Disney on Ice | Dream Big

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Created in the late 1980s and seen in over 65 countries around the world, Disney on Ice as a brand is now a firmly established part of the Disney family. And the current tour – billed Dream Big – is indeed a  bit of a dream for fans young and old.

Produced by live family entertainment specialists Feld Entertainment, Dream Big is a lavish all-twirling, all-jumping show that packs in more than enough Disney princes and princesses, songs (and special effects) to keep audiences in a Disney dreamworld.

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For those who are unfamiliar with a Disney on Ice production. Minnie and Mickey act as hosts and introduce segments devoted to various iconic movies – this time round including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Cinderella (complete with coach) and recordings of the soundtracks are played that the skaters perform and mime too.

With a stunning set backdrop and literally dazzling costumes and perfect wigs – we really do see our favourite heroes brought to life in front of our eyes. (It was particularly lovely to see them all regularly waving at audience members throughout the show). The skating was stunning – and for some of the performers (Maui and Sebastian the Crab – I’m looking at you) some in what must be quite tricky costumes.

A real highlight was the (new for this tour) Moana section – the solo skating routine performed by ‘Moana’ to How Far I’ll Go was a perfect example of music, performance and skating combining perfectly. I had goosebumps and a large lump in my throat – just stunning! It was as it had always been on ice!

Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast was a big company number, and a real crowd pleaser, as was Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.

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Another favourite was the extra-long segment donated to Frozen, that was basically a mini version of the movie. Yes we’ve all heard Let it Go a million times, but it was pretty special seeing a version on ice! With twirling! Yet more goosebumps.

My 3 year old was admittedly a little scared of Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid and the fire-breathing dragon from Sleeping Beauty (we took the opportunity to beat the loo queues and later on get an ice cream when it got a bit too scary for him), but he loved the Genie from Aladdin, Mickey and Minnie, Belle and (of course) seeing Elsa. He genuinely did not want to leave when the house lights went up.

Cynics begone – if there’s a more magical and uplifting way to spend an autumn evening, well…..I’ll get my skates on!

Nothing but the Roof

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

Writer: Adam Colclough

Director: Adam Colclough

Back in 1962, the Drifters sang about heading to the roof to get away from the cares and troubles of the world: alas, the same cannot be said of three characters at the heart of Adam Colclough’s latest play Nothing but the Roof.

The action opens with Warren (JP Smith) clutching a letter standing near the edge of a rooftop on a rundown block of flats, he is coincidentally joined by childhood friends Step (David Hyde) and Millsy (Peter Thompson). The pair are dressed as Fred and Barney from The Flintstones: Step has roped Millsy into a father’s for justice protest; however, a mix up with the sign puts paid to that.

As the three friends get reacquainted with each other, they laugh, they fight, they reminisce as they discuss what hand life has dealt them: grief, unemployment, debt, and abuse are some of the hardships the three pals have faced, but can they come out of it the other side?

Despite the weighty subjects covered, the script is exceptionally funny indeed, with some stingy one-liners: it certainly has that lad’s night at the pub feel, as the friends point out each other’s faults, failings and generally just ‘rib’ each other to huge comic affect.

The production does however try to pack too much in with our three friends facing just about every disaster you could possibly think of; the play bounces from one tragedy to another, skimming the surface of these subjects rather than tackling them. Sometimes less is more and the play would certainly benefit from a trim, and as well as a few pauses here and there as the dialogue is delivered at such a breakneck speed that it could do with allowing the audience time to breathe.

The cast despite a few early missteps are on great form, you firmly believe friendship and the chemistry between all three is fantastic. The setting of the rooftop looks the part and allows the actors to fully express themselves.

This is an important play which raises some interesting points about modern Britain and one that should be seen by as many people as possible, it will certainly make you laugh and offer some food for thought, it just needs to iron out it’s kinks and it’ll be a great piece of work.

