andrew Billington

A talented ensemble of only eight actors play a globe’s worth of more than 100 different characters. The strong cast work like a well oiled machine, switching seamlessly between not only characters but countries too. One moment we’re in France and the next (with a change of a hat) we’re whisked away to Italy.

The intimate Quays Theatre at the Lowry is the perfect setting for this well-loved classic. Even without the use microphones and an audience filled with young children, sound projection was never an issue.

Eight actors, 125 characters, eight countries, six trains, five boats, four fights, a circus and an elephant all crammed into a two-hour show – we’re exhausted just thinking about it.

You can join Philleas Fogg and Passepartout in their race against time at the Lowry Theatre until January 7th 2018.

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

*Reviewed by Opening Night guest reviewer Francesca Eagleton*

Interview – Sting | The Last Ship

Sting

Undoubtedly one of the most successful UK artists of all time having sold millions of records, won every award & prestigious accolade imaginable including multiple Grammy’s, Brits, a Golden Globe, 4 Oscar’s nominations, an induction to the Hollywood walk of fame and a CBE to name but a few, Sting has now set his sights on musical theatre with the self-penned, The Last Ship. We were lucky enough to be invited to an intimate launch of the musical which docks at the Lowry Theatre from 3rd July 2018.

Sting may have come a long way since his childhood days spent in the shadows of the shipyard in Tyneside but he has never forgotten his roots. In writing The Last Ship Sting rediscovers the impact industrialisation & loss of identity has on a town and it’s inhabitants. As a child Sting thought of the shipyard as a dark and dangerous place, his biggest fear that he would end up there, unable to fulfil his dreams of being a singer. “Many years later I realised I owed a debt to my community, a community who’d had their incredible skills set thrown on the scrap heap, their dignity in working taken away, I wanted to explore what happens when you take this away, economics does not exist without community.”

Not strictly autobiographical but certainly very influenced by Sting’s childhood, lead character Gideon has turned his back on his hometown, leaving to become a sailor, after 17 years away her returns to reconnect with a lost love, however tensions between his past and his future flare as the once proud town he left is now a community in demise as the local shipyard is closing and fear for the economic stability of the town is overwhelming.

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Of the story Sting said “I know how difficult it is to write an original story, many musicals are based on stories we already know, films, even cartoons but I wanted to take on that challenge, it was fun, it was hard-work, inspiring, challenging, disappointing, thrilling so many emotions, almost like a ship, there are so many moving parts and elements that need to come together, effectively you are the captain of the ship. It was hugely challenging but also so much fun.”

The musical has a very strong sense of regional identity, having lived away from the North East for so many years now Sting feels he is in the perfect place to look from the outside in, “I live an international life, I’m from a community but I live outside of it which to me feels like a good place to be impartial and give a voice to a community who maybe don’t have one.”

Giving his childhood community a voice is clearly a huge driving force behind The Last Ship as well as the emotional debt Sting feels he has to pay. “I was formed by the North East, my engine of ambition was created there, I was very lucky to be able to do what I did and it was only through good fortune when I left at aged 18/19 that I was able to, I am enormously grateful for the environment in which I was raised. It was rich and full of symbolism, the launching of a ship makes me tearful even now, something so enormous being launched by the hands of its makers, the workers of the town, happy and proud of what they have created yet at the same time anxious at when their next job might be.”

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Sting explained what drove him to take on the challenge of musical theatre, “I’m undoubtedly driven by curiosity, driven always by the thought of ‘What’s next?’ I never want to keep pressing the same buttons, creativity is an elusive animal, hunting creativity means putting yourself out of your comfort zone, I’m not driven by success but driven by my own curiosity, I’m an eternal student.”

After a runs on Broadway, Chicago, Salt Lake City and now Finland, Sting explained how the piece has been altered slightly for the UK and Ireland tour which opens in Newcastle in March. “I felt the show needed slightly refitting for this tour, it’s more political than it was on Broadway, the struggle of the men takes precedence here as opposed to the love story which was very much focussed on for Broadway. Once I’d started with the characters the songs then came very, very quickly, almost like it was stored up deep inside, a story just waiting to be released. I’ve never been so passionate about anything I’ve done.”

