The Addams Family

Credit: Matt Martin

The Addams Family, photo credit for images: Matt Martin

Halloween may be over a month away but The Lowry is already getting theatre-goers in a ghoulish mood with the latest production to make the Salford location its home, The Addams Family.

If you are old enough (and want to admit it) you might remember the cult black and white series back in the 60s focusing on the macabre but loveable family, or, if not, the more recent 90s movie of the same name starring the deliciously dark Angelica Houston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez Addams.

As is the case now with most successful films they eventually get transformed for the stage and, having already been a hit on Broadway, the musical comedy version of The Addams Family is finally hitting UK and Irish audiences with its premiere tour.

The story here is simple; Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love. Nothing wrong with that…apart from the fact it is with Lucas an all American boy with an all American family. When Wednesday decides to bring Lucas and his family home for tea, she realises meeting the Addams might have some kooky consequences on their relationship! And how will her mother Morticia (Samantha Womack) react when she finds out her daughter has fallen in love with somebody ‘normal’?

It’s a fans dream from start to finish with the overture including the familiar TV theme tune getting people clicking along in glee plus there’s a script sprinkled full of Addams gimmicks. The opening number When You’re An Addams certainly packs a punch, setting the show off on the right tone and proving from the get go that the production has a talented cast of singers and dancers. Peaking so early may be to its detriment as from then on in there’s long number after long number which makes the action drag, especially in the first half of the musical.

credit: Matt Martin

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Andrew Lippa may have created an original soundtrack but there’s not many of the 20 plus songs which are memorable after you leave the theatre and most could be cut down to a shorter length to give them a snappier feel. Plus, there’s no disguising Lippa’s inspiration from the musical Chicago with Full Disclosure, which gives much more than just a nod to the Kander and Ebb classic, We Both Reached For the Gun.

Aside from that the cast perform an impressive job of bringing the songs to life and encapsulate the spirit of the cherished characters from yester year.

credit: Matt Martin

Cameron Blakley as Gomez and Samantha Womack as Morticia.

Former Eastenders star Samantha Womack is perfect casting for Morticia, maintaining the dark sombre air of the matriarch of the kooky clan. Womack is a pro with a back catalogue of stage credits which shows here as she slinks her way effortlessly through every scene.

credit: Matt Martin

Les Dennis as Uncle Fester

Les Dennis shines as bright as the lightbulb he puts in his mouth as Uncle Fester. The well-loved comedian turned actor is endearing as the quirky Uncle who just wants everybody to be happy. His facial expressions are on point as is his high pitched broken accent which encapsulates the Fester that fans are used to.

The strongest vocals come from Carrie Hope Fletcher as the Princess of Darkness, Wednesday. Her solo rendition of Pulled is truly superb and leaves the audience with goosebumps at her incredible talent.

credit: Matt Martin

Oliver Ormson as Lucas and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday.

The real showstopper of the piece has to be Cameron Blakely as the vibrant and funny Latin lover Gomez. His comedic delivery as he wrestles between his loyalty for his wife and his daughter has the audience in stitches, along with his delivery of witty one liners such as, “Wednesday’s growing up, she’ll be Thursday before we know it”!

Full marks go to designer Diego Pitarch for an incredibly atmospheric set which craetes the spooky tone of the show. His lavish Addams mansion is impressive with its boarded up floor to ceiling windows and hanging paintings (which, if you look closely, have people moving in them).

All things considered The Addams Family will provide you with a fun night at the theatre. It may not be in the league of Wicked or Hamilton but it has bags of enthusiasm, plenty of laughs and enough to keep you entertained for the duration.

You won’t go out humming the original score but you will still be wanting to finger snap your way to the car park!

Runs at The Lowry until 9th September

https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-addams-family

 

Pippin

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First premiered on Broadway an incredible 45 years ago, Katy Lipson, Guy James and Hope Mill Theatre’s revival of Tony award winning Pippin shows no signs of age and is as magical and enchanting as we hoped it would be.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, Pippin tells the tale of a young man in search of something to believe in, a path to follow, ultimately, he is in search of himself. Loosely based on ‘Pepin’ the son of 8th Century King Charlemange, Pippin sets about trying out life and all it has to offer via different careers and different directions in order to find his corner of the sky. Maeve Black’s stunning Victorian Vaudeville setting paired with stunning lighting design from Aaron J. Dootson allows the players to truly tell this tale in the most theatrical and immersive of ways, making Pippin a remarkably bold and striking production.