Tags: Nothing but the Roof, Hope Mill Theatre, Adam Colclough, JP Smith, David Hyde, Peter Thompson, Drama, Theatre

Macbeth

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Opening night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Rufus Norris’Macbeth is dark, compelling and visually stunning. A long civil war has raged and now anarchy rules as the fight to survive in a place where the stench of fear and rebellion fills the air.

Designer Rae Smith has created an epic and imposing set which acts as the perfect backdrop for this gloriously gritty production. Critics were harsh when the production opened on the Southbank earlier this year and this reworked offering recast for the touring production has taken note of that with tweaks and changes ensuring Macbeth engages from the off.

Michael Nardone is an excellent Macbeth, his glee at the witches prophecies exposing his vanity as he chases his predicted outcome with obsessive compulsion. He portrays the conscious stricken rugged warrior with much skill, one minute the goading warrior the next a crumbling man haunted by the horrors of the night.

Stirring and strong is Kirsty Besterman’s Lady Macbeth, calculating and cold she gives her all to the performance and convinces entirely as the ambitious and ruthless purveyor of power.

The three witches are hauntingly brilliant, phantom-like and gruesome as they thrust and twist high above the stage on poles, kudos to Elizabeth Chan, Evelyn Roberts and Olivia Sweeny for their delivery of these deeply physical roles.

Deka Walmsley adds depths in his role as the Porter, offering forewarning and commentary as Macbeth’s murderous acts escalate.

There is some chopping down of the text which does at times move the action on a little quicker than expected losing some of the depth of character in the early scenes however this is not done so ruthlessly to affect the essence of the story. We see less of the three witches than we should resulting in their influencing of the action stopping more or less at their opening prophecy. The cast however drive this atmospheric piece through their absorbing performances and prove that the human need for power is as ruthlessly cruel now as it was back in 1606 when Shakespeare first penned the Scottish play. While some may feel the battle feels more for a civil war than a Kingdom this for me resonated strongly and felt a timely reminder of the ever-present prosperity to attack we seem to be surrounded by today.

Gritty, gruesome and visually captivating theatre. Catch Macbeth at the Lowry until Saturday 6th October tickets available here.

Interview | The She Street Band

She Street

Writer Matt Forrest

Seemingly every summer, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band make their way across the pond for a series of sell-out stadium gigs, however with ‘The Boss’ treading the boards on Broadway how will the Springsteen ‘diehards’ get their fix? Well look no further than The She Street Band: a group of super talented ladies who just happen to be the world’s first all female Springsteen covers band.

Made up of players from the UK, Ireland, Sweden and the United States, who are: Jody Orsborn (bass) Calie Hough (drums), Mara Daniele (guitar), Lynn Roberts (keys), Clare McGrath (glockenspiel), Isabel Lysell (lead guitar) and Yasmin Ogilvie (sax). Opening Night caught up with founder Jody Orsborn to find out about the band, their upcoming tour, and just what makes Springsteen so special.

Opening Night: You played Latitude festival this summer. How was it?

The She Street Band: We played a 4,000 person tent which was pretty surreal. It was interesting because there were definitely people there that knew Bruce and all the lyrics but there were also a lot of younger folks who didn’t seem to know the songs but still danced along the whole time. We thought that was really cool.

ON: Who’s idea was the band? How did it come about?

Jody Osborn: I went to see Bruce Springsteen play at Wembley in 2016 for The River tour. Needless to say, it was a bit of a life changing experience. I just had such an incredible time at the gig that when I left, I said, I need more of this in my life…and the idea for the band just popped into my head. Luckily 6 other super talented ladies also thought it was a good idea and The She Street Band was born.

ON: What can fans expect from the tour?

JO: We aren’t a traditional cover band. There is no one Bruce (4 different ladies take lead vocals throughout the set) and as such, we aren’t trying to be him. What we try and do is to portray the energy and spirit of his music, with a female twist. The shows are definitely good fun, at least for us!

ON:There is such an extensive back catalogue  of songs to choose from, how do you choose the set list?

