Let The Right One In

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“It’s grim up North”, a phrase we’re all so used to hearing, so much so that sometimes we may well just believe it. Well, the North isn’t as grim as some will have you believe, and it certainly isn’t as grim as the lives of Eli and Oskar, the central characters at the heart of writer Jon Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel, Let the Right One In.

I bring up the North because Lindqvist’s book takes place in Stockholm, however this adaptation takes place in an unnamed frozen landscape populated by a great many accents from the North West of England, which for me gives the production a great deal of charm and an injection of humour.

However, the central narrative is anything but fun. For teenage outcast Oskar (Pete MacHale), life is pretty tough: he’s a loner who is constantly bullied at school, living with an alcoholic mum, with very little interaction from his father. In addition to his personal issues, his local community is in the shadow of a series of grizzly murders.

Whilst out playing, the young teenager meets mysterious teenager Eli (Rhian Blundell), who, along with an elderly gentleman, Hakan (Andrew Sheridan) have moved next door to Oskar and his mum. Despite a shaky start where Oskar informs Eli that she “smells like his dog”, the two begin a friendship.

However all is not what it seems with Eli and Hakan, between them they are responsible for the town’s murders, for Eli is a vampire and Hakan is her captur/acolyte. The blossoming relationship, between Eli and Oskar, sees a jealous Hakan take drastic action that will jeopardise the safety of Eli and Oskar and will set both on a journey that neither could imagine.

Writer Jack Thorne and director Bryony Shanahan have created a bleak, at times brutal, production with a tender under-belly, that one moment has you shocked to your core and within the blink of eye will see you raise a smile. Those expecting a Halloween ‘jump’ feast should curb their expectations. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of horror right from the start, but these are few and far between and when they come, they hit your senses like a punch to the gut.

The cast are superb: Rhian Blundell and Pete MacHale are outstanding as the young couple; their relationship is the glue that holds this together and both give performances filled with naivety, angst and humour. It’s their relationship that leaves a lasting impression, more so than any other aspect of the production.

They are supported by a fine group of actors, with standout turns from Andrew Sheridan as the deplorable Hakan, who manages to make you feel some sympathy for a truly reprehensible character. Whilst Stefan Race as school bully, Jonny, who for my money is the real villain of the piece, simply makes your skin crawl in every scene he’s in which is a great achievement when you consider the rogues and deviants on display here!

The creative team have created a cold, bleak world, perfect for the story. There are some truly innovative uses of the vast open space of the Royal Exchange’s ‘in the round’ staging. The swimming people finale is a particular highlight.

Fans of the source material will get a great deal from this production, whilst for newbies this is a satisfying introduction to such a beloved piece of work. As a night at the theatre goes, this is a well crafted, exceptionally told story, as tender as it is uncompromising and more than warrants a night out during this season of the witch.

Let the Right One In is at Royal Exchange until the 19th November. Tickets can be found here .

📢 Casting Call 📢

You could be the next star on The Lowry’s stage in the hit musical ‘Innit’ 

The Innit For Young People Charity is looking for the lead male, Ashley, and lead female, Stacey, age range 18-25 of their musical ‘Innit’ coming to The Lowry next September. 

‘Innit’, set in Salford, follows the life of Ashley Thomas through dysfunction and turmoil as he finds himself framed for a crime that he didn’t commit. 

The production is set up to spark creativity and hold up a mirror to society, whilst young people get to enjoy a fully relatable piece of contemporary theatre. 

Innit For Young People is a registered charity, aiming to tackle the increasing number of school exclusions in England, head-on. They plan to deliver a relatable educational programme and workshops for ALL children aged 12-14 by offering the opportunity for them to visit The Lowry Theatre to see ‘Innit’ for free

Micky Dacks, CEO of Innit For Young People said: “Young people deserve to experience the exhilaration of theatre in the same manner as any other member of society can, without being excluded by virtue of their often-unfortunate circumstances.” 

The deadline for audition tapes is the 1st November, with workshops for the shortlisted actors on both the 6th and 13th of November. 