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Pippin’s search and the different paths it leads him down illustrates clearly that with all its craziness and drama the world is indeed a stage, as the players perform and indulge Pippin his desires, we realise everything we see is an act. Leading player Genevieve Nicole is a wholly commanding presence, she steers and controls her fellow players who perform beautifully on her instruction, she shines in the role and bursts with sass and dangerous charisma as she steers Pippin through his search for fulfilment.

Jonathan Carlton is brilliantly cast as Pippin, he perfectly portrays the young Prince’s naivety and frustrations, the development in his character is wonderful to see as each experience leaves its mark and changes his outlook on life. Carlton’s delivery of Corner Of The Sky is especially beautiful, full of emotion and wonderfully displays the hopelesness he feels with his inability to fit in and understand his path in life.

The whole ensemble are superb, hardworking and utterly captivating. Director Jonathan O’Boyle has created a tight and incredibly slick team who are entirely in sync with each other. William Whelton’s choreography is sharp and precise and really adds to the beauty of this special piece while musical director Zach Flis delivers the sublime score to perfection.

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High praise must also go to Mari Barclay who plays both Fastrada and Berthe, her characterisation is exceptional, with brilliant comic timing and larger than life delivery she excels in both roles and also as a member of the superb ensemble.

The quality and delivery of Pippin is top class, the pairing of Katy Lipson and Hope Mill Theatre is a true gift to Manchester. Engaging, captivating and entirely magical, Pippin convincingly worked its magic and enchanted completely. A real gem of a show delivered with real style and sass.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until 23rd September tickets£20, concessions £18 available via the following link http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

Pippin

Friends Fest

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The One Where Opening Night Goes to Friends Fest

It is while we sit – gridlocked in traffic and debating whether Jennifer Aniston herself may put in a surprise appearance – that I first realise my expectations of Friends Fest may be set (slightly) high.

Little wonder when the show itself is chiefly responsible for every misplaced fantasy about adulthood I have been nurturing since it first aired in September 1994. Approaching 40 (could I BE any older?), I am sadly neither living in New York, nor working as an executive at Ralph Lauren, but at least I’m not sitting in a boat with only a chick and a duck for company yet

Heady with the promise of unfettered access to replicas of the iconic sets and original costumes from the show, as well as ‘Smelly Cat Karaoke’ and the chance to recreate the ‘umbrella’ title sequence, we have set out for Heaton Park.

Once there, it is no easy task to find the festival itself, which is signposted with a single A4 sheet taped to a lamppost. Therefore, my first tip is: follow the steady flow of people clutching ‘Friends’ merchandise bags, of which there are A LOT.

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The outdoor festival site is a bit of a mud bath thanks to the frankly appalling weather and the lack of any matting/straw/sawdust under foot. Tip number two: don’t wear your fanciest clothes or footwear; raincoats and boots or wellies will be your best ‘friends’. (You can always, if you wish, purchase a branded ‘Friends’ umbrella for £15 from the merch shop.)

Tip number three: head straight to the Chick & Duck Bar and get on the cocktails. The fun menu is (naturally) ‘Friends’ themed, with ‘The One with Rum/Vodka/No Hangover etc.’ options available, as well as a good selection of wines, beers and spirits. Suitably lubricated, we then head out in search of entertainment.

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‘Friends’ episodes play on a continual loop on the giant cinema screen that dominates the main open-air arena. With the rain pelting down, sadly the plentiful rainbow-coloured chairs and tables are universally empty. (On a warm summer’s day, this will no doubt be an idyllic place to sit and chill – especially with the bar and plenty of food stands close to hand.)

As it is, we head to the nearest covered stand, which just so happens to be the Central Perk set! We plonk ourselves straight down on the giant orange sofa for our first official ‘Friends’ selfie before wandering round – marvelling at being ‘on location’. If you wish, you can pick up a guitar and perch on Phoebe’s stool for a blast of ‘Smelly Cat’, and even take Gunther’s spot behind the counter.

A coffee bar overlooks the Central Perk set, where you can purchase a beverage for around £3.50 and sit and marvel at the attention to detail involved in recreating Comedy Central’s most beloved coffee house. (Thankfully – unlike Rachel – the pleasant staff will get your order right!)

