Stick Man

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stick Man tells the tale of the wonderful Stick Man, who one morning goes for a jog (and at times a boogie ) where he suffers some significant misadventures!

Firstly, he is chased by a dog who mistakes him for a stick to play with. Then he is taken by an energetic young girl who fancies a game of Pooh sticks and thinks he might just be the best Pooh stick she has ever seen. Next, he loses his way and is swept out to sea, where he eventually washes up on a beach and is used as a bat for a game of bat and ball, but the final straw is when he is used to place a flag on top of a sandcastle!

We’re taken on a journey through the seasons, as he tries to find his way home, to his stick lady love and his stick children three.

This production is everything that is great about children’s theatre. It’s characters are wonderfully energetic and enthusiastic. The songs, simple and catchy.

I took my, normally fidgety, two year old. This was her first live theatre experience and I was nervous of how she would react, but I needn’t have worried. She sat silently mesmerised throughout the entire production; only letting out the occasional gasp of “wow” and joining in with the “he’s behind you” chorus from the audience.

Jordan Louis-Fernand (Stick Man) Alice Imelda (Stick Lady Love) and Jonathan Ainscough (Actor/Musician) play a variety of roles with great enthusiasm and provide us with some outstanding pieces of physical theatre. Their performances are warm and engaging for the younger audience. The scenes are diverse – ranging from the high energy of the dog chasing the stick, to the tranquility of the ocean waves and the hypnotic snow of winter.

The lighting, set and costume design work well together to provide us with a simple, but effective setting to this Julia Donaldson favourite.

This production takes us on a journey of laughter, heart warming moments and pure Christmas cheer. I’ve seen Stick Man three times now and this was by far my favourite production. It is a family must see this festive season.

Stick Man is on at The Lowry until Sunday 9th January tickets available here.

Accessible Performances

Relaxed | Thu 9 December | 1.30pm
Audio Described by Caroline Burn |  Sat 18 December 2pm | Touch Tour 1pm
BSL by Emma Jane Heap | Sun 19 December | 2pm

To book accessible tickets please call 0161 876 2183

The Wiz

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As The Wiz fast approaches it’s 50th anniversary, Hope Mill Theatre together with Ameena Hamid Productions and Chuchu Nwagu Productions have reimagined this multi award-winning musical, based on the much loved classic, The Wizard of Oz.

As Dorothy struggles with her identity a storm whips up, whisking her away to the magical land of Oz where she embarks on an unforgettable journey of self discovery, realising its not magic but self-belief that will bring her home.

Cherelle Williams takes on the role of Dorothy, slipping into silver sparkly trainers as she eases on down the yellow brick road. Her characterisation is superb while her voice is simply stunning, her rendition of Home is absolute perfection.

Tarik Frimpong is exceptional as the Scarecrow, using his whole body to tell the story he perfectly embodies the role while his skill in delivering Leah Hill’s impressive choreography is jaw-dropping.

Llewellyn Graham makes an incredible professional debut as the seriously soulful Tinman, he is an absolute joy and brings such fun to the role.

Jonathan Andre completes the quartet as the cowardly Lion & has the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he arrives on stage. His playfulness and fun shining throughout.

Special mention must also go to Cameron Bernard Jones who is super sassy as The Wiz plus Ashh Blackwood, Anelisa Lamola and Bree Smith who all bring buckets of personality to the witches of Oz.

The Wiz is a true ensemble show, each and every member of the cast give their all. They exude joy and it’s infectious, I smiled all the way through this pacy show & would happily have stayed in my seat to watch it immediately again. Kudos to casting director Ryan Carter who has put together this outstanding cast.

Simon Kenny’s set & costume design are bright & bold, setting the tone of this vibrant piece from the start while Sean Green’s orchestrations are magnificent.

The original Broadway musical was written at a time when the civil rights of black people were still being hard fought and today almost 50 years later the importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign could never be underestimated. The Wiz celebrates loudly and proudly Black voices while choreographer Leah Hill gifts us with a rich feast of genres from across the African Diaspora.