Micky added: “We’re going to make two dreams come true and that’s just the start.”


Send in your casting tape via WHATSAPP with the word ‘AUDITION’ to 07366444972.  


Send in your casting tape via WETRANSFER to auditions@i4ypc.org.uk  

Casting tapes should include a brief introduction about yourself.  

(Include your namelocation and the most interesting fact about yourself,   

followed by your choice of 3 lines from either Ashley’s or Stacey’s monologue.) 

Tapes should be a maximum of 60 seconds.   

Anything longer will not be watched.  

First 250 entries are guaranteed an audition.  

Brief Encounter

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In 1945 Brief Encounter hit the British cinema screens for the first time. Based on the one act play by Noel Coward called Still Life and directed by David Lean, the film was a huge commercial and critical success. It regularly features in polls as being one of the greatest British films of all time.

Over the years there have been numerous radio, TV – and even an operatic version of this timeless classic. There has also been numerous theatrical offerings too and this latest production has come from Director Paul Robinson adapted for the stage by writer Emma Rice. This production sets out to captivate audiences of all ages at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, where it embarks on a three week run.

After a chance meeting in a train station cafe, a local GP, Alec (Pete Ashmore) and respectable housewife, Laura (Anne-Marie Piazza) set out on a journey of passion and forbidden love; doomed to fail from the start. Both are married, both have children and both are upstanding pillars of the community. Will the world around them, and more importantly they themselves, accept the love they have for one another?

Key to the success of this fabulous production is its pacing; the story has time to breathe. That, coupled with the undoubted chemistry between the two leads, ensures you care about the two lovers. You feel their pain, anguish and like our “Romeo and Juliet”, as one character points out, you want a different outcome for the two, even though you know it’s never going to happen. There’s brilliant storytelling, excellently executed throughout this production which is packed with emotion and a great deal of style.

The really production works if you fully invest in the predicament that Alec and Laura find themselves in; Pete Ashmore and Anne-Marie Piazza draw you in perfectly. Nothing flashy or over-the-top, just raw, honest emotion. They both capture the fun and tenderness their tryst has produced, as well the guilt and hurt that it also brings.

It’s not just the Alec and Laura affair that’s in play here. There is also the blossoming romance between cafe owner Myrtle Bagot ( Natasha Lewis) and ticket inspector Albert Godby (Robert Jackson), as well as the courtship between cafe worker, Beryl, (Lara Lewis) and train porter Stanley (Joey Hickman). These are both played mainly for laughs bringing lots of joy throughout the first act. It’s during act two where the drama kicks in.

The supporting cast like the leads are superb, not only playing the aforementioned characters, but numerous other characters who, great or small, all impact Alec and Laura’s relationship. In addition to this, the cast along with musical director, Alex Weatherall, perform some Noel Coward and Simon Slater penned numbers including a stunning rendition of Go Slow Johnny and a slow, haunting performance of A Room with a View.

Other musical highlights included a version of George Formby’s Leaning on a Lamppost at the start of the show which brought on a pleasing, impromptu audience sing-along. As well as a fun saxophone trombone face off between Jackson and (Natasha) Lewis.

Setting the play ‘in the round’ is more a blessing than a curse. With most of the action taking place in the train station cafe, stage designer Jessica Curtis has created a multipurpose set: the cafe’s chairs, counter piano, and serving counter double up as a restaurant, and family home. The ‘in the round’ setting gives the production an energy and vibrance, some genuinely unexpected and innovative touches. My only small complaint is that sometimes the vocals on some of the musical numbers were a bit of a challenge to hear.

This is a timeless tale told with heart, soul and plenty of style, well worth a ‘little’ dalliance to the theatre.

Brief Encounter is at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton until 5th November. Tickets available here.

Blood Brothers

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blood Brothers is Willy Russell’s “Liverpudlian folk opera” which tells the story of Mrs Johnstone, a newly single mother of many children struggling to make ends meet. Pregnant once again, she manages to find a cleaning job for a well to do couple – Mr and Mrs Lyons. When Mrs Johnstone discovers that she is infact expecting twins she is persuaded by childless Mrs Lyons to give her one of the babies to raise as her own, promising her that she will always be able to visit and spend time with her baby.

Things, very quickly, take a dramatic turn and Mrs Lyons sacks Mrs Johnstone leaving her devastated at not being able to see her son anymore.

The lives of the twins, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Jay Worley) are very different, but are intertwined and they somehow keep finding each other, and end up being a large part of each other’s lives as “Blood Brothers”.

Blood Brothers is a story that has been told in theatres around the world, it had a 24 year run in the West End, as well as touring throughout the UK and internationally. I personally, have seen this show more than any other show. And do you know what? It hasn’t lost a single inch of its magic. Everything about this production is outstanding.

The script is the glue that holds everything together. It’s hilarious, moving and heartbreaking all at the same time, something we can always rely on Willy Russel to provide. The set is simple and really hasn’t changed over the years, but it doesn’t need to. It helps to tell the narrative – along with the ever present and haunting narrator played by Richard Munday. Every single hair on my head stood on end during his performance of “Shoes on the Table”.

Niki Colwell Evans is magnificent as Mrs Johnstone. She is entertaining, engaging and her delivery of Tell Me It’s Not True at the finale was spine tingling and utterly heartbreaking. She had the audience sobbing openly.

Jay Worley, as Eddie, is a breath of fresh air. He brings life to the role, and his chemistry with both Mickey and Linda ( Carly Burns) makes the story so much more believable and entertaining. 
Carly Burns is just wonderful as the ever optimistic and loving Linda, who at times has her loyalty tested with catastrophic results. 

Sean Jones was born for the role of Mickey, he kept us laughing in his portrayal of young Mickey, taking on his big brother Sammy, played by the fabulous Timothy Lucas. Every note he sang was pitch perfect. Jones did a magnificent job of playing Mickey as a drug dependent young man, struggling with depression and self doubt. Blood Brothers can often be thought of as comedic show with a tragic ending, but it is so much more than that. Jones shows us just how vulnerable and desperate Mickey is and we are invested in his success and failures. Which is why the ending results in the entire auditorium gasping (loudly).

The whole cast is outstanding; this show is a well oiled machine and it just doesn’t age. The musical numbers are brilliantly performed and are the reason that people like me keep coming back again and again. I’m guessing that the rest of the audience felt the same, judging by the way they literally jumped from their seats before the last note was played.

Blood Brothers is the greatest of British musical theatre all in one show. It is a must see for all, especially if you’re a northerner!

Blood Brothers is on at The Lowry until Saturday 22nd October tickets available here.

Swan Lake

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Set to Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognisable score, played live by English National Ballet Philharmonic, Swan Lake is perhaps the most loved ballet of all time. From stunning choreography to sumptuous sets, it really is ballet’s greatest love story and remains a firm audience favourite, performed regularly by ballet companies across the world.

English National Ballet’s production, choreographed by Derek Deane is as delightful as any I’ve seen. Split into four acts Swan Lake tells the dramatic and devastating love story of Prince Siegfried and Odette; exquisitely danced by Ken Saruhashi and Fernanda Oliveira.

After joyous birthday celebrations, Prince Siegfried realises a forced marriage may soon be his fate, something he both dreads and fears. He escapes to the lake for a spot of hunting where he first sees the magnificent Odetta, a captivating Princess who has been cursed to live as a swan by the evil sorcerer Rothbart (Junor Souza). The attraction is immediate as Prince Siegfried falls hopelessly in love with the majestic Princess.

As in all good stories, the course of true love never did run smooth and that’s before you add falling in love with a cursed Swan Princess to the mix, thus follows a captivating and dramatic story, told impeccably by this sensational company.

Ken Saruhashi is superb as Prince Siegfried, entranced entirely by the stunning Odetta, he is gentle and pure, ensuring this love story feels entirely believable. Fernanda Oliveira shines as Odetta, delicate and light she mesmerises completely. In contrast to her delicate Odetta is devious Odile, strong and athletic; her storytelling is wonderful. This pairing is a special one, it feels effortless and clean, while their moving pas de deux is greeted with rapturous applause.

