Ghost Stories

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Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Finally, a decade after it’s theatrical premiere at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, Ghost Stories is embarking on a full national tour, and trust me it was well worth the wait!

From the twisted minds of childhood friends Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, comes the ultimate scary theatrical experience, that will chill to your core.

Both Dyson and Nyman are no strangers to horror and the supernatural: Dyson is arguably best known for his work with, The League of Gentleman. Whilst Nyman is an actor and writer, who recently starred opposite Renée Zellweger in the Oscar winning film Judy. However, it’s his previous work with Derren Brown, which undoubtedly feeds into this production.

It would do the show a disservice to offer a review complete with plot synopsis and spoilers, the less you know going in beforehand the better. So, this review like a government investigation into Russian donors to the Conservative Party will be heavily redacted.

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Beginning with a lecture from Professor Goodman (Joshua Higgott), Goodman specialises in the study of the supernatural, especially debunking people’s stories, or exposing fakers and frauds. However, of all the cases that he has investigated there have been three that have stuck with him.

The first is that of security guard, Tony Matthews (Paul Hawkyard), and his unsettling final shift. The second is that of teenager, Simon Rifkind (Gus Gordon) and the strife his troublesome car gets him into. Finally, businessman, Mike Priddle (Richard Sutton) and the events that lead up to a family tragedy.

Can Professor Goodman offer up a rational explanation behind each of these stories, if so what can be?

If the aim of Ghost Stories is to have you jumping out of your skin then it achieves its goal ten times over, like a rollercoaster the thrills come thick and fast, just when you think you’re safe there’s another scare right around the corner. It’s not all shocks, there are several laughs too, with a pitch-black script and lots of fun gags, horror and comedy have often made strange bed fellows, Ghost Stories undoubtedly have got the balance spot on.

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With a production of this nature it of course relies hugely on its creative team and high production values and what they have created is something quite special. With James Farncombe’s lighting design, sound design by Nick Manning, then add into the mix Jon Bausor’s impressive set design and you have an atmospheric, gasp-inducing full-on sensory experience.

The cast are on fine form, Higgot has an engaging stage presence as our guide to the paranormal, whilst the three storytellers each bring something different to their tale. There’s comedy, drama, and terror from each turn but all done very differently, which is a credit to all three actors as well the sublime writing and direction.

This is so much more than a fright-fest: it’s smart, innovative and most of all an enormously fun piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops to give you a night out that will live long in the memory.

Ghost Stories is at the Lowry until the 22nd February 2020 tickets available here.

 

 

 

Will Young announces Chester Storyhouse date inc VIP Meet & Greet

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Will Young’s Show And Tell Tour comes to Storyhouse for one night only on Sunday 20 September 2020. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday 21 February 2020.

On his first ever spoken word tour Show And Tell, he will talk about his life and experiences to fans.

The show will cover a variety of topics, from the evolution of pop to gay rights, as well as Will’s funny moments during a unique and successful 18-year career. He will speak about numerous career highlights, from winning the first ever Pop Idol aged 22, to scoring four Number One albums and four Number One singles.

His tour in September and October will play nine venues across the country, and follows the publication of his new book, To Be A Gay Man.

Fans have the chance to meet Will before the show during a VIP Meet & Greet, places are limited. There will also be audience questions.

Will explained: “I’m really looking forward to this. It’ll be a funny show and I’ll be talking about my career as well as looking at mental health, gay rights and much, much more. It’s a spoken word show – there’s no music – and I’m excited to be following the publication of my new book with nine UK dates.”

The show follows the success of Will’s latest record, Lexicon. It follows his life from the age of four, through boarding school and university, to entering and winning the biggest talent competition ever seen, Pop Idol. He will reflect on a successful pop career, as well as talking about being one of the first openly gay pop stars.

The tour will start in Worthing on 12 September, before visiting Cheltenham, Bristol, Chester, Lincoln, Yarm, Porthcawl, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and Shrewsbury.

