Little Shop of Horrors

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Little Shop of Horrors – Storyhouse, Chester

Director: Stephen Mear

Music and Lyrics: Howard Ashman

Music: Alan Menken

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

Star rating: ****

Little Shop of Horrors has all the ingredients of a great story: a love story between two beautiful souls who life has constantly mistreated. Throw into the mix themes of greed, fame and lust, and of course a giant man-eating plant!

The much-loved musical arrives at the Storyhouse for a spring run that is filled with toe-tapping tunes, absurd comedy and a hefty splattering of blood-soaked gore.

Based on the original film by B-movie maestro Roger Corman, we meet timid florist Seymour, the much put-upon assistant shop for Mr Mushnik. Seymour has a lot to deal with; Mushnik’s flower shop is going under fast due to its location on Skid Row, the wrong part of town. He is head-over-heels in love with his co-worker, Audrey and to cap it all off Seymour has discovered a new strange and unusual plant, which he has named the Audrey II. The trouble is, Audrey II is wilting away before his eyes. Following an accident with a rose bush, Seymour soon learns that Audrey II has an appetite for something a little stronger than Miracle Grow. However, as the plant grows bigger, Mushnik rakes in more and more money. Could this little botanic marvel be Seymour’s ticket to winning the girl of his dreams and the chance to leave behind Skid Row for ever, and if so, at what cost?

Little Shop of Horrors at Storyhouse, Chester, 2019

Little Shop of Horrors is an absolute treat and well worth catching. Some great catchy numbers from Alan Menken and lyrists Howards Ashman, stand out songs being the company ensemble sung Skid Row (Downtown) and the up tempo yet sinister Feed Me (Get it).

The cast are on great form with Joshua Lay and Michelle Bishop showing great chemistry as Seymour and Audrey: their rendition of the musical’s signature tune Suddenly Seymour brought the house down. The supporting cast are also great. Cindy Belliot, Tanisha Spring and Emily-Mae, are in fine voice as the sassy residents of Skid Row, Chiffon Crystal, and Ronette. Tony Timberlake is equally impressive as the devious Mr Mushnik, whilst Stephane Anelli, puts in a hilarious and scene-stealing turn as Orin, Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend.

Ryan O’ Gorman and Brett Sheils do an amazing job bringing Audrey II to life, with Gorman giving the plant attitude and menace, Audrey II gets all the best lines and Gorman makes the most of them.

Tonight’s performance was not without its flaws, there were a few timing issues but these are minor quibbles for what is a fun enjoyable, heartfelt darkly comic night at the theatre. If you don’t enjoy this then maybe you need to take a closer look inside Audrey II, she’ll take all of those reservations away!

 

Little Shop of Horrors is at the Storyhouse, Chester till the June 2nd tickets available at:

https://www.storyhouse.com/event/little-shop-of-horrors

 

The Great Gatsby

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, Northern Ballet bring the roaring twenties to the Lowry’s lyric stage this week in all it’s seductive, extravagant glory.

David Nixon OBE’s ballet which first premiered in 2013 uses all the ingredients of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lively novel to tell this vibrant narrative through impressive and expressive choreography. One thing Northern Ballet do exceptionally well it is tell a story & this exhilarating production further rubber stamps their status as dynamic and creative storytellers.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE’s musical score adds a cinematic feel to this piece offering a rich variety of sounds and styles which the Northern Ballet sinfonia deliver to perfection under the expert guidance of conductor John Pryce-Jones. So sublime is this score it feels like the dancers float from scene to scene as one delicious arrangement rolls into another.

Jérôme Kaplan’s minimalist set is lit to atmospheric perfection by Tim Mitchell as shafts of light cast dancing shadows across the stage.

This fast paced & vibrant piece does not scrimp on the spectacular, Gatsby’s soirées are the ultimate in elegance with slick delivery of tangos and charlestons from the company while the intimate pas de deux’s between Daisy and Gatsby are delivered with precision and passion by Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Ashley Dixon.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Minju Kang and Mlindi Kulashe also impress as Myrtle and her husband George while Abigail Cockrell and Harris Beattie bring a genuine poignancy to proceedings as young Daisy and young Gatsby respectively.

Northern Ballet succeed beautifully in capturing the emotion and passion of the determined Gatsby all set against a backdrop of whirling jazz, bubbling corruption and sizzling encounters. A triumphant, emotive retelling of an American classic.

The Great Gatsby is on at The Lowry until Saturday 11th May tickets available here.

There will be a post-show talk in the theatre on Fri 10 May

The Exonerated comes to Hope Mill Theatre

The Exonerated Hope Mill Theatre

Hope Mill Theatre will stage the Northern Premiere of gripping death row drama The Exonerated this June.

The play written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen will be reimagined in the style of a television true crime documentary and will be directed by Hope Mill Artistic Director and co-founder Joseph Houston.

