Peter Bergin is Peter Pan!

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Peter Bergin who trained at Rose Bruford, will take flight in Blackpool as he takes over the role of Peter Pan from Jake Quickenden who will soon be appearing on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

Featuring a live band, lavish set and spectacular costumes, JM Barrie’s classic story has been wowing audiences at Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s since December 16th. Read our ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review here.

Also appearing are TV star Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Captain Hook, Blackpool’s own Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling and Radio Wave’s Breakfast Host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s hapless sidekick, Smee.

The show runs until Sunday 7th January, offering audiences just a handful more opportunities to capture this magical family, musical adventure!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Dick Whittington

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Opening Night verdict 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

Qdos Entertainment, the worlds biggest pantomime producer bring their magical production of Dick Whittington to Manchester’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring the hugely popular John Barrowman, an absolute  panto pro he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the off, whipping off his trousers to reveal the tightest pair of pants to ever grace the panto stage! Joining Barrowman are legendary double act, The Krankies, stalwarts of the cabaret circuit since the 70’s, Dick Whittington marks their seventh season alongside Barrowman and their on stage chemistry is electric.

Sprinkled with lots of adult humour Dick Whittington is high on audience interaction and chock-full of laughs as Dick (Barrowman) falls in love with Councillor Krankie’s (Ian Tough) daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). dastardly King Rat (Phil Corbitt) however has other ideas as he tries his best to come between our lovebirds.

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Fun and frolics are high on the agenda as Barrowman greets the Manchester audience with an “Ey up chuck!” he is a highly entertaining, hugely charismatic, singing, dancing, innuendo spouting machine! Pair this with an outrageous performance from the Krankies and you really have got a match made in double entendre heaven. Lots to keep little ones and Mum & Dad highly amused with a few jokes perhaps a little too close to the bone for older children, who Mum and Dad may be desperately hoping don’t get certain jokes, let’s just say there could be some interesting conversations on the way home!

The rest of the sparkling cast compliment our leads perfectly with special mention to Jacqueline Hughes who delights as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Ryan Kayode as Tommy the Manc Tabby Cat who judging by the applause received was clearly an audience favourite too.

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As you’d expect there are ad libs galore particularly between the hilarious Krankies who remain sharp as a tack. Jeanette Tough, now aged 70 could give Debbie McGee a run for her money as she’s flung around the stage, barely stopping for breath and even ending up inside a giant sharks mouth!

The choreography is executed perfectly by the Company who are joined on stage by local children from the Stalder Academy of Dance.

Many of the usual panto traditions are here, there’s ghosts & ghoulies, silly songs and sparkly sets plus a surprise soaking for some audience members, however this is as Dick with no Dame which for me seemed an odd choice, please Qdos can we have our Dame back next year? Preferably Manchester favourite Eric Potts. The 3D section is enormously impressive but scared my young guests to the point of having to cover their faces, much too frightening for young children.

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The cast have undeniable chemistry, particularly evident during an underwater version of 12 Days of Christmas, which has the audience in hysterics from start to finish.  The storyline is secondary to the madcap mayhem playing out before us as Dick Whittington entertains and delivers a highly memorable night, for some this may be classic ‘British humour’ that needs a little updating, there was no doubt however that Dick Whittington brought a lot of laughter and festive cheer to Manchester last night, it’s a cheeky, festive treat!

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January, tickets available here.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland 2016 promo

Event City’s mega 22,000sq m of exhibition space has been transformed once again into a fabulously festive Winter Wonderland which will undoubtedly thrill young and old alike.

Now in its 5th consecutive year, Manchester’s biggest attraction boasts more rides than you can shake a candy cane at, as well as shows, festive food and drink and of course no Wonderland would be complete without the big man himself, Father Christmas! There are even a couple of very special guests to entertain the little ones this year in the form of classic children’s favourite’s, Rainbow’s George and Zippy!

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With over 50 rides and attractions all under one roof you really are spoilt for choice, from an indoor circus to classic fairground favourites Winter Wonderland quite literally has something for everyone, with the added bonus that everything (apart from food and drink) is included in your ticket price, so no need to worry about limiting the number of rides you go on or searching for loose change, you can enjoy the rides as many times as you like from the minute you arrive!

For the littlest members of the family there’s a baby chill out zone including large soft play area as well as a meet and greet with Santa, numerous toddler friendly rides with flashing lights and beeping horns which kept my little visitor entertained long past her usual bedtime and although this is Christmas you can even take a trip to the seaside at the giant sandpit. A huge positive is that sessions are limited to avoid overcrowding, which further added to our enjoyment of this incredibly magical place.

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For older children and adults there’s all the favourite classic rides you’d hope to see, the dodgems, the waltzers, hilarious bucking broncos and an enormously fun cyclone (which I’d advise going on before you enjoy one of the delicious bubble waffles!)

If this wasn’t enough there are lots of fabulous shows at various intervals throughout each session, Rainbow Live with Zippy & George, a fabulous Christmas Circus, The Ice Princesses, Jedi Knight Training, an all-new Daisy & Ollie Show from Cartoonito, as well as an opportunity to enjoy a Christmas Melt-Down – fun and dancing on the main stage with Winter Wonderlands crazy DJ!