We then head off to sit on another giant orange sofa in front of a fountain backdrop… Twirling our umbrellas, it’s a real thrill to pose for a title sequence photo. (Tip number four: set your phone to your Boomerang app for added fun!)

Then there’s a lull while we wait for our turn to visit Joey and Chandler’s apartment set, and Monica and Rachel’s apartment set. In sunnier weather, we’d have filled this time with fun photos in the outdoor ‘Vegas Chapel of Love’ and ‘Highschool Prom’ booths, which have their own dress-up wardrobes. As it is, we check out the ‘Moondance Diner’, ‘My Sandwich’ and ‘Mockolate’ food stalls, which provide plenty of ‘Friends’ themed culinary experiences for prices of around £5 and up.

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Before entering the apartment sets, there’s an amazing opportunity to see show costumes ‘in the flesh’, which is not only a genuine thrill, but confirms that Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox are as teeny tiny as you would expect! Our hands-down favourite is the ‘Holiday Armadillo’ costume Ross wore to surprise his son Ben when he couldn’t hire a Santa suit. Equally fun are the never-seen-before memorabilia and props from the show, which include ‘Smelly Cat’ cat litter, Joey’s VD poster and the ‘Geller Cup’ – a Troll-adorned trophy Monica and Ross fought to win during family touch ball games.

Next, Joey and Chandler’s apartment… This is the show-stopping moment we have been waiting for, and it is with the biggest, silliest of smiles that I seat myself in the Lazy Boy chair – ready to ‘draw’, twiddle with the foosball table and acquaint myself with The Boat. Opening the apartment door, we find ourselves in the familiar hallway before circling the set to enter Monica and Rachel’s apartment.

It is a surreal experience to be in a kitchen that feels somehow more familiar than your own, and it is with real affection that I run a loving hand over the surfaces and furniture – reminiscing about the 85 hours of bona fide belly laughs the show delivered. Sadly, there is no Ugly Naked Guy to poke through the window, but – that aside – it really is all credit to the Friends Fest organisers that they are bringing such a unique, nostalgic full-scale set experience to fans across our country.

Costume

With the sets visited, all that remains is to head to the merchandise shop. You can buy branded everything, from aprons and door mats to T-shirts, notebooks and wall art. A Central Perk mug will set you back around £12 to £15, while a beer glass is a tenner.

We were able to cover most of what the festival has to offer in under an hour, as it is, essentially, a series of photo opportunities; however, when it’s open to the public, expect queues and take note of the allotted timeslots available to visit the sets.

Is Friends Fest the ‘ultimate ‘Friends’ experience’? For some superfans, in the right weather conditions, it will be, but others may find it more ‘mockolate’ – a synthetic substitute of something truly beloved that somehow misses the mark.

Friends Fest Manchester is on at Heaton Park until Sunday, 13 August. Tickets are now sold out, but dates are available in Essex between 1-10 September. Visit http://www.friendsfest.co.uk to book.

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

 

 

 

The Wizard of Oz

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It may be August (although looking out the window you’d never know) but that hasn’t stopped Regal Entertainment Limited returning to Stockport Plaza with their sparkling summer panto, fan favourite, The Wizard of Oz.

Starring the much loved Cheryl Fergison of Eastenders fame, The Wizard of Oz is a high energy, action packed, family fun show which delivers first class entertainment for all ages. The traditional panto booing and shouts of ‘it’s behind you’ that we all know and love feature, as well as some brilliantly choreographed routines and hilarious performances. There’s just the right amount of cheeky jokes for the Mum’s and Dad’s in the audience as well as lots of giggles for the little ones and plenty of opportunities to sing along to much loved classics and have a boogie to lots of recent favourites too.

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Cheryl Fergison leads a fine cast firstly as Miss Windy Bottom (much to the hilarity of the audience) and secondly as Eva the Witch. She portrays the perfect baddie, bad tempered, witty and of course totally wicked! Fergison is joined by a very strong cast who each deliver great performances. The casting particularly of Scarecrow (David Heath), Tin Man (Philip Shaun McGuinness) and Lion (Si Foster) is perfect, each give keenly observed performances and are immediately likeable, engaging with their audience and making great fun companions to Dorothy (Maddie Hope Coelho). Coelho delivers a fine performance as Dorothy, firmly doing justice to Somewhere Over The Rainbow with her incredibly beautiful voice she is most certainly a worthy wearer of the ruby slippers.