Taken from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files and the public record, The Exonerated tells true stories of six wrongfully-convicted survivors of death row in their own words.

Moving between first-person monologues, courtrooms and prisons; six interwoven stories paint a picture of an American criminal justice system gone horribly wrong – and of six brave souls who persevered to survive it.

Artistic Director Joseph Houston, said: “I want this to be a unique theatrical experience that integrates documentary-style filmed footage, but without losing the impact of live theatre.”

The production which will be Hope Mill Theatre’s second in-house play directed by Houston will blend live theatre and filmed footage to create a unique, fully integrated multimedia experience.

The Exonerated runs at Hope Mill Theatre from Thursday 6 June to Sunday 16 June 2019. Tickets, from £10 are available www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

eVULVAlution

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Life as a self published erotic novelist can be tough, especially when your creative juices have stopped flowing and you’ve been relegated to admin on your polyamorous husband’s WhatsApp group.

Pamela De Menthe however is not a woman to be kept down, that tricky 29th novel may be stuttering but she’ll use her mucky imagination and crude creativity to ensure her novel eVULVAlution reaches a pleasing and most satisfying climax.

Writer and performer Jenny May Morgan has created a hugely likeable and incredibly funny character in Pamela De Menthe; cleverly crafted with loving care resulting in an entirely convincing comedy heroine.

The show is presented as a book launch for new novel eVULVAlution with just one catch, it isn’t actually finished yet. Turning to the audience for inspiration and some hilarious sound effects Pamela strives to deliver the literary work she’s convinced herself is totally groundbreaking and entirely necessary.

This time-travelling prehistoric erotic romp, set of course in Hull quickly becomes a hilarious adventure for both Pamela and her audience. Jenny May Morgan’s attention to detail is exceptional in this witty one woman show. It’s jam-packed with nuanced looks and brilliant throwaway comments that Alan Partridge would be proud of.

Her well developed humour is lapped up by the audience and while Pamela is pretty darn bonkers she is the kind of bonkers you can’t help but fall in love with. From her amateur power-point to her sponsorship deal with a motorbility scooter company she offers a well rounded character whose brilliance is a bright as her animal print bumbag.

A cheeky, fabulously fun and enormously entertaining romp through the world of self-published erotica. Roll on book number 30!

Catch eVULVAlution next at Waterside, Sale in July further information can be found here.

Wise Children

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Adapted from Angela Carter’s book of the same name Wise Children tells the captivating story of Nora and Dora Chance, elderly twins and former chorus girls from the wrong side of the tracks; Brixton more specifically. On the day of their 75th birthday they unexpectedly receive an invitation from their absent father Melchoir Hazard who turns 100 that very same day. It’s an opportunity to ‘cross the river’ and may also offer a chance to answer some questions about life, love and the meaning of family.

The scene is set, but if we’re going to answer any questions surely we need to know where it all began? So begins a glorious journey through the life and times of the charismatic twins all told in a series of flashbacks via a vibrant feast of song, dance, colour, music and pure storytelling magic.

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Vicki Mortimer’s stunning set and costume design is a visual feast, a quirky vintage caravan, billowing silk kimono’s and bountiful butterflies all vying for attention indicate from the off that this is going to be quite a ride.

Emma Rice’s vision for this production ensures this flamboyant and fabulous piece is so packed full of joyous theatricality it enthralls from the very first moment. The cast work together so beautifully bringing mischief, mayhem, sex and of course scandal to life, this really feels like an uninhibited celebration of theatre. The characterisation is excellent, all wrapped up in a joyful sense of community where ‘family ‘is made up of whomever makes you feel whole. The cast working together exquisitely to demonstrate just how enthralling theatre can be.

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Tender moments are woven delicately into the tapestry of this story while the darker elements act as a reminder of the more sinister side of life. Songs are used in support of the story and bring a real and on occasion unexpected joy to proceedings; the use of Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue is pure genius, while Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun becomes touchingly poetic.

This is a true ensemble piece, no scene would work without each cast member delivering as they do; further adding to the sense of family and rich community. The Nora’s and Dora’s through the years are played to perfection, each as captivating as the next. From puppets through to pigtailed girls, to bobbed showgirls to the aged performers acting as narrators telling their story they play their parts to perfection.

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There is gender-swapping, bawdy humour and brilliance throughout as Rice pokes fun at the aging ‘thesp’ in the form of the twins father Melchior and Shakespearean references are cleverly littered. Special mention must go to Katy Owen as Grandma Chance and Paul Hunter as Gorgeous George, the comedic timing of both adding laugh out loud humour to the piece with their double entendres and physical comedy.

Wise Children is an inventive and jubilant romp of a production; there is razzmatazz, thrills and spills in this enormously inventive and visually captivating production. As the first production from Emma’s Rice’s newly formed theatre company also called Wise Children this production rubber stamps the fact that Emma Rice is without doubt one of the most exciting and visionary theatre makers out there, an absolute must-see.