Directed by Lorne Campbell with set design by the Tony Award-winning 59 Productions The Last Ship promises to a powerful, emotional and inspiring piece of theatre. Steeped in the proud history of the North with a stunning score, melodic folk music as well as rousing ensemble numbers The Last Ship starring Jimmy Nail sails into the Lowry from Tuesday 3rd July 2018, tickets available here

 

 

Evita

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Opening Night rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

It’s hard to believe that next year will see Evita celebrate it’s 40-year anniversary. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration became the first British musical to win the Tony award for best musical then in 1996 Evita received the Hollywood treatment when it was turned into a major motion picture starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jimmy Nail. Even after all this time, the love and affection for this musical monster shows no sign of waning.

The musical charts the rise and fall of Eva Perón. From her humble rural upbringing, to her move to Buenos Aires in an attempt to become a star of stage and screen. She would meet and marry Colonel Juan Perón who would be elected president of Argentina. This is a classic tale of an ambitious young woman who desires fame, power and wealth, but at what cost to her physical health and to Argentina financially?

Evita 2 Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s Evita is full of life and energy: the story is so exhilarating, told at such a breakneck speed that you hardly have time to breath. Madalena Alberto plays Evita with a great deal of sass and attitude juxtaposed with beautiful elegance and grace. It’s little wonder the people of Argentina fell for her charms on the basis of this exceptional performance. Alberto’s rendition of Don’t Cry for me Argentina is simply spine-tingling. Alberto is supported by a great cast; Gian Marco Schiaretti is on fine form as Che, acting as our guide and the shows conscience his presence looms over the production providing humour and a certain degree of menace. In addition Jeremy Secomb is equally as good as Juan Perón; a stern imposing figure whom like the rest of us falls under Evita’s spell.

Evita 1 A special mention to for Cristina Hoey, whose rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall, very nearly steals the show. However what stood out most for me, was Bill Deamer’s fantastic and intricate choreography on the big ensemble numbers such as And the Money Keeps Rolling In (and out ) and A New Argentina: add into the mix the bright, colourful costumes and extravagant set design and you cannot help but be impressed by the energy and vibrancy of it all.

The action is pacey with much more humour than I anticipated. Overall this is a seriously quality production that has lost nothing from its transfer from the West End to a tour production. With stunning performances and incredible score Evita is a thrilling night out that will stave off the cold winter blues and certainly provide a hefty dose of Latino-heat!

Evita Evita is on at the Palace Theatre Manchester till the 9th December tickets available here

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Lucy Jo Hudson and Ensemble

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s that time of year again, oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it bloomin’ well is! As pantos pop up across the country and evil villains prepare for an almighty booing, St Helens is no exception with a star-studded Snow White opening at the Theatre Royal for the festive season.

Starring Corrie and Where The Heart Is favourite Lucy-Jo Hudson and a pre-recorded ten foot tall Magic Mirror in the form of local legend Johnny Vegas, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has it all from plenty of ‘it’s behind you’ to a spectacular interactive 3D section which is spine tingly good and more than worth the ticket price alone.

There is something for everyone in the high energy and hugely entertaining production. With superb sets and lavish costumes full of colour and sparkle, Regal EntertainmentsLtd put their impressive stamp on this production, further demonstrating their commitment to delivering high quality, accessible local theatre. Writers Si Foster (who also takes on the role of Evil Queen Camilla) and Ben Engelen deliver an enormously funny script with plenty to keep the little ones entertained and even more to thrill Mum and Dad…just wait for the outrageous Andy Pandy scene! Hilarious! Nazene DanielleLangfield’s choreography is impressive and intricate as both senior ensemble and children from local dance schools all get the chance to shine.

Richard Hazlewood, Johnny Vegas and Si Foster

Lucy-Jo Hudson makes for a perfect princess; she’s sweet but sassy with an incredibly beautiful voice, her time on TV show Dance, Dance Dance clearly well spent as she delivers each routine with precision. Receiving many of the laughs is local funny man and audience favourite Lewis Devine as Muddles, hugely charismatic and immediately likeable he has the audiences in stitches from that start with his mad-cap antics and hilarious impressions.

St Helens Theatre Royal once again deliver a perfect panto, Snow White is a guaranteed festive treat for all ages, it’s easy to see why this show has already been extended offering audiences an extra week to catch it. With impressively high production values, plenty of audience interaction and a strong cast who bring an enormous amount of fun to the show, Snow White is a wickedly wonderful night out!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on at the Theatre Royal St Helens until Sunday 14th Jan tickets available here