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As our cast follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City they’re guided along the way by the glamorous Glinda (Olivia Sloyan) who speaks in rhyme and isn’t afraid to get messy with the rest of this wonderfully talented cast.

This great production will have you wishing it was panto season all year round, laugh out loud funny, highly entertaining and most of all jolly good fun!

On at the Stockport Plaza until Saturday 12th August

 

Family Fun this Summer at The Lowry

Room on the Broom

credit: KW & NB Ltd

Throughout August The Lowry are running a ‘Non-stop Summer of activities’ and Opening Night thought we would head along with our mini-reviewer Daisy to spend the day experiencing all they had to offer.

First stop for us was Room on the Broom, a wonderful family show from Tall Stories theatre company. It is a musical adaptation of the worldwide bestselling children’s novel by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and its arrival at The Lowry follows on from the company’s successful run with their version of The Gruffalo last year.

Fans of the book will be familiar with the tale being told in rhyme and it works perfectly here, with a number of original songs added for extra entertainment. With the duration being just over an hour it also suits the age it caters for (which is 3 years up) keeping them enthralled from start to finish.

For those uninitiated with the tale it follows a jolly witch and her cat on their ‘broom’ adventures. Directed by Olivia Jacobs and designed by Morgan Large every box is ticked in bringing this novel from the page to the stage.

The Witch, played brilliantly by Amy Harris, and her cute cat (Emma Crowley Bennett) are travelling on their broomstick when they pick up some friends along the way – an excitable dog, a green bird and a crazy singing frog. But the broomstick is not meant for five, let alone one, and it snaps in two with hilarious consequences just as a fire breathing dragon appears!

David Garrud and David Bloom add the main comedy and energy to the show, as the extra puppet characters who sing and bound around the set at every opportunity, much to the hilarity of the young audience.

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‘Mini-reviewer’ Daisy has her pen and paper at the ready for Room on the Broom!

Mini-reviewer Daisy (7) was enthralled from start to finish and she loved singing and clapping along to the audience participation songs. The whole show is good family fun full of laughs and surprises as the energetic cast of four produce larger than life characters and perform with all the puppet characters seamlessly.

Following on from Room on a Broom we checked out the dining experience in The Lowry’s ultra-modern restaurant, Pier 8. Throughout the summer children eat free with a paying adult as long as there is a children’s show on at the theatre at the time. It’s the perfect place for a pre or post show meal and the staff were lovely, in particular Rob our waiter.

We ordered the 6oz burger with the added extra of garstang blue cheese and Daisy opted for fish and chips with an ice cream sundae to follow and us, a dreamy rhubarb creme brûlée. It was a great meal and ticked the boxes for choice for adults and children in the perfect setting.

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One very excited child at her free kids meal in Pier 8

If you want to make a full day of it, the fun doesn’t stop there, The Lowry has lots of activities running throughout August for families, from storytelling to drawing and dressing up. We walked off our lunch by visiting the art gallery upstairs and seeing some of the LS Lowry paintings along with getting involved with some of the free creative workshops on offer.

If you are looking for somewhere where the whole family can enjoy a day out then you can’t go wrong this summer with paying a visit to The Lowry.

www.thelowry.com

Room on the Broom runs until 27th August at The Lowry

 

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

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Judith Kerr’s children’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea has been delighting youngsters since it was first published in 1968 and now the story has been brought to life on stage. Following a successful West End season the Olivier Award nominated production is on a UK tour providing a summer holiday treat for families up and down the country.

The three strong cast, who look like they have just popped out of the storybook itself, ignite the excitement of the mini theatre goers from the start by walking down the aisles past them waving and saying ‘hello’ before taking their places on stage. Children in the audience from age 3 upwards were totally mesmerised by Mummy (Ashley Tucker), Daddy (Harry Howle) and their little girl Sophie (Abby Norman) as they re-enacted the tale of The Tiger Who Came to Tea complete with a number of jolly sing-along songs.

Adapted and directed by David Wood this production doesn’t disappoint the small fans of the book, who have either read it with parents or at school, and at 55 minutes long (without interval) it’s just enough time to keep them all engaged.

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The energy levels are at a maximum from the cast and they are rewarded with squeals of glee from the youngsters for their performances. The show stealer of course has to be the Tiger (also played by Harry Howle) and the excitement definitely goes up a number of levels when he sets his paws on stage. The Tiger is naughty, funny, cuddly AND he wiggles his bum when he dances – who could not love him!

