Little Women

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Louisa May Alcott’s much loved classic about the four March sisters growing up in Civil War-era New England has been a literary favourite for almost 150 years now. Seen previously on the big screen, radio plays, TV series and straight theatre plays the March sisters undoubtedly have a place in the hearts of many, this is the first time however the Broadway musical has made its way to European shores as the incredibly successful pairing of Hope Mill Theatreand Aria Entertainment continue their vision to deliver accessible musical theatre in Manchester.

The production offers a condensed take on the heart-warming story of trailblazer Jo and her three sisters, Meg, Beth and Amy March, with Jo at the spirited centre of the piece. With their father off at war and their mothers encouragement to be the best versions of themselves they can be, the sisters set out on their path to becoming ‘little women’.

Amie Giselle-Ward is outstanding as Jo, passionate, strong and always true to herself, Giselle-Ward embodies perfectly the brash and bold Jo Marsh with a raw energy that utterly captivates, fiercely loyal and defiantly proud her characterisation is honest and raw as she delivers an incredibly moving and deeply emotional performance. She fizzes and boils over with a determination to live the life she chooses not one society choses for her, a woman seemingly ahead of her time when the book was first published in 1868 and an absolute heroine to women today.

The ten strong cast are incredibly hard working and beautifully demonstrate the importance and strength of family, love and hope regardless of the situation or difficulties they face. Each of the sisters are perfectly cast, Jemima Watling is superb as Meg, sweet and sensible, with a heart full of love. Katie Marie-Carter makes for a fabulous Amy, spoiled and selfish she is wonderfully dramatic. Cathy Read plays Beth with sweet affection, gentle and kind with a real sincerity she is the calm to Jo’s perfect storm.

Bronagh Lagan’s direction ensures the production remains entirely committed to delivering Louisa May Alcott’s message of love, family and female empowerment with wonderful storytelling throughout.

Ben M Rogers light design gently warms the production, allowing Nik Corrall’s simplistic yet effective set to shine. The intimate setting of Hope Mill Theatre is perfect for this engaging production, giving audiences the most wonderful connection with the characters as Jason Howard’s music and Mindi Dickstein’s lyrics are brought to life by Rickey Long’s superb musical direction.

Little Women is a celebration, joyful, spirited and full of heart. The perfect festive treat for all ages, delivering an important and current message that into each life some rain must fall but never let that diminish the fire within you.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 9th December tickets available here

Hope Mill Theatre announces 2018 season!

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Award-winning Hope Mill Theatre and resident producer Aria Entertainment today announce their much anticipated 2018 season, with three bold, exciting and ambitious in-house productions.

The converted mill in Ancoats currently hosting the European premiere of Little Women enjoyed a landmark 2017 season which saw 5* critically acclaimed productions and London transfers for Yank! and Hair with Pippin following in early 2018 will begin the season with the world premiere of new British musical The ToyBoy Diaries (on sale today).

This new musical comedy which runs from 18 January to 10 February 2018 charts the hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking sagas of mid-life dating. When twice-divorced Lily inadvertently finds herself under a much younger man, it opens the door to a wild new world of inappropriate relationships. From Tom the Tender to Sam the Submissive, via Paul the Policeman, Hat Trick Patrick and Matt the Monstrous (with Old Willy and Philandering Phil mixed in along the way) Lily finally finds Ben the Bountiful.

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Spring Awakening will run from 19 March to 3 May 2018. A production hailed as “one of the great musicals of the last decade” (New York Times) and the winner of eight Tony and four Olivier Awards, Spring Awakening follows a group of teenagers in late-19th-century Germany navigating the struggles and virtues of blossoming youth, with an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and a Grammy award-winning rock score. This landmark musical will be presented in an intimate and bold new production helmed by director Luke Sheppard (In The Heights, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole).

Third show to be announced is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love which will run from 5 July to 4 August 2018. Featuring the iconic “Love Changes Everything” Aspects of Love tells the story of passion, love and loss across three generations of a family and their artistic companions, against a background of 1940’s France and Italy.

The hugely successful partnership between Joseph Houston and William Whelton, the co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre and producer Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment is further testament to their commitment to make Hope Mill Theatre the home of new musicals and revivals in the north and beyond with two more yet-to-be announced productions in Autumn/Winter.

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William Whelton and Joseph Houston, co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre said: “We wanted to make sure our third season was even more ambitious and we feel we have managed to achieve that with the world premiere of the new British musical The ToyBoy Diaries, an exciting revival of Spring Awakening with an Olivier Award-winning creative team and our first staging of an Andrew Lloyd Webber classic – Aspects of love. Once again we have proved the power of regional theatre and continue to spearhead Hope Mill Theatre as a leading player in new musical staging, musical premieres and exciting revivals.”

Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment, who has just seen her production of The Addams Family transfer to Singapore stated “I have enjoyed working with the theatre on taking our shows to new commercial levels in London and am extremely delighted to announce the first three shows of our 2018 season, it is an honour to share this diverse selection of work with you. We hope to continue to champion the genre and bring in audiences from far and wide.”

Further information can be found here

@Hopemilltheatr1

@ToyBoyDiaries

 

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

The Addams Family preview

Credit: Matt Martin

The Addams Family, photo credit for images: Matt Martin

They’re creepy, kooky, and all together ooky and are heading to the Lowry for two weeks of fiendish fun this August. From the writers of multi-award winning Jersey Boys with music and lyrics from Tony Award nominated Andrew Lippa, The Addams Family are in for a shock when they realise Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher), the ultimate moody teenager, has grown up and has a truly shocking secret that only her Father Gomez (Cameron Blakely) knows; she’s fallen in love with a normal boy! So begins a riotous evening of spooktacular fun as the Addams’ host a dinner for Wednesday’s normal boyfriend and her ever so conservative parents.

We caught up with Carrie Hope Fletcher who plays Wednesday and Les Dennis who plays Uncle Fester ahead of their arrival in Salford to hear all about the witty and wicked show critics are describing as ‘gloriously ghoulish!’

credit: Matt Martin

Les Dennis as Uncle Fester

While both actors are hugely experienced in all aspects of entertainment with Les starting his career back in 1971 at the tender age of 17 on the iconic Opportunity Knocks and Carrie treading the boards in the West End as a child actor in Les Mis, Mary Poppins and Chitty the both know exactly how best to develop their characters and put their stamp on this production. Les explained how he wanted to bring his own Fester to the production, “I wanted him to be childlike and have a sense of fun, in the breakdown it said a tenor voice and also a vaudevillian so I knew straight away he had musical roots”

Carrie is a huge fan of the movies, in particular Christina Ricci, describing the challenges in taking on such an iconic role Carrie said; “It’s difficult to take on board bits of a character you really loved and think can’t be lost because they’re so iconic while trying to make it yours at the same time. When I was in Les Mis playing Eponine, Trevor Jordan said to me ‘The character has got to find you as much as you have got to find the character’ which is something that has always stayed with me”.

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Oliver Ormson as Lucas and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday.

Les too is a huge fan of the family telling us, “As soon as my agent said they wanted me to read for Fester I said, absolutely! I’ve grown up with the series, then watched the films with my kids recently as they wanted to know more about the Addams Family, but I really wanted to try and bring my own Fester, I love playing him, he’s such fun and he’s the one character who gets to talk to the audience and of course he champions the love affair”.

Both Les and Carrie are clearly having a huge amount of fun touring with this weird and wonderful production which sees the famous cartoon creations of Charles Addams turned into a musical comedy. Carrie describes working on the show as an absolute scream, stating she has never seen a cast as in love with a show as this one; “We have as much fun back stage as we do on stage, it’s just as crazy” Les added, “If you’re anywhere with Cameron Blackley (Gomez) it’s going to be fun and can’t be anything but crazy, he is just life and soul!” Carrie added “On stage he is absolutely brilliant as Gomez and backstage he is basically Gomez without the Spanish accent! It’s such a wonderful company, the cast, the crew, everyone just has so much fun and I think that comes across on stage too, we all hang out together, we all get on so well and we are just having the best time”

credit: Matt Martin

Cameron Blakley as Gomez and Samantha Womack as Morticia.

We asked Les and Carrie which were their favourite numbers in the show, Les particularly loves Happy Sad which Gomez sings, “I think any Dad that has a young daughter and has that heartbreak of her growing up and losing her that song will literally have them in tears, it’s a beautiful song”, Carrie picked a line out that she really loves singing “In Crazier Than You, there is a line I love singing, ‘I’m gonna cut you with my love and with my knife’ for me it just sums up Wednesday completely, loving and terrifying all at the same time”.

The Addams Family opens at The Lowry on 29th August and runs until 9th September, book now for this fabulous family treat, tickets are available via www.theaddamsfamily.co.uk/tourdate/the-lowry-salford/

 

 

Hope Studios

1 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

MEET, REHEARSE, CREATE

An new and exciting addition to the city opens its door for business this month! Hope Studios comes from a collaboration between the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre, Play With Fire Productions and Aria Entertainment. The new independent rehearsal workspace based will be based in the Northern Quarter and will be open to performing arts, television and production companies based in the city, or visiting Manchester from across the country.

