Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Last year, the Royal Exchange had for its autumn offering of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, (it was originally scheduled for the stage in 2020 but was temporarily shelved due to Covid-19). The production garnered huge commercial and critical success. Hoping that lighting will strike twice, the Royal Exchange has once again turned to the great American playwright to kick off their spring programme with another Williams’ classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Set over the course of one evening, the Pollit family has gathered at the huge family estate for their patriarch, Big Daddy’s (Patrick Robinson) double celebrations. First of all, it’s his 65th birthday, and secondly Big Daddy has received the news that he is cancer free following a health scare. However, the event isn’t the joyous affair one might expect.

First of all you have Big Daddy’s youngest son, Brick (Bayo Gbadamosi) a retired American Football star, who has recently injured his leg in an athletics accident, hobbling around on crutches.  This is the least of his worries, for he has descended into alcoholism following the death of his close friend Skipper. Adding to his woes is his wife Maggie, (Ntombizoda Ndlovu). With the pair trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage, with Maggie desperate to reignite the flames of passion and restore the marriage to its former glory, and hopefully produce a child.

Other attendees at the party are Brick’s older, ambitious brother Gooper (Daniel Ward), his scheming wife, Mae (Danielle Henry), and their five children or “no necks” as they are comically referred to throughout. The final family member is Big Mama (Jacqui Dubois), Big Daddy’s wife, who is trying to hold the family together unaware that her overbearing nature is doing more harm than good.

This play follows a three-act structure, with the first undoubtedly belonging to Ntombizoda Ndlovu, as Maggie.  She dives headfirst into Willams’ script with many, many monologues highlighting the troubles between her and Brick, and foreshadowing the drama that is about to unfold. It’s a mesmerising performance filled with heartbreak and humour, and one that will quite rightly earn Ntombizoda a great deal of plaudits.

The second act sees a standoff between Brick and Big Daddy, with a sombre, beautifully understated turn from Bayo Gbadamosi, going up against, powerhouse performance from Patrick Robinson, as the straight-talking father, ready to right his wrongs, for better or worse, now he has a new lease of life. Robinson, delivers some brutal dialogue with so much charisma, that you almost, (and I do stress almost ) side with Big Daddy.

The final act sees all the players gather for a restrained, darkly comedic showdown, which sees grievances aired and issues come to the fore. It may not be the big set-to, you would expect, the rather toned down conclusion is no less satisfying.

The production is not without flaws, the script is a seemingly never-ending torrent of monologues, which repeat the same thing over again, as Talking Heads said in the song Psycho Killer, “Say something once, why say it again?”. Whilst the play does offer an interesting take on mortality, grief, and wasted life to name but a few it certainly takes a long time making its point, some of Williams’ self-indulgent tendencies could do with a bloody good trim.

Director Roy Alexander Weise has done a fine job creating a claustrophobic environment for which this toxic group thrive in, as you would expect it’s a dramatic piece that never strays into melodrama and has more darkly comic humour than I certainly expected.

At over three hours long it’s a challenging watch, but one that rewards with enjoyable performances and some stringing lines of dialogue.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is on at the Royal exchange till 29th April, tickets available here.

My Fair Lady

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolitte, a cockney flower seller plucked from Covent Garden by pompous linguistics professor Henry Higgins who is determined to transform this ‘guttersnipe’ into a proper lady, no matter the cost.

This multi-award-winning production of Lerner & Loewe’s classic musical comes to Manchester following a critically acclaimed West End run and from the opening scene it’s clear to see why audiences from New York to the London have been captivated by this luverly revival.

Michael Yeargan’s set design immediately impresses, managing to be both elaborate and functional, it is incredible, while Catherine Zuber’s sumptuous costumes are simply stunning, paying true homage to the authentic look of the My Fair Lady we’ve come to know and love.

Taking on the role of Eliza, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 movie version, Charlotte Kennedy breezes into the flower sellers boots and swiftly makes the role her own. From Wouldn’t It Be Loverley to I Could Have Danced All Night, she captivates entirely; her vocals are sublime. Eliza’s journey from start to finish is incredible to watch, as she brings real emotion to the complexities created by the Professors experiment.

