SIX

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have felt for a very long time like I was the only person in the world who hadn’t seen this musical. Trust me, I’ve tried, but covid had other plans. My delight when asked to review it was not pretty: it involved much whooping and a little overhelmed sob. But, as the day approached I was little anxious about whether it was going to live up to everything I’d read and heard. Live up to the hype? OMG: lived up to and sky rocketed above any expectations I had. Absolutely outstanding, like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m going back for more, without a doubt.

A show about women, by women, empowering women, telling the tale of women, but not just for women. I took my 70 year old dad with me and he is equally as excited about this show as I am!
History/herstory, it’s a must see for all.

The show is based on the lives of Henry VIII wives, all six of them. The staging is that of a pop concert where the Queens use songs to compete to prove that they are infact the most important and tragic wife of Henry VIII – there are no set changes, no costume changes, no time off stage for the characters or musicians. What you see is what you get. And what you get is phenomenal. It is no wonder that this has become a global sensation.

So much of our history is dominated by men, and the role of women can often be depicting them as villains or muses or meek and mild. This show is ripping up those history books and reclaiming the stories of these six women. The parallels to modern life, divorces played out in court rooms, the media, the use of social media, is uncanny.



Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss are a force to be reckoned with. The lyrics to the songs are modern, engaging and hilarious and at times very raw and vulnerable. The music is class, melodious, banging, brazen, comical, classical, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. This show was written by these two, then undergraduate students, and first appeared at the fringe in Edinburgh and tonight it was in the lyric theatre in Salford with the audience on its feet in absolute awe of this show.

And what makes this show the most incredible show I’ve seen is also this dynamic and talented cast. Each “Queen” brings something different, both in character performances and talent.

Catherine Aragon is played by Chloe Hart and this woman took by breath away. She is fearless, sassy and bold in her performance. She was a stand out performer for me and my absolute Queen!

Anne Boleyn is played by Jennifer Caldwell, who is hilarious throughout the entire show, reminding us time and time ago that she was behedded, a fact that entertains the audience again and again. Her performance of “Don’t Lose Your Head” was flawless.



Casey Al-Shaqsy plays Jane Seymour and her note perfect, raw performance of “Heart of Stone” was moving and showed the great vulnerability of a character who often we consider to be the lucky one. Once again showing us that a male narrative of historical events can omit the struggle of women through history.

Jessica Niles plays Anna of Cleves. Her and the company’s introduction to her character through the magnificent number “House of Holbein” is exquisite. It is for me, the cleverest number in the whole production. The fact that her story is told by using online dating sites to help us understand her story is ingenious. Niles’ goes on to deliver a brilliant performance of the number “Get Down” showing us an insight into the life of Anna from a whole new perspective.

Katherine Howard is played by Leesa Tulley, who is magical in her performance of “All You Wanna Do” – it’s very, very Brittney – if not a more polished version! With the Me Too movement this highlighted that it has been a struggle faced by women for centuries – literally!

And our last queen – Catherine Parr played by the mighty Alana M Robinson. The Queen who makes the show stop and reevaluate it’s narrative – bringing together the women to support and empower each other. And all this done while busting some moves and hitting all of the high notes.

Six is the show of the moment and for many many good reasons. This show is helping to cultivate a new intelligent form of theatre for future generations. It is a show that has longevity, that will be talked about over and over, a show that we will encourage each other to go and see, the show we will go and see again and again. All of this because it’s well staged, beautifully and cleverly written and because this cast and the casts before it and the casts that will come after it will engage us and inspire us and educate us. Yes it’s all women but it’s not just for women, it’s a show for all. You might have forgotten what you learnt about Henry at school – you won’t forget about what you learnt about these woman in this show.

SIX is on at The Lowry until Sunday 14th August tickets available here.

