Cinderella | Opera House

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First staged in 2016 at the London Palladium then last year at Birmingham’s legendary Hippodrome Qdos Entertainment’s Cinderella has been brought bang up to date by writer Alan McHugh with Corrie jokes a plenty and hilarious local references a go-go. Both Ben Nickles who plays Buttons and Ugly Sister Les Dennis adding material to the laugh a minute script ensuring a riotous night out is guaranteed.

All the stops have been pulled out in this spectacular production; lavish sets, colourful costumes, catchy songs and a superb cast ensuring the Opera House panto remains at the top of theatre goers agenda for another festive season.

Our Ugly Sisters Phelina (Connor McIntyre) and Michaela (Les Dennis) are mad for it as they blend the silly with the slapstick and throw in some cheeky charm for good measure, the pairing is genius as panto pro Les leads the way, reminding us all just why he’s one of the best in the business.

Rochdale comedian Ben Nickless quickly becomes an audience favourite as Buttons; he laps up the applause and delights with outrageously funny comedy capers and hilarious impressions, a born entertainer who comes very close to stealing the show.

Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn make for a perfect pairing as the dashing Prince Charming and the down on her luck Cinderella proving that they’re not afraid of getting stuck in with the slapstick when their romantic meeting turns into a hilarious battle of wills with lovesick Buttons.

Hayley-Ria Christian makes for a super sassy Fairy Godmother while Jack Wilcox is a commanding and charismatic Dandini.

The ensemble cast and young company, always a favourite of mine in panto add vibrancy with slick delivery of Fabian Aloise’s choreography adding additional charm to this feel-good family show.

Qdos Entertainment has got Cinderella just right in terms of pitch, the script is jam-packed with hilarious gags and witty one–liners while the innuendo we all expect from panto never tips into crudeness, its good old cheeky fun and plenty of it.

The transformation scene at the end of Act I really has to be seen to be believed and is worth the ticket price alone as the gasps of delight from the audience both young and old are heard loud and clear. While panto may one of theatre’s oldest traditions this production feels fresh and vibrant.

Cinderella really is the perfect package; it’s lavish, sparkly, sequined fun suitable for all the family. This extravagant production is everything panto should be and more.

Guaranteed to entertain from start to finish leaving you feeling suitably festive and full of Christmas cheer. Big, bold and brilliant!

Cinderella is on until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.

Snow White | Epstein Theatre

Snow White Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Epstein Christmas panto is gaining quite the reputation for being the ‘must-see’ of the festive period in Liverpool, and this year’s offering of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is no different.

The story follows Snow White (Mia Molloy) and a chance meeting with Prince Valiant (Alex Patmore) which sets both their hearts a racing, however this raises the ire of Snow White’s wicked step-mother, Queen Kimberlina (Kim Woodburn).

Snow White Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

After escaping The Queen and one of her diabolical schemes: Snow White with help from Fairy Goodheart (Claire Simmo) seeks refuge with Seven Dwarfs, but this being a Scouse panto, these aren’t your typical fairy-tale little men. There is Snotty, Soft-Lad, and the rather posh, Wooly-Back, (he’s from the Wirral) to name but a few. Throw into the mix a very untraditional panto dame in the guise of Dame Debbie (Michael Chapman), loveable sidekick Muddles (Lewis Pryor), evil Henchman (Daryl Holden) and a special appearance by Derek Acorah as the Magic Mirror, some fantastic songs, and some brilliantly choreographed dance routines and you have the recipe for a perfect panto.

The show is a riot from start to finish, filled with jokes for children and adults of all ages. Never taking itself too seriously: the show is packed with moments of slapstick, as well as family friendly jokes, with hefty dose of cheeky innuendo that never becomes coarse or vulgar but will have the adults crying with laughter. This is Snow White with a Scouse twist, with plenty of gags and phrases that will resonate with locals,, it’s a fabulously festive treat, (I’ll be doing most of my Christmas shopping with Scally the Dwarf).

Snow White Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Top billing for the show goes to Kim Woodburn and Derek Acorah, however there is so much more to this show than just the star names. The whole cast work there socks off throughout, with intricate song and dance numbers that include: Mr Blue Sky, Killer Queen, and Devil Woman.