Michael D. Xavier makes for a wonderful Professor Higgins, suave and seemingly sophisticated he gives the character genuine likability and fantastic comedic value. His facial expressions and physicality add layers to the dialogue as he gifts the audience with laugh after laugh due to the absolute absurdity of his firmly held opinions. Despite his misogynistic leanings the effect Eliza has on him is wonderful to see, the pair have you rooting for them wholeheartedly as the bicker and bristle throughout.

Adam Woodyatt is clearly having an absolute ball playing Eliza’s father, Alfred P Doolittle, a role he delivers with ease while impressing with his vocals, Get Me To The Church is a real highlight and also allows the talented ensemble to truly shine. Another stand out ensemble moment comes during the Ascot Gavette which is visually stunning with pitch perfect vocals.

The rest of the supporting cast are equally as strong. John Middleton’s portrayal of Colonel Pickering adds another wonderful element to the piece as he brings a light playfulness to the role.

Tom Liggins is great fun as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a lovesick puppy desperate for Eliza’s affections. Heather Jackson is a self-assured Mrs Higgins while Lesley Garrett as Mrs Pearce reminds us all just how vocally talented she is.

If classic, classy theatre is what you want then that’s exactly what you’ll get from this stunning production. Everything about it feels top quality, from the cast to the costumes this lavish production hits every note. Bursting with much-loved songs, oozing with style and chock-full of talent this My Fair Lady is not to be missed.

My Fair Lady is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 1st April tickets available here.

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The world’s worst hotelier, Basil Fawlty, his long suffering wife Sybil, and human punch bag, Manuel have arrived in Manchester at one of the city’s newest hotels, Hotel Brooklyn for Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. 

Interactive Theatre recently celebrated their 25th year of performances, as well as a decade of shows in London’s West End, and on the basis of today’s show you can see exactly why: anarchic, ridiculous and absolutely hilarious; I loved it!

Paying homage to the popular John Cleese and Connie Booth penned sitcom, the fun starts as soon as you step foot in the bar, while waiting to be seated, as Basil, Sybil and Manual demonstrate their unique take on customer service and good old British hospitality.

What follows is a unique dining experience, as a three-course meal is served through 90 minutes of mayhem while Basil abuses his waiter and most of the diners as well. The website states that 70% of the show is improvised, and you can certainly see why as a great deal of the event revolves around audience participation, whether they want to participate or not, and the rest is a mixture of well placed set-pieces from the show.

The cast are superb. It’s a flawless performance from all three actors and a showcase for fine mimicry and physical comedy. It’s exactly what you want from this immersive experience.

Fans of the show will love it. Those coming to it for the first time will hopefully have been briefed about what to expect, or they’ll be in for a rude awakening! If someone you’re going with is celebrating a special occasion, let them know as it will be celebrated in true Fawlty Towers style.

This is a great deal of fun and certainly worth catching whilst it’s in Manchester. A word of warning though be careful of the soup… some of the bowls may have a little bite to them (when you go, you’ll know exactly what I mean).

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is at Hotel Brooklyn, until Sunday 12th March. Tickets available here.









Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

If you told me before the performance of Beginning, that I’d be emotionally invested in two people dancing around a kitchen to I Owe You Nothing by Bros, then I’d have called you a liar. However, two hours later I’d owe you an apology, and then would have chewed your ear off demanding a ‘chat’ about what we’d just witnessed!  Taken in isolation, this 10-minute sequence demonstrates all that is great about the David Eldridge penned production; playful, tender, at times desperate, an emotional rollercoaster, more than worth jumping onboard.

Beginning starts at the dying embers of a housewarming party in the leafy suburb of West Didsbury. All that’s left is Laura (Erin Shanagher), the party hostess, and Danny, (Gerard Kearns) a-friend-of-a friend of Laura’s, unsure why he’s still there. We soon learn that the pair have caught each other’s eye as the party has progressed and now it’s all about how the night will end.