No Swan Lake is complete of course without the famous Cygnets, perhaps one of the most iconic sights in any ballet. ENB’s stunning delivery does not disappoint, each special first glimpse drawing gasps from the audience, such is the power of the visual presented before us. Perfectly in-sync their performance is pure joy.

ENB’s storytelling is clear, although not a word is spoken there’s no mistaking the drama unfolding before us. Peter Farmers design adding further richness and depth to the piece.

This is a ballet for all, young and old alike. Dramatic, beautiful, and enchanting in equal measure.

English National Ballet’s Swan Lake is on at Manchester’s Palace theatre until Saturday 8th October, tickets available here.

Images by Laurent Liotardo

Vincent River

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Vincent River is a psychological thriller written by Phillip Radley and first performed in 2000, twenty two years on and this subject matter is still incredibly relevant. This production is directed by Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis for Manchester based Green Carnation Company.

The entire play takes place in a half unpacked, unkempt living room, belonging to Anita. The mother of Vincent River. A young man, victim of a homophobic hate crime, murdered in his prime. Anita has recently moved from the home she shared with her son, due to a hate campaign towards her from the community she was once such a large part of.

Anita is crippled with grief, and has noticed a young man following her and watching her from afar. One night she invites, or rather demands, that the young man, Davey, come into the flat to talk to her and explain why he has been watching her. What transcends from this one act is an intense and at times uncomfortable interaction between these two fragile and vulnerable characters.

Davey tells Anita that he and his newly engaged girlfriend are the people who found her son’s body, but Anita sees through this charade and knows that there is a deeper, darker reason for his appearance in her grubby living room.

Rory McManamin (Davey) and Maddy Myles (Anita) are captivating. They deliver an intense and emotive performance of Ridley’s intricate script. There are no scene changes or costume changes to hide behind or to give them a moment to escape the high intensity and complexity of the play.

The scenes can at times be awkward and stilted, but that’s the script, it isn’t meant to be easy to watch. Anita’s son has been horrifically murdered and she knows that Davey knows more than he is letting on. But when the moment of realisation is upon us it is heartbreaking and crippling. It feels like we could reach out and touch Anita’s tidal wave of grief. The way in which Davey’s monologue is delivered is hypnotising. The way in which he moves between speaking directly to Anita and then speaking directly with Vincent in the moment is so powerful.

This is production isn’t for those with a lack of attention span, it requires your full attention to understand the complex characters, intense dialogue and a woven web of things that are unsaid.

I felt emotionally exhausted at the end of this production, but not in a bad way. The reality is that I felt so many of Anita’s emotions. I found this production gripping and unnerving. It was at times hard to grasp that a mother who knew and loved her child so much, could know them so little at the same time.

Images ShayRowanPhotography

Vincent River is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Wednesday 19th Oct tickets available here.

The Time Traveller’s Wife

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Based on the best selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger and the film screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, The Time Travellers Wife takes the leap into musical theatre and does so with unquestionable style.

Pop legends Dave Stewart and Joss Stone have linked up to create the music and lyrics, gifting the piece with soulful melodies and deeply layered numbers that drive and develop the story beautifully.

Portraying a tale about a time traveller could quite easily become confusing & chaotic, not here; this slick production with its clear storytelling and impressive design translates into something that’s hugely impressive and emotionally resonant.

David Hunter takes on the role of Henry, a time traveller who has no control over when or where he’ll be ripped out of the present and pulled into his past or maybe even his future. Hunter is superb in the role, every disappearance and reappearance is more impressive than the last, he’s right before your eyes one moment then appears at the opposite side of the stage in a completely different costume the next. This is a truly demanding role which he pulls off with ease & heaps of charm.