Michael Chapman as well as playing Dame Debbie both wrote and directed the whole thing and should be immensely proud of his achievements. He is outstanding as the sassiest, most gangster panto dame you’ll ever see, and pretty much steals every scene he’s involved in. Lewis Pryor shows what a great all-round talented performer he is as the loveable Muddles, whilst Mia Molloy is perfectly cast as our heroine with a beautiful voice and great character acting.

Snow White Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

There are a couple of very few minor issues: the action seems to take a bit of a lull midway through the first act, and there were a few misplaced lines here and there but we can always forgive that in panto can’t we? Oh yes we can! All in all this is a fantastic, fun, family show, which will leave young and old entertained from start to finish as well as being excellent value for money. Now where did I leave my trainers!?

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs is on at the Epstein Theatre until Wednesday 2nd January, tickets available here.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Bolton

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in 2011 the Octagon theatre commissioned a team of writers to rework L. Frank Baum’s classic tale; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Led by Elizabeth Newman the team created an entirely new and uniquely Bolton adaptation. Now in 2018 it’s time to treat audiences again to their distinctively Northern and delightfully brilliant version of the much-loved story.

While the Octagon undergoes its current refurb the action takes place at the impressive University of Bolton stadium, with the stage and auditorium giving off the wow factor the minute you enter. The setting may be different but the characters and familiar elements are all here in this inventive and entertaining adaptation.

Dorothy is a streetwise and self-assured teenager who lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, life is tough when you have holes in your shoes and your family don’t realise just how important having the latest trainers is. It gets even tougher when she suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself in the mysterious land of Oz after a freak cyclone hits Bolton.

The ruby slippers in this modern adaptation become light up high-tops; the yellow brick road a hand-held sat nav and the wonderful Wizard (played brilliantly by Matthew Ganley) is a Wiganer who is homesick for a decent pie.

Anne O’Riordan makes for a fabulous Dorothy, determined to find her way home she is a highly skilled storyteller and a charismatic performer, she beautifully engages both young and old as we will her to succeed in her mission.

David Heywood plays the not-so-stupid Scarecrow with great style; warm and witty he jumbles his words hilariously yet somehow makes perfect sense, proving there are much more important qualities than having a high IQ.

Thom Petty is a kind and caring Tin Man, full of heart and love, while Alexander Bean’s Brummie Lion shows true bravery lies in the courage of conviction as he rallies to protect his friends in the face of danger.

The well written script complete with original score and songs from Barbara Hockaday and Rob Hiley entertains from start to finish. The modern edge bringing the story bang up to date and delivering an important message of friendship, bravery, courage and being true to yourself.

The Octagon once again succeeds in bringing great quality feel-good theatre to Bolton. Ben Occhipinti’s direction is slick and engaging, ensuring the cast make full use of the expansive stage and auditorium, much to the delight of the little ones watching who if they’re lucky might just get a high-five off the Cowardly Lion or even see the Scarecrow take a moment to sit down beside them.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is fabulous family entertainment, inventive, fun and perfect for the festive season.

On at the University of Bolton Stadium until December 31st tickets available here.

Wicked

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett (2)

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Global sensation Wicked flew into Manchester this week for the final stop on a mega UK and international tour which has travelled over 27,000 miles taking in destinations far and wide from Singapore to Switzerland. This final leg brings it back to Manchester’s Palace theatre offering audience’s one final chance to catch the smash-hit musical outside of the capital.

Based on the international best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked has now been seen by over 60 million people worldwide with an incredible 73,000 tickets being sold here in Manchester for this current production.

Wicked - The Emerald City. Photo credit Matt Crockett

Telling the untold story of the Witches of Oz before, during and after Dorothy so rudely landed on top of one of them, Maguire turns the well-known characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz upside down as we soon begin to realise there are most definitely two sides to every story. We follow the unconventional and unexpected friendship of Elphaba and Glinda who meet on their first day of University and the journey which leads them to ultimately become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda The Good.

The familiar becomes unfamiliar, as everything we thought we knew about the magical land of Oz doesn’t seem quite so clean-cut anymore, even questioning the morality of Dorothy at one point, I mean seriously though who does steal a dead woman’s shoes?

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett (4)

Amy Ross is truly magical as Elphaba, one of the best performers I’ve seen. She is mesmerising in the role giving a masterclass in stortytelling. Her delivery of the iconic Defying Gravity note perfect and packing a powerful punch, she convinces entirely, nailing every goose bump inducing moment to perfection.

