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. 

Flashdance the Musical

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By guest reviewer Casey Nicole Gwilliam

Flashback to the 80’s in this dazzling production of the all time classicJoanne Clifton dazzles as the feisty Alex, a young apprentice welder with a passion for dance, and a dream to get into the prestigious Shipley School of Dance.

With the help of her old dance teacher Hannah (Carol Ball), Alex prepares for her Shipley audition, as well as falling for the dashingly handsome Nick Hurley (Ben Adams) and having to save the day and set her friend Gloria (Hollie Ann Lowe) straight, she seizes the opportunity and dances her heart out.

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The numbers that were amongst audience favourites included “Maniac” and “Gloria” as well as the crowd pleasing “I Love Rock and Roll” which wowed the audience as the immensely talented ensemble dazzled with their moves demonstrating some  incredible tricks that made the audience wince and then cheer. The entire ensemble gathered together and created an absolutely amazing and retro atmosphere, wowing the audience with their moves and vocals that left even the audience breathless!

The lighting and set along with the extremely vintage costuming hurled the audience into the 80’s along with the perms and pumps. The authentic 80’s feel gave a sense of nostalgia, and was in keeping with the 1983 movie of the same title. Keeping audiences happily entertained.

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Joanne Clifton’s performance stood out as leading lady, Alex. Her husky voice was perfect for the scrappy young dancer and her acting and singing skills were on a par with her dance; proving to be a delightful triple threat. As well as having the audience envy her for pulling off spanks and a sports bra for the majority of the show.

Overall the show makes for an extremely enjoyable evening and was an instant hit with the audience, everybody was up dancing during the finale mega-mix ensuring everyone got a chance to show their moves!

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Flashdance the Musical is on at the Blackpool Opera House until Saturday 4th November, tickets available here http://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/events/flashdance/

Spamalot

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Selladoor Productions in partnership with Mercury Theatre Colchester bring their new production of award winning musical comedy Spamalot to Blackpool this week, the first stop on its 2017/18 UK and Korean tour.

Telling the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and adapted from the 1975 film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ Spamalot is chock-full of mayhem, madness with laughs a plenty. Written by Python legend Eric Idle and winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, Spamalot continues to entertain audiences with its bonkers brilliance and superb score.

Bob Harms takes on the role of King Arthur and is accompanied by trusty sidekick Patsy (Rhys Owen). The two make for a fine paring, delivering many of the comedy highlights of the show, they are endearing, daft and very, very funny, causuing chaos and much confusion wherever they go.

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This production really highlights the genius of Monty Python and will delight both fans of the original film as well as newcomers to the piece. There are corpses who refuse to die, ferocious Frenchmen, a Black Knight who is determined to fight to the end despite losing all his limbs, and the brilliantly bonkers Knights who say Ni for whom only the gift of shrubbery will suffice. There have been a few slight tweaks to keep it up to date and relevant to the 2017 audience which are cleverly interwoven with the original production, offering Stephen Arden, as Sir Robin, a great opportunity to deliver plenty of laughs in his rendition of ‘You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz’

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Sarah Harlington is brilliantly cast as the Lady of the Lake, her duet with Sir Galahad (Norton James) singing audience favourite ‘Song That Goes Like This’ is laugh out loud funny, add to this her hilarious rendition of ‘The Diva’s Lament’ and she’s pretty much guaranteed her standing ovation at the end of the show, her voice is beautiful, her comedic timing superb.

Huge praise must go to each and every member of the cast; they’re incredibly hard working and look like they’re having as much fun up on stage as the audience are having watching. With great direction from Daniel Buckroyd, Spamalot is a great fun production from start to finish, ending with the ever popular ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ you’ll leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear.

For tickets and tour details head to www.selladoor.com/productions/spamalot