The Book of Mormon

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“I love all these Mormon stories, they’re so f*cking weird!”

Its hard to believe The Book Of Mormon first premiered on Broadway only a little over ten years ago. However, its no surprise whatsoever that it won 9 Tony Awards including ‘Best Musical’ just three months after it’s opening night and has since gone on to smash box offices and garner mass critical acclaim, having played both here in the London’s West End and across continents continuously ever since. It’s only actually in recent years that we have been lucky enough to maybe catch a touring version of the show in this country… and boy are we lucky to have this on our doorsteps for nearly a whole month here in Manchester!

From the writers of ‘South Park,’ The Book of Mormon is the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham (played by Robert Colvin and Conner Peirson respectively), who have been paired together and sent to Uganda on their mission. We watch them encounter a completely different culture out in Africa and see the trials and tribulations that comes with being a Mormon missionary in a place far far away from sunny, comfortable America, and where “everyone has aids!”

In an age of supposed ‘Political correctness,’ this laughs, dances and spits in its face. If you’re afraid of hearing the ‘C’ word shouted at you, then you might want to sit this one out. Yes it’s crude, but its fantastically, hilariously and unapologetically crude.

The merging of UK and US talent both on and off stage, brings almost the perfect synergy to this touring production and it’s results are frighteningly electrifying. One third of the writing team, Trey Parker, co-directs with Broadway’s Casey Nicholaw, who also choreographs again for this production, bringing a combined wealth of unmatched expertise and experience and the results most definitely pay off, having masterfully ignited and nurtured one of the strongest companies I have ever witnessed on any stage.

Although it has to be said that Peirson brings an incredible and unparalleled energy to the stage, having clearly honed in on inhabiting Elder Cunningham down to the bone; with every movement, every action, so beautifully and ingeniously crafted, so much so that its hard to believe he’s a long-term veteran of the role. Special mention must also go to Jordan Lee Davies(Elder Mckinley/Moroni) who particularly excels as McKinley performing an uproarious turn, subsequently having the audience right in the palm of his hands at all times. That being said, it’s hard to pick stand-outs as the entire ensemble are extraordinary — it is certainly no mean feat keeping a show of this scale running so exceptionally well as they do.

This production is a treat for all the senses. Musically we are gifted a feast, O’Regan’s band under Finlow’s supervision don’t miss a beat and are simply perfection. Visually too, Pask delivers exceptionally with his scenic design, having worked on over 50 productions on Broadway, including… yep you guessed it— The Book of Mormon. Broadway has well and truly been brought to the streets of Manchester, his attention to detail and artistry, together with Roth’s costume design are equally impressive.

The Book of Mormon has everything you’d expect from a big-scale, bright and buzz-y musical, ticking every box along the way…the eye-catching, entertaining WOW ensemble routines, including, ‘Spooky Mormon Hell Dream’ and ‘Turn it Off’ (which has an excellent and impressive tap sequence sneaked in for good measure). In addition,there are epic solo ballads such as ‘I Believe’ executed with power and exuberance by Colvin (Elder Price), culminating with a heartfelt and uplifting ending we all so desperately crave (especially in these current turbulent times). What this show has above all else, in between all of that, and better than any other show out there at this moment in time – is genuine, ridiculous, ludicrous, laugh-out-loud hilarity splattered throughout it’s entirety. Find me a funnier show… and I’ll call you a liar!

Never mind your Christmas parties 😉 … rest assured this has all the ‘feel good factor’ you’ll be needing to see you through to the new year. Don’t sleep on it — beg, borrow or steal a ticket whilst this show is in town!

‘This Book (of Mormon) WILL change your life’

The Book of Mormon runs at the Palace Theatre Manchester until 1st January tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Will Rock You

WE WILL ROCK YOU

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If ever there was a perfect time to revive the 2002 hit musical featuring the iconic music and lyrics of the mighty Queen it most is definitely now. The band were thrust back into the spotlight with the enormous success of smash-hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody introducing their music to a whole new generation so it comes as no surprise to see the Palace Theatre full to the rafters for We Will Rock You’s welcome return to Manchester.

The Ben Elton penned show transports us to the dystopian land of iPlanet set 300 years in the future. Freedom of expression is all beut gone as the Globalsoft Corporation control minds and hearts with their computer generated over produced pop tracks. Musical instruments are banned while rock music is a thing of the past, wiped from the minds of the masses as conformity is expected and rebellion quickly stamped out.

WE WILL ROCK YOU

Galileo and Scaramouche however are desperate to ‘break free’ from the dismal world around them, unique from the rest of the Ga Ga clones they stand out from the crowd as individuals, drawn to a life of freedom and expression, something Killer Queen the head of Globalsoft fears enormously. A chance meeting with Bohemians Brit and Oz cements their belief that there’s more to life than mindless scrolling, then just need to find out what!

