Blackpool Tower Circus

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Writer Kate Goerner

Blackpool Tower Circus has been running for an incredible 125 years, dating back to 1894 – the world’s oldest circus based in a permanent arena.

It’s a rich history that the Circus is rightly proud of, as evidenced by the old posters and memorabilia on display to audience members as they they make their way from the entrance of the Tower to their seats ringside.

It’s impressive how the feel of a traditional big top is replicated in a permanent structure (designed by legendary theatre designer Frank Matchem no less) you do feel like you’re in a ‘proper’ circus setting!

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The circus has been led for the past 25 years by ‘Mr Boo’ and ‘Mooky’, who act as clowns and ringmasters combined.

The new Bollywood-themed show, Circus Carnival, has recently launched, just in time for the Easter.

The two-hour running time (including an interval) is filled with comedy, daring trapeze and gravity-defying stunts and circus skills, all accompanied by the in-house live band.

We loved the clever quick change act, the very definition of “how did they do that” plus the traditional circus balancing skills like juggling hula hoops.

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I was actually unaware that every Blackpool Tower Circus performance concludes with a water performance. The Arena’s unique design features a hydraulic floor which sinks and fills with 42,000 gallons of water in less than a minute. I wouldn’t want to give away any of the surprises of the finale – but it’s a wonderful way to end the show, with design, lighting, music and performance uniting to help audience members leave with a smile on their faces.

More information on the Blackpool Tower Circus can be found here.

 

The Wizard of Oz | Blackpool Opera House

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from the magical Peter Pan last year Selladoor Family return to Blackpool for their second festive season with firm family favourite, The Wizard of Oz.

This iconic musical adventure sees Dorothy (Holly Tandy) swept up out of Kansas landing with a bump in the enchanting land of Oz. Dorothy’s abrupt arrival marks the end of the Wicked Witch of the East and the start of Dorothy’s journey to the mystical Emerald City in a bid to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Katie Milner-Evans) and ask for her help to return to her family back in Kansas.

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Selladoor have gone all out in this lavish production, Steve Howell’s sets are stunning and combined with Sarah Mercade’s beautiful costume design and Jack Weir’s atmospheric lighting offer some real wow moments; not only does the Wicked Witch fly through the sky but Glinda the good witch even arrives via floating golden bubble!

All the classic songs from the instantly recognisable score are there including We’re Off To See The Wizard, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead! and Over The Rainbow which is delivered note perfect by X Factor sensation Holly Tandy who makes a strong musical theatre debut.

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Tandy is joined by a superb trio of friends as she journeys through Oz; Kieran McGinn makes for an exceptional Scarecrow, full of heart and charisma he brings an innocent charm to the role. Emmerdale favourite Kelvin Fletcher impresses as the Tin Man, proving to be a strong character actor who switches from farmhand to Oz resident with ease while Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher is a delight as the Cowardly Lion, funny, engaging and undoubtedly the King of the Forrest.

Chloe Carrington covered the roles of Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch in the particular performance we saw, owning the stage with every shrill cackle she is clearly having lots of fun with the part and more than rises to the challenge.

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No Wizard of Oz would be complete without a host of colourful Ozians and vibrant indeed they are with both the ensemble and the young company delivering outstanding performances; adding depth and richness to this impressive production with a slick delivery of Khiley Williams’ striking choreography.

If you’re looking for a festive treat then look no further, click your heels together three times and whisper, ‘there’s no place like the Blackpool Opera House’. This wonderful adaptation of an all-time classic will not disappoint, great cast, superb sets and stunning costumes ensure that this Wizard of Oz is wonderful indeed!

The Wizard of Oz is on at the Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.

*Photography by Mark Dawson

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 2 | Holly Tandy

Holly Tandy

Following on from our chat with Kelvin Fletcher, we caught up with Holly Tandy who is about to step into the ruby slippers and play Dorothy in Sellador’s Blackpool Christmas extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz.

Opening Night: This is your first musical theatre role, how are you feeling?

