The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit

Copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hope Mill Theatre’s 2019 seasonal offering The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit acts as a sequel of sorts to the much-loved Charles Dickens classic; A Christmas Carol.

We follow the story of ‘Tiny Tim’ who now at almost 16 lives with his guardian Ebenezer Scrooge. As his sixtieth birthday fast approaches Timothy (Ryan Kopel) decides instead of following in the footsteps of Ebenezer (Paul Greenwood), committing himself to a life of counting money he instead wishes to broaden his horizons by exploring the world and making a life for himself in his own unique way.

Copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Quickly realising times will be tough without the security and backing of Mr Scrooge Timothy sets about seeking employment, soon realising that perhaps life isn’t quite the wide-eyed adventure he’d anticipated.

He meets a whole host of colourful characters in his bid for independence most notably a glorious group of clowns expertly led by the infamous Grimaldi. The boarding house he lodges at also offers some unexpected life experiences where the hope of a happy ending finally seems possible when housemaid Lucy (Sammy Graham) catches Timothy’s eye; but of course this is theatre so expect testing times and little soul-searching scenes to fall in the path towards that happy ending.

Copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Ryan Kopel is outstanding as Timothy, loyal to his beloved Mr Scrooge yet quietly determined to walk his own path he gives a charismatic and enormously engaging performance. Barely leaving the stage throughout his energy and commitment is richly rewarded, winning the audience over with soaring vocals and a genuinely warm likability as he grows in both strength and stature.

Paul Greenwood makes for a passionate and powerful Ebenezer Scrooge who softens at the mere sight of his beloved Ward.

Copyright Phil Tragen 2019

Michael Matus is a joy as unpredictable Grimaldi injecting humour as well as some surprising poignancy to the story. Tantruming one moment then turning on the star quality the next his characterisation is well defined and his delivery wonderfully entertaining.

The talented ensemble which includes several actor/musicians take on multiple roles all to great effect. Under Jonathan O’Boyle’s clear direction transitions are fluid and characters well defined while the vocals of every cast member are sublime adding richness to Andre Catrini’s melodic score which is beautifully delivered by a band of five led by Chris Poon.

Copyright Phil Tragen 2019

The story is without doubt quirky and at times is a little bonkers but the strength of the cast combined with a dedicated artistically driven creative team ensure the right elements are realised to make this unique story a success. Ultimately a journey of self-discovery, love and the importance of how we connect with each other, delivered with real heart and great humour, a wonderfully uplifting tale for the festive season.

Catch The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit at Hope Mill Theatre until Sunday 29th December tickets available here.

Preview | Marvel Universe LIVE!

Marvel 2

If you have a little Captain America or Black Widow who loves all things Marvel – then Manchester Arena is the place to be this week!

Marvel Universe LIVE! Is an action packed arena stunt show, where audiences can enjoy seeing all their favourite heroes and villains do battle live!

Marvel 3

The brand new show – from the team behind Disney on Ice – is at the Arena from Thursday 28th November to Sunday 1st December and features aerial stunts, martial arts, daring motorcycle skills, pyrotechnics, special effects, 3D video projection and much more.

From Spider-Man to The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, this really sounds like a must-see show for any comic book-mad little (and big!) kids.

Marvel 4

Called on by Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy join the Avengers on a momentous crusade against the scheming Nebula who teams up with the conniving and loathsome villains Loki and Green Goblin.

The incredible superhuman forces of Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Hulk and Black Widow will unite in clashes that pit student against mentor, sister against sister and brother against brother.

Marvel Live

“Our tremendously talented creative team and a nearly super human cast, have created a show that brings Marvel to life,” said Juliette Feld, producer of Marvel Universe LIVE! “The show creates an experience that immerses families in non-stop action, creating movie-style thrills and jaw-dropping stunts that showcase the powers of your favourite Super Heroes right before your eyes.”

For tickets and more information visit www.marveluniverselive.co.uk

 

The Red Shoes

THE RED SHOES

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures premiered The Red Shoes in 2016 it stunned audiences and critics alike, winning two Olivier Awards as well as the LA Critics’ Award for both choreography and set and costume design. Returning for 2019 this breathtakingly beautiful piece of theatre proves to be as timeless a classic as ever.

Based on the 1948 Powell and Pressburger film which drew it’s inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Red Shoes this perfectly paced production is rich in indulgent theatricality, sweeping you up on a joyous, heart-wrenching, mesmerising journey from the moment Benard Herrmann’s stunning score with orchestrations from Terry Davies begins.

THE RED SHOES

The Red Shoes tells the powerful story of young ballerina Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) who swiftly rises to the position of principal dancer after her recent arrival at an established ballet company. Her success brings her to the attention of both composer Julain Craster (Dominic North) and also that of the dance company’s powerful impresario Boris Lermontov (Adam Cooper). With the first there is a genuine truth and innocence with the second the lure of higher artistic achievement pulls like a magnet, which ignites a battle between ambition and true love.

Ashley Shaw makes a welcome return to the role of Victoria Page a role she originated in 2016; her performance feels entirely authentic as she weaves her way through a whole spectrum of emotions capturing euphoria and bliss just as convincingly as she portrays terror and furious anger. This authentic emotion paired with her exquisite technique and precise delivery is nothing short of magnificent, embodying the young dancer to perfection. Her performance during The Ballet of The Red Shoes is mesmerising as she is firstly enthralled by then ultimately captured by the shoes, she tells the story movingly and with her whole being.

THE RED SHOES

Adam Cooper’s Boris Lermontov is strong and domineering, seductive in both his power and precision, he stalks the stage bringing an ever-present feeling of temptation and danger while Dominic North’s portrayal of struggling composer Julian Craster is a joy to watch, his solo piece in Act One develops a strong characterisation which he maintains superbly throughout

Bourne’s skilful storytelling and his unbeatable attention to detail matched with a company of dancers at the absolute top of their game ensures that this production enthrals entirely. From playful scenes on the French Riviera to intensely passionate duets every element of choreography is slick, masterful and exciting while every single person on stage gives an impressive and fully developed performance. It is such a visual treat almost cinematic at times that one viewing doesn’t feel like enough, every scene could stand alone and happily satisfy any theatre goer.

THE RED SHOES

Lez Brotherston award-winning set design is immediately striking and wonderfully effective. Allowing the audience access to both onstage and off-stage scenes via a grand revolving sumptuously curtained frame which almost feels like it pirouette’s before your eyes, drawing you into the very heart of the drama, lit beautifully by Paule Constable.

The Red Shoes is a unique piece of theatre in which every element has been crafted with such love and care that the end result is an unquestionably perfect piece of theatrical magic. Bourne’s wonderfully clear storytelling ensures that anyone dipping their toe into the dance world would find the show accessible while seasoned fans of his work will revel in the thrill of having another dazzling piece to enjoy, a masterpiece!

The Red Shoes is on at The Lowry until Saturday 30th November, tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

Preview | A swift half? | New play by Grace O’Leary opens at The Bridge Street Tavern this week

1

Foraois Productions return this week with a new play capturing a slice of Manchester life in and out of the pub. Running from 21st to 23rd November at The Bridge Street Tavern, Grace O’Leary’s latest play A swift half? sees sisters Maria and Clara try to make sense of their lives and the choices they have made. The pub becomes more than just a backdrop as moments of clarity come served with a swift half. Old friend and pub landlord Bobby is often the dispenser of that wisdom but he too has his own hopes and plans. Whether they will be realised with a pint in hand remains to be seen.

A swift half? Is award-winning playwright and director Grace O’Leary’s 5th play and marks 10 years since she started writing and producing her own theatre. Her works include the critically acclaimed Letter Headed Paper which toured Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Preston in 2013.  Grace’s first play What Colour Was Her Blood? was short-listed for ‘Best Original New Play’ by North West Playwrights.

A swift half? asks the question, how important is the pub and what place does it have in everyday life? Some hidden truths are threatened to be revealed when sisters Maria and Clara have one too many vinos at friend’s Bobby popular pub, Haven’s Sake, and things could have been much easier if they just stayed in. Bobby, proud pub owner and overall charismatic bloke has dreams of being the next big pub promoter and nothing, he hopes, is going to stop him.