South Pacific

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Credit: Johan Persson

Rather surprisingly that hottest place in Manchester last night wasn’t the mythical island of Bali Ha’i central to the plot of South Pacific (this was due the fabulous air con at the Manchester Opera House), however make no bones about Daniel Evans’s revival of this Roger and Hammerstein classic is one of the hottest tickets in town!

From the much-praised Chichester Festival Theatre production, South Pacific is a dual love story. The first involves a French plantation owner and an American nurse; the second an American GI, and a native Tonkinese woman. All four find themselves on an island in the South Pacific, with the spectre of World War 2 hanging over them. However, it’s not war that threatens their relationships, but their past lives, clashes of culture and most certainly current prejudices that stand in the way of true love.

Credit: Johan Persson

Cards on the table I’ve never seen South Pacific, so seeing racism tackled in such a forthright manner was quite unexpected, especially when the prejudice came in the guise of the production’s ‘heroine’, nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush. When Oscar Hammerstein penned the lyrics to ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ over 70 years ago he hoped that the subject of racial equality would have improved but sadly we’re not quite there yet.

With such a weighty subject matter the production requires some powerhouse performances and lucky for us that’s exactly what we get. Julian Ovenden is in sublime form as plantation owner, Emile de Becque. Charming, charismatic, and tortured, his rendition of ‘This Nearly was Mine’ is the highlight of the night from a show jam-packed with highlights. Opposite him is the equally excellent Gina Beck as Nurse Forbush, a performance packed with energy, like a 4tth of July firework set she draws your attention throughout, radiating warmth and joy which makes the characters prejudices all the more shocking.

Credit: Johan Persson

In addition, there are some fine supporting performances Joanna Ampil puts in a great comedic turn as Bloody Mary, the personification of a survivor, doing all she can to protect herself and family. Whilst Rob Houchen as Lieutenant Cable and Sera Maehra as Liat, bring something wonderfully different to the second love story. Houchen with his delicate vocals on the aforementioned, ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ is superb while Maehara opens the production with a beautifully haunting dance routine, which then feature throughout.

As well as Amil’s Bloody Mary, there is additional light relief from Douggie McMeekin’s scene stealing, Luther Billis, a dodgy GI, with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, think Dad’s Army’s Private Walker and you’re on the right track.

Credit: Johan Persson

Of course, being such a classic South Pacific has some big ensemble numbers in its arsenal, from the hugely infectious ‘There is Nothin’ Like A Dame’ to the bright and breezy ‘I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa my Hair’, that will have you itching to sing along.

Director Daniel Evans’ South Pacific has a contemporary feel to it and is all you could want from a night at the theatre, fantastic performances, great show tunes and more importantly a social commentary on racism, which sadly still blights society today. 

South Pacific is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 23rd July tickets available here.

Lord of The Dance

Reviewed by Robyn Molyneux

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Last night I had the pleasure of attending one of Manchester’s most beautiful theatres, the Palace theatre. The architecture is just stunning, and having taken my seats with no pre-conceptions of what I was about to see, I was blown away by the talent shown by the dancers that made up the troupe for this mid-week evening performance; the energy was infectious, and it is clear to see the hard work and dedication that goes into preparing for and delivering each performance.

I wont lie, I’m not sure what I had expected but this felt like a dream you have had when you’ve had too much cheese before bed, the kind of randomness that just sort of works!

In almost equal measure was the cheesiness and fun that the show delivered, with a loose storyline of good triumphing over evil! The show was full of charisma and embodied the famous style of Michael Flatley, cut from the same cloth with light-hearted comedy moments and showcasing the talents of those toes whilst flexing and “blue steel” posing all at once.

Between the main acts of dancers was a solo female singer who although talented, felt like she was drafted in to give the audience a break from the high energy show however, I found a bit out of kilter with the rest of the shows essence. Also, there were two violinists who played beautifully that accompanied the dancers throughout some numbers, maybe they should stick to playing the violin and avoid the awkward dance moves that went with it?

In terms of the difference numbers, my favourite part has to be when a dance off takes place. The slow build of articulate noise that can be created from their tap shoes is amazing, you feel the beat and excitement build in the rhythm as it comes to point.