Located on Newton Street, Hope Studios takes over the first floor of Marlsboro House, the building that used to be home to Sunshine Dance Studios, and will offer up to six studio spaces with accessible prices. With the growing number of theatre, television and dance companies relocating and visiting Manchester every year, the team found that there was a gap in the market for affordable rehearsal spaces.

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Drawing on years of experience, Hope Studios understands the needs of rehearsing companies, and the team has created a collaborative and creative space, incorporating Play With Fire’s extensive Play Library for actors to borrow scripts for rehearsal or simply reading in the comfortable communal area. It plans to become a community and networking space for the performance sector, and offer development support.

Joseph Houston, Artistic Director of Hope Mill Theatre and partner of Hope Studios said: “There is such need for studio space like this in the city as the rising number of creatives making work in Manchester is at an all time high.”  He goes on to say: “It is an extremely exciting time in Manchester for the theatre industry. Artists are realising this is the place to be and we hope that Hope Studios meets a much needed requirement for quality, accessible rehearsal studios for people to create their work.” He added: “We are thrilled to be partnering up with Hannah and Dan from Play With Fire Productions, an incredibly exciting company that has staged two major productions at Hope Mill, and Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, who has been our in house producer at Hope Mill since we opened last year and has collaborated on all the musicals.”

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Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment comments: “I am proud to not only be resident producer of Hope Mill Theatre but now a third partner in this fantastic venture in Manchester’s Northern Quarter; A hub of creative individuals and companies working under one roof is just what Manchester needs and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

Hannah Ellis from Play With Fire Productions and partner of Hope Studios comments: “We are so proud and excited to be working with Hope Mill and Aria to offer these studios. As a producing body for the last four years, finding rehearsal space is often the most stressful element of any project. This is a worthy and vital new project; filling an important gap in the Manchester creative scene. We want Hope Studios to be a thriving hub of creativity, with not just rehearsal space, but also community areas, a marketing aid, lessons, collaborations and much more.”

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Hope Studios will be officially available for bookings in March 2017 through their website www.hopestudios.co.uk

Address: 52 Newton Street, M1 1ED

Yank! Preview

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On March 9th award-winning venue Hope Mill Theatre will host the European Premiere of the much anticipated Yank! A moving World War II love story which will examine what it means to be a man, to be in love, and explore the struggles simply being in love can bring.

Based on the 2010 Off-Broadway production written by David Zellnik with a score created by his brother Joseph Zellnik the musical transports us back to the unforgettable sounds of the 1940’s, focussing on the life of Stu (Scott Hunter) who is called up to serve for his country. Stu meets and falls in love with all-American guy Mitch (Barnaby Hughes) and so begins a tougher and more emotional fight than Stu ever expected to be facing.

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Yank! will be the third in-house production delivered by the hugely successful paring of Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment, who brought runaway hit Parade and cult classic Hair to Manchester audiences last year. This pairing is clearly one which understands the importance of getting things absolutely right, they put their heart and soul into delivering emotional, powerful, dynamic and beautiful productions, the prospect of them handling something with issues so current and so important is utterly thrilling. Add to this the fact that James Baker (director of Parade) is at the helm along with the addition of a third co-producer, Ben Millerman from Mr Millerman Presents and you soon realise that this is going to be something very special, without doubt crafted with love.

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We were lucky enough to join the cast for a preview at Hope Mill Theatre and hear from director James Baker who shared just how thrilled he is to be given the opportunity to tell such a beautiful story and really examine what it means to love in a time when division is so rife.

“I read the musical and just absolutley adored it, I think for me it’s important that when I pick up a musical, I absolutely  fundamentally love the story, for me it’s always about the story and Yank! has such a beautiful story. It’s about two people, two men that fall in love in World War II  in America, that alone is an exciting prospect, a gay love story set in World War II, that was enough to hook me in, but then the layers, the questions, the things that it asks, made me think there’s much, much more to this musical”

The cast delivered several of the shows musical numbers including the beautiful Rememb’ring You, My Soldier and Your Squad Is Your Squad each of which were absorbing and really gave a taste for this vibrant and dynamic production. Scott Hunter and Barnaby Hughes’ voices perfectly complimented each other, rich and powerful with an enormous amount of warmth. Sarah Louise Young the only female in the production sounded exquisite as she delivered her piece with real emotion and heart.The 12-strong cast are hugely talented and totally committed to doing justice to this emotive and bold piece of theatre, we fully expect Yank! to follow in the footsteps of Parade and Hair in firmly placing Hope Mill Theatre on the cultural map as a groundbreaking and innovative venue and one of Manchester’s brightest and boldest assets, roll on opening night!