Ahead of opening night, Grace O’Leary said; ‘With it being 10 years since my first play was launched in Manchester, I felt it was right to do a new piece for my decade anniversary. I’ve spent many a happy, and the odd unhappy hour in pubs, and it made me think about the affect the atmosphere these wonderful establishments can have on people. I’ve been lucky to work with a fantastic cast on this production and am really looking forward to sharing it.’

Maria Quinn is played by Julie Burrows, Clara Quinn is played by Sarah E Maher and Bobby Braithwaite is played by Daryn Gates.

A swift half? Is on at The Bridge Street Tavern, 58 Bridge St, Manchester, M3 3BW 7.30pm, on 21, 22 & 23 October Duration 60mins approx. Tickets: £9 plus booking fee can be found here.

A Question of Sport LIVE comes to Manchester

Matt Dawson, Sue Barker and Phil Tufnell

The BBC’s A Question of Sport – the world’s longest running TV sports quiz – will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020 with an all-new live stage show which comes to Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Saturday May 2, 2020.

This will be the hit show’s first live stage tour in nine years starring host Sue Barker and resident team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell, along with big-name guests from across the sporting world and will be the perfect way for fans to see the hit show up close in a thrilling live environment; a host of special guest star panellists will soon be revealed.

As well as Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall his unmissable stage show will visit 9 other cities across the UK in April and May 2020:

  • FRI APRIL 17 Glasgow          SEC Armadillo
  • FRI APRIL 24 Liverpool         M&S Bank Arena
  • MON APRIL 27 Birmingham    Symphony Hall
  • TUE APRIL 28 Newcastle       City Hall
  • FRI MAY 1 Nottingham     Royal Concert Hall
  • SAT MAY 2 Manchester     Bridgewater Hall
  • SUN MAY 3 Sheffield          City Hall
  • TUE MAY 12 London            The London Palladium
  • SAT MAY 23 Plymouth         Pavilions
  • SUN MAY 24 Southampton Mayflower Theatre

Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday November 15th via ticketmaster.co.uk

A Question of Sport Live will follow the small-screen format featuring many of the rounds and challenges fans of the hit show know and love. It is also truly interactive as audience members will be able to participate by directly posing questions to the teams and getting involved in some rounds before the traditional ‘Sprint Finish’ climax.

Sue Barker said: “2020 is a landmark year for A Question of Sport. It’s the show’s 50th anniversary and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this Golden Anniversary than to take the show around the country. We had such a brilliant time on the last tour so I can’t wait to do it again!”

This all-new live tour is brought to you by Cuffe and Taylor, Live Nation and Simon Fielder Productions in association with BBC Studios.

Hope Mill Theatre to stage UK premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Manchester’s award-winning Hope Mill Theatre is to stage the UK theatrical premiere of the Broadway version of Rodgers +Hammerstein’s Cinderella in 2020.

Cinderella will be the first musical produced by A Factory of Creativity – the charity recently formed to take over the running of Hope Mill Theatre. Co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre Joseph Houston and William Whelton will direct and choreograph Cinderella, respectively.

The production will run at Hope Mill Theatre from Saturday 9th May to Saturday 6th June 2020 and then at Clonter Opera Theatre, Cheshire from Tuesday 9th to Sunday 14th June.

This will be the first time a fully-staged version of the show has been performed in the UK (following a recent one-night concert version in London).

Hope Mill Theatre will be holding open auditions in its search for the title role of Cinderella. The venue is committed to finding new and emerging talent across the regions and will be sharing details very soon of how to register interest in auditioning. 

Ted Chapin, President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, said: “I am thrilled that the modern Broadway version of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella will be getting its U.K. theatrical premiere at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. When this version opened on Broadway in 2013, its tagline was “Glass slippers are so back.”  With a wink to the Cinderella traditions of the past – except pantos! – and a solid foot in a world where people take more control over their own lives, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella has already charmed new generations of musical theatre enthusiasts.”

