Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Confession time foks, I’ll lay my cards on the table from the get go, I haven’t seen the 1971 cinema release of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Sure I’ve seen The Beautiful Briny Seasequence from old Disney compilation programmes they used to put on TV way back when. So I went into the live theatre show not really knowing what to expect in the way of plot, themes, or production, and I’m happy to say I was not disappointed, this was the perfect piece of escapism theatre, much needed for young and old alike.

Set during the blitz, the show opens with a fantastic 10 minute speech free sequence that sees the Rawlins’ siblings, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul orphaned during an air raid and moved from London out to the countryside. The children are understandably traumatised by recent events and apprehensive about the future. Here they encounter Mrs Hobday (Jacqui Dubois), who informs the children that they are to be placed in the care of the rather mysterious and eccentric Eglantine Price, (Dianne Pilkington).

Miss Price seems to be the recipient of lots of packages, including a broomstick, from a professor Emelius Brown (Charles Brunton), in London. Eglantine has a spell that she believes will end the war, and the needless killing war brings, but she’ll need the help of the children and the Professor. So begins an adventure that will take the children back to London, under the ocean, and to the mysterious island of Nepeepo. Can this quintet end the war as well as find something they all need,  a family.

This is a production of the highest quality, from the hugely entertaining, song-and dance routines, mesmerising puppetry to magical set pieces. In addition some beautiful costumes and set designs capped off with some wonderful performances, it’s truly a feast for the eyes and ears!

Dianne Pilkington is perfectly cast as witch in training, Eglantine Price, her turn on A Step in The Right Direction, sets up a performance that is fun yet vulnerable and quirky, which in less capable hands could become irritating, but Pilkington manges this perfectly. The chemistry between her and Charles Brunton, develops naturally and doesn’t seem forced. Brunton is equally as good as the charming yet unlikely hero Emelius Brown.

It can often be distracting when an older actor plays a teenager in productions and at first I must admit I was a little taken back by Conor O’Hara as eldest sibling, Charlie, however O’Hara provides much needed depth to the role. He reminded me of a young Jim Dale, which very much played to the nostalgic element of the production, and is certainly no negative criticism.

There are plenty of song and dance numbers throughout, with stand out numbers, being the full company rendition of Portobello Road, which showcases the fantastic work of all the ensemble cast, and the stunning costume design of Gabriella Slade. Whilst Emelius and Eglantine highlight the exceptional puppet designs of Kennth Macleod.

However it’s not just big show stoppers that Bedknobs and Broomsticks gets right, the downbeat soulful, Nobody’s Problem, by our heroic fivesome, sets up the final act perfectly.

What elevates this production to the next level is the magical input of Jamie Harrison, flying beds, unruly brooms and a truly magical, jaw-dropping and well crafted finale.

With the current situation in the world, a great deal of the plot seems to resonate more than it would in normal times (whatever that is these days) and packs more of a punch. However this is a good old-fashioned romantic adventure story, filled with charm, whimsy and hope, which will enthral, enchant and entertain children (and adults) of all ages.

Bedknobs and and Broomsticks is on in the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry until 19th March 2022 tickets available here.

Ghost

 

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although it seems like five minutes ago it’s actually an incredible 8 years since Ghost the Musical first premiered in Manchester before opening in London’s West End ahead of a successful Broadway transfer and judging by audience responses at the Palace Theatre the love for this classic story shows no sign of waning.

Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s iconic 1990 film, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost tells the tragic love story of Brooklyn residents Sam (Niall Sheehy) and Molly (Rebekah Lowings) whose lives are cruelly torn apart when Sam is heartbreakingly murdered in a street robbery gone wrong. As Sam watches the scene of his death from a distance, stuck between two worlds he realises what at first seemed like a tragic accident is anything but and his beloved Molly is now in danger too. In order to find his own peace he must find a way to connect with and ultimately protect his love from beyond the grave, cue Oda Mae Brown an outrageous and questionable psychic who has made a living off receiving messages from the dead and passing them onto their living relatives for a fee of course; Problem is she’s never actually connected to anyone from the afterlife until now.

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Rebekah Lowings is hugely endearing as Molly, tentatively attempting to navigate life after the loss of her soulmate she skilfully takes us along for the turbulent ride. Her voice is beautiful; she delivers each solo with fabulous control. The chemistry between Lowings and Niall Sheehy feels genuinely convincingly further adding to the emotion and impact of this production. Sheehy is lively and charismatic as Sam, his commitment to protecting Molly from danger genuinely touching.

Jacqui Dubois is brass, bold and boisterous as Oda Mae Brown, her razor sharp comedic timing is a joy to watch and her hilarious interactions with Sheehy are a real highlight. The scene where we first meet her and her two abetting sisters Louise (Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy) and Clara (Sadie-Jean Shirley) is hilarious with their exaggerated gestures and punchy harmonies.

Special mention must also go to Sergio Pasquariello and Jules Brown who both impress as evil duo Carl and Willie.

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Impressive set and costume design from Mark Bailey adds to the slickness and authenticity of this production while Dan Samson’s sound design although vibrant occasionally overpowers the vocals of the performers. Nick Richings lighting design really makes this piece stand out visually, particularly impressive is the way Sam is lit once he passes from the real world.

