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

Kelvin Fletcher

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.

Interview | Brendan Cole

Brendan Cole’s spectacular production, All Night Long, returns to the stage this week after a hugely successful and critically acclaimed run in 2017. Manchester audiences can catch the Strictly favourite at the Bridgewater Hall on Friday 19th January as part of an extensive UK and Ireland tour. Created by Brendan himself the show takes audiences on a journey through all genres of dance and music including an impressive 13 –piece band and singers as well as a sensational cast of talented championship dancers. We caught up with Brendan ahead of the show’s arrival in Manchester to hear a little more about this critically acclaimed show.

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ON: What can audiences expect from the show?

BC: I really like to think we offer audiences a bit of everything, obviously it’s a Strictly type show but it’s very much got my name on it, it’s not put on by a production company, it’s my creativity that’s put the show together. It has everything that you’d want from Strictly and more, we have a live band, 13 incredible musicians on stage, they really are phenomenal, they cover Michael Bublé, Tom Jones, that kind of calibre of musician, they really are the best, which adds an extra element to the show, it could even be a musical show on its own without the dancing, but of course audiences have come to see that dancing and that is what they’re gonna get.

ON: In terms of dance, what can audiences expect to see a mixture of Latin and Ballroom?

BC: Everything you know from Strictly we do on a stage, with a bit extra, whether it be a waltz, a cha cha, an Argentine tango, a foxtrot, a jive, a samba, we cover every element of dance and we try to cover all genres of music too, from old to new because the Strictly audience is very diverse, they really are all ages and it’s very important to me that we have a complete show, My name is on the door so I want us to be delivering something that people love then hopefully we can offer a phenomenal nights entertainment.

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ON: How does performing on stage differ to appearing on Strictly?

BC: With the magic of television they can change camera angles, there are floor effects, ceiling effects so that magic that’s created in the studio is not just about the dance but on a stage show you are there for all to see, so with that the audience truly gets to see everything, not just a zoomed in section, but every step the dancers take, the emotion, the beauty of the numbers, the magic of the dance takes centre stage. For example the waltz that we do, normally a waltz is the story of a romance, a love story where a couple meet, then fall in love and live happily ever after, the waltz that we do we use a Michael Bublé song called ‘At this moment’ and it’s the story of an affair, so it’s very different but really powerful theatre, I love it as you see the audience transform as the story of our waltz unfolds, waltz is my favourite dance anyway so to be able to perform that dance and get a really genuine reaction from the audience is brilliant. Then one number later we do a really passionate Argentine Tango which is just wow and really full on then we might next be doing something really soft, romantic and beautiful, it’s chopping and changing to make sure audiences don’t feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over again, every number is different, the cast are phenomenal, all the elements, the music, the lighting, the staging, the costumes, the talent, everything comes together in a two hour spectacular of what people love seeing in their living rooms but they get to see it live on stage.

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ON: How do audiences differ from city to city?

BC: It’s really interesting and varies massively, if an audience is quiet it can be quite soul destroying, I’ve performed for audiences who while they appreciate what you do just sit quietly and take it in, so you can start questioning what you’re doing. I’d definitely say the further North you go the bigger the reaction, Southern audiences tend to be more reserved, which of course is absolutely fine but it can be tough to gage how much they are enjoying the show, you can think you’re dying a death on stage then after the show there can be 50,60, 80 people outside stage door telling you how phenomenal they thought the show was, it’s a really funny thing then other times you can go out on stage and before you’ve taken a step or played a note and the audience go crazy, that’s what we do this for, it’s all for the audience, we want people to walk away very, very happy having had a really great night, that’s the main thing.

ON: Are there additional pressures to performing live?

BC: When the curtain goes up you have got to be ready to perform, whether you’ve been locked out of the building, haven’t done your hair, it doesn’t matter you have to be ready. Once we had terrible storms and couldn’t travel across the Dartford bridge in London, so myself, lots of the dancers and musicians couldn’t get to the venue, my sat nav took me on a horrendous route and I finally got to the show 8 minutes before the start of the matinee, but I walked on that stage and it’s like bang, you hit the ground running, the audience doesn’t need to know the problems you might have had, it’s live and anything can happen at any time, you have to deliver and I think that’s what makes it exciting.

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ON: We’ve heard you play the guitar on stage, is this talent you’ve always had or a new skill?

BC: It’s a new thing, our musicians are world class, they really are something special, just awe inspiring, we’ve talked over the years about how I wished I’d gone to music school and learnt more about music, I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up a guitar and just be able to play, so they suggested for this new tour they put together a musical number where I play the guitar so I thought brilliant, challenge accepted, I’m not planning on taking over from any musical legends but it’s one of those things where I’ve accepted the challenge and I’m just enjoying it, it’s a lovely Ed Sheeran song. To sit and play amidst that talent while my dancers come out and perform a contemporary rumba is really special and just something I really love doing. Plus for the audience they’re used to watching celebrities out of their comfort zone on Strictly, this was a chance for them to see me slightly more vulnerable and see something different from me, a different element to the show which is so important to me, that the show changes every few minutes, which hopefully keeps the audiences excited.

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ON: We’ve spoken to your former colleague Joanne Clifton who is currently touring with Flashdance is this something you’d be interested in doing in the future?

Yes eventually when the dancing shoes are hung up because it’s quite hard to fit in anything like that when you’re involved with Strictly plus I have my own production now. I have been offered a big role in the West End previously about 4 years ago but I couldn’t accept as it was a touring show before it went to the West End so my commitments wouldn’t allow for that as well, I was gutted to have to turn it down as it would have been a great opportunity for someone like me who isn’t necessarily an actor but who can act, and I can sing so it was one of those things that I had to say no thank you but it’s definitely something I’d look forward to in the future.

ON: Finally and we’re sure you get asked this a lot, who would be your dream Strictly partner?

BC: Ooh I’ve had them haven’t I? The honest answer is I’ve had some great partners over the years, I’ve been very lucky but there’s one person who I’d love to dance with, not necessarily on Strictly as I think that would be tricky to get her to commit, Her Majesty the Queen, I’d absolutely love to give her a Waltz lesson, just to dance a beautiful Waltz with her, I’m sure she’s been shown before but that would be an absolute dream for me, that’s definitely on my bucket list.

Further information, tour dates and tickets can be found here.