Director Matthew Xia has created something truly magical with this talented cast. It’s joyful, soulful and bursting with pure heart, a must see!

The Wiz is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Sunday 16th January tickets available here.

The Not So Ugly Sisters

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Not So Ugly Sisters is a musical alternative tale of Cinderella and what happened after the “happily ever after” told from a whole new perspective, brought to us by Wrongsemble, Leeds playhouse and Red Ladder.

Situated in a hair salon the story is told by the captivating Barb (Lucy Rafton) and Dolly (Daisy Ann Fetcher), Cinders step sisters, on the day of Cinders marriage to Prince Smarming. An event which Barb and Dolly have not been invited to, much to their great disappointment.

They share their childhood memories of growing up with Cinders, through funny stories and fabulous musical numbers. Barb (Lucy Rafton) brings hilarious sarcasm and Dolly (Daisy Ann Fletcher) an energetic positivity that is both comic and moving. The script by Elvi Piper is witty, intelligent and contemporary which engages the younger generation with references to “hashtags and dms”. KS2 and KS3 Christmas school trip audiences are going to love the hilarity and wittiness of the dialogue.

Make no mistake, the success of this show is largely thanks to the pure talent of Lucy Rafton and Daisy Ann Fletcher: Their vocals are flawless, their comic timing incredible. An absolutely magical partnership which brings the tale to life and engages the audience (which spans generations) fantastically. They are a dynamic, well rehearsed duo – bouncing off of one another.

The set and lighting design works brilliantly for this intimate show and the use of props to enhance the storytelling works equally as well.

The people of Sale are lucky to have this on the doorstep over the Christmas period. If you haven’t booked it yet, you absolutely should! A must see, belly laughing alternative to the traditional tale for the modern day audience.

The Not So Ugly Sisters is on at Waterside, Sale, until Saturday 1st Jan tickets available here.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First seen on stage 30 years ago, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker returns to theatres this autumn with Bourne’s stunning choreography updated while Anthony Ward’s design has been reimagined.

Act 1 takes place in a bleak Dickensian orphanage on Christmas Eve, a far cry from the traditionally lavish Victorian festivities we usually associate with the classic Tchaikovsky score. The orphans live a miserable life, forced by overbearing bullies Dr and Mrs Dross to dance for their visitors in the hope of receiving meagre gifts, which are then swiped by the Dross children, Fritz and Sugar, who pinch and punch their way to the top.

With monochrome colours aside from a few deflating balloons and homemade paper chains the orphanage feels like a desperately dank and dismal place; that is until the Nutcracker, in this case a ventriloquist dummy gifted to orphan Clara comes magically to life, taking her on an adventure she’ll never forget.

As the dark oppressive atmosphere of the orphanage is left behind a brilliant white frosted lake appears while the orphans, and the Nutcracker come bursting into beautiful life.

This winter-wonderland as a contrast to the dismal orphanage is simply magnificent, the slick choreography almost convinces you that each dancer is performing on ice. The illusion of ice-dancing is a real spectacle, leading you into the interval desperate for more.

Act 2 transports us to the vibrant fantasy world that is Sweetieland. Bold and bright with buckets of cheeky humour we watch as Clara falls deeply in love with the now human, Nutcracker. Spiteful Princess Sugar however soon senses Clara’s happiness and quickly steps in to claim the handsome Nutcracker as her own.

The traditional story has been inventively reworked, keeping you guessing throughout. The storytelling really is sublime, there’s humour, originality and heaps of heart while visually it’s an absolute feast for the eyes. Bourne’s choreography while complex and demanding is delivered with such precision and grace it seems effortless and light. The skill of the company seemingly increasing with every scene, special mention must go to the reworking of the traditional ‘national dances’ each and every one is pure joy.

Cordelia Braithwaite is superb as orphan Clara, she dances with such feeling, drawing you into her journey wholeheartedly. Her commitment to winning the love of the Nutcracker (Harrison Dowzell) is heart-warming; I literally couldn’t stop smiling throughout.

