Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘But if you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real. You are what you feel…’


Fresh from London’s Palladium, this new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat kicks off it’s UK & Ireland tour right here in Manchester. Although it feels as though Joseph has been around since ‘way way back many centuries ago…’ with it being the first of Lloyd Webber and Rice’s musical collaborations to be performed publicly over 50 years ago, originating in 1968 (albeit in a school setting and only 15 minutes in length), it is still as much loved and adored by audiences today as ever.


Joseph, the biblical story of Jacob’s first born (and favourite) son, who is sold by his jealous brothers for being gifted a (pretty fabulous) multi-coloured coat by his father and being a bit of a show off claiming to be able to read people’s dreams… you know the rest, has become not only a staple in schools and colleges alike but theatres and tours around the world too. However this latest version certainly throws a spanner in the works and isn’t afraid of shaking things up…

Yes, this version of Joseph has its ‘star cast’ appeal with Jason Donovan and Alexandra Burke billed as headliners and whilst it must be said the later of which provides an astonishing turn not just as Narrator but doubling up as multiple roles, leading the entire show with panache whilst simultaneously entering her third trimester of pregnancy to our (and probably her own) amazement, this version of Joseph is much more than just names. Paying homage to it’s humble beginnings, at the heart of the show is the talented cast of children, often playing roles you wouldn’t necessary expect them too; they provide a warm and sweet cornerstone to this production.

Jac Yarrow who has quickly made a name for himself in the title role, is most certainly the real deal. His onstage charisma is matched by his sensational vocals, with his version of Close Every Door proving to be ‘goose-pimpley-good’ and providing a stand-out moment. The ensemble are tight and slick and deliver some of the most entertaining scenes of the evening, including One More Angel In Heaven and Go, Go, Go Joseph.

A first class creative team has also been assembled here with Laurence Connor directing at the helm. Large’s set and costume design provides all the colour and more that you’d expect from a production of Joseph, whilst Rigby’s orchestra hits powerful perfection with every note, remaining pitch perfect throughout, culminating in Act 2’s Entr’acte getting its own (and much deserved) rapturous applause from an eager audience still clearly lapping up being back watching live theatre. However, what is most revolutionary for me is Hunter’s choreography which adapts and evolves impressively at each modern twist the production takes.

Michael Harrison’s refashioned production keeps the sentimentality and romanticism that a production of Joseph should have, whilst at the same time re-invigorates and brings it up-to-date, with (spoiler alert) tap-dance, cheerleading and can-can routines thrown in for good
measure. Although it may be said at times the modernisation can seem a little over the top and in your face, making it occasionally hard to digest, this newest production certainly can’t be accused of resting on its laurels.

There is still something really warm and reminiscent at the core of this modernised updated version of a much loved classic, that particularly in a world currently full of so much uncertainly, feels hugely soothing, nostalgic and incredibly uplifting.

This newest interpretation of Joseph certainly throws some curve balls to what we are used to expecting with this one, however what we do get is a quirky, funny, bold, modern take on an old familiar musical tale, which certainly makes for an entertaining evening!

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the Manchester Opera House until the 2nd tickets are available here.

Aladdin

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crossroads Pantomines production of Aladdin tells the tale of Aladdin: not as you know it, but instead as a version with many more laughs and spectacular crowd pleasing numbers.

We join the journey of Aladdin (Matthew Croke), whose only dream is to marry his one true love; Princess Jasmine (Rumi Sutton). However, the road to true love does not run smoothly, thanks to The Supreme Leader of Mancunia (Nicola Sanderson) and Abanazar (John McLarnon) : cue plenty of booing and hissing from the audience.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

This pantomime has everything that British pantomime should have – with bells on! The absolute star of the show is the incredibly talented comic genius that is Ben Nickless (Wishee Washee), who helps his brother Aladdin overcome all of the hurdles put in front of him on his quest to marry Jasmine. Nickless’ Covid rap gives us an hilarious spin on the last two years of life in a pandemic, with plenty of laughs about masks, testing and lockdown life. The audience were in absolute stitches during his attempt to use a loop pedal to give us a rendition of an Ed Sheeran classic.

Alexandra Burke plays the role of Scherezade, who provides Aladdin with assistance throughout his journey, and who gets us moving in our seats as she belts out the numbers – the crowd absolutely loved her rendition of Bad Boys, and the ensemble provide the dance moves that we all expect from a spectacular panto like this.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

Eventually, after much turmoil and misadventure and the most amazing carpet ride, Aladdin gets his girl. But not before we are treated to the most hilarious number “What I would be” from Nickless, Dupree, Croke and Sanderson. The audience were doubled over laughing at the comic genius of this scene, the timing is impeccable and Ben Nickless deserved a standing ovation just for this!

The set and costumes are vibrant and majestic. The use of puppets for the genie and the snake are both comic and transfixing. Ceri Duprees (Widow Twanky) outfits are extravagant and mesmerising, just as she is. She is everything she should be. Hilarious, sarcastic, and with a pair of legs to die for! Her renditions of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and of Bang Bang will be talked about by this audience for a long while.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2021

This pantomime is the tonic we really don’t realise we need until we get it. With all the uncertainty at the moment this is the light relief that we Mancunians are desperate for, so get your booster and get down to the Opera House for an addition boost – that’s all you need this Christmas.

Aladdin is on at the Manchester Opera House until Sunday 2nd January tickets available here.

The Bodyguard

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Over the last few years there have been a spate of Hollywood blockbusters that have been given the West End / Broadway treatment. Some have made little impact whilst others have become huge! The Bodyguard: The Musical, unquestionably falls into the successful camp. It opened in the West End in 2012, and has since toured the UK on numerous occasions as well as several international tours.

Now the pop musical extravaganza arrives in Manchester, as the Palace Theatre’s big production for the festive period, bringing with it the glitz, glamour, and some absolute classic tunes.

Following the plot of the 1992 Hollywood film, music megastar Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) has attracted the unwelcome attention of a deranged stalker: he has stolen one of her dresses, as well as sent her numerous death threats. Marron’s worried manager Bill Devaney (Neil Reidman), seeks out former secret service agent Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis) to be part of Rachel’s protection team.

The spoilt singer and her bodyguard soon clash, as Rachel is not happy with Frank’s over cautious approach, as well as the day-to-day impact he is having on her life. In addition, Farmer is less than impressed with his new clients ‘diva’ like attitude.

For Farmer the job isn’t just about protecting Rachel, but her family as well, which includes Rachel’s sister, Nicki (Emmy Willow), who develops feelings for Farmer. However, following an incident at a nightclub concert where Farmer protects Rachel from an unruly class, the two begin to fall for each other. As the romance blossoms between the the two, the threat intensifies to Rachel and her family, can Farmer maintain a relationship and stay sharp enough in order to catch the deranged stalker?

The undoubted star of the show is Alexandra Burke, she is without a doubt is the headline act and heart of this performance and quite rightly so. She has the star quality needed for the role and the voice to match. She certainly does justice to crowd favourites Queen of the Night and One Moment in Time giving an outstanding performance.

It’s not just Burke who deserves plaudits, equally impressive is Emmy Willow, who also has a tremendous voice. She absolutely nails Saving All My Love for You and duet with Burke on I have Nothing is beautiful. Willow brings a warmth and vulnerability to the overshadowed Nicki.

Ben Lewis is solid as Farmer, a believable reluctant action hero, and he also gives a great comedic version of I Will Always Love You.  There is an undoubted chemistry between him and Burke, however the romantic element of the story seems rushed, with both let down by some some clunky dialogue.

The ensemble cast work their socks off throughout, with some fantastic choreographed routines, whilst one of the biggest cheers of the night came with the introduction of the show’s villain, the stalker (Phil Atkinson), complete with a bare chest and abs you could grate cheese on (during the interval I heard one lady say, “he can stalk me any time”, judging audience reactions, stalking is ok if it’s done by a hunk!)

This production, as you would expect, has some high-end production values, pyrotechnics, dry ice, an ever-changing stage, and some gorgeous costumes, from tailored suits to glamourous dresses adding to the glitz and razzmatazz, creating the world of this global superstar.

The finale is of course a spine-tingling rendition of I will Always Love You, which is almost ruined by a giant projected image of our Bodyguard hero, it’s corny and as cheesy as a large pan of fondue, and an unwelcome distraction for the shows big closing moment.

There is of course time for one more feel good moment, as the entire cast nail a fun rendition of I wanna Dance with Somebody which had everybody up on their feet and dancing in the isles.

This is escapism theatre at its finest and the perfect way to forget your trouble for a few hours and get away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas, a decent excuse (like you need one) to have sing and dance.

The Bodyguard The Musical is at the Palace Theatre until the 4th January. Tickets can be found here.

Sister Act, The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Returning to Manchester after her triumphant spell in the Bodyguard, Alexandra Burke proves this diva is here to stay as she delivers all the sass and attitude that makes Deloris Van Cartier such a loveable and unforgettable character.

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Directed and Choreographed by Strictly legend Craig Revel Horwood, Sister Act tells the story of wannabee singer Deloris who sees a little too much during a late night discussion between her married boyfriend Curtis (Aaron Lee Lambert) and his no good cronies, one of which he believes has ratted him to the cops. Deloris flees for her own safety and finds sanctuary in the local Convent under the instruction of local cop and former school friend Eddie (Jon Robyns). Life as a Nun is a million miles from her usual liquor swilling, cigarette smoking, good time gal days but that irrepressible Deloris spirit soon has chance to shine when she’s given the opportunity to work with the choir of Nuns who currently sound like a cat’s chorus.

Burke is perfect in the role of Van Cartier, with just the right amount of sass and diva attitude she also has a lot of fun with this role and her comedic side is given the opportunity to shine, add to it that voice and wow, we have our star!

Burke is complemented by a strong cast; the Nuns really do take this production to the next level, each of their scenes is full of joy and every actress gives their absolute all. Notable performances come from Karen Mann as Mother Superior whose stern guidance despite frustration after frustration eventually develops into a solid bond, and the fabulous Sarah Goggin whose is a joy to watch as Sister Mary Robert, gaining in confidence with more than a little guidance from her new found sister. Jon Robyns makes for a great Eddie and you’re desperately willing him and Deloris to get together pretty much from the start of the show.

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The choreography is fun and flirty and further adds to the laughs this production provides, Matthew Wrights set and costume design works well transporting us from 1970’s nightclub to quiet Convent with ease. The one thing that distracted me a little during this production was the use of actor-musicians, whilst this works wonderfully for some shows for me I wanted my Nuns giving it their all for the fabulous choreography rather than being distracted from their booty shaking by playing the trumpet, but that comes down to personal taste and that being said everyone on stage absolutely excelled at both.

Sister Act is fun and totally fabulous; Burke’s voice is big, bold and beautiful, a heavenly production with bucket loads of feel good factor!

On at the Palace until Saturday 3rd September

Tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/sister-act/