Holly: I’m super excited; it’s such a good opportunity for me. I’ve never done anything like this before and have always wanted to, it’s one of those things where I’m constantly learning which has just been just great. I know the skills I’m learning in addition to the things I already feel I have strength in together are preparing me for not only this role but my future career, it’s brilliant.

Opening Night: Are you looking forward to performing in Blackpool?

Holly: I’m so excited to get on stage and perform, being back up North feels really special for me too. I’m so excited for the audiences to see this show, my family are all coming along as well and they can’t wait, it’ll be really nice to share this with them.

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Opening Night: What is it about The Wizard of Oz that makes it so appealing?

Holly: It’s such an iconic show, a total classic that everybody knows and loves. There’s something very comforting about The Wizard of Oz and the familiarity and affection we all have for it. It’s such an engaging piece of theatre too, great for kids, just a really good feel-good show and the perfect Christmas musical for all the family.

Opening Night: How are you finding working in a cast as opposed to as a soloist on X Factor and how does the performance vary?

Holly: It’s so much fun. We all get on so well, everyone’s been so great, we’ve really clicked. There’s so much talent in this show, every cast member from the ensemble to the leads, I couldn’t be happier really with how everything’s going.

X Factor was a great was to build my confidence but this is very different. Pop elements don’t really fit with musical theatre so I’ve been really disciplined in adapting my style and the way I work for this show. I’m enjoying the challenge so much, I’ll always be grateful for my X Factor experience; it’s given me a platform to build on and led to this great opportunity.

Holly Tandy as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What’s are the challenges working on the show?

I was feeling a little nervous about working with Toto at first before we started rehearsals but we’ve got such a great team that I know it will be great. They’re so well trained. Also the amount of lines at first was something I didn’t quite anticipate, I knew there were lots but didn’t realise quite how many, but that’s come on great and you soon pick things up, the show is looking and sounding really good.

Opening Night: Are you feeling any nerves ahead of officially opening?

A little, but I think that’s healthy. It’s a nervousness of wanting to do well, wanting to do the role justice etc. it’s not the kind of nerves that are eating me up. I’m really enjoying it and I think a little bit of nerves shows just how much you care and I do really care about getting this role right and doing a good job.

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Opening Night: Selladoor are known for being inventive and dynamic how are you finding working with them?

Holly: It’s been amazing, they are just so good at what they do and such a great bunch of people, all so good at their jobs, they are all so talented, from the director, to the choreographer to the musical director each and every person I’m working with is just so brilliant and so good at getting each cast member to be the best they can be. It’s been an absolute pleasure so far and no doubt will continue to be.

The Wizard of Oz opens on Friday 7th December at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and runs until Sunday 30th tickets available here.

Preview | What’s Love Got To Do With It

Tina Turner the Musical might currently be wowing West End audiences, but north west fans of the iconic soul singer can look forward to a chance to see a stage celebration of her greatest hits a little closer to home in early 2019.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a new tribute show embarking on a massive UK tour next year – featuring all the hits fans of Tina Turner would expect.

Audiences can look forward to hearing stunning musical arrangements of Tina Turner’s most-loved classic hits including Private Dancer, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Proud Mary, River Deep, Nutbush City Limits, Simply The Best and many more.

Bringing to the stage Tina Turner’s famous high energy performances and incredible vocals will be Elesha Paul Moses (Whitney – Queen Of The Night, The Voice, X Factor) supported by a full 10-piece live band.

Speaking about playing Tina Turner, Elesha said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be touring the UK with What’s Love Got To Do With It? This is going to be a magnificent show and one that truly celebrates the incredible music and career of Tina Turner.

“Tina is a great persona to emulate on stage. I have performed as her many times over the years so to now be the lead in a show that will travel all over the UK and celebrate everything about her is an amazing opportunity and one I’m really looking forward to.”

The show comes to the Liverpool Empire on Tuesday 19th February, at the start of a massive 50 date tour.

Other north west dates in the tour include Blackpool Opera House on Saturday 20th July, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday 20th September and Warrington’s Parr Hall on Friday 13th March.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is presented by leading live entertainment promoters Cuffe & Taylor, and Paul Roberts Productions.

For more information visit www.cuffeandtaylor.com.

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 1 | Kelvin Fletcher

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Following on from the huge success of Peter Pan last year Selladoor Productions return to Blackpool with an iconic musical adventure as we see Dorothy click her heels together and arrive at the legendary Opera House.

This highly acclaimed adaptation from The Royal Shakespeare Company promises to be a magical treat for all the family featuring timeless classics: We’re Off To See The Wizard, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!, The Merry Old Land Of Oz and Over The Rainbow, add to this lavish sets and spectacular costumes and you really do have the prefect festive treat.

We were lucky enough to catch up with cast members Kelvin Fletcher (Tin Man), Holly Tandy (Dorothy), Scott Gallagher (Cowardly Lion) and Kate Milner-Evans(The Wizard) ahead of opening night on 7th December to hear a little more about what audiences can expect from this theatrical adventure.

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Opening Night: How are rehearsals going?

Kelvin: Absolutely brilliant, it’s been such a whirlwind. We’re doing full run-throughs now and tech rehearsals are getting closer, the whole process has been amazing for me, a lot of new firsts, coming into musical theatre, I’ve never done this sort of thing before, anything I have been a little bit anxious about the team who have been great have reassured me and offered some brilliant advice. I feel like I’m really growing in confidence every day, we’re all really looking forward to getting to Blackpool now and performing in front of an audience.

ON: We all know you so well from Emmerdale, how is acting on stage different to TV acting?

Kelvin: Day to day it’s very different, yes I’m used to acting but acting on stage is so much more expressive, especially in musical theatre with such larger than life characters. It’s been wonderful really to get a chance to do things I know are in my repertoire but that I’ve never had chance to express before. I’m also really excited for people to see this different side of me, a very different side to what they’re used to seeing; it will be a lot of fun for everyone including me.

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ON: As the Tin Man you have one of the most restrictive costumes in the show, how are you finding that?

Kelvin: First couple of dances I thought it would be best to try and be quid rigid with my movement but then I was struggling a little to get the fluidity of the dance so I decided to do it the opposite way and master the dance first then add the rigidity of the Tin Man. This is the great benefit of rehearsals it allows us to try different ideas and see what works best. Then of course there’s the silver makeup which looks amazing but I’ll definitely need help with that, I managed to leave some on the other day and caught myself in the mirror still wearing a bit of guy liner!

ON: Will your family be making the trip to Blackpool?

Kelvin: Yes, they are so excited, when I first started acting it was on the stage, that’s where my love for acting blossomed so it will be nice for us all really to get back to where it all started and it couldn’t be a better show, a big flamboyant musical like this is just so exciting for us all.

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ON: How does it feel knowing you’ll be performing at the Winter Gardens?

Kelvin: I’d never actually been despite knowing how iconic it is, it’s got such a great reputation, so to be performing there is going to be unbelievable. It’s such a great space, it’s huge, we can’t replicate the size of the set in the rehearsal space because it’s so huge which gives a sense of the sheer scale and spectacle of this production.

ON: We know you’re used to working with animals from your Emmerdale days but how about on stage?

Kelvin: I keep thinking to myself “If the dog doesn’t run at that particular point what will we do?” ha ha but I don’t have a lot of interaction with the dog to be honest it’s more Holly, as if playing Dorothy isn’t tough enough! The dogs are so well trained thought that no doubt they’ll be as good as gold and more than likely steal the show!

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ON: How are you finding the singing?

Kelvin: Our Musical Director has been amazing, I’ve never had any singing training before so I’ve just been like a sponge really taking on any piece of advice. We’ve all got numbers throughout and mine’s a lovely little number which starts off with some dialogue then breaks out into a song, I really can’t wait. Then of course there are lots of great songs throughout, choreographed dances, there’s so much going on it really will be spectacular.

The Wizard of Oz opens at Blackpool’s Opera House on Friday 7th December until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.