Wise Children is on at Chester’s Storyhouse until Saturday 23rd March tickets available here.

Further information about The Wise Children Club, Emma Rice’s initiative to make theatre training more accessible can be found here.

 

In The Night Garden Live

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In The Night Garden Live has been enchanting children since its very first tour in 2010; there’s nothing quite like seeing the faces of little ones light up when they realise their favourite characters are right there in front of them. For 2019 the show is even bigger and better as it moves out of the purpose built showdomes and into theatres across the country in an all-new & completely charming adventure; Igglepiggle’s Busy Day!

The much-loved characters Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka, The Tombliboo’s and The Pontipines all feature in this wonderful celebration of the original CBeebies show brought to vivid life by an outstanding team of actor/puppeteers.

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The story written by Helen Eastman is told beautifully through song, dance and gentle music as Igglepiggle goes about his busy day bumping into his friends along the way. With the helpful addition of narration from Derek Jacobi, (the voice of the TV show); the story flows at a gentle pace ensuring even the youngest of audience members can follow the action in this joyful show.

The life-size versions of each character particularly captivate the little ones. There are both squeals of delight and frantic waves as one by one they each take to the stage. The whole experience feels magical, the perfect opportunity for little ones to have their first experience of the theatre. There are no loud bangs or unexpected surprises here just an enchanting & professionally executed show which will no doubt become a regular fixture in theatre schedules across the country.

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The set features familiar animations & bold visuals which further add to the immersive feel of this show as the much-loved characters whisk us along on their colourful ride. At around an hour long this is just the right about of time for the little ones who lap up every bit of the action.

My youngest guest who is 3 and a half announced upon entering the theatre & seeing the stage “I am so happy” I can confirm his smile was even wider by the end of the show. His Mum who has been to the shows at the showdome many times really enjoyed the experience of seeing the characters take to the stage in the theatre while her older son (age 5) really enjoyed the experience of going to the theatre with his baby brother and said of the move into the theatre “It’s not just for babies now but boys and girls too”

In The Night Garden Live is a huge hug of a show, joyous, magical family fun.

Further ticket and tour information can be found here.

 

Motown The Musical

10. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. The Company. Photo Tristram Kenton

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Motown the Musical is not your average jukebox production, while of course it’s jam-packed with sensational Motown classics it goes much deeper educating audiences in the history of this ground-breaking musical movement and doing so with real heart and soul along the way.

The story is told in a flashbacks by Motown creator Berry Gordy (Edward Baruwa) who started the label with just $800 and went on to launch the careers of icons such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye  to name but a few. The show begins as the 25th anniversary celebration is looming but Gordy is in no mood to party.

23. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. The Company. Photo Tristram Kenton

With such an incredible back catalogue to pick from it would be easy to fall into the tribute concert category but Mowton the Musical offers so much more as personal relationships and professional struggles play out. We begin with Gordy’s childhood where he dreams of being somebody. Through his founding of the Motown label not only does he become somebody but changes the face of not just music but popular culture forever.

The music is joyfully allowed to take centre stage, at times it moves the story on and on other occasions is there for pure enjoyment & boy does it do its job. With hits including ABC, Baby Love, My Girl, Dancing In The Street, What’s Going On and Stop In The Name Of Love delivered by the most talented of casts Motown is an absolute thrill from start to finish.

16. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. Reece Richards 'Jackie Wilson'. Photo Tristram Kenton

Edward Baruwa is entirely convincing as label boss Berry Gordy, his journey from optimistic youngster through to disillusioned & disappointed record label boss is committed & believable. Karis Anderson as Diana Ross goes on an incredible journey; maturing before our eyes from wide/eyed schoolgirl to ultimate Vegas diva she is sensational.

Nathan Lewis shines as Smokey Robinson on what is his professional theatre debut while Shak Ganbbidon-Williams is superb as Marvin Gaye. Special mention must also go to the talented ensemble cast who take on multiple roles with incredible skill.

22. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. The Jackson Five. Photo Tristram Kenton 2500

The real genius about this production is that it manages to effectively portray the way in which the political & social climate influenced the sounds of the time whilst still entertaining enormously; the Vietnam war, assassinations of both JFK & Martin Luther King each taking the story in a new direction, adding authenticity and richness.

In addition to this absorbing story & unforgettable music is a stunning use of projection. Scenic designer David Korins & projection designer Daniel Brodie have effectively managed to recreate houses, TV studios, theatres & offices with their intricate & dynamic designs. Panels sweep in & out adding multiple layers to the bold visuals.

Motown is a show which will appeal to all & will without doubt gain a whole new generation of fans. From its world-class soundtrack to its stunning design this high-energy, super slick production is told with genuine heart & heaps of soul; if you’re not dancing in the streets of Manchester afterwards we’d have to ask What’s Going On?

On at the Opera House until Saturday 23rd March tickets available here.