6 years since it closed on the West End We Will Rock You has been brought bang up to date visually with the addition of stunning wall projections from Giles Maunsell and Sam Pattinson – Treatment Studio while Ben Elton has revisited his original script revamping it with modern references making it feel current and fresh, Alexa #MeToo and even Gangnam Style all get a mention.

WE WILL ROCK YOU

The success or failure of this production undoubtedly rests upon the ability of the cast to deliver Queen’s monster tracks to a standard Freddie would be proud of and boy do they do him justice! Ian McIntosh is superb as Galileo, vocally outstanding he confidently channels his inner rock God. Bursting with talent and personality this isn’t a Freddie imitation but a standalone performance of the highest quality.

Elena Skye impresses enormously as an empowered Scaramouche, her soulful vocals are delivered with self-assured sass while she playfully interacts with McIntosh (Galileo) & proves convincingly that sisters can indeed do it for themselves.

Jenny O’Leary is an absolute powerhouse as Killer Queen, slaying each song with her huge voice and tremendous on stage presence. David Michael Johnson and Amy Di Bartolomeo play off each other wonderfully as Brit and Oz each delivering knockout vocals while Adam Strong is hugely impressive as Khashoggi. Special mention must also go to Michael McKell who brings the laughs as Buddy with his Jaggeresque swagger and hilarious mispronunciations of pretty much everything!

WE WILL ROCK YOU

This is a jukebox musical that never takes itself too seriously it delivers and then some! Take Queen’s killer back catalogue, team it with Ben Elton’s clever book then add a creative team whose motto is quite probably ‘Go big or go home’ and you’ve got an irresistibly brilliant production, not just for Queen fans but music and musical theatre fans alike. Just as one mega hit finishes another begins all delivered by a cast at the absolute top of their game, it’s high-energy, highly entertaining, blow your socks off theatre. Perfect escapism for anyone with the January blues, We Will Rock You really is a kind of magic!

We Will Rock You is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 8th February tickets available here.

Curtains

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

We’ve all heard of opening night disasters when it comes to the theatre, from forgotten lines to sickly cast members, I’m certain actors and directors will have their fair share of horror stories. However, I’m sure none will match having their leading lady bumped off during the final curtain!

This is the premise for musical whodunit,  Curtains. This Tony Awarding winning  production is from the song writing duo John Kander and Fred Ebb, who  also wrote Chicago and Cabaret.

Set in 1950’s Boston we are backstage on the set oftroubled Broadway hopeful  Robbin Hood.  Leading lady Jessica Cranshaw (Nia Jermin) is murdered on opening night and, due to her rather shambolic performance, everyone is a suspect. Luckily, Boston’s finest, Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford), who happens to be a theatre super-fan, is on hand to crack the case.

Placing the theatre on lock down, Cioffi begins to work his way through the list of suspects that include estranged couple and writing partners Georgia Hendricks (Carley Stenson) and Aaron Fox (Ore Oduba). Then there are show producers Carmen Bernstein (Rebecca Lock) and shady Sidney Bernstein (Mark Sangster) and flamboyant director Christopher Belling (Samuel Holmes). In addition, we have ambitious rising stars, Bambi Barnét (Emma Caffrey) and Niki Harris (Leah West), with the latter catching the eye of Lieutenant Cioffi. Everyone is a suspect with cast and crew beginning to drop like flies, can Cioffi catch the killer and save the show?

On the surface, this is a classic murder mystery, very much in the Agatha Christie mould, but on the other hand this is both a love letter to, and a critique of showbusiness, in particular the  theatre. 

There are caricatures aplenty from over-the-top directors, to ruthless money grabbing producers and mean-spirited critiques. Despite a few minor issues, this is an enjoyable, entertaining romp, filled with neat one liners, catchy tunes and some plot red herrings that will keep you engaged throughout.

The cast are at the top of their game, Jason Manford is a likeable leading man, whose comic timing is matched perfectly with a fine singing voice. Carley Stenson and Ore Oduba are also on good form as the warring writing partnership, with Stenson really given the opportunity to flex her vocal cords. There are scene stealing turns from Rebecca Lock and Samuel Holmes who between them get the lions share of the best lines and certainly make the most of them.

They are supported buy an exceptionally hard working cast who put in tremendous effort throughout which are exemplified in the company numbers The Women’s Dead, He Did It, and In the Same Boat III, which are the undoubted highlights of the show, and showcase Paul Foster’s exceptional direction and Alistair David’s intricate choreography.

The production is not without flaws; it’s a bit flabby in parts and there seems to be a bit of filler, it doesn’t quite hold your attention throughout its entire running time, in fairness the show gets off to such an intriguing start that it would be difficult to maintain that level of interest throughout. 

On the whole this is an entertaining, clever, production packed with solid performances, great tunes and some fantastic set pieces, which despite its darkly comic narrative has a heart of gold at its core and is a slice of fun, feel-good musical theatre!

Curtains is on the Place Theatre till 12th October tickets available here.