Tickets for Will Young’s Show And Tell show are priced from £25. Each ticket is subject to a £1.50 booking fee. A VIP Meet & Greet package is also available. Further information can be found here.

 

The Last Quiz Night On Earth

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If it were your last night on earth, how would you spend it? Surely, with friends, family, neighbours maybe even complete strangers? How about with all of these whilst participating in a pub quiz? A pub quiz probably wouldn’t be your first thought when faced with your imminent doom, but The Last Quiz Night on Earth may just change your mind!

With an asteroid hurtling towards the earth, and all hope gone, landlady Kathy (Meriel Schofield), and quizmaster, Rav (Shaban Dar) decide the best way to go out is by throwing a quiz and we’re all invited. However, with the pending apocalypse, it’s inevitable that the night won’t run smoothly and the arrival of Kathy’s estranged brother, Bobby (Chris Jack), as well as of Rav’s ex-childhood sweetheart, Fran (Amy Drake) throw a spanner in the works. Will the sibling rivalry and matters of the heart get in the way of the sports round? Will we crown a quiz champion before our untimely demise and just which team will have the best name?

Writer Alison Carr and director Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder have created a fun, innovative slice of a theatre, packed full of comedic set pieces, great one liner and a pinch of high drama. In its rather unique setting the play tackles issues such as redemption, forgiveness, and tolerance. However, there is an extra dimension  to the performance, as it’s fully interactive, the quiz is real, so you’ll need a quiz team, think of a witty team name (my personal favourite this evening was Salford Analytica) and you may even be called on for a bit of audience participation, you could end up playing Paul, Kathy’s no good ex!

The cast are on fine form, Schofield is the show’s heart and soul, holding the production together, Dar injects some razzmatazz and sparkle as our quiz master general, with Drake showing  a gift for comedy and Jack adding a touch of intrigue and pathos as Bobby. All four have great chemistry and with one another, and because of the interactive nature, adlib and bounce off the audience and get them involved whilst staying tight to the script.

Some of the more interactive elements can prove a bit tricky, as it’s staged in a real pub, depending on where you sit it, you can miss some of what’s going on. With this being a quiz, the competitive aspect can grip some audience members and cause a distraction from the action, it does give the show an air of authenticity but can frustrate in places.

Sound designer Chris James adds depth to proceedings with an apocalyptic sound scape, that includes a War of the World inspired radio broadcast. In addition, there is a tongue-and cheek soundtrack featuring the likes of REM, Europe, and Lisa Stansfield that will raise a smile throughout.

The show resembles an episode of a sitcom, more than it does a piece of theatre, which is meant as compliment, The Last Quiz Night On Earth is a fun, entertaining night out, which makes you wish you had more time with Kathy and the gang, but sadly the giant rock hurtling towards you the Earth has other plans. So, enjoy their company whilst you can! Ps Sue Pollard, if you go, you’ll know.

The Last Quiz Night on Earth is on at The Welcome Inn before touring until 11th April. Tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights

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Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emily Brontë’s one and only novel is a curious beast indeed, beloved by so many, this tale of passion and obsession has captivated and engrossed audiences for nearly 175 years. Wuthering Heights has spawned numerous film, television and theatrical adaptations, with mixed results. Step up director Bryony Shanahan and writer Andrew Sheridan, to give their take on this timeless tale.

With the windy moors as backdrop, we find the spirited, Cathy (Rakhee Sharma) and her brother; Hindley (Gujeet Singh) at play, the harsh, landscape is their playground. However, when their father (David Crellin) returns from a business trip, he has with him Heathcliff (Alex Austin), a street urchin who has been beaten and abused.

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Heathcliff’s introduction to the family unit stirs up very different emotions in the siblings, for Hindley, jealousy and rejection as the new arrival has displaced him in his father’s affection. Whilst Cathy has found a fellow kindred spirit, someone, who like her, is at one with her brutal surroundings. The pair soon forge an intense bond, filled with passion and rage that will eventually spiral out of control and affect all around them

This is a bold, daring adaptation, that doesn’t always hit the mark. Sheridan’s script does not pull any punches, there is some dialogue in the script that is more akin to an episode of Peaky Blinders, than a period drama, this however is not the problem, the tone of the production is somewhat all over the place trying to blend high-drama and comedic elements and it doesn’t quite work. References to Star Wars, and Cathy Come Home, are out of place and do nothing but take you away from the drama.

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Where Sheridan’s script does succeed is in its examination of trauma, and the impact it can have on mental health. In addition, the development of Hindley adds an extra dimension.

Key to any production of Wuthering Heights is the relationship between, Heathcliff and Cathy, and whilst Austin and Sharma give strong individual performances: Austin is a cross between John Lydon at his most obnoxious and a feral cat, it’s a unique, refreshing take on one of literatures best loved anti-heroes. Whilst Sharma is feisty as the free-spirited Cathy, who’s decent into madness is believably brought to life. The main issue is the passion and toxicity of their relationship does not grip you nor captivate, as it needs too.

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The production team have done a fantastic job of bringing the rugged, unforgiving landscape to life during the first half of the play: the Yorkshire backdrop is an integral character brought to life by Cécile Trémolières set design and Zoe Spurr’s atmospheric lighting design. In addition, this mixed with Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s folk/metal score and haunting sound design, give the production an extra layer and a supernatural feel.

Whilst the Brontë purists may need convincing of the alterations, you cannot help but admire the risks that have been taken, it is not perfect and it does have its faults but it is always better to try something new, than play it safe, and make no mistake this adaptation is far from safe!

Wuthering Heights is at the Royal Exchange until the 7th March tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview |Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson | Ghost Stories

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There’s something dark lurking in the theatre…

Enter a nightmarish world, full of thrilling twists and turns, where all your deepest fears and most disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage…

A fully sensory and electrifying encounter, Ghost Stories is the ultimate twisted love-letter to horror, a supernatural edge-of-your-seat theatrical experience like no other.

After thrilling audiences across the globe with record breaking, sell-out productions as well as a smash hit film, Ghost Stories has embarked on its first UK tour which arrives at The Lowry on Tuesday 18th February.

This exhilarating production is unique in the fact that despite having premiered a decade ago the secrets that make it such a hugely successful and uniquely terrifying show have remained well-guarded.

We spoke to creators Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson ahead of the show’s arrival at the Lowry to hear a little more about creating this supernatural spectacular.

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“Secrets are precious,” explains Andy Nyman. “If you give people a secret that they really enjoy and you ask them nicely to keep it, they do.” Before writing Ghost Stories, Nyman was the man behind many of Derren Brown’s mystery-filled stage shows and early TV performances so when it comes to keeping secrets, he’s more than qualified. “Jeremy and I love the experience of telling people a really good story without them knowing anything about it in advance. You feel the buzz in the audience; it’s an exciting thing to sit and watch.”

Clearly there will be no spoilers here so what can we actually say about the show? “Ghost Stories is a 90-minute scary, thrill-ride experience about a professor of parapsychology who investigates three cases.” explains Nyman. “A rattling hour and a half that will make you roar with laughter, leap out of your seats and talk about it for a very long time.”

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Nyman and co-writer Jeremy Dyson, who is best known for his work with The League of Gentlemen, have a long history that reaches back as far as their teenage years when their mutual love of horror saw them forge a lasting friendship. “It’s a very English genre,” says Dyson. “Certainly, when it comes to the supernatural side of things. The English sensibility defined a lot of that. It’s a very English tradition, and there’s no question that’s part of what we’re celebrating in Ghost Stories.”

With horror being such a popular film genre, we pondered the question as to why we don’t see more of it on stage, “I think it’s hard to do well,” offers Dyson. “You have to have a love both for theatre and for horror. It’s a bit like comedy. People talk about comedy writers having funny bones. I think you need scary bones to write horror.”