Set in real time, we learn how these two very different characters share some striking similarities. Laura is a sexually confident, managing director, laser focused on a romantic encounter with her guest, whilst Danny is a confidence starved 42-year-old man, who lives with his mum, sceptical about why Laura is so keen for them to spend the night together.

As the night progresses, the pair peel away layers of their character to see if this potential union could work: a mutual love of scotch eggs being a plus point, their choice of football teams a potential roadblock, Laura’s chosen team, being one of the more shocking and funnier revelations for the Manchester audience. However, it’s their past heartbreaks that are shaping their present anxieties, holding them both back and keeping them very much alone.

Bryony Shanahan’s direction is flawless throughout. This is very much an extended version of a mating ritual you’d see on one of David Attenbrough’s Sunday night wildlife documentaries, as the would-be-lovers circle each other using the glorious in-the-round setting of the Royal Exchange. There are even hints of those extended dance sequences you get in many period dramas.  The play is allowed to breathe, throughout there are long moments where more is said in a silence than could ever be by any dialogue. It gives it a more real life, naturalistic quality.

The two leads are fantastic, with both Kearns and Shanagher giving layered, nuanced performances – both drifting seamlessly from comedic to heartbreak within the blink of an eye. The aforementioned Bros sequence will have you grinning from ear-to-ear as a result of Shanager’s fantastic dance routine, and equally devastated by Kearn’s reaction. The chemistry between the pair is off the chart – the production lives or dies on whether you believe in the pair of them, and you absolutely do.

David Eldridge’s script is bang on point, warm, funny and poignant. It has a great deal to say about the human condition, and our desire for meaningful human connection, something we all can empathise with post-pandemic. It takes a seemingly mundane everyday occurrence, and makes it the most important thing in the world for its near 2 hour running time. The fact that you’re never really sure how you want it to end, or indeed how it will end, is a major strength.

This is a production that sees everyone at the top of their game, a witty, thought provoking, relatable and unashamedly honest script, anchored by two strong, enjoyable central performances who bring to life characters you actually care about. This is surely what good storytelling is all about.

Beginning is on at the Royal Exchange Theatre till 11th March tickets available here.

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Crossroads Pantomimes brings us The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan. Based (loosely) on the book by JM Barrie, about the boy who could fly and never grows up. 

As the glittery curtain rises we meet Tink (Samara Casteallo), a flying fairy who can produce pixie dust, which allows other characters in Neverland to fly. Tink enrols the help of Wendy (Jessica Croll) to come to Neverland to help save Peter Pan (Ross Carpenter) and make him fly once more. Arch nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Manford) has other plans and aims to steal all of the pixie dust and get his revenge on Peter Pan.

At least I think that is the plot. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter what the plot is, this show is way bigger than the plot. The plot gets stretched and bent and twisted and we get distracted and we laugh and we clap and we dance and then we return to the plot for a moment and then off we go again.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

This is hands down THE best pantomime I have ever seen. I was worried that it was missing a “pop star” but that didn’t matter. I was worried that it was missing a “dame” but that didn’t matter. What really mattered was the astonishing partnership between Captain Hook (Jason Manford) and the incredibly talented Ben Nickless as Smee. From the minute the two are together on stage there are explosions of comic fireworks, which had us crying with laughter time and time again. 

Nickless returns to the Opera House for his fourth panto, but this year it’s different, this year he is a big star. He has had an incredible year on Britain’s Got Talented, and it’s given him the platform to take command of the stage. I loved him last year and didn’t think he could get any better, but somehow he has. Having two hilarious comedians in the show has made it doubly funny. They don’t compete with each other, the fit perfectly together.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Manchester loves a northerner, so Manford is an excellent casting choice. The crowd absolutely love him, and for good reason: he can act, he can sing, and he is super funny. The way in which he breaks character every so often, works really well at engaging the audience. He has the crowd participation element of panto spot on!

Both Manford and Nickless were born to star together on stage in pantomime. The mermaid scene and the 12 days of Christmas had me in absolute stitches. I really hope we get to see them collaborate again in the future.

The whole cast are tremendous, I can’t imagine it’s an easy feat sharing a stage with the huge personalities of Manford and Nickless, but it doesn’t phase them at all. Ross Carpenter is a beautiful Peter. I found him to be gentle and kind in character, with a spritely energy about him. 

I loved the addition of The Acromaniacs, like many elements of this production, their inclusion brings nothing to the plot, but it doesn’t matter because they’re fabulous. They bring a variety hall feel to the production and I loved it!

The ensemble are exemplary, they are seamlessly woven into the scenes, so much incredible talent and they keep us entertained throughout.

Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2022

Ian Westbrook’s set design is exquisite. The sound design, the special fx, the choreography, the costumes, the props, the lighting: all of it, is utter perfection. 

You don’t need to like panto to love this; this is modern panto – genuinely clever and very funny. It’s a panto for the young and the old. It’s for the northerners, the southerners and even the Aussies (hiya Jordan!). Life feels very heavy at the moment for so many people, there are so many things to be worried about and who knows what next year will bring, but spend two hours in the Opera House this festive season and somehow things will feel just a little bit lighter and brighter. The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is exactly what we all need this Christmas, superb!

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 31st December tickets available here.

The Mousetrap

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It is incredible to think that this play has been performed by so many actors in its 70 year run. 70 years of different generations of theatre goers sitting in auditoriums gripped by this timeless murder mystery. Laughing at the same jokes, and all asking themselves over and over “who dunit?”.

As the curtain rises for Act one, we encounter the splendid view of Mr and Mrs Ralston’s drawing room, which has been converted into Monkswell Manor guest house in order to for them to be able to afford to keep this family home. Firstly, Mrs Ralston (Joelle Dyson) enters wearing a dark overcoat, a felt hat and a light scarf and hurriedly hides something in a bureau, before quickly leaving the room. Next to enter is Mr Ralston (Laurence Pears) wearing a dark overcoat, a felt hat and a light scarf and he too hurriedly hides something before disappearing off stage. I’m fact all of the guests who arrive, arrive wearing the same garments, something that becomes extremely significant as the plot unfolds.

The Ralstons are keen to welcome their first ever guests, but with no staff to help them they appear slightly out of their depth, with the cooking, cleaning and entertaining to take care of. As they ready themselves for their opening night, we learn from the news report on the wireless of a brutal murder that has taken place in London earlier that day. 

Before long the guests begin to arrive; firstly, is the nit-picking Mrs Boyle, played by Gwyneth Strong. From the moment she arrives she is less than impressed with the guest house and her fellow guests, especially the second guest to arrive: the animated and hilarious Christopher Wren, played by Elliot Clay. His arrival is followed by the kind-hearted, and ever helpful Major Metcalf (Nicholas Maude) and finally the last scheduled guest – the unconventional Miss Casewell.

As all the guests settle into their rooms and get to know each other a loud knock at the door catches them unawares. There are no other guests due to arrive….Enter Mr Paravicini (John Altman) who claims to have rolled his flash car further down the lane and is in need of a place to stay. Something doesn’t seem right about this chancer, but there is no option but to welcome him in from the cold. 

The guests are barely settled when a telephone call from the police puts everyone on edge. A detective is to descend on the guest house with some important news.

Young and dashing Detective Sergeant Trotter, arrives on skis to inform all at Monkswell house that they are infact now murder suspects, and at least one of them could be the next murder victim. With everyone now cut off from civilisation, thanks to a timely blizzard and the unfortunate cutting of the telephone wire, it’s is up to the detective to solve the crime and keep everyone safe. But who could possibly be a violent killer and what is their motive?

I was not expecting this play to be as witty and funny as it is. The pace is mostly quick, the set really helps with the pacing of the narrative, as the cast enter and leave through varying doors and corridors.