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With tickets prices, £20.50* (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee) per ticket for adults and children aged 3-16 (under 3’s free) or £70 for a family of four, Winter Wonderland really is excellent value for money with each session lasting for four hours. My group and I left feeling festive and giggling about all the fun we’d had whilst planning our next visit to this magical place, an annual visit (or two) has quickly become one of our favourite Christmas traditions, with fun and lots of it guaranteed!

Open from 9th December 2017 until 1st January 2018, booking is highly recommended as some dates are already sold out, tickets are available here.

 

 

The Gruffalo

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tall Stories Theatre Company arrived at the Lowry’s Quay’s theatre this week for their month long run of the glorious Gruffalo.

This beautiful musical adaptation Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic picture book brings the animals of the deep, dark wood to life as we follow mouse (Lauren Scott-Berry) on her search for hazelnuts, during her journey through the woods mouse meets a mixture of woodland folk (all played wonderfully by Alastair Chisholm) including a cunning Fox, a supposed wise old Owl and a hilariously hypnotic Snake. All fancy a little bit of mouse for dinner but the clever little creature outwits them with the threat of the Gruffalo (Aaron Millard), but we all know there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo is there?

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Tall Stories which was founded in 1997 by joint artistic directors Olivia Jacobs and TobyMitchell have excelled in translating this children’s classic from page to stage, each and every child in the audience entirely captivated from start to finish. The tree actors work together beautifully as they enchant the young audience, characters are differentiated through a variety of voices, movements and simple but very effective costumes. The short book has been perfectly padded out to ensure an hour of quality entertainment including a dancing snake, a bossy old owl and if you’re lucky you may even get the Gruffalo sat beside you!

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The delight on the children’s faces for the entirety of the show is worth the tickets price alone, with wonderful audience interaction, a charmingly authentic set, sweet and simple songs the Gruffalo is the perfect family festive treat!

On at the Lowry until Sunday 7th January tickets available here.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s that time of year again, oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it bloomin’ well is! As pantos pop up across the country and evil villains prepare for an almighty booing, St Helens is no exception with a star-studded Snow White opening at the Theatre Royal for the festive season.

Starring Corrie and Where The Heart Is favourite Lucy-Jo Hudson and a pre-recorded ten foot tall Magic Mirror in the form of local legend Johnny Vegas, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has it all from plenty of ‘it’s behind you’ to a spectacular interactive 3D section which is spine tingly good and more than worth the ticket price alone.

There is something for everyone in the high energy and hugely entertaining production. With superb sets and lavish costumes full of colour and sparkle, Regal EntertainmentsLtd put their impressive stamp on this production, further demonstrating their commitment to delivering high quality, accessible local theatre. Writers Si Foster (who also takes on the role of Evil Queen Camilla) and Ben Engelen deliver an enormously funny script with plenty to keep the little ones entertained and even more to thrill Mum and Dad…just wait for the outrageous Andy Pandy scene! Hilarious! Nazene DanielleLangfield’s choreography is impressive and intricate as both senior ensemble and children from local dance schools all get the chance to shine.

Richard Hazlewood, Johnny Vegas and Si Foster

Lucy-Jo Hudson makes for a perfect princess; she’s sweet but sassy with an incredibly beautiful voice, her time on TV show Dance, Dance Dance clearly well spent as she delivers each routine with precision. Receiving many of the laughs is local funny man and audience favourite Lewis Devine as Muddles, hugely charismatic and immediately likeable he has the audiences in stitches from that start with his mad-cap antics and hilarious impressions.

St Helens Theatre Royal once again deliver a perfect panto, Snow White is a guaranteed festive treat for all ages, it’s easy to see why this show has already been extended offering audiences an extra week to catch it. With impressively high production values, plenty of audience interaction and a strong cast who bring an enormous amount of fun to the show, Snow White is a wickedly wonderful night out!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on at the Theatre Royal St Helens until Sunday 14th Jan tickets available here

 

Nativity! The Musical

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Eight years ago back in 2009 Debbie Isitt’s film Nativity! was released and immediately captured the hearts of the nation; it spawned not one but two sequels and has now been followed by a translation to the stage in Nativity! The Musical. The production follows the same storyline many of us know and love as we head to St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School for their annual nativity.

We begin by meeting three best friends, Paul Maddens (Daniel Boys) Jennifer Lore (SarahEarnshaw) and Gordon Shakespeare (Andy Brady). Jennifer and Gordon have big plans after drama school while Paul is happy to become Mr Maddens at the local primary. Paul and Jennifer fall in love and live happily together until one Christmas Jennifer receives a call from Hollywood and decides to follow her dreams leaving Paul and their dog Cracker behind.

