Blood Brothers

 

Reviewed by Alex Broadley

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blood Brothers is one of those shows which some might think is a standard touring musical, a staple for theatre-goers everywhere. However, Blood Brothers is embarking on its 30th Anniversary tour for a reason, it has stood the test of time for over 3 decades and its themes of class, money and love are as relevant as ever.

Written and composed by Willy Russell the man behind Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers’ first audiences were school children. He wanted to make sure that he hooked the children sitting in the back row of the class and Blood Brothers certainly does that. The show was soon picked up for a short run in the West End and thus began its epic journey to becoming the theatrical juggernaut it is today.

Blood Brothers tells the tragic tale of the Johnstone twins, two brothers separated at birth. Their mother Mrs Johnstone (Linzi Hateley) struggling with mounting debt and the need to feed seven growing children, simply cannot afford to keep both of her babies. Enter Mrs Johnstone’s employer Mrs Lyons (played convincingly by Paula Tappenden); Mrs Lyons cannot have children and the pain is etched on her face. In a fateful deal, Mrs Johnstone gives away one child (Joel Benedict as Edward) and keeps the other (Mickey, played by Alexander Patmore).

The play opens, as many great plays do (think Phantom of the Opera), with the ending. From the beginning, we know how it will play out and this adds to the sense of foreboding and tragedy. Narrator (Robbie Scotcher) asks us to make up our own minds – does Mrs Johnstone have a stone in place of her heart? Scotcher is ever present; he is our slightly menacing moral compass, questioning the characters’ decisions and reminding us of their inevitable fates.

The brothers continue to meet, drawn together by fate and across the class divide which will eventually tear them apart. Time is moved swiftly and effectively on by Scotcher and we see Mickey and Eddie grow up and become young men, albeit with very different lives and opportunities.

Russell’s aim was for the music to be woven into the story and the songs and musical patterns weave themselves throughout the narrative. The soundscape is dramatic and occasionally builds up to a crescendo loud enough to make the audience wince along with the drama. Stand out songs include Tell me it’s not true and Marilyn Monroe.

Andy Walmsley’s set design is simple but effective. The claustrophobic feel of the Liverpool slums and the contrasting bright feel of the Lyons’ living room take us back to the 1950s/60s but also show the class divide which runs throughout Blood Brothers.

The cast is fantastic and extremely hard working. Alexander Patmore’s Mickey is full of cheeky humour and grit. The scenes when Mickey (Patmore) and Eddie (Benedict) are children are stand out moments and take you back to playing out after school and not having a care in the world. Benedict is likeable as the naïve and privileged Eddie Lyons and the relationship between Mickey and Eddie is affectionate and deep. Linzi Hateley is strong as Mrs Johnstone; full of gumption and humour, you feel for the tough hand life has dealt her. Her character is the lynchpin of the play. Danielle Corlass’ character of Linda is caught in the middle of the class and brotherly divide; she is funny and well meaning.

Blood Brothers is a staple of musical theatre. Everyone should see it. It offers you an evening (or afternoon) filled with humour, tragedy, grit and will leave you feeling as though you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Bring a handkerchief for those inevitable sniffles.

Blood Brothers is on at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 13th April.here.

 

Twirlywoos Live

twirlywoos - 2019 uk tour

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The producers of The Very Hungry Caterpillar as well as Sarah and The Duck Live clearly know a thing or two about creating entertaining children’s theatre. Their latest production: The Twirlywoos Live sees the much loved CBeebies TV show and its colourful, mischievous characters live on stage much to the delight of the youngsters in the audience.

For those not in the know the Twirlywoos are a family of bird like creatures who travel round in a big red boat spreading a little mischief wherever they wash up. They are made up of Great Big Hoo, Toodloo, Chickedy and Chick not forgetting colourful creature Peekaboo, whop pops up every now and again to cause a little mischief. There was also a flying visit from the Quacky Birds who took to the audience for a bit of noisy exploration as well as a surprise guest in the form of The Very Important Lady.