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Yank! will run for four weeks from Thursday 9th March to Saturday 8th April at Hope Mill Theatre. Tickets are available now. Previews £15, all other performances £16-£22

www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment announce triple 2017 musical bill!

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The hugely successful partnership between leading London-based theatre production company Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre one of Manchester’s newest arts venues which brought us the much loved Parade earlier this year looks set to go from strength to strength with the announcement an impressive trio of shows for 2017.

Headed up by Manchester-born Producer and Company Director Katy Lipson, Aria Entertainment originally joined forces with Hope Mill Theatre, based in a Grade II listed mill in Ancoats and brainchild of Joseph Houston and William Whelton, back in January 2016 to spearhead the venue as a platform to showcase, and bring both new and revival musical theatre to the North. Further cementing their commitment to the partnership came in today’s announcement of their three exciting headline musicals for 2017 – Yank!; The Stationmaster; and Little Women.

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Yank! is a World War Two love story, with book and lyrics by David Zellnik and music by his brother Joseph. It tells the story of Stu, a scared mid-western youngster who is called up in 1943. He becomes a photographer for Yank Magazine, the journal ‘for and by the servicemen’. With a score that pays homage to the timeless music of the 1940s, the musical explores what it means to be a man, and what it is to fall in love and struggle. Yank will also be produced with Ben Millerman and directed by James Baker who also directed the almighty Parade.

Yank! will run from 9 March to 8 April 2017.

The Stationmaster is a musical Aria Entertainment first produced a workshop production of in 2015 as part of their annual From Page To Stage Festival Of New Musicals. The musical is inspired by Horvath’s Judgment Day, translated by Christopher Hampton with a book by Susannah Pearse and Music and Lyrics by Tim Connor. Set in a small town in the Lake District in 1958, railway stationmaster Thomas Price is the pillar of his local community. But when a young woman unexpectedly arrives on the platform, his well-ordered life begins to unravel. The Stationmaster will be directed by Bronagh Lagan.

The Stationmaster will run from 7th September to 30th September 2017.

Little Women will make its UK premiere at Hope Mill Theatre from 9th  November to 9th December 2017. The musical originates from a book by Allan Knee, with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1869 semi-autobiographical novel, Little Women follows the adventures of the March sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Jo is trying to sell her stories for publication, but the publishers are not interested – her friend Professor Bhaer, tells her that she has to do better and write more from herself. Begrudgingly taking this advice, Jo weaves the story of herself and her sisters and their experience growing up in Civil War America. . This will be the UK premiere of the Broadway musical which starred Sutton Foster who was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance and will no doubt be a highly anticipated production.

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Aria Entertainment’s Producer and Company Director Katy Lipson said of todays announcement;

“I am absolutely delighted to announce our 2017 season at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester. I am also excited to be on-board as resident producer on all in-house musical productions and to lead our vision on producing exclusively musical theatre with a focus on new musicals. We hope through our productions of Yank!, The Stationmaster and Little Women, we can bring even more audiences into the theatre to discover the intimacy and wonderful work we are investing in.”

Joseph Houston, Artistic Director of Hope Mill Theatre, added:

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce our 2017 season of musicals in collaboration with our resident producer Katy Lipson. All three titles are extremely exciting not only for Hope Mill Theatre – but for the musical theatre industry. Staging the UK premiere of two exciting shows such as the Off-Broadway musical Yank! and Broadway hit Little Women solidifies the theatre’s vision for producing never been seen before works and, the staging of new British musical The Stationmaster, we show our commitment to supporting new British musicals. These titles are sure to cement Manchester and the North’s position as a key driving force in musical theatre.”

To conclude the partnership’s programme for 2016, opening this weekend for Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre is cult classic musical, Hair, the story of a group of peace-loving hippies living in the shadow of the Vietnam War.

Previews begin on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th November, followed by a three-week run from Tuesday 15th November to Saturday 3rd December. Tickets available via the link below;

HAIR the musical

LISTING INFORMATION

YANK!

9 MARCH – 8 APRIL 2107

On sale Thursday 10 November 2016

THE STATIONMASTER

7 SEPTEMBER – 30 SEPTEMBER 2017

On sale soon

LITTLE WOMEN

9 NOVEMBER – 9 DECEMBER 2017

On sale soon

http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk