Disney on Ice | Dream Big

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Created in the late 1980s and seen in over 65 countries around the world, Disney on Ice as a brand is now a firmly established part of the Disney family. And the current tour – billed Dream Big – is indeed a  bit of a dream for fans young and old.

Produced by live family entertainment specialists Feld Entertainment, Dream Big is a lavish all-twirling, all-jumping show that packs in more than enough Disney princes and princesses, songs (and special effects) to keep audiences in a Disney dreamworld.

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For those who are unfamiliar with a Disney on Ice production. Minnie and Mickey act as hosts and introduce segments devoted to various iconic movies – this time round including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Cinderella (complete with coach) and recordings of the soundtracks are played that the skaters perform and mime too.

With a stunning set backdrop and literally dazzling costumes and perfect wigs – we really do see our favourite heroes brought to life in front of our eyes. (It was particularly lovely to see them all regularly waving at audience members throughout the show). The skating was stunning – and for some of the performers (Maui and Sebastian the Crab – I’m looking at you) some in what must be quite tricky costumes.

A real highlight was the (new for this tour) Moana section – the solo skating routine performed by ‘Moana’ to How Far I’ll Go was a perfect example of music, performance and skating combining perfectly. I had goosebumps and a large lump in my throat – just stunning! It was as it had always been on ice!

Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast was a big company number, and a real crowd pleaser, as was Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.

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Another favourite was the extra-long segment donated to Frozen, that was basically a mini version of the movie. Yes we’ve all heard Let it Go a million times, but it was pretty special seeing a version on ice! With twirling! Yet more goosebumps.

My 3 year old was admittedly a little scared of Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid and the fire-breathing dragon from Sleeping Beauty (we took the opportunity to beat the loo queues and later on get an ice cream when it got a bit too scary for him), but he loved the Genie from Aladdin, Mickey and Minnie, Belle and (of course) seeing Elsa. He genuinely did not want to leave when the house lights went up.

Cynics begone – if there’s a more magical and uplifting way to spend an autumn evening, well…..I’ll get my skates on!

Little Baby Bum

Little Baby Bum

Many parents with babies and toddlers will know of – and probably be exceedingly grateful to! – the nursery rhyme world of Little Baby Bum.

For the uninitiated, Little Baby Bum – or LBB as it’s known – is one of the world’s most popular educational YouTube channels.

LBB features colourful computer-animated versions of traditional nursery rhymes and original songs, and featuring a cast of recurring fun character.

From The Wheels on the Bus (2.1 billion views online and counting!) to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, many a parent (this reviewer included!) can probably credit LBB for helping their little ones learn the words to the classics.

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And now LBB has followed other major family brands like Teletubbies and Peppa Pig in taking to the stage – with the first tour of Little Baby Bum Live hitting the Lowry this weekend, in the large Lyric theatre no less!

I’ve often thought there was a gap in the market for a live show dedicated to nursery rhymes, so was curious to see if the LBB magic could translate to the stage.

My little reviewer (3 and a half) started bopping his head as soon as he entered the auditorium, thanks to the jolly pre-show music, which was a good sign.

The show introduces audiences to popular LBB characters including Mia, Jacus, Baa Baa Sheep the Baker, Incy Wincy Spider, Stan the Monster, Pig, Baby Panda and my son’s favourite, a high-energy, high-kicking, high-faulting Old Macdonald.

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Using an effective mix of colourful projections, props and puppets, LBB favourites are performed within the framework of preparing for a parade at the end of the show.

The cast are all excellent, switching roles, costumes and puppets with ease – and are in fine voice, so those all-important nursery rhymes are done justice.

Most of our favourites were included, and we particularly loved the section of non-stop songs towards the end that included faves like Ring a Roses, Grand Old Duke of York and many more.

This finale was so fantastic that on reflection I wonder if there could have been a little less talking about the parade in the first half the show, and a little more singing! But maybe I’m just being greedy!

Little Baby Bum Live

The only real negative aspect to the LBB Live experience was the impact on the show the persistent flash photography had on things – sadly many parents ignoring the explicit request at the start of the show by cast members, while photos and videos were encouraged, flashes should be turned off. Perhaps a no photography at all rule should be considered as all the screens and flashes was very distracting.

But this gripe aside, Little Baby Bum Live Was an extremely enjoyable show for pre-schoolers, especially if they are familiar of the LBB world. It effectively captures the charm and magic of singing these songs – and I’m happy to report singing and dancing along was encouraged throughout!

More information and further tour dates can be found here.

Interview | Lloyd Gorman | The Jungle Book

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Rudyard Kipling’s beloved family classic The Jungle Book comes to The Lowry from Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 7th May.