Madagascar the Musical

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Based on the smash-hit animated film which took the world by storm in 2005, Madagascar the Musical succeeds entirely in bringing the much-loved family favourite from screen to stage in a bold, bright and brilliant way.

For those not in the know, Madagascar tells the story of four animal friends from New York’s Central Park Zoo, Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe. Marty dreams of a life in the wild and on his 10th birthday decides it’s time to take action, making a bid for freedom, or in this case the open plains of Connecticut. Things however don’t quite go according to plan as all four friends find themselves unexpectedly stranded on the far-flung island of Madagascar, battling with both Alex’s killer instincts and King Julien’s killer dance moves!

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The colourful characters and distinctive design we know and love from the film are all there, Max Humphries exceptional puppetry design ensures young and old are instantly captivated as this fast-paced and punchy production quickly whips the audience in to a feel-good frenzy.

2016 X-Factor winner Matt Terry makes a confident stage debut as Alex the Lion, he is charismatic and extremely likeable, belting out the big notes with apparent ease and cheeky charm. His trusty pals too are perfectly cast. Antoine Murray-Straughan impresses enormously as Alex’s best friend Marty delivering Fabian Aloise’s choreography with style, Jamie Lee-Morgan brings in the humour as hypochondriac Melman while Timmika Ramsay ramps up the sass as hippo Gloria.

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Elsewhere Jo Parsons gives a hugely comical performance as party animal King Julien. His brilliantly bonkers take on the Lemur monarch coming close to stealing the show. Special mention must also go to Shane McDaid who gives a stand-out performance in his dual roles of Skipper and Maurice.

Kevin Del Aguila’s script is tight and crammed full of fun, a lot of care and attention has been taken to ensure this production remains true to the film ensuring fans will not be disappointed. The energy and enthusiasm of the hard-working cast is infectious, their command on Max Humphries puppetry design via Emma Brunton’s puppetry direction brings each and every character to fun and furry life, captivating even the youngest of children. The musical numbers entertain although competing with the anthemic I Like To Move It is never going to be easy.

Madagascar is entertaining and uncomplicated fun for all the family; with an incredibly talented cast, impressive bold design and a joyful message of friendship at its heart. Madagascar will charm you entirely, a roarsome treat from start to finish!

Madagascar the Musical is on at Blackpool’s Opera House until Saturday 15th September tickets can be found here.

Shrek

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Reviewed by Casey Gwilliam

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shrek came bounding into the opera house this week (literally) stealing the audiences hearts along the way.

In his quest to win back the rights to his swamp, Shrek encounters fairy-tale creatures, princesses and even a talking donkey. Following the same narrative of the 2001 Shrek movie, the stage musical includes many of the iconic lines you’ll remember from the movie, like ‘Not my gumdrop buttons’ and ‘that’ll do, Donkey.’

Shrek proves to be brilliant family entertainment as children were grinning from ear to ear, laughing along with their parents, as well as a few subtle nods to the innuendos Dreamworks are famous for, Shrek proves to be just as popular on stage as it was in cinemas.

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Among audience favourites were Marcus Ayton as the iconic ‘Donkey’ whose performance had everybody in stitches with his incredibly witty portrayal. Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad provided comic relief for the adult audience, with references to Brexit and Blackpool that raised more than a few smiles.

‘Story of My Life’ performed by the talented ensemble, was a real stand out moment, with the fairy-tale characters expressing their disappointment at their lot in life, expressing that being a creature “sucks” and dancing around in comical costumes around the swamp.

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‘Morning Person’ was also a huge audience favourite, as the dazzling tap and vocals wowed the audience even featuring some fabulous dancing rats.

The costume and set transported the audience into Shrek’s fabulous fairy-tale world taking every audience member on a magical journey watching Shrek run down the aisle to save his bride, Fiona, had everybody saying , I’m a Believer!

Shrek is a monster hit for all the family, creating just the perfect mix of fairy-tale and real life lessons we could all learn from.

On at the Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 27th May tickets available here.