The innovative set changes from boat to laundrette to pizza parlour to party room with ease as the actors/puppeteers work with the Twirlywoos to teach the little ones in the audience about physical actions like ‘pulling’ and ‘rolling’ all done to simple yet memorable effect.

There’s singing and comedy as well as opportunities to interact including a rather exciting section where bubbles rain down on the audience causing a near frenzy of excitement.

The children I took loved the interactive elements enjoying shouting out their favourite pizza toppings and laughing hysterically at the washing basket which kept getting ‘pulled’ in different directions.

There were times at the Epstein Theatre when we struggled to hear the dialogue between the actors, while this show is very visual the dialogue is important to aid the storytelling and also retain the full attention of the audience; upping the volume a little would ensure there are no such problems in future performances.

With mischief, music and lots of giddy hijinks on the agenda Twirlywoos Live is a laugh-out-loud adventure, lapped up by little ones, great family fun.

Catch the show at the Epstein until Thursday 21st February tickets can be found here.

Snow White | Epstein Theatre

Snow White Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Epstein Christmas panto is gaining quite the reputation for being the ‘must-see’ of the festive period in Liverpool, and this year’s offering of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is no different.

The story follows Snow White (Mia Molloy) and a chance meeting with Prince Valiant (Alex Patmore) which sets both their hearts a racing, however this raises the ire of Snow White’s wicked step-mother, Queen Kimberlina (Kim Woodburn).

Snow White Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

After escaping The Queen and one of her diabolical schemes: Snow White with help from Fairy Goodheart (Claire Simmo) seeks refuge with Seven Dwarfs, but this being a Scouse panto, these aren’t your typical fairy-tale little men. There is Snotty, Soft-Lad, and the rather posh, Wooly-Back, (he’s from the Wirral) to name but a few. Throw into the mix a very untraditional panto dame in the guise of Dame Debbie (Michael Chapman), loveable sidekick Muddles (Lewis Pryor), evil Henchman (Daryl Holden) and a special appearance by Derek Acorah as the Magic Mirror, some fantastic songs, and some brilliantly choreographed dance routines and you have the recipe for a perfect panto.

The show is a riot from start to finish, filled with jokes for children and adults of all ages. Never taking itself too seriously: the show is packed with moments of slapstick, as well as family friendly jokes, with hefty dose of cheeky innuendo that never becomes coarse or vulgar but will have the adults crying with laughter. This is Snow White with a Scouse twist, with plenty of gags and phrases that will resonate with locals,, it’s a fabulously festive treat, (I’ll be doing most of my Christmas shopping with Scally the Dwarf).

Snow White Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Top billing for the show goes to Kim Woodburn and Derek Acorah, however there is so much more to this show than just the star names. The whole cast work there socks off throughout, with intricate song and dance numbers that include: Mr Blue Sky, Killer Queen, and Devil Woman.

Michael Chapman as well as playing Dame Debbie both wrote and directed the whole thing and should be immensely proud of his achievements. He is outstanding as the sassiest, most gangster panto dame you’ll ever see, and pretty much steals every scene he’s involved in. Lewis Pryor shows what a great all-round talented performer he is as the loveable Muddles, whilst Mia Molloy is perfectly cast as our heroine with a beautiful voice and great character acting.

Snow White Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

There are a couple of very few minor issues: the action seems to take a bit of a lull midway through the first act, and there were a few misplaced lines here and there but we can always forgive that in panto can’t we? Oh yes we can! All in all this is a fantastic, fun, family show, which will leave young and old entertained from start to finish as well as being excellent value for money. Now where did I leave my trainers!?

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs is on at the Epstein Theatre until Wednesday 2nd January, tickets available here.

Preview | What’s Love Got To Do With It

Tina Turner the Musical might currently be wowing West End audiences, but north west fans of the iconic soul singer can look forward to a chance to see a stage celebration of her greatest hits a little closer to home in early 2019.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a new tribute show embarking on a massive UK tour next year – featuring all the hits fans of Tina Turner would expect.

Audiences can look forward to hearing stunning musical arrangements of Tina Turner’s most-loved classic hits including Private Dancer, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Proud Mary, River Deep, Nutbush City Limits, Simply The Best and many more.

Bringing to the stage Tina Turner’s famous high energy performances and incredible vocals will be Elesha Paul Moses (Whitney – Queen Of The Night, The Voice, X Factor) supported by a full 10-piece live band.

Speaking about playing Tina Turner, Elesha said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be touring the UK with What’s Love Got To Do With It? This is going to be a magnificent show and one that truly celebrates the incredible music and career of Tina Turner.

“Tina is a great persona to emulate on stage. I have performed as her many times over the years so to now be the lead in a show that will travel all over the UK and celebrate everything about her is an amazing opportunity and one I’m really looking forward to.”

The show comes to the Liverpool Empire on Tuesday 19th February, at the start of a massive 50 date tour.

Other north west dates in the tour include Blackpool Opera House on Saturday 20th July, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday 20th September and Warrington’s Parr Hall on Friday 13th March.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is presented by leading live entertainment promoters Cuffe & Taylor, and Paul Roberts Productions.

For more information visit www.cuffeandtaylor.com.

Lennon’s Banjo

Lennon's Banjo cast in costume - credit Dave Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lennon’s Banjo aims to shed some light on one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll mysteries of all time, where on earth is the Holy Grail of pop memorabilia which John Lennon learnt his trade on that’s been missing since 1958?

The whereabouts of the mother of pearl backed banjo have never been revealed but one thing is certain, whoever discovers this missing musical treasure which without we may never have heard the Beatles would guarantee themselves instant fortune.

Writer Rob Fennah aims to shed some light on this missing part of Beatles history in his new comedy play, aptly titled, Lennon’s Banjo. The story follows Beatles tour guide Barry, a fab four fanatic who delights in sharing his knowledge to anyone who will listen but especially tourists who roll up for his magical mystery tour. One day he stumbles upon an unopened letter sent from John Lennon to Stuart Sutcliffe detailing where the missing banjo is stashed. Ever the artist the language in John’s letter is flowery and littered with jabberwocky style riddles which will need deciphering before the precious pop memorabilia can be located. Unfortunately for Barry he’s overheard discussing the letter by a double crossing, dodgy dealing Texan who fancies finding the infamous banjo for himself. Cue comedy capers galore as the race to discover the whereabouts of Lennon’s priceless relic begins.

Eric Potts heads up a strong cast at the loveable Barry, happy in his Beatles bubble he is trusting in nature which could very easily become his undoing. Potts is a superb comedy actor, he excels in the role and portrays Barry with such heart you find yourself willing him to succeed from the off.

Mark Moraghan and Jake Abraham as Joe and Steve, Barry’s begrudging buddies and local Beatles memorabilia shop owners add depth to the piece as they team up with hapless Barry in the race to find the musical treasure. There’s mickey taking a plenty and despite their apparent irritation with Barry and his endless Beatles facts the genuine affection for their pal shines through. The scenes between the three being a real highlight of the show as the banter and the put downs flow they are likeable, relatable and enormously entertaining.

Villains of the piece Travis and Cheryl portrayed brilliantly by Danny O’Brien and Stephanie Dooley add another layer to the story as their desperate and debt driven search for the illusive banjo becomes increasingly complex while the consequences of not delivering it get higher. The two have great chemistry and despite attempting to double cross an unwitting Barry are enormously likeable.

The strong cast deliver Rob Fennah’s witty script to perfection in this laugh out loud production, with wonderfully clear storytelling littered with humorous local references. Lennon’s Banjo is a fun and fast paced comedy romp. With bucket loads of scouse charm, enough Beatles facts to keep you entertained for days and appearances from Pete Best in certain performances Lennon’s Banjo will leave you grinning from ear to ear while considering lessons in jabberwocky.

On at the Epstein Theatre until Saturday 5th May tickets available here.

Liza Pulman sings Streisand

 

Liza sings Streisand The Regent Christchurch Sunday 15th October 2017

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall will play host to a unique collaboration of one of the finest voices and one of the finest brass bands in the UK on Sunday 29th April. Acclaimed singer, comedienne and one third of the satirical and much-loved comedy trio Fascinating Aida, Liza Pulman takes to the stage to sing Streisand with her band alongside the world-famous Brighouse & Rastrick Band.

Liza’s 18 date UK tour pays homage to the great Barbra Streisand, one of the finest singers of all time and for 2 dates only (including Liverpool) she collaborates with the very special Brighouse & Rastrick Band. Liza’s mother, the actress Barbra Young was born in Brighouse and Liza travelled to the town to record with the band in their famous bandroom.

Liza2

Liza Pulman said “I am so excited to bring this very special evening of entertainment to the beautiful Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, which I have played in many times before. This concert is going to mean a lot to me, not only for my love of Barbara Streisand, but also to perform with this world-famous band. Liverpool audiences are in for a very special treat.”

Tickets for this critically-acclaimed show can be found here.

Cilla The Musical

Cilla-3

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Developed from BAFTA award winner Jeff Pope’s critically acclaimed 2014 ITV mini-series starring Sheridan Smith, Cilla the Musical is a new stage biography which tells the story of Liverpool’s most famous red-head, from her early rise to fame to the start of her much celebrated TV career.

Detailing her fierce ambition, the complexities of her relationship with boyfriend then Manager then husband Bobby Willis and the close friendship they both had with troubled Manager Brian Epstein, Cilla is a nostalgic and heart-warming jukebox musical featuring both Cilla’s hits and other fan favourites from the period, including The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Mamma’s and The Pappas. Cast-of-Cilla-The-Musical-Liverpool-Empire-Photo-By-Matt-Martin-004-1Kara Lily Hayworth more than succeeds in stepping into Cilla’s footsteps, having won the role through a tough open audition process, Hayworth belts out showstopper after showstopper with ease and oozes style. With stunning vocals, perfect Cilla like mannerisms and a flawless Scouse accent her performance is superb. When Hayworth closes Act I with Cilla’s 1964 number one hit ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ she literally brings the house down, goose-bump inducing brilliance, expertly delivered.

Both Carl Au as Bobby and Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein are excellently cast. The chemistry between Au and Hayworth as Bobby and Cilla is wonderful; Au adds great depth to the character who many of us knew little about other than him being ‘our Bobby’. Lancel plays tormented and troubled Epstein sensitively, a true gentleman always having time for his acts despite his own personal demons.

Gary McCann’s set is impressive, the Cavern, various recording studios, the London Palladium, and even Cilla’s childhood home, all feature, contained within a series of proscenium arches, expertly lit by Nick Richings. Cilla Cilla the musical has clearly been a labour of love for director Bill Kenwright, offering audiences a charming and nostalgic walk down memory lane, act one for me lingers slightly too long in the Cavern days, although the performances are exceptional (Michael Hawkins as John Lennon is fantastic) the pace becomes a little slow, shaving a couple of the songs from this section wouldn’t be of any detriment to the story and would keep the audience fully engaged for the duration. That said, Cilla the Musical is a fantastically fun show, which at its heart is ultimately a love story, not one love story but several, the love story of Bobby and Cilla, Cilla’s love for the music, Brian’s love for his artist, Brian and Bobby’s at times love/hate relationship with each other and even our love for the Scottie Road girl who rose from rags to riches but always remained true to her Liverpudlian roots.

Cilla the Musical is a celebration, funny, charming and chock-full of superb showstoppers, a hugely entertaining night out and fully deserving of the standing ovation received.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 25th November tickets available here.