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Great fun for all the family this tale of teatime mayhem is a sure fire hit with kids and adults alike. I defy you not to come out of there smiling!

Runs at The Lowry until 30TH July.

https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-tiger-who-came-to-tea

 

Mini Reviewer’s Verdict – Daisy aged (just) 7

Daisy Reviewer

My favourite bit was when the Tiger ate all the food and my favourite song was the ‘sausage, chips and ice cream’! I would recommend the show as it was very good and so funny, all the other children loved it too. I think people aged 5 to 8 years old should watch it as it is so enjoyable to shout out and join in the action. At the end of the show I was sad because it was over but then the Tiger came back out and made me laugh again.

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Sasha Regan’s All Male The Mikado

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Set in the 1950s on a private school camping trip Sasha Regan’s All Male The Mikado presents us with a new twist on an old classic. The famous Gilbert & Sullivan musical is freshened up in this touring production which makes Salford’s Lowry Theatre its last stop, running until July 29.

 

As with her previous all-male Gilbert & Sullivan productions, such as HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, Regan delights in ramping up the cheekiness and playful tone of the show with antics which wouldn’t be amiss in a Monty Python film. The show starts with a balletic overture to set the scene for what is to come with boys who wouldn’t look out of place in a Famous Five novel playing pranks on each other, perfectly choreographed by Holly Hughes.

 

For those unfamiliar with The Mikado it follows the story of travelling musician Nanki-Poo (Richard Munday)who is searching for the love of his life Yum-Yum (Alan Richardson) who is betrothed and about to marry her cousin Ko-Ko (David McKechnie). Ko-Ko however has just been saved from a beheading for flirting and in a crazy turn of events has appointed Lord High Executioner. When Nanki-Poo arrives in the town of Titipu to claim Yum-Yum he has not only has Ko-Ko to face but also has a secret to reveal.

 

Admittedly this Gilbert and Sullivan has a number of twists and turns which make it hard to keep up but with Regan’s additional changes to boot it proves a tricky first watch for newcomers to G & S. Regan’s switch from the standard Japan setting and kimono wearing cast to a quintessentially English woods with a group of ‘jolly hockey sticks’ boys in vests and shorts takes a while to get used to but by Act Two you are able to just sit back and enjoy the thoroughly entertaining action. Yes, Regan’s move is brave but it works. It’s camp, clever and extremely witty.

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There’s some simple devices used to full effect- those in the cast playing female roles rolling up their shorts to turn them into girls and ramping up their feminine mannerisms. Playing on the ‘twee’ English theme there’s also the use of cricket bats to symbolise an axe and straw hats loaded on top of each other to display a persons’ rank. It may tick lots of school boy boxes but by no means does it have the feel of a school production, this version of The Mikado is polished and well thought out. The frequent use of innuendo has the audience tittering away with the hanging of signs outside the boys’ tents saying phrases like ‘no ball games’ and the ‘nod-nod wink-wink’ timing of the bicycle pumping from Alex Weatherhill’s Katisha.

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The cast are made up of a variety of voices from baritones, to sopranoes, working in unison to produce a lovely sound. Alan Richardson has a glass shattering falsetto which beggars belief that it comes out of a male body. His facial expressions as Yum-Yum are hilarious and Richardson makes the most of every line adding an extra bit of comedy on to each one.

 

David McKechnie is also brilliant as the scheming Ko Ko, his cockney wise guy act has a real feel of Fagin about it which makes you think he might burst into You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two at any minute. McKechnie commands the stage and makes it hard for you not to adore the loveable rogue by the end.

 

Elsewhere Richard Russell Edwards as Peep-Bo and Jamie Jukes as Pitti-Sing raise the camp levels with their fabulous portrayals of Yum-Yum’s friends and a special mention must go to Musical Director Richard Baker who does a sterling job playing the solo piano throughout, tinkling the ivories through a massive 26 Gilbert & Sullivan songs whilst also conducting the cast.

 

A rapturous applause at the jovial finale showed the seal of approval from the audience, made up of what looked to be a number of G & S devotees, proving Sasha Regan’s latest offering is yet another success to add to her list.

If you want a Gilbert and Sullivan for 2017 then you should definitely give Sasha Regan’s All Male The Mikado a try.

 

Runs at The Lowry until 29th July

http://www.thelowry.com