Helen Woolf is superb as Glinda, she portrays the ditsy blonde with real heart and joyful conviction bringing light and sparkle to the piece. She is flamboyant, funny and totally fabulous, her strong characterisation and comic timing ensuring she perfectly embodies Glinda the Good.

WICKED UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Credit Matt Crockett 1

The chemistry between Ross and Woolf is a delight to watch, their friendship entirely believable. Together they are funny, fascinating and at times deeply moving, their powerful duet For Good a real stand out moment which leaves the majority of the audience reaching for the tissues.

Audience favourite Aaron Sidwell is laid-back and suave as Fiyero while the ensemble make dancing in Susan Hilferty’s exceptional costumes look impressively easy.

Wicked - Defying Gravity. Photo credit Matt Crockett

Wicked recently celebrated 15 years on Broadway and is currently one of the longest running productions on the West End and after tonight it’s easy to see why, as a show it never fails to thrill. It’s an outstanding piece of musical theatre which loses none of the wow factor of its West End counterpart. From Eugene Lee’s big, bold set to Stephen Schwartz’s sensational music and lyrics, Wicked delivers everything you could wish for from the magical land of Oz.

The standing ovations will no doubt continue night after night of the 5 week run, the pleasure this perfect production brings is difficult to rival. A spellbinding show which enchants every time.

Wicked is on at the Palace theatre until Saturday 5th January, tickets available here.

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 2 | Holly Tandy

Holly Tandy

Following on from our chat with Kelvin Fletcher, we caught up with Holly Tandy who is about to step into the ruby slippers and play Dorothy in Sellador’s Blackpool Christmas extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz.

Opening Night: This is your first musical theatre role, how are you feeling?

Holly: I’m super excited; it’s such a good opportunity for me. I’ve never done anything like this before and have always wanted to, it’s one of those things where I’m constantly learning which has just been just great. I know the skills I’m learning in addition to the things I already feel I have strength in together are preparing me for not only this role but my future career, it’s brilliant.

Opening Night: Are you looking forward to performing in Blackpool?

Holly: I’m so excited to get on stage and perform, being back up North feels really special for me too. I’m so excited for the audiences to see this show, my family are all coming along as well and they can’t wait, it’ll be really nice to share this with them.

Company of The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What is it about The Wizard of Oz that makes it so appealing?

Holly: It’s such an iconic show, a total classic that everybody knows and loves. There’s something very comforting about The Wizard of Oz and the familiarity and affection we all have for it. It’s such an engaging piece of theatre too, great for kids, just a really good feel-good show and the perfect Christmas musical for all the family.

Opening Night: How are you finding working in a cast as opposed to as a soloist on X Factor and how does the performance vary?

Holly: It’s so much fun. We all get on so well, everyone’s been so great, we’ve really clicked. There’s so much talent in this show, every cast member from the ensemble to the leads, I couldn’t be happier really with how everything’s going.

X Factor was a great was to build my confidence but this is very different. Pop elements don’t really fit with musical theatre so I’ve been really disciplined in adapting my style and the way I work for this show. I’m enjoying the challenge so much, I’ll always be grateful for my X Factor experience; it’s given me a platform to build on and led to this great opportunity.

Holly Tandy as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What’s are the challenges working on the show?

I was feeling a little nervous about working with Toto at first before we started rehearsals but we’ve got such a great team that I know it will be great. They’re so well trained. Also the amount of lines at first was something I didn’t quite anticipate, I knew there were lots but didn’t realise quite how many, but that’s come on great and you soon pick things up, the show is looking and sounding really good.

Opening Night: Are you feeling any nerves ahead of officially opening?

A little, but I think that’s healthy. It’s a nervousness of wanting to do well, wanting to do the role justice etc. it’s not the kind of nerves that are eating me up. I’m really enjoying it and I think a little bit of nerves shows just how much you care and I do really care about getting this role right and doing a good job.

WOZ-EndCard_1920x1080

Opening Night: Selladoor are known for being inventive and dynamic how are you finding working with them?

Holly: It’s been amazing, they are just so good at what they do and such a great bunch of people, all so good at their jobs, they are all so talented, from the director, to the choreographer to the musical director each and every person I’m working with is just so brilliant and so good at getting each cast member to be the best they can be. It’s been an absolute pleasure so far and no doubt will continue to be.