Joseph Houston, Artistic Director, said: The first ever show I watched as a boy was the story of Cinderella and so to be able to work on the UK premiere of the most recent Broadway version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s story is a dream come true. Having the opportunity to also collaborate alongside Will, who is both my business partner and life partner – and of whose work I have long admired – makes this journey even more special. I want this unique version of Cinderella to captivate audiences young and old, just as the timeless story did for me. This is the perfect spring treat and I cannot wait to see this story come to life at Hope Mill Theatre.”

William Whelton, Executive Director and Choreographer, said: “For many years I have wanted to produce  Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, so for this to be the first musical to be brought to life by Hope Mill Theatre’s new charity is very special. It is a more modern take on the classic fairy tale that everyone is familiar with, add to the story the musical and lyrical genius of Rodgers & Hammerstein and you have real musical theatre magic. We are also thrilled to announce that as part of our casting process we will be holding open auditions in our search for Cinderella. As a regional venue we are passionate about finding and nurturing professional talent from all over the country so find this really exciting and we can’t wait to meet new artists.”

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella runs at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre from Saturday 9th May to Saturday 6th June 2020

The production then moved to Clonter Opera Theatre, Trap Road, Congleton from Tuesday 9th to Sunday 14th June 2020

Tickets on sale soon!

http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

 

 

Interview | Kerry Ellis talks Queen Machine Symphonic

Not only is she without doubt one of the UK’s biggest musical theatre stars but she has also forged an incredible career in music with the guidance and mentoring of Queen’s Brian May and now Kerry Ellis is preparing for a brand-new show which will tour the UK in the spring.

The all-new show Queen Machine Symphonic featuring Kerry Ellis will see Queen’s greatest hits performed by leading European tribute band Queen Machine accompanied by the London Symphonic Rock Orchestra and conducted by Matthew Freeman, creating an unforgettable night of rock anthems.

Queen Machine Symphonic received rave reviews when it premiered at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in August here at Opening Night we were lucky enough to chat to Kerry about her long-standing relationship with Queen’s music and preparations for the Queen Machine Symphonic tour.

ON: How does a musical theatre leading lead end up linked to one of the greatest rock bands of all time?

Kerry: I met Brian May a long time ago. Before I auditioned for We Will Rock You I was in My Fair Lady and he ask me to audition for the show. I met him and Roger Taylor and worked with them closely, developing the musical. I have gone on to work with Brian for almost 15 years now, touring the UK and Europe, writing songs, putting albums together. I feel comfortable, grateful and special to be singing those songs in that environment, and that I have Brian’s blessing to do it.

ON: So, tell us about Queen Machine Symphonic…

Kerry: There are orchestral versions of Queen’s music out there, their music has been translated for an orchestra, and people do concerts celebrating Queen – but this set up hasn’t been done before; an orchestra, the rock band and then me singing. I’m so excited about it.

It’s going to be really unusual. It’s going to be something quite special, and I can’t wait to get started. When the offer came along, it sounded interesting and like a unique experience, and I love singing these songs and in different environments, and with passionate groups of people – which I know the band and orchestra are.

ON: How are preparations going for the show?

Kerry: It’s not easy to put all that together, a band and orchestra will naturally pull in different ways, so it’s challenging but really interesting as we get into rehearsals. And then there’s putting a rehearsal schedule together for everyone to come together… It’s a logistical nightmare, but there’s already a huge amount of work going into everyone’s preparations and pre-production and I can’t wait for it to come together.

ON: You played a premiere performance on the Queen Machine Symphonic show at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in the summer, how was that?

Kerry: Open air shows are such a British thing; we like braving the elements and hoping for the best and this was no different.

Scarborough was a brilliant night, the fans loved it and we all had so much fun on stage. I’d been to Denmark for rehearsals with Queen Machine and had the chance to watch them perform there. To then join them, and have the wonderful musicians from the London Symphonic Rock Orchestra with us, and Matthew Freeman bringing it all together made for a very special night.

We were excited about the tour before doing the Scarborough show, and now we can’t wait to get into a full rehearsal programme ready to travel the UK with the show.