Joanne Woodward is perfectly cast as Clare. She gives the character depth and complexity while making her instantly likeable, showing both strength and vulnerability. The chemistry between the two is wonderful, their voices gel together so beautifully, lifting Stone and Stewart’s lyrics to the next level. You desperately want happiness for this duo as they portray the multi-layered characters with pure heart.

Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe add to the fun of the piece as bickering but hopelessly devoted Gomez and Charisse while as Henry’s Father, Ross Dawes makes sure his featured scene packs an emotional punch.

The set design, projections and illusions elevate this production far beyond a love story. They are thrilling, surprising and absolutely stunning. Journeyman which opens Act 2 is something very special, acting as real showcase as complex choreography, incredible vocals and impressive technology combine. Designers Anna Fleischle, Lucy Carter, Andrzej Goulding, Richard Brooker and illusionist Chris Fisher have ensured that the time travelling elements have been treated with the care they deserve, and the results are simply magical, with constant surprises keeping the audience on their toes from start to finish.

This ambitious production directed by Bill Buckhurst succeeds entirely, the technology is matched by a cast at the top of their game while the clear storytelling captivates completely. The Time Traveller’s Wife is a superb addition to musical theatre, with I hope, a long future ahead. Filled with love, heart and hope, this stunning new musical is a total triumph.

The Time Traveller’s Wife is on at Chester’s Storyhouse until Saturday 15th October tickets available here.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

A few years back the BBC ran a story stating you that you were never more than 6ft away from a rat at any one time, whilst this story isn’t factually correct I’m going to go one better and state that at any one time you’re never more than 6ft away from a Carole King song, such is the length and breadth of her work some of which is showcased in the fabulously uplifting Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Written by Hollywood screenwriter Douglas McGrath, Beautiful charts the journey of child genius Carol Klien, a brilliant piano player and composer living with her mum in Brooklyn. At 16, Klein, sells her first song to Don Kirshner’s Dimension Records, changes her name to Carole King and so begins the journey of one the most important singer/songwriters of the 20th century.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

The main focus of Beautiful is on King’s career pre-Tapestry, her 1971, seminal, record breaking album, still regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. What we get is an overview of King’s relationship with her writing partner, and later husband Gerry Goffin and how their collaboration that produced some of the finest and most remarkable pop songs of the last century, which include, Take Good Care of My Baby, The Locomotion, and Up on the Roof, all of which feature in the show.

A friendly rivalry with fellow Dimension writing team, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, sees King and Goffin’s work go from strength to strength. However, with success comes pressure which begins to take its toll on their marriage. Goffin’s infidelities and battle with mental health sets King on a different trajectory, that of a solo performer, finally having the courage to perform her own songs.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Molly-Grace Culter is simply sublime as King, a performance filled with warmth, humour and passion. Instantly likeable throughout, it’s a fully rounded, at times understated turn. Her vocals throughout are tremendous, standout moments being It’s Too Late making the hairs on my arm stand on end. Whilst (You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman) brings the house down.

Tom Milner is in fine form Gerry Goffin, very early in proceedings Milner plants the seeds that Goffin will become the nearest we have to a villain of the story. His intensity matches his equally impressive vocals. Towards the end of performance, his reappearance in one scene rather comically led to uncomfortable mutterings in the audience, a bit like a Coronation Street ‘baddie’ nipping into a packed Rovers Return for a pint.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

An unexpected aspect of Beautiful is that not only does it showcase the work of King and Goffin but also that of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil played here by Jos Slovick and Seren Sandham-Davies. Slovick is very much the light relief of the show as the super talented but hypochondriac Mann, whilst Davies gives a bright, breezy radiant turn as Weil. The relationship and rivalry between the two couples is the undoubted highlight for me and provides a great excuse to feature some great Mann/Weil compositions which include On Broadway and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.

What does let Beautiful down a little is its storytelling, sometimes it tries to cram too many songs in at the detriment of story, telling I feel Goffin’s battle with mental illness could have been explored more. Acts 1 at times seem a little too frenetic, whilst the final act is given more time to breathe leading to an absolutely stunning,  joyous sequence with King’s homecoming show Carnegie Hall.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Director Nikolai Foster, has pulled off a masterstroke in having the entire cast sing and play their musical throughout the production. The cast works incredibly hard throughout with some tremendous players showcased throughout. This fits perfectly with Frankie Bradshaw’s recording studio set design. Throughout you’ll see a song start out in its striped back purest form eventually more cast members will join in adding further instrumentation similar to that of a jam session, it gives the songs an organic quality as we watch them grow and develop to the hits many of us know and love today.

This is a well-crafted, heartfelt and thoroughly entertaining night at the theatre. It’s a shining example of timeless songs performed by a talented ensemble cast on top of their game… go see it before it’s too late!

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 15th October, tickets available here.

The Color Purple

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in 2019 I was lucky enough to watch The Color Purple during its original run at the Birmingham Hippodrome, one thing that struck me, (amongst many others) was how perfect this production would be for the Lowry’s Lyric theatre; 3 years later I can finally confirm it’s as stunning as I’d hoped.

Based on the much-loved novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple was adapted into a film in 1985, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Next, came the Broadway musical adaptation in 2005 with a critically acclaimed revival following in 2015 starring Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo. It’s recent presence in the UK has been a difficult one largely due to the emergence of the pandemic but now thankfully, opening night at The Lowry marks the shows 4th successful stop on its current UK tour.

This powerful story told over the course of 40 years introduces us to Celie, an oppressed Black girl from the Deep South as she journeys through life in a bid to discover her own sense of purpose. There’s joy, heartache, kindness, and cruelty as Celie discovers the voice within amidst the chaos that surrounds her.

Me’sha Bryan is superb as Celie, leading the cast with true heart and emotion. She draws you in immediately with her warmth and loving spirit, taking you on this journey with her; you want her so desperately to succeed & find the happiness she so richly deserves. Aaliyah Zhané plays Celie’s ambitious little sister Nettie wonderfully, her time on stage is impactful and helps drive the themes of love and loyalty beautifully.

Bree Smith is a joy as Shug Avery, oozing charm and inner confidence, she’s the ray of sunshine and chance at happiness Celie so desperately needs. The chemistry between both Bryan and Smith is perfect, their performance of ‘What About Love’ at the close of Act 1 is both powerful and emotive.

Special mention must go to Anelisa Lamola who gives a knock-out performance as Sofia. Her fearless rejection of the violence she experiences in ‘Hell no,‘ is hugely significant. Her characterisation is incredible, she embodies Sofia entirely, giving us both laugh out loud hilarity and crushing heartbreak with nuanced vulnerability, she is mesmerising .

While it’s the women who take centre stage there are also some excellent male performances which mustn’t go unmentioned. Ahmed Hamad gives a wonderfully charismatic performance as an unassuming Harpo while Ako Mitchell as Mister, delivers a truly difficult character flawlessly, sinister and cruel his characterisation is perfect making his learning curve all the more significant.

This story is emotive, at times dark and upsetting but this joint production from the Birmingham Hippodrome and Curve Leicester (with book by Marsha Norman) leaves us in no doubt who the true heroes are and offers much light amongst the shade. The journey Celie goes on is inspiring as she overcomes adversity through the strength she takes from the relationships she builds within her life.

Tinuke Craig and Lakesha Arie Angelo have directed this piece with care and creativity while Alex Lowde’s set and costumes are gifted incredible lighting and video design from Joshua Pharo ensuring the source material is given the absolute best opportunity to shine.

This deeply moving piece of theatre is delivered by an exceptional cast. The strong leads are supported by an incredible ensemble who bring life and light to the stunning harmonies within the score. The voices amongst this cast are honestly worth the ticket price alone, they are sublime. Special mention here to the magnificent trio of ‘gossip girls’ a modern-day Greek chorus who are an absolute joy, played at tonight’s performance by Karen Mavundukure, Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah and Kayla Carter.

The Color Purple is a beautiful production, where there is darkness always comes light as we are taken on a journey of self-discovery and female empowerment, full of heart, hope and humanity.

The Color Purple is on at The Lowry until Saturday 15th October, tickets available here.

Something’s Coming (to Tameside), Something Good…

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical, ‘West Side Story’ is coming to Tameside from 29th March to 1st April 2023. Presented by Hyde Musical Theatre Society the classic love story will take to the stage at Hyde’s Festival Theatre.

Following their sell out production of the Elvis juke box musical ‘All Shook Up’ earlier this year, Hyde Musical Theatre Society return to the stage next year with the romantic and tragic musical ‘West Side Story’.

Recently released in it’s second film adaptation by Steven Spielberg, ‘West Side Story’ takes the well-known Shakespeare play ‘Romeo & Juliet’ into the 1950’s streets of New York. Exploring the fierce rivalry of gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, and the young, forbidden love between Tony and Maria. The musical features songs such as Somewhere, America and I Feel Pretty.

Chair of Hyde Musical Society, Julie Wilkinson Said “We chose this musical not only because is it one of the greats from the fantastic pairing of Bernstein and Sondheim, but it has themes that are so important in the current climate. It’s a tragic but beautiful story that teaches us to love without hate.”

She continues, “The 2021 film was a massive hit, there is still an appetite for this to be brought to the stage. The last time it came to Manchester was in 2020 at The Royal Exchange, so we thought its time to bring the Jets and the Sharks back to Greater Manchester!”

The company, like many other local theatre societies, were pulled from the stage during the dress rehearsals of their 2020 musical ‘All Shook Up’ due to the Covid-19 outbreak. They took to the stage with the production more than 2 years later.

Hyde Musical Society celebrated their 80th year in 2020, and are hoping to bring theatre audiences back into their local theatres following the two years of closures.

Daniel Oliver-Grant, Director of this production of West Side Story said “I’m so excited to be working with Hyde Musical Society, their last show ‘All Shook Up’ was brilliant, well received by audiences and had a phenomenal cast. I think ‘West Side Story’ can be even bigger and better.”

He continues “We’ve got a fantastic group of dancers, and an incredible principal cast that I have no doubt will bring this much-loved musical to life. I’ve got big plans and some great ideas to make this production feel fresh, but keep the charm that audiences know and love.”

Rehearsals start in Hyde this October, and the cast take to the stage for a weeklong run at Hyde Festival Theatre, from 29th March to 1st April.

Tickets are available from Sparks Theatre Management or head to hydemusicalsociety.org.uk for more information.

Blue Stockings

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written by Olivier award winning film maker, Jessica Swale, Blue Stockings is set in the late 1800s, a time where Britain was beginning to change for women. We follow the lives of four young women, from different backgrounds, all wanting to study at one of the greatest universities: Cambridge.

Although all the women are gifted and, despite not receiving the same level of education as their male counterparts, ambitious, they are not seen as equals and will not be able to graduate with a degree, but instead will be sent home empty handed. The play is the story of their struggle. The struggle for equality, education, inclusion and to be heard, but also the struggle to accept themselves, to know their place and ultimately the struggle of heartbreak: in its many forms. 

The four women of Gorton College, Cambridge are Tess Moffat (Pippa Lane), Celia Willbond (Bronte James), Carolyn Addison (Madeleine Healey) and Maeve Sullivan (Olivia Brinkley). What an absolutely fabulous bit of casting this was. The women have such wonderful chemistry on stage, they each bring something different, but equally delightful to their performance. You get a real sense that they fully understand how important this story is to tell. They show us that women in the 1800s weren’t the stiff boring figures that many history books would have us believe. But they were full of hope and merriment. They struggled with many of the same issues as young women today: Are they good enough? Will they fall in love? Will they succeed? There is much to identify with, with these characters. 

The “boys” played by Sam Evans, Callum Johnson, Tom Broughton, Charlie Gallagher and Chris Shoop-Worrall showed us what these young women were up against. In a time where men were taught that their needs and aspirations were much more important than those of a woman, it was clearly a struggle, even for young, educated men, to accept a woman as their peer, despite how intellectual they actually were. 

This whole cast was excellent, a very high standard, as is expected from Altrincham Garrick productions. This production is Su Mowat’s directing debut at the Garrick, and she has debuted magnificently. The play is smooth and professional: it is complimented by lighting design by Geoff Scullard which is moody and atmospheric when it needs to be, creating depth on a simple stage. The original music composed by Mark Goggins was beautiful and at times very moving. 

This is a wonderfully wonderful production, filled with laughter and heartache, performed by an exceptional cast. It is running until Saturday 8th October tickets are available here.

Fisherman’s Friends

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The acapella group Fisherman’s Friends rise is nothing short of remarkable. From humble beginnings in the Cornish village of Port Isaac through to playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Along the way there is a gold selling album, numerous national and international tours, two feature films and now Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, a fantastic, feel-good production, that will see your emotions bob up and down like a buoy on a choppy night in the North Sea.

Based on a true story, the story begins showing the two passions of our protagonists, fishing and singing, as the group bring in the catch of the day, during some pretty hazardous conditions, all done with a song in their hearts. It’s a neat introduction to Lucy Osborne’s fabulous looking set that manages to fill the huge stage of the Lyric theatre. Fishing boat, local pub and even a Soho night club, the staging is top draw.

Back on dry land we meet the gang, led by Jim, his father, Jago, as well numerous villagers and salty sea dogs where loyalty, and friendship is as important as keeping their traditions alive and having a well-earned pint. They are all kept in check by Jim’s daughter, Alwyn, who is also a great singer in her own right. The arrival of Danny, a former A & R executive at Island Records will see the seafaring folk enter uncharted territory; Danny who is blown away by the group’s harmonies and just a little smitten with Alwyn hatches a plan.

Danny hopes to have the group record a demo, land them a record deal and hopefully save his own flagging career. However, it’s not all plain sailing and Danny must gain the trust of the group and Alwyn; and that’s just the start of his problems.

Whilst the plot isn’t the most original or ground-breaking story telling you’re ever likely to see, with its fish-out-of-water meets rags to riches familiar tropes, the production has plenty of a heart, soul and a huge sense of fun, it’s certainly one of the most up lifting nights at the theatre I’ve had in quite some time. Fantastic musicians, stirring vocal blends and powerful solo’s, this production more than delivers when honouring the legacy of the band.

As you might expect there are a great number of sea shanties featured including Blow the Man Down and (What Shall We Do with the) Drunken Sailor and songs that the band have made their own, Keep Hauling and the absolute banger that is No Hopers, Jokers & Rogues.

The performances are outstanding throughout, Jason Langley’s Danny is often the comic foil throughout the show. Langley turns in a fine comedy performance and has a great singing voice to match. Parisa Shahmir as the feisty Alwyn is the perfect match for Langley and the chemistry between the two is the driving force of the whole production. Her stunning vocal performance on The Tidal Pool is absolutely gorgeous.

There is strong support from Hedrian Delacey, as Jim the band’s unofficial leader who expresses his mistrust over unfolding events. Delacey walks the tightrope between caring father figure and cynical patriarch exceptionally well.  In addition, we have Robert Duncan and Susan Penhaligon as Jim’s parents Jago and Maggie, the beating heart of the community, both clearly having a ball as the mischief makers in chief, who have been around the block enough times to know that you shouldn’t squander life’s opportunities.

The music is performed by cast members, who are ever present on stage throughout giving the production a feel of authenticity. I’ve been to enough folk nights to see people getting up and joining in. There is some outstanding musicianship on display throughout the show.

You don’t have to be familiar with the story of the Fisherman’s Friends or even know the music, to enjoy this rousing, upbeat story, just get comfy and let it wash over you. Watching it made me think of hot chocolate, an open log fire, and a cosy night on the couch under a blanket, just some life’s little joys and treasures that offer comfort and are good for the soul, and Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is no exception to this.

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is on at The Lowry until Saturday 1st October, tickets available here.