Overall, the show was great fun and something a little different that everyone should see at some point in their life, full of feel-good vibes and incredible talent!

Lord of the Dance is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Sunday 17th July tickets available here.

Sister Act

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sister Act tells the story of wannabe club singer Deloris (Sandra Marvin), who is the mistress of gangster Eddie Souther (Clive Rowe). Ready to end their affair, after he gifts her his wife’s old fur coat, Deloris accidentally witnesses Eddie kill a man. Fearing for her life she flees to the police and is forced to enter witness protection. A convent isn’t quite what she had in mind though and it takes her a fair bit of adjusting! But being given the role of choir master helps Deloris bond with the other nuns and she sets about helping them raise money to fix the church roof.


This show is a roaring success, and the Manchester audience loved it. It’s clear that many people (judging from the huge applause she received before she had even opened her mouth to deliver a line) came to see the legend that is Jennifer Saunders and she really doesn’t disappoint. There is no hiding from the fact that she isn’t a singer – but she doesn’t need to be, she even acknowledges this during her performance herself. Her comic timing, stage presence and the way in which she engages with the cast means that the audience is captivated with her character, Mother Superior, immediately.

The cast is packed with stars of the stage and screen and this makes for a very polished performance all round. Lizzie Bea hitting the high notes was a highlight of the show- she is a great talent. While Clive Rowe in a sparkly 70s disco dancing outfit performing “I could be that guy” is something I won’t forget in a hurry!


The songs differ from those in the movie and they aren’t as catchy, but it really doesn’t matter. The way that the “nuns” come together and perform is absolutely first class – Sister Mary Lazarus played by Leslie Joseph is a triumph, 76 years of age and moves as fast and nimble as any cast member on that stage. Later in the year she will take on the role of Mother Superior, which I think will be well worth seeing.


The set design by Morgan Large is impressive and Tim Mitchell’s lighting design compliments it incredibly well. Visually it makes such an impact.

Sister Act has all the ingredients for a fun night out, filled with laughter, good music and spectacular performances. It doesn’t disappoint from start to finish. The audience couldn’t wait to get up on their feet for the finale.

Sister Act is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 9th July tickets available here.

Anything Goes

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

First seen on Broadway in 1934, Anything Goes premiered at a time when the general public were unable to afford a theatre ticket due to the Great Depression, and those who were lucky enough to be able to buy a ticket needed a distraction from the drudgery of living in such difficult times. Fast forward nearly 90 years (I know! Can you believe it – nearly 90 years! ) and here we are again sitting in those velvet seats waiting to be transported to a world away from Brexit and partygate and fuel hikes.

Anything  Goes is a spectacular revival of a classic musical from a golden age and it doesn’t disappoint. It is predominantly set aboard a cruise liner crossing the Atlantic from New York to London. Where celebrities are in short supply and high demand.

We begin by meeting the Elisha Whitney (Simon Callow), a successful business man who is preparing to sail to England for the Henley Regatta. His trusted young assistant Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) is to organise Whitney’s paperwork for his trip and meet him with his passport ready to board. When Billy discovers that Hope Harcourt, a young lady that he had a brief romantic encounter with is to also sail to England, where she will marry Lord Evelyn, he stows away on board with hilarious consequences.

Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lilly Baisden) is promised to another, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (played by the hilarious Haydn Oakley) . Her mother, Evangeline Harcourt (played by the legend that is Bonnie Langford) wants Hope to marry the Lord in order to secure their financial future.

Billy Crocker along with his new found friend Moonface Martin (Olivier Award winner Denis Lawson) hatch a plan or two to win Hope’s heart and call off the upcoming nuptials. Samuel Edwards is a delight in the role of Billy, he’s easy to love and he wins the audience over quickly, and what a voice – he was 100% pitch perfect in every number. 

Kerry Ellis as Reno Sweeny guides us majestically and magnificently through the narrative. She dominates the stage- her vocals are outstanding and it’s easy to see why she has been cast in so many big productions both in the West End and on Broadway. 

The big numbers such as Anything Goes and Blow Gabriel Blow bring the house down- they are glitzy, glamorous and the audience lap it up! Kerry Ellis owns this stage: her singing and dancing is top-class. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of these incredible big numbers: Some of the scenes in the opening of Act one were slow paced and lacking in the same pizzazz as the bigger numbers. But it didn’t distract from the sleekness of the production and the talent of all of the cast including the brilliant ensemble acting as sailors, passengers, and angels.

Denis Lawson was a revelation to me in his role as Moonface Martin. He was polished in his delivery and his comedic timing was second to none. Every scene that he played was a roaring delight- he was also super quick and light on his feet too. A highlight was his duet “Friendship” with Kerry Ellis, which I sang the whole way home in the car.

Credit to the set and costume designers, whose creativity takes us back to a magical age of glamour and glitz. The orchestra was also impeccable. 

It’s impossible to write a review of this show without giving high praise to Carly Mercedes Dyer in her role as the ever randy Erma. She had the audience in stitches and the chemistry between her and  Denis Lawson was spectacular. 

This show is for musical lovers, it has a star studded cast who deserve all of the praise they receive. It’s a super fun way to spend the evening and it had the entire audience on its feet, cheering during the finale.

Anything Goes is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 18th June tickets available here.

One Man, Two Guvnors

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in early spring 2020, I was fortunate to attend the season launch for the reopening of the Octagon, which included the programme for the year ahead through to 2021. Instantly one production stuck out, writer Richard Bean’s smash-hit One Man, Two Guvnors. We’re all fully aware what happened next, just under two years have passed and finally the production arrives on the Octagon stage and boy was it worth the wait!

Based on the Servant of Two Masters, a 1743 comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. Set in 1960’s Brighton, One Man, Two Guvnors follows the escapades of dim-witted chancer Francis Henshall (Jordan Pearson) who has somehow landed the job as a hired goon for East End gangster Roscoe Crabbe. All is not what it seems with Roscoe, Roscoe is dead and this is actually his twin sister, Rachel Crabbe (Siobhan Athwal) who is impersonating her dead brother in order to cash in some of brothers debts, so she and her lover, Stanley Stubbers (Laurie Jamieson), can start afresh. To further complicate matters Stubbers’ is responsible for Roscoe’s death.

Francais spots an opportunity to earn a few extra quid and more importantly have a decent meal, working a second job as Stubbers valet. Stubbers is on the run from the law for murder and is just bidding his time to reunite with Rachel. Can Francais keep his two employers from finding out his deception long enough to earn a big pay and end his 16 hours without eating?

Under the direction of Lotte Wakeman with Bean’s near flawless script this is as good as theatre gets and a real treat for comedy fans. Slapstick, farce and some killer one-liners, the show has something for everyone. The beauty lies in the fact that you’re never quite sure where the show is going, such is it’s anarchic nature which really adds to the fun.

The production is anchored by a powerhouse performance from Jordan Pearson who is engaging throughout, his childlike innocence is infectious, as he is driven by hunger, never fully aware or concerned by the chaos he has created.  

Pearson is supported by strong performances from the ensemble cast, with Lauire Jamieson getting the lion’s share of the best lines as slightly unhinged toff, Stanley Stubbers. Whilst Javier Marzan as the hapless waiter Alfie, and Qasim Mahood, as the jilted actor, Alan Dangle, both put in superb physically comedic turns.

I cannot recommend this production enough, over-the-top, ridiculous fun from start to finish that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear, an absolute must-see!

One Man, Two Guvnors is at the Bolton Octagon until the 25th June, tickets available here.

Chicago

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Chicago has been wowing audiences since it opened on Broadway in 1975. On the basis of tonight’s performance, it’s easy to see how this became such a musical theatre juggernaut.