JO: There are a few songs that have to be played like Thunder Road, Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run but we also try and throw some surprising ones into the mix like Jackson Cage or Stolen Car, ones that you might not expect. All of the band members have a vote in which songs we add and we actually put a poll out to our Instagram followers recently to break a tie (Cover Me was victorious!).

ON: Do you or any of the band members look up to draw inspiration from a particular E- Street band member?

JO: They are all incredible! How can you choose just one? Personally, as the bass player, I look to Garry Tallent. He’s such an incredible bass player. He’ll take a relatively simple song and just do this stunning bass part that adds so much depth and feeling to it. I think he’s amazing. Plus we’re both from Tennessee so his nickname Tennessee Terror can apply to me as well.

ON: The band share vocal responsibilities which is a unique dynamic, is it a case of you all picking your favourite song and belting them out?

JO: A bit! But each of the singers sort of represent a different side of Bruce. We have party Bruce, rock Bruce, brokenhearted Bruce, so some songs naturally fit in better with one vibe or vocal style than another. It all works out!

ON: What has been your favourite or most memorable experience you’ve had since joining the band?

JO: Can I say three?

1) At our very first gig, walking out into the room towards the stage and not being able to get through because it was so packed and thinking…what have we done?!).

2) The 1-2-3-4 moment in Born To Run at Clapham Grand. They had a confetti cannon and it was just so epic.

3) Garry Tallent rocking our merch.

ON: How does the experience of performing Springsteen’s songs compare with seeing them performed by the man himself?

JO: There isn’t anything that compares to seeing Springsteen live but it is so incredible to play the songs and have a roomful of people dance and sing along with you. The songs are so powerful and being able to create that environment where everyone can come together and enjoy them is a pretty amazing feeling.

ON: Aside from Springsteen what else is on the She Street band juke box in the tour bus?

JO: We all have super eclectic tastes! We listen to a lot of classic stuff like The Kinks, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and then newer artists like Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Courtney Barnett, Snail Mail, Adult Mom, Shannon and the Clams, Seinabo Sey, King Tuff and Lykke Li.

ON: Do you or any of the other band members have any other music projects we should know about?

JO: Yes! Mara Daniele, the rhythm guitarist, has her own solo project and is about to release some singles. Isabel Lysell, the lead guitarist, is in a duo called Smoke Rivers. Lynn Roberts, the keyboardist, is in the band Joe Innes and the Cavalcades. Clare McGrath, the glockenspiel player, is acting in a play until the end of the month in London called Eris, which we went to last week and was brilliant. Yasmin Ogilvie, the sax player, is in an all-female horn section called Apex Horns. Calie Hough, our drummer, plays for a number different projects. She was actually just doing percussion for a play at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. And I’m a DJ. I’ve DJed for the likes of Secret Cinema, Lacoste and more. So we keep busy!

ON: We were lucky enough to Steve Van Zandt  play the Cavern Club, he was on great form and looked ecstatic, What would be your dream venue to play?

JO: The Stone Pony in New Jersey of course! Gotta play at the Springsteen mecca, right?

ON: Do any of your shows involve plucking an audience member out of the crowd like the Dancing in the Dark video?

JO: We play it by ear a bit. At out February gig, a fella actually jumped on stage from the audience. The bouncer thought it was a normal stage invader and started to come over to pull the guy off. Luckily, Ally who runs the venue, Clapham Grand, was side stage and knew what was happening and whisked the bouncer off so we could have a good dance! At our May gig, the stage was too small so I actually jumped into the audience! So…I suppose folks will just have to see what I do.

ON: Have you or any of the band managed to catch the ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ and can you get any tickets? (Only joking)

JO: I wish! Sadly none of us have made it out there but a lot of friends have and I am massively jealous.

ON: What informs your music/songwriting?

JO: Springsteen! As a cover band, we didn’t have to write the songs but as women, we do try to put our own unique spin on them. The songs are so full of depth and real, raw human emotions. They are incredible to work with and play and to think about how the meanings can change when they’re from a woman’s voice.

ON:How have you evolved as a artist evolved over the years?