The family favourite originally written back in 1894 has been reimagined and innovatively delivered in this all new production by an award winning creative team which includes playwright Jessica Swale, director Max Webster and internationally renowned songwriter Joe Stilgoe. While the story remains the same there is a new emphasis on acceptance, inclusivity and belonging all set to an uplift and incredibly catchy score.

Opening Night were lucky enough to watch a performance of this vibrant new production at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre ahead of it’s arrival at the Lowry and grab a quick chat with Lloyd Gorman who plays Shere Khan after watching the show.

ON: What what a costume and what a character, we absolutely loved your Shere Khan!

LG: Thank you, it’s quite a costume isn’t it, I really didn’t expect it, it’s brand new, it used to be more biker style and I went for a fitting for this new one and it was a case of ‘Wow that’s a statement and a half!’ it’s a really fun costume to wear especially playing such a great character.

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ON: It must be great playing the baddie?

LG: Yes, it’s so much fun, especially such an out and out baddie who doesn’t in any way try to hide his purpose, he is straight up clear upon his need for revenge, he really believes he needs to write the wrongs of mankind, he’s been mistreated by man but seems to have developed into a bit of a misunderstood tortured soul, verging on a bit of a psychopath ha ha. An awful lot of fun to play.

ON: Is it a challenge to create something different with a story that so many people already know well.

LG: For us as a Company we’ve never felt that challenge, I haven’t for example seen the Disney film for a long, long time, nor have I seen the live action version so I didn’t feel any pressure to be different myself. For us it feels such a unique and special production that although we have the stock characters it feels very fresh and new.

ON: While watching we felt there was a real message of positivity and acceptance, could you tell us a little more about your take on this?

LG: Theatre works on so many different levels and people will take different things from it but as long as it’s giving out a message that is relevant to where we are in life now it will always be relatable, Mowgli has been made very gender unspecific so we never refer to Mowgli in any male or female pronouns, it’s also about celebrating difference which is such a huge issue in the UK at the moment, difference is seen my some people as being wrong or bad and we should stick to our own etc, I think theatre is vital in times like this to show the beauty of difference and to say no, remember that diversity is a massive benefit to us all, to the world and all of our lives. The Jungle Book is the perfect vehicle to do that through a wonderful story that while it entertains it also uplifts and educates. Children often hear many negative things about different cultures so it’s lovely to be part of something so inclusive and positive.

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ON: How did you first become involved in theatre?

LG: I went to youth theatre in Norwich there is an excellent youth theatre there, I started when I was 9, it became my entire social life. There were two things I watched around a similar time, Return to the Forbidden Planet and The Buddy Holly Story, I can’t remember which was first but I just remember watching and thinking ‘this is fantastic, if I could be in anything like this where I get to play guitar and play around in front of so many people I would be so lucky’. I worked ushering, through my teenage years which I think is a great way of keeping in with what’s happening in theatres while you’re training too.

ON: The audience response today in Liverpool was fantastic, has that been the same for other venues?

LG: Yes, we’ve had very loyal and really warm audiences, the shows have been busy and reactions have been amazing, audience have been so open with their reactions particularly at the end of the show her in Liverpool they’re happy to whoop and whistle, it’s a great feeling.

ON: You’re working with an award-winning creative team, how has that experience been?

LG: It’s been great, I was really excited about working with this team, the production has developed so much, what we have now is so so different to what we started with because the team were so involved with the rehearsal process that things could be adapted or changed almost immediately. They have also been so incredibly giving with their advice and guidance and rewrote parts where they have felt were needed, it’s been amazing to see the speed at which the show has developed.

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ON: You’re involved in quite a dramatic fight scene how did you work on that?

LG: Kate the fight director led us through a great dialogue of exactly what would happen, so by the time it came to physically act out the scene we knew it very well so it didn’t feel like choreography. It’s a lot of fun to do, I’ve never had to strangle anyone in the air on stage before and I’m sure it will be the only time I get to do it, so a great challenge and lots of fun!

ON: Do you have a favourite character in the show?

LG: Balloo, he’s brilliant, there was also a character which got cut that was a tap dancing porcupine I really enjoyed that character. I also absolutely love our version of Mowgli it’s such a solid and strong character.

ON: Finally are you looking forward to performing at The Lowry?

Yes absolutely, I’ve only ever performed in the Studio so I can’t wait to return and perform in the Lyric, the last thing I saw there was Slavas Snow Show which I loved, I love Salford and Manchester, I was in Bolton recently and that whole area is just wonderful, I’m really looking forward to my time there.

The Jungle Book opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 2nd May tickets available here.

 

 

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

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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.