For this is a tale “Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery… all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts”.

Set in 1920’s Chicago, a lawless place, where bootleggers and gangsters run the show. Prohibition is feeding power to the criminal underworld and the only place to get a decent drink and some decent music is in the speakeasy.

Based on the writing of journalist Maurine Watkins, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Watkins began seeing a pattern in the Chicago courts of law, glamorous young women getting away with murder. The bigger celebrity name they made for themself, the more likely they were to be acquitted, no matter how guilty they were!

Chicago focuses on two such women. First is Roxanne Hart (Faye Brookes) a cocktail waitress and wannabe singer accused of murdering he wantaway lover. The second is Velma Kelly (Michelle Andrews) a music hall entertainer in the dock for the slaying of her husband and her sister, who were having an affair.

Both are as guilty sin, but how can they get away with murder, and become the must-see act in town, enter super flash, super slippery lawyer, Billy Flynn (Liam Marcellino), the number one lawyer who knows exactly what jury’s and more importantly the press want to see in order to get these murderous vixens acquitted.

It’s rather timely that Chicago is currently out touring, whilst two of the biggest media circus’s play out over here and across the pond, thus highlighting the shows relevance and bang on point rapier critique of ‘celebrity’.

This slick production is a treat for the senses. Big musical numbers, stunning set pieces and more fun than I was expecting (I’ve never seen the 2002 Oscar winning film adaptation). Faye Brookes puts in a solid comedic if slightly unhinged turn as Hart. Filled with great little comedic asides, facial expressions and a flirty innocent charm, she is in fine form. Her work on the songs Roxie and Me and My Baby is highly impressive

Also in fine form is Michelle Andrews as Velma Kelly. Andrews gives a sassy, spikey performance, a commanding stage presence throughout; she more than delivers and gives no indication that she was stepping into the role as an understudy.

The show boasts an incredible wealth of supporting talent: Sheila Fergurson looks like she’s having a ball as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, and as you would expect her voice is top of the class. In addition, there is a great comedic turn from Jamie Baughan as Roxanne’s sap of a husband, Amos. His work on the comedic number Mister Cellophane, very much nearly steals the show.

Whilst Liam Marcllino is a treat as the oily, Billy Flynn. His performance of All I Care About brings in some big laughs. The whole cast works so hard throughout for what is a physically demanding show.

Performed very much in the Vaudeville tradition of theatre, we have characters and show numbers introduced by the cast, we see the cast members waiting in the wings, whilst the orchestra takes centre stage, even musical director Andrew Hilton, has a more prominent role than one might expect.

There are stunning set pieces in the form of more familiar numbers such opener All That Jazz and Razzle Dazzle with all the glitz and glamour you would expect from a production of this standard

This sexy, sultry, super smart production is a perfect example of how life imitates art and demonstrates why this is one of the most cherished musicals around.

Chicago is on at the Manchester Opera House 28th May 2022

Tickets available here.

The Cher Show

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not sure what I was expecting from “The Cher Show”; but it certainly wasn’t what I got. I have never ever considered myself to be a fan of Cher’s music, but what I learned tonight is that my entire life has been punctuated by Cher songs. You do not realise just how many Cher songs you know until you hear approximately 35 of them and you know every single one. 

The success of this show is the clever use of the three versions of Cher: Star (Debbie Kurup), Lady (Danielle Steers) and Babe (Millie O’Connell). These characters share with us the life story of this incredibly courageous and successful woman – The legend that is Cher.

They take us on a journey together, each representing a different period of Chers life, romantically, professionally, musically and stylistically. But these women are not karaoke versions or impersonators of Cher: yes they each use Cher’s well known mannerisms, such as the hair flick and the sway, but each of them showcase their own talent in their performances, and their talent is MIGHTY.

You cannot compare them to each other, they each stand out for their performances in equal measure. The script, the choreography and the costumes for each are perfection. Each performer supports the other and together they are magical.