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The passion both Nyman and Dyson have for this piece is clearly a huge part of its success, “If people are paying their hard-earned money to see a show you’re putting on, you have a massive responsibility to give them more than they pay for,” says Nyman. “It’s not fair to think ‘that’s good enough, it will be fine’, you have to over-deliver. You’ve got to lose sleep over it. When the show is up and working and you keep tweaking it to get it right, and you see people going away happy, you know the main reason you’ve got to that place is you’ve felt a responsibility and you’ve worked hard at it.”

Ghost Stories opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 18th February and runs until Saturday 22nd tickets are available here.

 

Premiere of One Good Night comes to Hope Mill Theatre this February

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‘It makes you lose your mind…it sits in your head and it grows…it’s like that ivy…it starts small but it feeds off everything’

Following an Arts Council funded R&D at Hope Mill Theatre in 2017 One Good Night is back at the same venue for its highly anticipated full-length premiere.

The piece is a comic drama about the effects of female sexual assault and centres around the story of Amelia (Sammy Winward) who has been raped by her boyfriend Pete (Oliver Devoti)…or has she?

Between her goody two shoes friend May (Misha Duncan-Barry) and their nosy next-door neighbour Julie (Susan McArdle), Amelia is lost and confused with a blurred sense of reality. With friendship, laugher and belief, can they overcome and have just one good night?

Led by a female core creative team, writer Aisling Caffrey, director Alyx Tole and producer Alexandra Maxwell One Good Night is an entertaining production full of dark humour. It is designed to educate and enlighten about rape plus the effects of trauma on survivors’ psyche and their relationships and to empower survivors of sexual assault.

With rehearsals aptly starting during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week this week (3rd-9th February) it is all the more important that this production is seen and its message heard.

One Good Nightwill run for 5 evenings from 25th February – 29th February. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.

Ticket info £12 full / £10 concession (+ £1.50 booking fee) / £5 DSA & Income Support (Proof Required)

Samantha Womack & Cameron Blackely reunite for The Addams Family Tour

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Samantha Womack & Cameron Blackely to revive their roles as Morticia & Gomez Addams in The Addams Family when it returns to The Lowry in November!

The musical comedy, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the creators of multi award-winning Jersey Boys, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the characters created by Charles Addams will return to The Lowry as part of a new 2020 UK tour.

The Addams Family opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 3rd November and runs until Saturday 7th November tickets available here.

Interview | Marisha Wallace

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One of the West End and Broadway’s most instantly recognisable voices and beloved leading ladies is heading out on her first ever UK Tour beginning at Sale’s Waterside.

Marisha Wallace – the sensational star of such smash-hit shows as Dreamgirls, Waitress, Aladdin, The Book of Mormon and very soon Hairspray – will play a series of unmissable theatre shows in March 2020.

Beginning at Sale’s Waterside (March 8), Marisha will then play Newbury Corn Exchange (March 11), Horsham Capitol (March 13), Birmingham Hippodrome (March 14), Leeds City Varieties (March 16), Lichfield Garrick (March 17), Glasgow Glee Club (March 18) and the Arts Theatre in London’s West End (March 23).

Ahead of the tour we sat down with Marisha to get the lowdown on what we can expect from the tour, why audience participation is crucial to her performance, what ‘that song’ “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” means to her and why she has her heart set on becoming the “Beyoncé of Broadway”.

Opening Night: HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR YOUR DEBUT UK TOUR?

Marisha: Like you cannot believe – it’s going to be incredible!  To be going out around the country and singing in these different regions is going to be wonderful –the experience of a lifetime. This is my first time as a solo headliner so I can’t wait.

ON: YOU’VE BEEN IN THE UK FOR SOME TIME NOW – WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THIS COUNTRY?

Marisha: I love the people here, they are so warm, and they are so dedicated, so supportive. Those who come to my concerts seem to really get me and understand where I am coming from. I feel like I’m something of an underdog and I think they tap into that and are willing me to succeed which is really nice. I also just love being in London, I love the history and the fact that every minute I’m here I feel like I am on holiday!

ON:  SINCE COMING TO THE UK HAVE YOU HAD MUCH CHANCE TO VISIT DIFFERENT PLACES OUTSIDE OF LONDON?

Marisha: I really love Manchester, the food is incredible, it’s almost like a different kind of London, reminds me of Boston a little bit and it’s an incredible place.

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ON: WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT ON THE TOUR?

Marisha: They can expect a lot of amazing songs, a lot of soul, a lot of big numbers from your favourite musicals that I’ve been in over the years and some of my own songs.
This is a brand-new show which I feel has something for everyone. I will be performing songs by artists and songwriters that mean the world to me. I feel sure the audience will get up on their feet and dance. It’s going to be high energy and inspirational!

ON: WHO WILL BE JOINING YOU ON STAGE?

Marisha: I have my four-piece band, who are all good friends of mine. We will also have some surprise guests, some choirs and singers from the towns and cities where we are going to be playing – so you’ll see some of your hometown friends on stage singing with me as well.

ON: YOU ARE USED TO PERFORMING WITH A CAST ON STAGE, THIS TIME IT IS JUST YOU AND YOUR BAND. DO YOU PREFER PLAYING A CHARACTER OR BEING YOURSELF ON STAGE?

Marisha: I feel most comfortable on stage as Marisha Wallace because I’m in control of everything! In musical theatre I can only play the one part and it’s already written for me. With my own shows I get to be the architect of the whole thing. It’s a very personal thing for me. I feel like a showman and it’s what I like to do – I will come out on the night like a firecracker!

ON: SO IT’S A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FOR AUDIENCE MEMBERS WHO MAY HAVE ONLY SEEN YOU IN THE WEST END?

Marisha: If you’ve only seen me in a show before you’ve never seen me like this. When I do my concerts, this is the full version of me. You will get to hear stories about my life and hopefully be inspired. That’s kind of my biggest thing when I do a show, I want to inspire people because if I can make it to where I am, then anyone can make it.

ON: SO YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SINGER?

Marisha: I’ve been a singer my whole life, music was such an important part of my family growing up, and early on I decided I wanted to make a career out of it. I went to go to university, but I did not get in because they said there was something wrong with my voice. It was then found I had a cyst on my vocal chords and had to have surgery.
I was told they did not know if I would be able to sing again after surgery but thankfully the surgery turned out well and I went back to the same school and they asked whether I would like to do musical theatre.

I’ve worked so hard to get here. I have been working at this for 15, 20 years just trying to make my dreams come true, going from nothing to making it.

ON: ON YOUR WEBSITE IT STATES YOU “GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN IN NORTH CAROLINA, BUT THE SMALL TOWN NEVER HELD DOWN HER BIG CITY DREAMS”. IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU ARE LIVING YOUR DREAM?

Marisha: I am totally living my dream. When I was on Broadway I thought ‘This is it, I’ve made it’ but when the West End came calling I realised ‘Wait there is an even bigger dream than I ever thought’. To be here getting to do all the things I love is amazing.
Everything I ever wrote down or said I wanted to do is happening to me right here in the UK. The exciting thing is you feel that your journey can lead you to the right place and I certainly feel I’m at the right place at the right time.

ON: IT CAN BE A HARD LIFE THOUGH?

Marisha: Yes, it’s hard for a musical theatre performer. By your very nature you have to be multi-faceted, be able to sing, dance, act, and must have the stamina of a crazy person because you do eight shows a week. But at the same time it’s also a wonderful life. To be able to do all these things, live all these roles alongside performers who become true friends is so special. Every time I go out I want to prove myself as a performer – I basically want to be the Beyoncé of Broadway! She does everything; she sings, dances, acts, she likes to use all her gifts and I love her for that!