The production translates exceptionally well from screen to stage with the addition of some great illusions from Richard Pinner delivered convincingly by an excellent cast.

Ghost will please fans of the original film and is also strong enough as a standalone production for those coming to the show with fresh eyes. It’s heavy on both emotion and humour while the dramatic and engaging story unfolds. There’s love, hope, comedy, deception and drama all neatly packed into this impressive production and while Dave Stewart’s  songs may not be the most memorable they are enjoyable and beautifully delivered.

This reworked incarnation directed by Bob Tomson feels faithful and impressive. Gone is the celebrity casting allowing this production the delivery it deserves ensuring Ghost once again cements itself as a modern theatre classic. Hugely entertaining theatre which engages on every level and will leave you with more than a little tear in your eye.

Ghost the Musical is at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 20th April tickets available here.

Ghost

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Bill Kenwright Productions brings Ghost the Musical to the Lowry stage this week as the last stop on its UK and Ireland tour which began at the New Wimbledon Theatre back in September 2016.

Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s much loved 1990 film, starring the legendary Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, with music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and lyrics from Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard, Ghost the Musical tells the tragic love story of Brooklyn residents Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Kelly Hampson) whose lives are torn apart when Sam is tragically murdered in the street in a robbery gone wrong. As Sam watches the scene of his death from a distance he realises he has become stuck between two worlds, torn away from his idyllic life and one true love, Sam soon realises this was no tragic accident and his beloved Molly too is in danger, he must find a way to connect and ultimately protect her. His method of protection takes on the form of the outrageous, hilarious and hugely entertaining psychic and spiritual healer, Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois).

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Kelly Hampson covering the role of Molly tonight on behalf of the indisposed Carolyn Maitland (get well Carolyn) does a fine job, her voice is sweet and strong and the chemistry between her and Sam (Andy Moss) endearing, she embodies the grief of losing her lover tenderly and with real heart. Moss makes for an enormously likeable Sam, fun, playful, and full of life, making the scenes where he realises he has died all the more poignant. His commitment to protecting his love from danger is hugely moving while his interactions with Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois) are simply brilliant. Dubois was born to play Oda Mae Brown, bold, brash, outrageous and full of attitude she is a joy to watch with razor sharp comic timing Whoopi Goldberg would be proud of.

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The staging of this production allows for some clever effects and the strong supporting cast directed by Bob Thomson deliver fine performances with special mention to both James Earl Adair and Gerry Lee Netley who play the hospital ghost and subway ghost superbly.

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Ghost is a highly entertaining show, with beautiful music and solid performances, you will most certainly laugh, quite probably cry and as soon as you get home will be digging out that old DVD when you remember just how much you love this beautiful story. An engaging and beautifully delivered production.

On at the Lowry until Saturday 29th April, tickets available here!

https://www.thelowry.com/events/-ghost-the-musical

 

Ghost – The Musical

ghost-the-musical-andy-moss-sarah-harding-cmatt-martin

Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s 1990 smash hit film starring screen legends Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, and following the original musical interpretation which premiered at Manchester’s Opera House back in 2011, Bill Kenwright brings his new production of Ghost the Musical to the Palace Theatre.

With music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and lyrics from Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard (whose previous credits include Alanis Morrissette’s album Jagged Little Pill) Ghost tells the story of young, loved up New Yorkers Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Sarah Harding). Sam is tragically murdered in the street in a robbery gone wrong, which we soon learn was organised by his close friend and work colleague Carl (Sam Ferriday). As Sam takes his last breaths he soon realises he has become stuck between two worlds, ripped away from his love too soon he realises she too is in danger and he must find a way to connect and protect her. This connection comes in the form of Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois) so called psychic and spiritual healer, or more accurately fraudster and dodgy dealer.

Harding has come under heavy criticism for her performance in the role, most notably in the opening stops on the tour, but I’m happy to say Manchester’s audience welcomed her with open arms and she gave a touching and enjoyable performance. At times her acting was a little breathy but there is no denying she has a sweet and soulful voice and the chemistry between her and Andy Moss was moving. Fair play to her for getting up on stage night after night when even the most confident of us would be hiding under a blanket eating a vat of ice cream if we’d had even half of the criticism she’s received. She has clearly worked hard to improve her performance and is determined to silence her critics.

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Andy Moss makes for a very likeable and playful Sam making his death seem all the more tragic, his commitment to protecting Molly from danger is moving and his interactions with Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois) are brilliant. Moss portrays Sam’s highs prior to his death with warmth and excels when the lows of the afterlife take hold. Dubois was born to play Oda Mae Brown, if ever they remake the film she should be first in line at the auditions, outrageous, hilarious and full of sass, she shines in this production and her fun interactions with both Sam and Molly are a joy to watch.

With a strong supporting cast including a fine performance from Sam’s sly former friend Carl (Sam Ferriday) Ghost is a highly entertaining show, with beautiful music and some clever effects you’ll laugh, quite possibly cry and definitely come away from the production wishing you’d kept up with those pottery classes!

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 29th October, tickets available here!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/ghost-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/