The whole cast is spectacular – when Lucas Rush sang his first note as Sonny I was left speechless, his comic timing and chemistry with all three versions of Cher was marvellous. Tori Scott as Cher’s mother was kind, funny and engaging. Special mention to Jake Mitchell as fashion designer Bob Mackie, an all-round performer who the audience loved! I’m embarrassed to say that I had no ideas that Sam Ferriday played as many roles as he did until the curtain call when only one of his characters appeared – four characters played in one production so sleekly is a triumph.

The whole production is intelligent and original. Tom Rogers set design is simple, but powerful. The use of the ensemble to guide us through the eras worked really well. Wigs, hair, make up and costume are all outstanding, everything was flawless. I’m sure Cher herself will be putting in a special request to have some of the outfits flown out to her.

The audience were informed at the beginning of the show that the singing should be left to the cast until the finale – most took this on board, but some just couldn’t help themselves, even I had to hold back when “strong enough” came on!

And then we had the finale – and what a finale it was. It was hands down the finale of all finales, and Manchester lapped it up. Everyone was up on their feet, there was dancing in the aisles, singing along and cheering for the cast and the wonderful orchestration.


Arlene Phillips, Rick Elise and Oti Mabuse have created something magical here, something that will delight audiences again and again and perhaps just give us all a little bit of Cher in our lives when we need it most.

A special little mention to the proud husband of Debbie Kurup, who was sitting behind us, his knowledge of Chers music during the interval was incredible and much appreciated for this Cher convert!

The Cher Show is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 21st May, tickets available here.

Passion

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

With a book by long standing Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods) plus music and lyrics by the late, great Stephen Sondheim, Passion finds a new home in Manchester’s intimate Hope Mill Theatre with a stellar cast led by musical theatre legend Ruthie Henshall.

Based on the 1981 film, Passione d’Amore, which was inspired by Tarchetti’s 1869 gothic novel Fosca; the story introduces us to Giorgio, (Dean John-Wilson) a handsome young officer who is posted to a remote garrison in the mountains; separating him from Clara (Kelly Price), his married mistress in Milan. Once there, his Colonel’s intense and uncompromising cousin Fosca (Ruthie Henshall) begins a relentless pursuit of him, her obsessive chase as manipulative as it is mesmerising.

Henshall is wonderfully expressive as Fosca, her moments of lunacy and lucidity adding depth to this complex character. She is a tortured soul, her mental anguish leaking into her physicality, wringing her hands & cowering under her shawl one moment, shrieking and wailing the next. Her obsession with Giorgio sends him on a fascinating journey from self-assured soldier to self-doubting shell, as the absurd becomes actuality.

Dean John-Wilson makes an excellent Giorgio and portrays the characters complex transition convincingly. Kelly Price is a wonderful Clara, initially frothy and bright her journey too is compelling.

Director Michael Strassen uses the intimacy of Hope Mill Theatre to its full advantage, the synergy of the ensemble fills the theatre with the most sublime harmonies while the claustrophobia felt by Giorgio feels palpable and close.

Elin Steele’s set and costume design is simple but effective, while Charlie Morgan Jones’ atmospheric lighting brings light and shade to the piece. The five-piece band fit perfectly within the setting with Dan Samson’s sound design ensuring every note is crystal clear.

This is a piece I must confess I knew little about and was not disappointed. The storytelling is strong while Sondheim’s undeniable melodic style is identifiable from the first note. The cast are superb, their star quality ensuring this intense and strange tale never feels too heavy in this lovingly staged revival.

It’s a joy to see this impressive cast in such an intimate setting, they draw you into the emotion of the piece and keep you on your toes. It’s fascinating to see the joyful lyrics about love and happiness transfer from the light and carefree delivery of Clara into Fosca’s intense ownership by the end of the production. Special mention must also go to the ensemble who act as almost narrators at times, in the most perfect of harmony.

Passion is a quality piece of theatre, powerful, dramatic and beautifully crafted.

