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!

Winter Wonderland 2

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.

Winter Wonderland

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!

Winter Wonderland 1

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.

 

 

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

Elf

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.

Elf 3

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.

Elf 4

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