PROM! The Musical

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Billed as a modern day Cinderella story, Oldham Theatre Workshop have reimagined writer Sarah Nelson and composer James Atherton’s PROM! The Musical for a 2019 audience; the result is an uplifting, vibrant and enormously entertaining piece of musical theatre which feels fresh, original and timely.

Taking inspiration from High School Musical as well as Harry Potter this production sees ordinary and magical worlds collide resulting in an enchanting production with spellbinding storytelling.

Georgia Conlan takes on the role of Prom’s Cinderella style character; ill treated by her self obsessed step sisters Lisette (Millie Gibson) and Noushka (Ella Marshall) life for her is pretty grim. If she’s not doing their homework she’s cleaning the house for overbearing stepmum Clarissa who firmly believes her precious little darlings Lisette and Noushka can do no wrong. Life gets even worse when Clarissa rocks up at school calling the shots and taking it upon herself to decide who will be belle of the ball…(prom).

If ever divine intervention was needed it’s now and thankfully there’s a Fairy Godmother at the other realm high school, Defixus Academy just waiting for a person who is worthy enough for their assistance in order for them to both graduate and save their magical academy from closure.

Georgia Conlan is outstanding as Ester, her voice is sheer perfection while she has a sweet sass which embodies the character perfectly. Her performance is entirely captivating, she wins the audience over from the start with a genuine charm and an abundance of talent.

Millie Gibson and Ella Marshall succeed convincingly in portraying the loathsome, spoilt Lisette and Noushka while Sophie Elliott gives a hugely entertaining performance as the outlandish Clarissa, her comedic timing and character acting is a joy to watch.

Billy Barlow and Sajata Dey make for a great pairing as Fairy Godmother’s in training Rayden and Effie while Poppy O’Brien and Niamh Palmer both give scene stealing performances as Miranda and Little Fairy.

Noah Valentine makes for a great high school hearthrob and is without doubt another one to watch for the future.

Director James Atherton ensures each and every cast member has the opportunity to shine with vibrant ensemble pieces and the clever use of individual characters ‘vote for me’ campaigns we especially loved Nathan Horrocks’ ‘Boris’.

It really is a credit to the sheer talent within OTW that it feels almost unfair to single out individuals as each and every cast member gives their all in this production and every one is worthy of praise.

The audition scene is a wonderful showcase for the talent in this cast as each friendship group within the school takes their turn to deliver their own unique take on prom entertainment. The song sung by The Notes is a real highlight written and performed by Noah Valentine, Megan Meakin, Amelia Taylor, Kendra Marshall, Seb Lowe and Lewis Green, showing not only the quality of the cast but of their writing too, both catchy and contemporary.

Joseph Ed Thomas’ atmospheric lighting design compliments the simple yet effective set beautifully. The use of a mix of microphones and projection resulted in some dialogue being very occasionally missed but this really is a minor quibble in what is a fantastic piece of theatre.

This vibrant piece of theatre is well written and superbly delivered. The strong characterisation allowing several intricate storylines to develop clearly while at all times remaining engaging and entertaining. An outstanding piece of theatre which deserves to be seen by many. PROM! is a slick, stylish production, magical fun from start to finish.

PROM! The Musical is on at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 27th July tickets available here.

 

Hansel & Gretel

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from the huge success of last year’s Peter Pan, Oldham Theatre Workshop bring another classic to life with their spin on the much-loved fairy tale Hansel & Gretel.

The intimate performance space at Oldham Library is transformed into an atmospheric wintry wood as we follow Hansel & Gretel on their unexpected journey; cruelly abandoned in the forest at the request of their wicked Stepmother they think their luck has changed when they stumble upon a little house made of gingerbread and sweets, how wrong they are!

Creatives Sarah Nelson and James Atherton once again prove to be a formidable team with this joyful and poetic production; the use of songs, puppets and imaginative storytelling all marrying beautifully to bring this Brothers Grimm tale to vivid and vibrant life. The original songs are both inventive and enormously catchy….munch, munch, nibble, nibble and combined with a melodic score add humour and depth to this wonderful piece.

The strong cast deliver the story with real style and delightful conviction. Natasha Davidson and Sam Winterbottom are excellent as Hansel & Gretel whose childlike innocence develops into strength and determination when the going gets tough as this story becomes a great example of good triumphing over evil.

Daniel Harkshead makes for a strong and loving father, battling between the love for his children and the manipulating ways of his bitter wife. Sophie Ellicot is outstanding as both the stepmother and the calculating witch; clearly having great fun with both parts and proving once again what a fine character actor she is.

Madeleine Edmondson quite literally shines as the moon, doubling up as narrator she guides us through this enchanting story beautifully, young and old enthralled with every line. While the addition of three young performers playing the woodland animals brings extra cute factor to this charming production.

Oldham Theatre Workshop once again excels at delivering accessible and enthralling theatre. This magical production will enchant people of all ages, taking you on a feel-good, heart-warming festive adventure which at only £8 per ticket proves to be a festive treat for the pocket too.

Magical storytelling delivered with real heart, a delight for all the family.

Catch Hansel & Gretel at Oldham Library until 29th December tickets available here.

When We Built A Rocket Ship

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

The Oldham Theatre Workshop is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than by going on an adventure, When We Built A Rocket Ship is exactly that, a celebration of adventure and just how far your imagination can take you.

Opening in 1968, we are introduced to a group of childhood friends who meet up in a secluded woodland setting: they have a den, they each have each other, and they have a place to let their imagination run free: there are battles with pirates, encounters with mermaids and sea monsters, and later even an appearance from Charlie’s Angels. Accompanying the gang on the journey is a troop of forest friendly sprites who are always there to lend a hand.

With imagination knowing no limits, the gang decide to embark on an adventure into out-of-space: an adventure that will span 50 years and see them go through personal heart ache and tragedy, with the only constants being their friendship and the group’s haven.

As we go from decade to decade with the group and whilst struggling with the cruel blows that life can send their way from time to time: however, with every one of them knowing that they have each other’s back and no matter what happens they will face each problem together.

This is an ambitious, smart piece of musical theatre that is heavy on the feel-good factor, and has something for everyone: catchy tunes, an engaging story we can all relate to and a heavy dose of nostalgia.

With a cast boasting over 40 actors they all work their socks off throughout, especially during the exceptionally well-choreographed dance routines. The costumes are outstanding, especially on the forest elves: there is more than a wink to the lost boys from Peter Pan, the forest setting looks fabulous and has everything you would want for a secret hideaway.

The production is not without its flaws: Act 1 and 2 are slick and engaging whereas the final act felt a little laboured. There is a huge dramatic event that has is front and centre to the narrative and when this is first broken to the audience it isn’t done with the magnitude it fully deserves.

In addition, there were a few notable mis-queues and mis-steps which were quite distracting, although these may be down to opening night nerves.

Overall this is an entertaining and rewarding piece of theatre and the perfect birthday celebration for the OTW: with such a young talented cast, the OTW can go from strength to strength and we can all look forward to 50 more years of success.

When We Built A Rocket Ship is on till July 28th tickets are available here.

 

 

The Visitor’s Book

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written by Sarah Nelson and Oldham Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Director James Atherton. New Musical The Visitor’s Book is an uplifting exploration on the impact of loss, abandonment and ultimately the importance of family and forgiveness.

Mum (Sophie Ellicott) holidays annually with children Jack, Sophie and Betty at Cathy’s (Jo Gerard) Cumbrian cottage. A sanctuary away from the city with clean air, green fields and an endless supply of fresh brews in the pot, problems however travel too and tensions soon rise as grief and confusion take hold.

Eldest in the family Jack is desperate for answers, a chance discovery however leads him to search for something else entirely when a strangers message in the Visitor’s book captures his imagination, offering a much-needed focus for his grief.

The play spans several years with scenes and stories beautifully interwoven. Younger and older versions of the children seamlessly move in and out of scenes as lies are uncovered and truths are told. The static set, a cosy living room within the holiday cottage allows the cast to move freely from one scene to the next, often inhabiting the stage at the same time to great effect. Slick direction ensures the clear narratives develop at just the right pace to both engage and entertain.

Sarah Nelson and James Atherton’s excellent writing ensures each character is entirely believable, from the moody teenager to the ‘holding everything together’ Mum to the baby of the family who entertains and amuses with her adorably quirky ways. There are many laugh out loud moments, moments you’ll entirely relate too as well as moments you’ll be gulping away the lump in your throat.

In Hope Mill’s intimate space there is no room for error and this hugely talented cast demonstrate superbly just how powerful and incredibly entertaining honest and heartfelt theatre can be. Each and every cast member giving their all.

Sophie Ellicott delivers a strong performance as Mum, warm and loving she embodies the role perfectly. Young and older Jack, Tommy Douglas and Jabez Sykes are both exceptional as anger and frustration is channelled into hopeful determination. The score is excellent allowing for some beautiful harmonies wrapped up in incredibly well observed lyrics delivered note perfect by the cast. Madeleine Edmondson and Poppy O’Brien shine performing their hilarious duet, big voices and even bigger personalities.

The Visitor’s Book is ultimately a story of hope, forgiveness and the real importance of family. This hugely entertaining production has the ability to both touch you deeply and entertain you enormously. Full of heart, deeply moving, beautifully told and superbly delivered, a joyous success.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Friday 11th May, tonight’s performance is SOLD OUT but follow @Visitor_Book and @OTWOldham for further information.