Paul is stuck in a failing school which doesn’t even rank high enough to receive an Ofsted rating while Gordon has progressed to headmaster at the nearby snooty Oakmoor Prep. Oakmoor excels every Christmas with the most extravagant of nativities while St Bernadette’s can’t even muster a one star review, cue head teacher Mrs Bevan (JemmaChurchill) instructing Mr Maddens to lead this year’s nativity with the help of clueless new classroom assistant Mr Poppy (Simon Lipkin). Daniel Boys is exceptional as Mr Maddens, delivering a perfectly judged performance, warm and charismatic yet enormously frustrated with his lot. Boys is endearing and hugely likeable as we see his character soften and develop under the influence of the bonkers but brilliant Mr Poppy.

Sidekick to Boys is Simon Lipkin who is perfectly cast as the brilliant Mr Poppy, a big kid with an even bigger heart, his enthusiasm and energy is infectious. He portrays the lovable Mr Poppy superbly; he is incredibly funny, demonstrating a very natural comedic ability that leaves the audience roaring with laughter every time he takes to the stage, an absolute joy.

Watching the relationship between Mrs Madden and Mr Poppy develop is a tremendously entertaining element of the show, their interactions are incredibly funny as Mr Maddens frustrations at Mr Poppy’s OTT enthusiasm for everything takes its toll, however who could stay mad at Mr Poppy for long? Not us!

Each character is so wonderfully defined from the camp and catty local theatre critic (Jamie Chapman) to the power obsessed Mr Shakespeare (Andy Brady), this is storytelling to perfection, with every cast member an absolute delight to watch. David Woodhead’s set as you would hope is a sparkling spectacular sight, versatile and inventive, beautifully lit by Tim Mitchell.

Of course no nativity would be complete without children and plenty of them and boy do they sparkle and shine! From hilarious auditions for a part in the nativity right through to the finale when they deliver the final and fabulously finished production. The honesty and pure innocence of their performances is an absolute thrill, they are sweet, silly, hilarious and enormously endearing with bucket loads of charm thrown in for extra cute factor.

Nativity strikes the perfect balance between being a real show stopping spectacle and delivering genuinely real, relatable and honest theatre. It’s uplifting, hilariously funny and enormously entertaining. Your heart will be warmed and your funny bone well and truly tickled by this sparkly, joyful, festive treat. The standing ovations will no doubt be repeated night after night as this real gem of a production warms hearts with every performance, my only criticism would be that we only get to have it in Manchester for one week, please Nativity! The Musical, come back soon!

On at the Palace theatre until Sunday 3rd December tickets available here

Elf the Musical

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

West End smash hit Elf the Musical arrived at the Lowry this week for a festive six week stint.

Based on the much loved 2003 film with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf tells the popular tale of Buddy the Elf.

After crawling into Santa’s toy sack as a young orphan boy Buddy finds himself living amongst the elves in the North Pole, with an inability to make toys even half as fast as his fellow workers and being twice the size of every other elf there Buddy realises it’s time to face the truth and admit perhaps he isn’t an elf after all. With Santa’s permission Buddy heads to New York City in a bid to discover his true identity, find his father and hopefully spread some Christmas cheer along the way.

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West End favourite Ben Forster reprises the role he won rave reviews for and it’s clear to see why, he commands the stage with his witty, warm and charismatic take on the loveable Buddy. His confused interactions with the hardened New Yorkers are hilarious and his innocent boisterous wooing of Jovie (Liz McClarnon) is a delight to see. Forster is perfectly cast, he completely makes the role his own, no easy task for such an iconic character made so famous by Will Ferrell. Forster bursts with enthusiasm and Christmas cheer, he entirely captivates with his joyful characterisation, his voice is smooth, strong and pitch perfect.

Forster is joined by a talented cast including Liz McClarnon as love interest Jovie. McClarnon is superb as Christmas pessimist Jovie, with the most beautiful of voices and strong characterisation, Jovie’s ice maiden persona takes some melting, she is witty, sarcastic and the perfect sour to Buddy’s sweet.

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Tim Goodchild’s sets are lavish and impressive, sparky and slick as scenes move effortlessly from one to the next. The additional use of Ian William Galloway’s video design further adds to the wow factor of this big budget production. Sue Simmerling’s costume design is perfection, glitter, sequins, red and green for the North Pole, sharp grey suits for NYC.

The production remains true to the film but is so charming in its storytelling that those who haven’t seen the film (yes they do exist) will thoroughly enjoy the musical regardless. There are the classic lines we would all wish for hilariously delivered, a stunning score with catchy uplifting songs which you’ll be humming for days, the score literally has it all from stand out beautifully choreographed showstoppers to a witty yet moving solo from Jovie (Liz McClarnon).

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Elf is a heart-warming, sparkly, spectacular. The message of love, hope and family is a special one, wonderfully and hilariously delivered. The audible gasps of joy from the audience will warm the coldest of hearts and will ensure you’ll leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, offering hugs to anyone who will accept one and maybe even a few to those who won’t! Elf delivers the most perfect escapism from the crazy times we’re living in, funny, feel-good and oh so fabulous, a festive treat for all the family.

On at the Lowry until Sunday 7th January tickets available here