Passion is on at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre until Sunday 5th June tickets available https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/passion

Singin’ in the Rain

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This adaptation of the classic 1952 Gene Kelly film is a thing of charm and laughter.

Adam Cooper plays the role of Don Lockwood, a silent movie star, who is paired with the beautiful (but not so talented) Lina Lamont. Jenny Gayner plays this role brilliantly, and had the audience laughing their socks off in all of her scenes.

Lockwood and Lamont are marketed as Hollywoods golden couple, but Lockwood feels no love for Lamont and falls in love with the talented Kathy’s Selden (Charlotte Gouch).

When talking movies take America by storm producer RF Storm (Dale Rapley) is forced to make his new movie a talking picture, and with the help of Lockwood’s sidekick and best pal Cosmos Brown (played by the fabulous Ross McLaren) they make the movie a musical extravaganza – the only stumbling block is that Lamont cannot sing a note or dance a step- which is where Kathy comes in.

This production is an absolute delight. The talent is incredible. The ensemble hugely impressive – navigating us through the scenes and giving us some belters of dance numbers.

Ross MCLaren (Cosmos) and Jenny Gayner (Lina) provide us with the gags, real big belly laughs with their comic timing and delivery. McLarens energy is endless.

Cooper and Gooch are well matched and the chemistry between them is beautifully presented. Gooch’s voice is spectacular throughout the production while Cooper and Mclaren make a great duo – and these men know how to dance.

“Singing in the rain” is obviously the number we were all waiting for and it didn’t disappoint (although maybe it did disappoint those sitting in the first three rows if they hadn’t brought their raincoats!). Cooper gave the audience what they wanted and more- he was quick and light on his feet, showing us that even after all this time in this role he hasn’t lost any pizzazz.

But singing in the rain isn’t just about one song or one routine – the numbers are plentiful and they don’t disappoint – the choreography and the orchestra deliver time and time again throughout the production.

Special mention to the ensemble and Lockwood for the Ballet scenes – these were just magnificent, the audience rewarded this with a resounding applause and plenty of cheering.

This production is a must see, a real feel good show with plenty of heart and laughter. And Manchester loved it, the audience jumped to their feet before the reprise had even begun.

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo

Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo-doo

I’m singing in the rain……. All the way home!

Go see it- you won’t be disappointed.

Singin’ in the Rain is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 14th May tickets available here.

Interview | Ruthie Henshall | Passion

Olivier Award winner and Musical Theatre icon Ruthie Henshall will lead a reimagining of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s multi-award-winning Passion at the Hope Mill Theatre. Directed by Michael Strassen this revival will reenergise the tale of love, sex and obsession in a new dynamic staging.

Arguably Sondheim’s most lyrical and romantic work, Passion is a legendary musical based on Ettore Scola’s Italian film, Passion d’Amore. Situated in 19th Century Italy, the production tells the tale of a young soldier, Giorgio, who is obsessively pursued by the relation of his superior officer, Fosca – a woman prone to severe melancholy and mania.  

Exploring the consequences of intense passion and obsessive adoration, Passion is a ravishing and thought-provoking look at the lengths people go to for desire.

We spoke to Ruthie about the new production, her role and honouring Stephen Sondheim.

Opening Night: Why did you want to play Fosca in this new production of Passion?

Ruthie: The productions I have seen of Passion have never touched me personally in a way that I would have liked them to therefore for me I wanted to find a new way of connecting with it. 

ON: Can you tell us a little bit about the role?

Ruthie: I am just discovering her as I go in rehearsals. I’ll let you know on opening night! “ 

ON: What can audiences expect from Passion?

Ruthie: Phenomenal music by Stephen Sondheim. The man is a professor of the human condition. There is no one better to know how to describe feelings than that man. So you will leave the theatre having been changed in some way.  

ON: How are rehearsals going so far?

Ruthie: Very very good. It’s not an easy piece to put together because it’s very complicated. It is  like an opera. However it’s going really really well!