JO: When we first started the band, we stuck really closely to playing the songs as is. But as we’ve gone on,   though we play some of the songs quite straightforward, we’ve also gotten more comfortable playing with the layers more and putting more of our own mark on them, while hopefully staying true to the original. For example, all of the girls in the band can sing so we focus on adding a lot of harmonies in.

ON:What are you up to at the moment artistically?

JO:We are about to go on tour across the UK and Ireland. It’s our first proper tour and we are really looking forward to heading out on the road and meeting Springsteen fans across the country! We’ll be heading to Brighton, London, Glasgow, Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester.

ON:What’s on your rider?

JO: Nice wine! We’re classy ladies. And gin.

ON:Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.

JO: At our gig in March, we were doing a song for the first time, “Candy’s Room”. I play bass and sing on it. I was rocking away on the bass and singing and was super stoked when I made it through this whole thing without messing up… only to be told after that the bass had gotten unplugged right at the beginning and I couldn’t be heard the entire time.  Shame as I thought the non-existent bass sounded great!

ON:What song do you wish you’d written?

JO: Born To Run. It’s such an epic anthem! And the feeling that the “1-2-3-4 moment” gives to people when you hear it live, it’s really a moment like no other.

OP: What’s your worst lyric?

JO: Now don’t get me wrong, I love this song. One of my favourites in fact. But the lyric “hey little girl is your daddy home” from I’m On Fire….oh no no no.

The She Street Band are on tour throughout October and will be playing locally in both Liverpool and Manchester, tickets are available here.

 

 

 

Preview | Disney on Ice

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There’s no disputing the magic of Disney for little (and hey, who are we kidding, and big!) kids, and the regular visits by Disney on Ice bring a real element of enchantment to Manchester.

The popular arena shows give fans the chance to see some of their favourite Disney characters performing live on ice – bringing to life much-loved tales and songs from classic animated movies from over the years.

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This time round the show is billed Dream Big – and seems likely to make plenty of dreams come true for Disney fans, not least because the show brings the first appearance on skates by Moana, the most recent inspirational heroine from the House of Mouse.

Theatre fans will no doubt be aware that the Oscar-nominated Moana had songs co-written by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda, who is now clearly firmly part of the Disney family thanks to this, and his forthcoming role in Mary Poppins Returns.

Expect lots of excitement from Moana fans at seeing Disney’s latest heroine in Manchester – with Demi God Maui (brilliantly voiced by Dwayne Johnson in the movie) also promised to make an appearance.

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Also in the show – which features spectacular figure-skating, beautiful costumes and stunning sets – will be sections dedicated to classic tales including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and more.

As well as – of course! – a suitably icy section dedicated to all things Frozen!

Opening Night also hears tales of a fire breathing dragon…….we can’t wait!

Disney on Ice presents Dream Big at the Manchester Arena from Wednesday 10th October until Sunday 14th October.

For more information visit www.disneyonice.co.uk

 

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Big hair, big laughs and even bigger voices, Rock of Ages is lewd, loud and most definitely proud!

This riotous rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza return’s to Manchester this week as part of a new UK tour, with uncomplicated debauchery at the top of its agenda. Right from the opening scenes it’s clear that Rock of Ages is a show which doesn’t take itself too seriously and is more than happy to poke fun at the era, the script, the cast and even the audience who absolutely lap it up.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Rock of Ages transports us back to the 1980’s where small town girl Sherrie (Danielle Hope) and wannabe rock God Drew (Luke Walsh) have headed to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Things of course don’t quite go according to plan and despite clearly fancying the pants off each other their love story seems more stop than start as they search for their happy ending on the Sunset Strip. Add to this a couple of German property developers who want to turn their beloved Bourbon Room into a snazzy mall and we soon find that not only do they have to try to save themselves but the Strip too.