The Wizard of Oz opens on Friday 7th December at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and runs until Sunday 30th tickets available here.

SIX the Musical

Six 1

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It was just a month ago that the Spice Girls announced a series of comeback gigs that seemingly sent the music world into a feverish frenzy: Girl Power was back and back with vengeance. However way, way, way before Girl Power was a thing, we had Queen Power in the form of six strong, powerful, inspirational ladies who just so happened to be married to the same man, Henry something or other.

With the exam aiding rhyme of: Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived coursing through your brain from the outset Six bursts into life with the vibrant, ballsy opener Ex-Wives where we are introduced to our six monarchs: Aragon, (Jarneia Richard –Noel) Boleyn, (Millie O’Connell) Seymour, (Natalie Paris) Cleves, (Alexia McIntosh) Howard (Aimie Atkinson) and Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed. This certainly sets the tone for the evening, there are big tunes, ostentatious costumes, and some seriously sublime and sassy performances.

Six 2

The premise for the show is a simple one, the women want to step out from the shadow of their husband, Henry VIII, with each of them convinced that their story is more interesting than their counterparts. The only way to find out who the ‘Queen Bee’ is, is for each one to tell their story and let the audience decide.

Writers Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss have created a modern masterpiece. Songs weave historical facts with smart, cutting and cheeky lyrics. The show is a hybrid between a traditional musical and what could easily be a huge stadium concert marrying the two together whilst at the same time sending them up in the process. The pair poke fun at the X Factor whilst in addition making some serious points about the media trying to divide strong females instead of encouraging unity and sisterhood.

Six

The all-female cast are on fabulous form with each of them getting their moment in the spotlight. All the ladies demonstrate their huge talent by singing various styles: drawing inspiration from artists such as Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Adele, Britney Spears and Alicia Keys to name but a few. They are supported by a great backing band who perform a wide range of musical genres, from hip-hop, to German techno, with some unique interpretations of Greensleeves thrown in for good measure.

Stand out songs (and believe me it’s difficult to pick as they are all exceptional) are the brilliant and bizarre German electro pop ditty, Haus of Holbein, and the catchy Anna of Cleves solo, Get Down. It’s not all fun and frolics as the Katherine Howard led, All You Wanna Do takes the show into a momentary but necessary dark place, as we vividly realise the abusive treatment she endured, so relevant today with the #meto movement, brilliantly and cleverly performed by Atkinson.

Six 4

This is a fun and enormously entertaining show filled with glitz, glamour, plenty of attitude and more than a razors edge to it, it’s addictive and then some. Whilst sisters may be doing it for themselves isn’t it better when they work to unite, in this case six heads are better than one, even if two of them have been chopped off!

Six is at the Lowry Quays Theatre until 16th December. Tickets available https://thelowry.com/whats-on/six/

Preview | What’s Love Got To Do With It

Tina Turner the Musical might currently be wowing West End audiences, but north west fans of the iconic soul singer can look forward to a chance to see a stage celebration of her greatest hits a little closer to home in early 2019.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a new tribute show embarking on a massive UK tour next year – featuring all the hits fans of Tina Turner would expect.

Audiences can look forward to hearing stunning musical arrangements of Tina Turner’s most-loved classic hits including Private Dancer, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Proud Mary, River Deep, Nutbush City Limits, Simply The Best and many more.

Bringing to the stage Tina Turner’s famous high energy performances and incredible vocals will be Elesha Paul Moses (Whitney – Queen Of The Night, The Voice, X Factor) supported by a full 10-piece live band.

Speaking about playing Tina Turner, Elesha said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be touring the UK with What’s Love Got To Do With It? This is going to be a magnificent show and one that truly celebrates the incredible music and career of Tina Turner.

“Tina is a great persona to emulate on stage. I have performed as her many times over the years so to now be the lead in a show that will travel all over the UK and celebrate everything about her is an amazing opportunity and one I’m really looking forward to.”

The show comes to the Liverpool Empire on Tuesday 19th February, at the start of a massive 50 date tour.

Other north west dates in the tour include Blackpool Opera House on Saturday 20th July, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday 20th September and Warrington’s Parr Hall on Friday 13th March.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is presented by leading live entertainment promoters Cuffe & Taylor, and Paul Roberts Productions.

For more information visit www.cuffeandtaylor.com.