ON: WHO WERE YOUR MUSICAL HEROES GROWING UP?

Marisha: Definitely all of the soul women: Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Holiday. I do a lot of these artists in my show, and of course Whitney Houston. My God, Whitney’s voice. The way those tones affect people is just truly amazing.

ON: HOW MANY OF THEIR SONGS WILL FEATURE IN YOUR TOUR?

Marisha: Lots of them. It is brilliant to be able to take a song by Whitney, Janis Joplin, Etta James and fit them alongside songs from musical theatre and my own material. I’m blessed I can sing a number of different styles and while at one point I thought I needed to focus on just one sound or genre I then thought ‘Who cares… I’ll sing it all!’

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ON: HOW IMPORTANT TO YOUR PERFORMANCE IS THE AUDIENCE?

Marisha: They are everything to me. The audience truly help make the show. On this tour it is just me, my band and the audience – they are my other actors in this play.
Audiences want to be part of a concert and with me they get the chance to sing along, stand up, dance, scream, cheer, let out your emotions because that’s what a concert should be. You don’t just sit and watch – I want you to participate!

ON: “AND I AM TELLING YOU…” FROM DREAMGIRLS HAS BECOME SUCH AN ICONIC SONG THAT AUDIENCES NOW INSTANTLY RELATE IT TO YOU. WHAT DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU SING THAT SONG?

Marisha: The song is so special to me – I’ve never sung any song like it, it’s one of a kind.
Singing that line ‘And you’re going to love me’ and then getting that love back from the audience is something that you cannot describe. It means so much. It’s an incredibly powerful and personal song for so many people who have all been on their own journey in life.

You know when things have not gone well, they’ve been beaten down, but then they come out from the ashes and say ‘you know what, I am going to make it’ and ‘you are going to love me in the end’. That is why that song is so important, it has such a powerful message, one of never giving up. I think everyone, at some stage in their life, can relate to it.

Every time I sing it I think I’m not going to go there, you know all the way there, but every time I sing it I go there because it swoops you up into this world of emotion.
Also, all the things I have been through and my journey to get here to the stage just envelopes me when I sing that song. I always cry at the end.

ON: HOW HAS THE RETURN TO WAITRESS BEEN FOR YOU?

Marisha: It’s been so exciting because I’ve never gone back to a show that I’ve left before. Everyone has been so wonderful. This company is the most beautiful company and just a really big family.

ON: AFTER YOUR TOUR YOU BEGIN THE ROLE OF MOTORMOUTH MAYBELLE IN A STAR-STUDDED REVIVAL OF HAIRSPRAY. YOU MUST BE TREMENDOUSLY EXCITED.

Marisha: I can’t believe it because I kind of thought that role would not come my way for another 10, 15 years.  Michael (Ball) and I both performed last summer at Lytham Festival in Lancashire and we did ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ We got talking, I got the audition and I got the part. I’m so excited.

ON: WHAT WOULD BE THE DREAM ROLE FOR YOU?

Marisha: My dream role has not been written yet. I want to do an original piece where I get to create the role from scratch using all my talents. It would be cool to do something brand new, that no-one has done before.

I feel in my career I have had to top all the best who’ve gone before me. Behind me I had Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Holliday, Amber Riley and I had to aim to be a better version than all those who went before. I would be so excited to be the foundation version so the next person to come to the role would be challenged to top Marisha!

ON: DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE AHEAD OF THE OPENING NIGHT OF YOUR TOUR?

Marisha: Get your tickets now, it’s going to be wonderful, emotional and a hell of a night out!

Tickets for Marisha Wallace’s show at Sale’s Waterside can be found here.

Malroy Towers adaptation heading to Chester

Emma Rice’s critically acclaimed musical adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers will be heading to the Storyhouse this summer.

This new production by Wise Children will be co-produced with Theatre By The Lake in Keswick, where the show will open on 27 March 2020, before going on a national tour.

Malory Towers opens at the Storyhouse on Tuesday 30th June running until to Saturday 4th July 2020 for eight performances, including three matinees. Tickets are on sale now and can be booked here.

Original 2019 cast of Malory Towers, credit Steve Tanner 1

Nostalgic, naughty and perfect for now, Malory Towers is the original ‘girl power’ story, filled with high jinks, high drama and high spirits, all set to sensational live music and breath-taking animation.

Adapted and directed by Emma Rice, this is a show for girls, boys – and grown-up children who still dream of midnight feasts and Cornish cliff-tops. Set and costume design are by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, sound and video by Simon Baker, and original music by Ian Ross.

Tickets for Malory Towers are on sale now priced from £19.50. Each ticket is subject to a £1.50 booking fee. There is a special offer running of any ticket bookings made before 1 March 2020, children can go half price for Malory Towers shows at Storyhouse between Tuesday and Thursday.

 

Back To The Future musical in rehearsals

Olly Dobson (centre) and the company in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

With just over 3 weeks until BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical, opens in Manchester for a strictly limited 12-week season, prior to transferring to the West End brand new rehearsal images have been released and great Scott do they look good!

Opening at the Manchester Opera House on Thursday 20th February and running until Sunday 17th May the musical based on the Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment film boasts a book by Bob Gale with new music and lyrics by Emmy and Grammy Award-winning Alan Silvestri and six-time Grammy Award-winning Glen Ballard, with additional songs from the film including audience favourites The Power of Love and Johnny B. Goode.

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)

The good stuff doesn’t stop there ! The show will be directed by Tony Award-winning John Rando (UrinetownOn The Town) and boasts a multi Tony and Olivier Award-winning design team of Tim Hatley (set and costume design), Hugh Vanstone and Tim Lutkin (lighting), Gareth Owen (sound) and Finn Ross (video), with choreography by Chris Bailey, musical supervision and arrangements by Nick Finlow and Illusions by Chris Fisher.

The company in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)

With Roger Bart taking on the iconic role of ‘Doctor Emmett Brown’ and Olly Dobson stepping into Michael J Fox’s sneakers as ‘Marty McFly’ BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical looks set to be the theatre event of the year!

The show will transport the 1985 movie from screen to stage as Marty is accidentally transported back to 1955 in a time-travelling DeLorean invented by his friend, Doc Brown. But before he can return to 1985, Marty must make sure his high school-aged parents fall in love in order to save his own existence!

Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

So strap yourself in, set your destination to the Opera House, Manchester and made a date with history!

Tickets from £19.55 are available here.

 

 

 

 

Grow Up Grandad

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Reviewed by Sarah Bloomer

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A small but accomplished ensemble trod the boards on opening night for Penny Smith and Tom Worrell’s production of Grow Up Grandad, a heart-wrenching tale of intergenerational loss and unlikely companionship in a relationship that is thrown together only to be torn apart.

Grandad is a belligerent old man who unwittingly inherits his twelve-year-old Grandaughter, Poppy when she is abandoned by her mother. The two run a gamete of emotions as they move from awkward incompatibility to tender endearment, navigating many twists and turns along the way.

Partington Players veteran David Wilson delivers an on-stage master-class as he performs in the eponymous role, his most enjoyable, he states, in his twenty-five year acting career. The role of Poppy is played by two actors: relative newcomer Chloe Dolby, a striking raw talent whose stage presence captivates as she advances from sassy precociousness to haunting vulnerability, and fellow Youth theatre actor Nia Griffin who reprises the role on alternate nights. Jayne Skudder demonstrates effortless versatility as Poppy’s thirty-two-year-old counterpart, delivering tear-jerking monologues and grief-stricken fury.

For all it’s weightiness and heart-break there is an equal measure of humour and hilarity, particularly as generations clash in exchanges between Grandad and young Poppy, “We can do a jigsaw”. “Oh my God!”

