Ghost – The Musical

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Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s 1990 smash hit film starring screen legends Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, and following the original musical interpretation which premiered at Manchester’s Opera House back in 2011, Bill Kenwright brings his new production of Ghost the Musical to the Palace Theatre.

With music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and lyrics from Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard (whose previous credits include Alanis Morrissette’s album Jagged Little Pill) Ghost tells the story of young, loved up New Yorkers Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Sarah Harding). Sam is tragically murdered in the street in a robbery gone wrong, which we soon learn was organised by his close friend and work colleague Carl (Sam Ferriday). As Sam takes his last breaths he soon realises he has become stuck between two worlds, ripped away from his love too soon he realises she too is in danger and he must find a way to connect and protect her. This connection comes in the form of Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois) so called psychic and spiritual healer, or more accurately fraudster and dodgy dealer.

Harding has come under heavy criticism for her performance in the role, most notably in the opening stops on the tour, but I’m happy to say Manchester’s audience welcomed her with open arms and she gave a touching and enjoyable performance. At times her acting was a little breathy but there is no denying she has a sweet and soulful voice and the chemistry between her and Andy Moss was moving. Fair play to her for getting up on stage night after night when even the most confident of us would be hiding under a blanket eating a vat of ice cream if we’d had even half of the criticism she’s received. She has clearly worked hard to improve her performance and is determined to silence her critics.

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Andy Moss makes for a very likeable and playful Sam making his death seem all the more tragic, his commitment to protecting Molly from danger is moving and his interactions with Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois) are brilliant. Moss portrays Sam’s highs prior to his death with warmth and excels when the lows of the afterlife take hold. Dubois was born to play Oda Mae Brown, if ever they remake the film she should be first in line at the auditions, outrageous, hilarious and full of sass, she shines in this production and her fun interactions with both Sam and Molly are a joy to watch.

With a strong supporting cast including a fine performance from Sam’s sly former friend Carl (Sam Ferriday) Ghost is a highly entertaining show, with beautiful music and some clever effects you’ll laugh, quite possibly cry and definitely come away from the production wishing you’d kept up with those pottery classes!

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 29th October, tickets available here!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/ghost-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

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Heading into the Opera House on a cold Monday night surrounded by burly boys in stockings and suspenders and gorgeous girls in teeny tiny French maid’s outfits can only mean one thing; the fabulous Rocky Horror Show is back in town!

An unbelievable 43 years old now, Rocky Horror shows no signs of ageing as this bright, bold and brilliant production burst into life. There is a buzz in the air from the many audience members dressed up for the occasion and the cheers and whoops begin as soon as the curtain rises. If you don’t know the story…(Really?! Where have you been!) then here’s a brief overview; conservative kid Brad (Richard Meek) and his straight-laced fiancé Janet (Hayley Flaherty) are on their way to visit their old science teacher Dr Scott (Paul Cattermole). Their car breaks down on a dark windy road in the middle of nowhere; the only thing in sight is a creepy looking castle, of course they decide to knock on the door and ask for help, and so the fun begins as we meet Frank-N-Furter and his debauched gaggle of a gang.

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Taking on the part of Narrator is Charlie Condou, well known for his recent role in Corrie, Charlie makes for a witty and cheeky narrator, he gives as good as he gets with the notoriously quick audience heckling and is immediately likeable with his relaxed and fun approach to telling the tale. Before you know it you’re up on your feet doing the Time Warp much to the delight of the audience and screaming with pleasure as Frank-N-Furter (Liam Tamne) makes his entrance. Tamne makes for a delicious Frank, sassy, strutting and completely debauched, exactly as he should be!

Director Christopher Luscombe has done a fine job of making this production an absolute must-see, the whole cast are exceptional. Both Hayley Flaherty (Janet) and Richard Meek (Brad) are superb, their transformation from prim and proper to debauched and dirty is fabulous. Paul Cattermole takes on two roles Eddie and Dr Scott and does a fine job with each. Special mention also must go to Kristian Lavercombe Riff Raff, Kay Murphy Magenta and the brilliant Sophi Linder-Lee Columbia flirty and frivolous, complementing our leads perfectly.

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Added to the superb cast, the creative team have delivered a visually stunning show, costumer designer Sue Blame has kept things traditional which is exactly what the audience want to see, whilst set designer Hugh Durrant wraps the stage in a giant celluloid movie reel perfectly lit by Nick Richings tremendous lightening design.

The show is sharp and without doubt the most fun you can have on a Monday night in Manchester, fun, filthy and totally fabulous! On at the Opera House until Monday, tickets available here!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-rocky-horror-show-2/opera-house-manchester/

Shirley Valentine 2017 tour

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In celebration of Shirley Valentine’s 30th Anniversary, Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy will embark on a UK tour in 2017, arriving at The Lowry on Monday 19th until Saturday 24th June, starring fans favourite, actress Jodie Prenger as our Shirley.

Undoubtedly one of the UK’s most successful playwrights, Russell’s award-winning work including Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, Our Day Out and Shirley Valentine has been performed all over the world. Talking about the new tour Russell says; “It’s now thirty years since Shirley Valentine first walked onto the page, into my life and the lives of so many others. Shirley cooked her first meal of egg and chips on the stage of the Everyman Theatre Liverpool before then hoofing it down to London where along with the cooking and talking to the wall she started picking up the string of awards she’d win in the West End, on Broadway and in the film that earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award Nominations.”

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Talking about the reasons for deciding to take Shirley on tour now on her 30th anniversary, Russell explained, “The one thing Shirley Valentine has not done of late is extensively tour the UK. There have been approaches and plans mooted but, somehow, it’s just never quite felt right and so I’ve resisted such efforts – until now! When producer Adam Spiegel introduced me to Jodie Prenger I knew in an instant that here was a formidable actress, one who possessed the grit and the warmth, the drive and the vulnerability, the energy and the heart to make Shirley Valentine really live again. How could any playwright resist that or deny the whole of the UK the chance to see Jodie bring Shirley to life?”

No stranger to the theatre having appeared in numerous West End productions, UK tours as well as being a regular on our TV screens and radios, Prenger will no doubt relish the challenge of bringing to life such a beloved and treasured character, warm, witty and at times achingly vulnerable, Jodie is the perfect choice for the role.

The tour will be directed by Glen Walford who directed the original production and produced by Adam Spiegel Productions (Motown, The Last Tango, The Producers, Dance ‘Til Dawn, Midnight Tango, Love Me Tender, The Mousetrap on Tour). Tickets are on sale now via the link below

http://www.thelowry.com/event/shirley-valentine

 

All or Nothing – The Mod Musical

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We’ve been celebrating Mod culture for well over 50 years: the influence this movement has on music and fashion still prominent today. You only had to look at the Lambretta scooters outside the Manchester Opera House or take a look at the nifty threads some of the audience members were wearing to see how apparent this is. Clearly there is a great appetite for nostalgia and a trip down memory lane so it seems right that one of the leading lights of the Mod scene get the musical treatment.

The Small Faces were a seminal band during the mod movement, members Kenny Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and lead singer Steve Marriot formed the group in 1965, and went on to have chart success in the UK and the States: All or Nothing – The Mod Musical, not only charts the bands rise and fall but celebrates the music and culture of the swinging sixties.

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The story opens with the bands demise at an infamous gig on New Year’s Eve at Alexandra Palace. It is here we are introduced to an older middle aged and tragically deceased incarnation of Marriot (Chris Simmons). Older Steve is our guide through the ups and downs of the band. Simmons is in full cheeky chappy cockney geezer mode, he is outstanding in the role of the beer socked narrator. His energy and enthusiasm shine through when the band is on the rise, which makes his decline all the more poignant, as we see the drink and drugs take hold.

Simmons performance is mirrored by Tim Edwards, who play the young Marriot, full of zest, but then with the wheels falling off begins to spiral into his own madness matching Simmons tortured performance. Edwards is ably supported by Joshua Dowen, Josh Maddison, and Drew-Levi Huntsman: fully encapsulating the spirit of being in a band, all talented musicians in their own right.

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Carol Harrison, who plays Steve’s Mum also wrote and produced the production, a self confessed Mod this certainly is a love letter to this period in history; the story of success/failure being a well-worn path, the script certainly has more than enough pathos to keep you engaged. Despite the tragic tale at the heart of the production there are also some moments of comic brilliance, the sending up of Juke Box Jury and Top of the Pops being the highlights.

This is an ambitious production well matches its own lofty ambitions. From the offset the Small Faces back catalogue including All or Nothing and Tin Soldiers, as well as numbers by artists including Dusty Springfield and PP Arnold are performed with so much life and energy it’s difficult to single anyone for particular praise as they all work their socks off: however special praise must go to Daniel Beales and Russell Floyd who seem to relish playing the multiple roles done with great comic timing.

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Overall this relatively new production has the perfect blend of humour and nostalgia to make for a fantastically fun night out. The show draws to a close with the cast performing a medley of The Small Faces greatest hits: which had the audience dancing in the aisles and a few lucky punters up on stage. The “Mod” culture was certainly alive and well at the Manchester Opera House tonight!

All or Nothing – The Mod Musical is at the Manchester Opera House till 22nd October.

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/all-or-nothing/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice

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First published back in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice marks the return of Regent’s Park Theatre to The Lowry for a third time following their hugely popular visiting productions of To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.

Austen’s classic comedy tells the much-loved story of the Bennett family and their five unmarried daughters. Mr and Mrs Bennett soon see an opportunity to rise through the ranks of society when the wealthy and devastatingly handsome Mr. Bingley and his friend, fellow eligible bachelor, (and even more wealthy) Mr. Darcy arrive in the area. The Bennet’s eldest daughter Jane soon catches the eye of Mr Bingley while the brooding Mr Darcy clashes with the Bennet’s feisty second daughter, Elizabeth, despite this, their paths are destined to repeatedly meet.

Adapted for the stage by Simon Reade and Directed by Deborah Bruce, the creative team have worked their magic on this production, delivering a bright and joyful reworking of Austen’s wonderful comedy. Set Designer Max Jones has created a remarkably effective revolving structure which works wonderfully well and allows the cast to glide with ease from the Bennett’s parlour at Longbourn to the grandeur of the ballroom at Netherfield Park.

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Both opening and closing this production is the delightfully dramatic Mrs Bennett announcing “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Played by Felicity Montagu, this role couldn’t have been better cast; she is everything you’d wish for in a ‘Mrs Bennett’, brash, attention-seeking, uncouth and ridiculously excitable. Her shameless attempts to get her daughters married off are hilarious; Montagu was made for this role and carries it off to perfection. In contrast to Mrs Bennett is the reserved, thoughtful and long suffering Mr Bennett, played wonderfully by Matthew Kelly, he is the calm to Mrs Bennett’s storm, the pairing of the two actors is a delight to watch.

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The five actresses playing the Bennett girls each offer something different and ensure that each sister has their own strong identity and characterisation, amazingly several of the girls are making their professional debuts. Tafline Steen who takes on the tough role of Elizabeth does so with ease, she is sublime. Feisty and passionate, and just as headstrong and determined as Austen wrote her. Steen’s performance is outstanding, an actress no doubt headed for big things, she is truly exceptional.

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Her clashes with Mr Darcy, played by the broodingly handsome Benjamin Dilloway are realistic and believable; the change in her emotions is moving to watch. Mr Darcy is another hard role to deliver, a fine balance to get right, by Act II we see Dilloway convey the warmer side of Darcy that Austen’s reader adore and yearn for and the side ultimately we knew was there all along . Special mention must go to Steven Meo with his riotous interpretation of Mr Collins the clergyman, irritating, try hard and totally nauseating, the last person you’d ever want around, he is hilarious, utterly brilliant to watch. Also praise for Leigh Quinn who takes on two roles, Mary Bennett and Annabel De Bough, although smaller roles she absolutely shines in each.

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Pride and Prejudice is a classy production, accessible and fresh. An complete joy for Austen’s fans, it’s also is the perfect introduction to those dipping their toe for the first time. Delightfully entertaining with laugh out loud moments and a superb cast, an absolute must see!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 15th October

http://www.thelowry.com/event/pride-and-prejudice

Rehearsal for Murder

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From the writers of Murder, She Wrote, Richard Levinson and William Link and produced by Bill Kenwright, Rehearsal for Murder arrives at the Opera House for a week long run. With an all-star cast the show is a well-acted and entertaining whodunnit that will have you scratching your head and realising what a dreadful Detective you’d make!

With numerous plot twists and a good dollop of red herrings Rehearsal for Murder creates suspense and intrigue along the way. Alex Ferns most famously known for playing psychotic Trevor in Eastenders plays Alex Dennison, a writer who exactly one year ago on opening night tragically lost his future bride and leading lady of his new play, Monica Wells, Susie Amy. Monica dies in suspicious circumstances after the opening night party following a mysterious phone call. Convinced she was in fact murdered Alex sets the scene to replay events of that night with all who were involved in order to discover what really happened.

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Set inside an empty theatre the play uses a series of flashbacks to retell the story to great effect; the cast give strong performances with Ferns delivering delightfully unhinged grieving fiancé to great effect. Anita Harris makes for a fine theatre producer, in the role of Bella Lamb, dramatic, sassy and fabulous darling! Former Emmerdale favourite Peter Amory gives a great performance as David Mathews, a slightly seedy leading man….or so we are lead to believe. And of course where there is a leading lady there has to be a fame hungry starlet waiting in the wings, Sophie Powels plays Monica’s understudy Karen Daniels, could the opportunity of seeing her name in lights lead her to commit the crime?

Lighting designer Douglas Kuhrt has done a fine job in adding to the mysterious atmosphere and chillingly lights our deceased leading lady as she appears silently on stage reminding us why we’re here. Rehearsal for Murder is a gentle evening of murder mystery and as the suspense intensifies the calibre of the cast can be seen, a very well-acted and enjoyable production. So…..whodunnit? Well you’ll have to go and see it to find out!

Tuesday 11th October-Saturday 15th October, Opera House, Manchester

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rehearsal-for-murder/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical

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Telling the story of The Small Faces rise to fame from a wannabe rhythm and blues band up until their much documented break-up on stage at Alexandra Palace, All Or Nothing is an engaging and hugely entertaining new musical.

With a book by Carol Harrison and directed by Pat Davey, All Or Nothing delves into the troubled past of a band who started out as fresh faced and full of attitude teenagers who wanted to change the ‘Mersey-beat’ scene and deliver something fresh, raw and exciting. We follow the band as they change from cheeky newcomers into a top sellers racking up iconic hits including Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday, Sha La La La Lee and of course All Or Nothing until years of constant working, exhausting touring, clashes of ego and general disillusionment with life at the top takes its tragic toll.

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The show is narrated by an older, no longer with us, Steve Marriot (Chris Simmons) looking back at the story of his life while his younger self performs in front of him, his narration is witty, revealing and brings a great pace to the production. Thoughtful and at times nostalgic, Simmons gives an outstanding performance, we see him go from light-hearted, dancing round the stage to crumbling before our eyes as the lifestyle becomes too much for his younger self, the liquor bottle becomes his constant companion as he smokes and drinks himself past the point of no return.

The use of an on-stage narrator works extremely well, Simmons swiftly creates a warm relationship with the audience and gently guides us through his compelling tale.

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The four cast members playing The Small Faces are excellent, Kenney Jones, (Drew-Levi Huntsman) Ian McClagan (Joshua Maddison), Ronnie Lane (Joshua Dowen) and Steve Marriot (Tim Edwards). All four act and play throughout, their musical pieces are tight and their scenes together authentic from bright-eyed wannabee hit makers to worn out and irritated popstars, each cast member gives their absolute all.

Special mention must go to Carol Harrison who as well as writing the book delivers a moving performance as Kay Marriot, mother of Steve. Carol delivers not only comedy and plenty of laugh out loud moments but also emotional and intense moments as she sees the tragedy that is unfolding before her.

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Rebecca Brower’s set is simple and effective, allowing the music and story to take centre stage here. This isn’t a musical with narrative dropped in around it; it’s a well written play which uses the music of its subject to great effect. With authentic 60’s clothing as well as props this is a piece that has been developed with true love and affection. The ensemble are excellent, playing various roles with some great comedic timing. The audience lapped up the witty jokes and cheeky quips and many a sound of recognition was heard as the cast kicked into one of The Small Faces classics. All Or Nothing makes for a fabulous night out, fun, feisty and totally fabulous!

On at Buxton Opera House until Weds 5th Oct

Manchester Opera House 18th Oct – 22nd Oct

http://www.allornothingthemusical.com/tickets.html