Neil Westmoreland and Stephanie Billers are clearly having great fun as Dr and Mrs Dross who reappear as the magnificent King Sherbert and Queen Candy in Act 2 while Dominic North and Ashley Shaw are deliciously devilish as Fritz and Sugar. Both delight in their roles and are wickedly good at being bad.

Harrison Dowzell is wonderful as the Nutcracker, switching from stiff wooden doll-like movements to fluid ballet choreography with ease. His chemistry with both Braithwaite and Shaw is just perfect.

One thing (amongst many others) that Matthew Bourne does so well is make dance accessible, this joyful production is no exception; the characterisation is incredible while the choreography captivates entirely. This really is a show for all and would be the perfect introduction to dance for any theatregoer.

Matthew Bourne triumphs once again in reimagining the traditional and bringing it bang up to date in the most visually spectacular way. Bright, bold and utterly beautiful.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker is on at The Lowry until Saturday 4th December tickets available here.

Spinach | The Edge | 30th Nov – 18th Dec

‘SPINACH’ is not a musical.
It is not an opera.
It is a play where every word just happens to be sung…

Waking up tied together, Tom and Kate can’t remember a thing…. not about the last few days anyway. Everything is a total blank, except for a halloumi kebab and a double-decker bus. As piece by piece they unravel their memories, each step brings them closer to knowing their captors, closer to their terrifying fate… and closer to each other.

‘Spinach’, written and directed by Janine Waters with music by Simon Waters, premiered at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2011 then transferred to London’s King’s Head Theatre for a critically acclaimed season.

This 10th anniversary production at The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Manchester, 30th November – 18th December, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of both the play’s premiere and the venue.

Reviews of the 2011 production of Spinach’ at the King’s Head Theatre

“A truly unique piece of musical theatre”

5 stars – Whatsonthefringe

“Sung-play ‘Spinach’ is one of the most enthralling, unique musical theatre experiences to hit the Off-West End stage. It is a riveting psychological romantic comedy that will certainly have you on the edge of your seat”
5 stars – Mellow Day London

“A gloriously theatrical experience and ultimately heartwarming”

Gary Naylor, Broadwayworld

“Very often funny and deeply engaging, this is an entertaining piece with great originality”
4 stars – Whatsonstage

Tickets £16/14 available now

White Christmas

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

White Christmas takes us on the journey of two American soldier pals Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who served under General Henry Waverley in World War Two, from their days entertaining their fellow GIs in Germany to their lives as entertainers on the stage in America some ten years later, as the famous duo Wallace and Davis.

Taking in a show in a run down club in New York City, they encounter the Haynes sisters, who just happen to be the sisters of an old GI buddy. Phil Davies is instantly enamoured with Judy Haynes and together they hatch a plan to travel (as a four) to Vermont without the knowledge of sister Betty and Bob Wallace: who seemingly clash at their first encounter.

The train journey is a riot of song about snow – delivered marvellously by the very talented company. Once they all arrive in Vermont there is great disappointment from the fellow train passengers about the lack of snow and they turn right around and leave. Leaving the Inn void of guests.

It is a great surprise to Phil and Bob to discover that the inn is owned by the one and only General Waverley from their army days – the general is having financial difficulties and from here a plan is hatched. Bob and Phil will put on the show of shows on Christmas Eve to help raise cash for the General and give his business the boost it needs.

Things do not go according to plan for Bob though when concierge Martha (played by the incredible Sally Ann Triplett) misinterprets a telephone message from an old pal and relays the mixed up message to Betty. Betty flees and it’s up to Bob to find her and make sure the show goes on.

This show has all the ingredients of a Broadway show- it’s filled with glitz and glamour and big band numbers. The ensemble are exquisite – absolute masters of every dance genre that they perform- from jazz to ballet to tap and more! The costumes and the choreography are exceptional. The dresses are timeless and clearly no expense has been spared in the wardrobe department.

The cast is lead by Matthew James (Bob), Dan Burton (Phil), Jessica Daley (Betty) and Emily Langham (Judy) each of who are sublime. They have so much chemistry and stage presence- the dynamic between the four works just beautifully. Credit to the casting director.