ON: This is one of the first revivals of one of Stephen Sondheim’s shows since he passed away last year – does this make it extra poignant for everyone involved?

Ruthie: Yes it does. It’s makes us feel like we really have to honour Stephen Sondheim. The biggest shame is that he will not get to see this. We will do everything we can to honour his memory. 

ON: Are you looking forward to performing in Manchester? And are you familiar with the Hope Mill Theatre?

Ruthie: I spent two weeks in Manchester doing the tour of Fosse and I loved it. It’s a really fun, happening place so I am looking forward to Manchester. I have never been to Hope Mill or seen anything there but their reputation is such that they have become a Donmar Warehouse outside London. 

ON: You’ve played some of the most iconic roles in Musical Theatre – from Velma & Roxie to Fantine and Mrs Wilkinson. Are there any roles out there that you’d still really love to play?

Ruthie: I think there are some iconic roles I’ve yet to have played that I would definitely like to play – like Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly and Mama Rose in Gypsy. I think they are right of passage for any older woman so yes I would I like to play those two.  

Passion runs at Hope Mill Theatre from 5th May to 6th June 2022 tickets available here.

Electric Rosary

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Writer Tim Foley’s new play, Electric Rosary had quite the inception, back in 2017 it won the Bruntwood Prize Judge’s Award and now it arrives at the Royal Exchange Theatre for a three-week run. This sci-fi comedy promises something original and something we had no idea we needed in our lives till now, nuns and robots sharing the stage for the first time!

Set in the dilapidated grounds of St Grace’s convent, a depleted troop of nuns are struggling to keep the convent afloat. Whilst the recent passing of the mother superior has left the nuns in a state of flux as to who will lead them through these are turbulent times. In addition, the convent had set up strong ties with a missionary in Ecuador which all the nuns have dreamt about visiting, however with funds so low this seems highly unlikely.

With Easter approaching acting mother superior, Elizabeth (Jo Mousley) may have a solution to their problems in the guise of a council funded robot, Sister Mary (Breffni Holahan). Whilst young nun Theresa ( Saroja-Lily Ratnavel) is made up with android Mary, older nuns, Phillippa (Suzette Llwellyn) and Constance (Olwen May) are more sceptical.

The views of the nuns seemingly represent their views of the outside world in general, as the use of robots as workers is commonplace in this world, with some members of the public protesting about the “reapers” as they are called, and as the protests head closer to the convent what will the nuns do about it, and just how will they solve a problem like Mary?

This is a bold, unique at times hilarious production, with some fantastic performances, and razor-sharp script. However, the further you dive into the narrative the darker it becomes, exploring themes such as tolerance, the over reliance on artificial intelligence, and other factors that divide us.

The play opens like an extended episode of Victoria Wood’s classic sitcom, Dinner Ladies, sweet, charming and hilariously funny packed full of well observed punchlines. There numerous strong comedic set pieces as Sister Mary adapts to her new environment and how it reacts to her. However, it’s the final act where the tone shifts becoming more of a thriller.

I felt that the production somewhat loses its way a little after the interval, which is a real shame, it would benefit from another edit. It does manage to get back on track though with a powerful, haunting final 30 minutes. The ensemble cast are excellent throughout: Saroja-Lily Ratnavel gives a fantastic performance, as the innocent, sweet natured Sister Theresa, displaying a gift for comedy. Breffni Holahan as Sister Mary, commands the stage, demanding your attention throughout, with a very physical performance. Olwen May is in fine form as the strong yet cynical world-beaten Sister Constance. In addition, there is a powerful performance from Yandass Ndlovu in two very different yet pivotal roles

This is a strong showing from all six actors who all work hard throughout with each one getting their moment to shine. Electric Rosary despite some minor flaws is a hilarious, ambitious production with a great deal to say about modern times and well worth a watch.

Electric Rosary is at the Royal Exchange Theatre till the 14th May tickets available here.