There’s so much to enjoy about this show that the lack of narrative really doesn’t matter, the cast came here to rock our socks off and that is exactly what they do. It’s clear to see why this feisty and fun show has a huge cult following, not only are the performances top class the show is also incredibly witty with an infectious energy.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Lucas Rush shines as the cheeky narrator Lonny, his boundless energy and naughty charisma make him an absolute joy to watch. Danielle Hope is perfectly cast as Sherrie, belting out the big ballads with apparent ease while her love interest Luke Walsh comes close to stealing the show with his knock-out performance as Drew, add to this a power-house performance from Zoe Birkett as Justine and you’ve got some of the finest voices in musical theatre right there on one stage.

Rhiannon Chesterman and Andrew Carthy as Regina and Franz respectively are an absolute scream, their outrageous duet during Hit Me with Your Best Shot has the audience howling; while audience favourite Kevin Kennedy strikes the right note as bar owner Dennis.

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Director and Choreographer Nick Winston ensures the pace is fast and the choreography is as tight as a rock stars jeans as the incredibly talented cast belt out rock classic after rock classic including The Final Countdown, We Built This City, In Want to Know What Love Is and the infectiously uplifting Don’t Stop Believin’.

It’s cheesy and it knows it but oh so entertaining. With its tongue firmly in its cheek, stunning performances and lots of cheeky fun, Rock of Ages is big, bold, in-your-face theatre which entertains from start to finish.

Catch it at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 29th September tickets available here.

Matilda

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Much anticipation has surrounded the arrival of Matilda to Manchester’s Palace Theatre as part of its first ever UK tour. Based on the much-loved story by arguably the world’s greatest children’s writer, Roald Dahl, the show has been seen by over 8 million people worldwide; within minutes of the opening number starting it is abundantly clear why.

Upon entering the theatre the set immediately impresses, blocks of wooden and coloured letters with shelf after shelf of books adorn the stage as the cast burst into life with opening number Miracle. Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are packed with witty cynicism, sharp observation and glorious mischief from first note to last as this fast paced, addictive musical draws you in.

Tonight Sophie Ally takes on the role of Matilda, the unfortunate child saddled with the dimmest and least loving parents in the world. While Matilda wows with her brilliance the woeful Wormwoods are too busy scratching their stupid heads to notice. It is at school she finds her outlet as Miss Honey attempts to cultivate her clever little mind despite the fearsome Miss Trunchbull’s attempts to thwart them.

Sophie Ally makes for a magnificent Matilda, quietly confident and bursting with talent she is the perfect blend of mischief, magic and fearsome might. Her full standing ovation at the finale entirely deserved.

Craig Els reprises his West End role as the towering Miss Trunchbull to great comedic effect. His physical comedy is sensational, embodying the gargantuan villain entirely evoking roars of laughter as well as teeny, tiny, terrified nervous giggles from the audience as he struts menacingly round the stage. He looms large over his students, suspicious about everything and everyone, his insults stinging with hilarious outrage.

As Matilda’s parents the Wormwoods, Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastien Torkia the larger than life cartoonish characters are as grotesquely gaudy as Roald Dahl imagined them, selfish and simple but enormously entertaining they both give a star turn in demonstrating everything a parent shouldn’t be via their hilariously outlandish actions.

The true starts of the show are of course the ensemble of incredibly talented children who deliver Peter Darlings choreography with punchy precision. Their joyful enthusiasm is soaked up by every member of the audience, hitting a magnificent climax in the final number, the utterly addictive Revolting Children. Through scene after scene the sheer talent on stage renders you speechless, enthralled and desperate for more. The now iconic swing scene during When I Grow Up is heart-warming and beautifully effective in its childlike innocence and impressive staging.

Matilda is one of those uniquely brilliant shows which don’t come around very often. Every piece of the puzzle fits perfectly together from Tim Minchin’s magnificent music and lyrics to Dennis Kelly’s razor-sharp book. Matilda captures the hope and joy in celebrating and embracing difference, being who you want to be even and standing up for what you believe in…even if that means you have to be a little bit naughty. This RSC production evokes wonderfully one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes, ‘And though she be but little, she is fierce’.

Powerful, punchy and utterly perfect, grab a ticket immediately!

Matilda is on at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 24th November, tickets available here.