Dan Burton plays the wise guy, joker incredibly well and he dances with grace and effortlessness. Jessica Daley wows the crowd with her entrancing vocals, drawing us in to her heartbreak through her stunning performance of “love, you didn’t do right by me”.

Sally Ann Triplett, who plays Martha, is outstanding in every way and had the entire audience eating out of her hand from her first scene. She is comic, charming, vulnerable and engaging, and can she move? Well, yes she sure can!

This show has real heart and shouldn’t be missed. Not a fan of Christmas shows? Then never fear this isn’t really about Christmas, this is about love, friendship and camaraderie.

The Manchester crowd absolutely loved this show, the entire theatre was on its feet before the last number had even begun. It’s an absolute must see!.

Dial M for Murder

Reviewed by Nicky Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This brand-new production of Frederik Knott’s 1952 play Dial M For Murder is filled with tension, fast-paced narrative and gripping moments – and it’s at The Lowry for one week only!

Dial M For Murder isn’t a straight forward murder mystery, as the audience follow the planning of the crime and see the repercussions unravel throughout the play.

The plot entails ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice (Tom Chambers) wanting to have his wealthy wife, Margot (Diana Vickers), murdered so he can get his hands on her inheritance. When he discovers her affair with Mark Halliday (Michael Salami), he comes up with the perfect plan to kill her. He blackmails an old acquaintance Captain Lesgate (Christopher Harper) into carrying out the murder, but the carefully-orchestrated set-up goes awry, and Margot stays alive. Now Wendice must frantically scheme to outwit the Inspector (also Christoper Harper) and police to avoid having his plot detected.

Lead Tom Chambers gives a sinister performance as Tony, putting the audience on edge throughout – this man is really not somebody who can be trusted. He pulls off the intensity of this character extremely well, giving extra wide smiles and long stares to those around him. His on-stage relationship with Diana Vickers (Margot) is brilliant, and she herself portrays her character delicately. Diana does a fantastic job of making her character’s two relationships believable, and her vulnerability in each is portrayed elegantly. I particularly felt for her after her murder scene, where the switch from her confident character to her being controlled and defeated down by her husband was really well played.

I really felt drawn into Margot’s relationship with Max (Michael Salami), and you could really feel the connection throughout their scenes together.

Christopher Harper did a superb job of portraying Captain Lesgate and Inspector Hubbard, and his performance of the Inspector was particularly stand out, where some welcome comedy was brought in at some tense moments.

David Woodhead’s set of Margot and Tony’s 1960’s ground floor flat is very important to this play, and it stays the same throughout the performance. Only once are you taken away from the flat, which is a brief cut away moment to Margot in her trial. You really feel like you are at home with the family from the very beginning, as they just go about their lives playing records, drinking alcohol and making phone calls.

Lizzie Powell’s lighting design is really poignant throughout, where it’s used to set the mood of the scene, the time of day and also cleverly used to show the passing of time as we move from one day to the next.

Overall this is a delightful and memorable show, and it’s brilliant to see West End talent visiting local venues! Don’t miss it if it’s coming near you.

Dial M For Murder is at The Lowry from Mon 15 – Sat 20 November tickets available here.

Dracula: The Untold Story

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There have been many riffs on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Audiences still can’t get enough of the bloodthirsty Count, despite him being with us for well over 120 years, there is still an insatiable appetite for more! It is now the turn of Leeds Playhouse and collaborators, Andrew Quick, Peter Brooks and Simon Wainwright to give their take with Dracula: The Untold Story.

Set in London, 1965, New Years Eve to be precise, the capital is holding a double celebration, the changing of the year, as well as an exhibition at the British Museum to mark the destruction of Dracula. However, not everyone is in the mood for a party. As a mutilated cadaver is discovered, a young lady walks into a police station claiming responsibility for the murder; that women is Mina Harker, and not only is she there to unburden her guilt over this gruesome turn of events, but also a killing a spree that has lasted nearly 70 years.