The scene changes are minimal and fluid and the lighting used to indicate a shift in time from day to night. There are memorable moments of clever direction as time shifts between present and future in a wonderfully synchronized door closing scene.

Ending a volatile, emotive piece is challenging. Grow Up Grandad closes with a deftly choreographed synergy between twelve-year-old Poppy and thirty-two-year old Poppy as they traverse revelations and retrospections in a role reversal with Grandad, now suffering with Alzheimer’s, as he shares fragments of his story with his Great Grandaughter Molly (Molly Tierney).

“Would you like to do a jigsaw?” “Do you know, I’d absolutely love to”. A perfect conclusion to a contemplative play.

Grow Up Grandad is on at Partington Players Theatre, Glossop until Saturday 1st February, further information available here.

 

We Will Rock You

WE WILL ROCK YOU

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If ever there was a perfect time to revive the 2002 hit musical featuring the iconic music and lyrics of the mighty Queen it most is definitely now. The band were thrust back into the spotlight with the enormous success of smash-hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody introducing their music to a whole new generation so it comes as no surprise to see the Palace Theatre full to the rafters for We Will Rock You’s welcome return to Manchester.

The Ben Elton penned show transports us to the dystopian land of iPlanet set 300 years in the future. Freedom of expression is all beut gone as the Globalsoft Corporation control minds and hearts with their computer generated over produced pop tracks. Musical instruments are banned while rock music is a thing of the past, wiped from the minds of the masses as conformity is expected and rebellion quickly stamped out.

WE WILL ROCK YOU

Galileo and Scaramouche however are desperate to ‘break free’ from the dismal world around them, unique from the rest of the Ga Ga clones they stand out from the crowd as individuals, drawn to a life of freedom and expression, something Killer Queen the head of Globalsoft fears enormously. A chance meeting with Bohemians Brit and Oz cements their belief that there’s more to life than mindless scrolling, then just need to find out what!

6 years since it closed on the West End We Will Rock You has been brought bang up to date visually with the addition of stunning wall projections from Giles Maunsell and Sam Pattinson – Treatment Studio while Ben Elton has revisited his original script revamping it with modern references making it feel current and fresh, Alexa #MeToo and even Gangnam Style all get a mention.

WE WILL ROCK YOU

The success or failure of this production undoubtedly rests upon the ability of the cast to deliver Queen’s monster tracks to a standard Freddie would be proud of and boy do they do him justice! Ian McIntosh is superb as Galileo, vocally outstanding he confidently channels his inner rock God. Bursting with talent and personality this isn’t a Freddie imitation but a standalone performance of the highest quality.

Elena Skye impresses enormously as an empowered Scaramouche, her soulful vocals are delivered with self-assured sass while she playfully interacts with McIntosh (Galileo) & proves convincingly that sisters can indeed do it for themselves.

Jenny O’Leary is an absolute powerhouse as Killer Queen, slaying each song with her huge voice and tremendous on stage presence. David Michael Johnson and Amy Di Bartolomeo play off each other wonderfully as Brit and Oz each delivering knockout vocals while Adam Strong is hugely impressive as Khashoggi. Special mention must also go to Michael McKell who brings the laughs as Buddy with his Jaggeresque swagger and hilarious mispronunciations of pretty much everything!

WE WILL ROCK YOU

This is a jukebox musical that never takes itself too seriously it delivers and then some! Take Queen’s killer back catalogue, team it with Ben Elton’s clever book then add a creative team whose motto is quite probably ‘Go big or go home’ and you’ve got an irresistibly brilliant production, not just for Queen fans but music and musical theatre fans alike. Just as one mega hit finishes another begins all delivered by a cast at the absolute top of their game, it’s high-energy, highly entertaining, blow your socks off theatre. Perfect escapism for anyone with the January blues, We Will Rock You really is a kind of magic!

We Will Rock You is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 8th February tickets available here.