If you’re a fan of Queen’s music it’s going to be a real ‘must-see’.

ON: You’ve done a lot of work with Brian May, how does he feel about bands paying tribute to Queen’s music? Have you spoken to him about the show and will he be coming along to the tour?

Kerry: When the Queen Machine Symphonic opportunity came up, I let Brian know about it and asked what he thought. The Queen Machine guys have played for one of the Freddie celebrations and are very much welcomed in the Queen family. They’re very well established, and they are huge in Europe.

Brian enjoys that people play their music still today and embraces that tribute bands are able to take it out there around the world. And that’s another reason why the music is so timeless – that so many people are still performing it and honouring Queen.

I hope Brian will be coming. He does come and support a lot of what I do, whatever he can get to, so I’m sure if the schedule permits he’ll be there, but it’s often a nightmare – with touring the world.

ON: You’ve been singing Queen’s songs for many years now, do you have a favourite?

Kerry: The song that is very close to my heart is No One But You. I sang that in We Will Rock You way back when and have recorded it and performed it with Brian around the world. We did it on our tour and at one point he said to me ‘It’s your song now, love it and enjoy it’. I’ve just got so many connections with it now – and it works brilliantly with an orchestra, so I’m sure we’ll be creating new memories with it in this show and tour.

ON: Were you a fan of Queen’s music before We Will Rock You came along?

Kerry: I grew up with it; my dad was a fan and played a lot of rock music, and I listened to bands and acts like Meat Loaf, Status Quo, Bon Jovi, but also artistes like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion. I was brought up with it but it became such a part of my life.

But really, everybody knows Queen’s music. The interesting thing today, is there’s a new generation of people interested in the music, because of the Bohemian Rhapsody film, with Queen touring with Adam Lambert, and the music is always used in films and adverts – you’re always hearing it.

I’m very proud that have a very deep connection with the music and the band and I’m very grateful for that. I always feel honoured and privileged to be doing their music with their blessing.

It’s been a big thing for me too; I always had a music career alongside musical theatre, but it probably wouldn’t have happened in the same way without that connection with Brian. He has influenced me in so many ways. Performing together on tour, and in the studio, he has educated me on putting an album together, something I had never done before. He’s been a kind of mentor to me and has helped me use the tools to make my own music.

ON: Besides preparing for Queen Machine Symphonic, what else are you working on?

Kerry: I’m working on some new music. I’ve not done an album of all originals before, so I’m working with writers again now. And I’m in talks with Brian again about touring or new music. A lot of concerts are in the diary throughout the summer, and I’m off to Japan again next year – I went earlier this year and it was magical, as well as the Queen Machine Symphonic tour.

ON: Alongside WE Will Rock You, the other show you’re best known for is Wicked; and a film is in the making…

Kerry: Wicked was a huge show for my career. It took me to Broadway – that was on my bucket list but I never thought I would actually get to do it. And to be the first British girl to play Elphaba, amazing. It has been a big part of my life, and it’s a show and role which resonates with fans all over the world, who go on supporting you for years after too; it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I’ll always be grateful to Stephen Schwartz and to director Joe Mantello for that opportunity; people still want me to sing that song [Defying Gravity] even though I left the show years ago.

I would love to get involved with the film! I’m sure it will be cast in America, and of course they are young girls at school – and I’ve just had a big birthday so maybe it’s not going to happen, but maybe a little cameo would be wonderful.

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com / www.ticketmaster.co.uk

QUEEN MACHINE SYMPHONIC FEATURING KERRY ELLIS – 2020 TOUR

April

Wed 15th EDINBURGH, Usher Hall

Thu 16th GLASGOW, Royal Concert Hall

Fri 17th DERBY, Derby Arena

Sat 18th MANCHESTER, O2 Apollo

Sun 19th CANTERBURY, The Marlowe Theatre

Tue 21st LONDON, Hammersmith Eventim Apollo

Wed 22nd CARDIFF, St David’s Hall

Thu 23rd NEWCASTLE, O2 City Hall

Sat 25th LEEDS, Leeds Arena