Harker (Riana Duce) tells her story to an intrigued WPC Williams ( Adela Rajnović) and a rather sceptical DS Donaldson (Matt Prendergast). Through Mina, we learn that an encounter with Dracula has led to her gaining superpowers, not aging, an acute sense of smell, vision, the ability to move at speed and visions of the future to see the evil that man can do. She uses her supernatural powers to hunt down the likes of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler before they can commit mass genocide.

There is a great deal to admire about this production; it’s innovative, entertaining and a feast for the eyes. Performed like a graphic novel, the three actors perform in front of a projection screen. It’s very much a dual performance as the actors are performing to both the audience and the camera, to give us a live action comic strip, which is as captivating as it is visually stunning.

The influences of Frank Miller’s Sin City and the 1922 film, Nosferatu are clear and add an authenticity to this ambitious production.

The cast are in fine form with Duce giving a strong central performance, she exudes passion, strength and guilt from the outset and it’s because of this you fully invest in the production’s premise. She is skillfully supported by Rajnović and Prendergast who play multiple roles throughout. All three demonstrate a gift for language and dialects with Russian, French and Italian used flawlessly throughout.

Dracula: The Untold Story is bold, fun, captivating and skillfully marries live performance with digital technology to tell the classic story of good confronting evil. However, it’s the dilemma of how that fight can take its toll on the protagonist that is most intriguing. It is often said that if the hero lives long enough they see themselves become the villain…..Is this the case for Mina Harker?

Further information & the opportunity to watch at online can be found here.


Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, theatre fans can finally satisfy their cravings for first-class musical theatre as Broadway and West End smash-hit show Waitress serves up an absolute treat of a night at Manchester’s Opera House.

Based on the 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly, with musical with direction by Diane Paulus, book by Jessie Nelson’ and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, Waitress is a delicious concoction of self-empowerment, sisterhood, and some seriously satisfying sass.

The story is based around talented baker Jenna (Lucie Jones), who waitresses at Joe’s Pie Diner alongside pals Becky (Sandra Marvin) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins), the trio of Southern Belles may be tough talkin’ but their friendship is as sweet as apple pie.

While Jenna is famous locally for her showstopping flavour combinations her private life is nothing worth celebrating. Trapped in an abusive marriage, her thuggish husband Earl (Nathanael Landskroner) belittles her at every opportunity, mocking her baking, pocketing her tips and leaving her under no illusions as to who is the boss; so understandably she’s not delighted when she realises, she has her own bun in the oven.

Jenna’s daily fantasies about ways to escape not only offer up the names to her daily specials but also drive the show, while trysts with her gynaecologist, Dr Pomatter (Matt Willis) bring an unexpected twist.

This feel-good feminist tale has empowerment running right through it as Jenna moves from trying to bake her troubles away to gaining a genuine self-awareness and acceptance of who she is and what she stands for. There are important themes covered in Jessie Nelson’s script such as domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancy, and infidelity, these are balanced perfectly with laugh out loud moments and hilarious close to the bone conversations which will have you blinking back the tears one moment and crying with laughter the next.

This is a musical with pure heart, led extraordinarily buy the sensational Lucie Jones, who delivers stand-out ballad She Used To Be Mine with such raw emotion it’s literally show-stopping. Her ode to the girl she once was is truly breath-taking. She is perfection as Jenna and measures the amount of vulnerability and spirit just right.

Perfectly complimenting Jones are Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins as no-nonsense Becky and wonderfully kooky Dawn. Both are a joy, and the trio together are superb, they breathe brave and brilliant life into each character. Matt Willis is excellent as the clumsy but endearing Dr Pomatter while George Crawford is an absolute delight as scene stealing Ogie. It was wonderful to see Michael Starke back in Manchester delivering a cracking performance as diner owner Joe while Christopher D. Hunt is great fun as Cal.

The lives depicted may be messy and mixed up but they somehow come together to make the perfect recipe leaving the audience uplifted, deeply moved and leaping to their feet for a roaring standing ovation. Waitress is a perfect slice of theatrical magic.

Cathc Waitress at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 20th November tickets available here.