The cast are absolutely superb, each and every one of them. Dyson and Pears make a wonderful duo as husband and wife, they are perfectly charming. Elliot Clay is exceptional – he was the stand out performer for me tonight: he is funny and energetic and portrays Christopher Wren’s vulnerability in a way that we are able to see the depth of his character. Gwyneth Strong is excellent as the cantankerous Mrs Boyle, she really gets the audience against her from the get go! Nichola Maude and Essie Barrow are perfectly cast in their roles and both have a wonderful presence on stage. John Altman plays Paravincini with the right balance of humour and sleaziness. And finally Joseph Reed: he takes command of this play, his dialogue is sharp and controlled. He controls the pace and the narrative with professionalism throughout. 

I watched this play continually questioning who was the nurderer and who was a red herring – and low and behold I didn’t have a clue and would never have guessed it! But it’s a secret, so I’m not telling! 

I’m generally not a big Agatha Christie fan, but this isn’t a typical Christie play, it’s got something more wonderful to it. The issues raised in this 70 year old play are still relevant today, the characters are easy to identify with, it isn’t just about posh people and a murder plot. It’s about acceptance, truth, the class system, gender stereotypes and dealing with your past before it catches up with you. This play is genuinely funny, and captivating yet tragic at the same time, a great night out.

The Mousetrap is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 3rd December tickets available here.

Bugsy Malone

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Put on your trilby, shake your tail feather, and grab your splurge gun because one of the most beloved musicals, Bugsy Malone is in town this week providing the perfect night out for all the family.

The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre Group first performed this version of the late film maker, Sir Alan Parker’s timeless classic back in 2015 and it is now on a nationwide tour.

The cinematic version premiered in 1976 and garnered huge critical and commercial success. This mainly due to its original premise: that of children playing gangsters and showgirls, bringing together classic tropes of film noir and musicals.

Directed by Sean Holmes, this is the tale of a mob turf war between speakeasy owner, Fat Sam and crime kingpin, Dandy Dan. Caught in the middle of it all is wise-guy and boxing promoter, Bugsy Malone, and promising singing starlet, Blousy. As the bodies pile up can Bugsy and Blousy escape the criminal underworld and start a fresh life in Hollywood?

This is such a fun production packed with great performances, catchy musical numbers and well executed set-pieces that will have you smiling throughout. Highlights come thick and fast, with the high energy ‘Fat Sam’s Grand Slam’ perfectly setting the tone of the show. In addition, there is the superbly choreographed ‘We Could Have Been Anything’ and ‘So You Wanna be a Boxer’ which shine a spotlight on choreographer’s Drew McOnie’s outstanding work. All pack a punch and fill the production with such vibrance that you can’t help getting sucked in and taken along for the ride.

As you may expect, this is a showcase for some fine young actors, some of whom are making their professional stage debuts with this production. Mixing these super talented kids with adult performers is a treat to watch. It never seems jarring or takes you out of the action, which can happen when you have children playing adults and vice-versa. This is a super talented ensemble cast that works so hard throughout, providing big laughs and lots of fun.

The costumes and set design by Jon Bausor look great. The costumes fully encapsulate 1920’s America, lots of glitz and glamour for the ladies, and pin stripes suites for the gents. The clever set design, along with Philip Gladwell’s lighting design gives the production a darker element to it, fully evoking criminality, mob assassinations and scenes from old gangster films we are all too familiar with.

The finale may actually be one of my favourite show endings of all the productions I’ve had the good fortune to cover and perfectly captures the immense joy you get from the show.  A huge dance number for all the cast, with absolute joy etched on all their faces, so infectious that the audience were up on their feet and joining in. Bugsy Malone is a big pie in the face full of fun and fabulous performances, and one that will entertain young and old alike.

Bugsy Malone is at the Manchester Opera House till the 12th November. Tickets available here.

The Lion King

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The award-winning musical which has been seen by over 110 million people worldwide has returned to Manchester for an incredible 19 week run, taking up residency at the city’s Palace Theatre.

Based on the 1994 Disney animated feature film, The Lion King has been wowing audiences on Broadway for 25 years while also running continually in the West End since 1999; so it feels like a real treat to have this record-breaking show visit us here in the North West.

Telling the story of Simba who is tricked into thinking he is responsible for the demise of his father Mufasa , The Lion King opens with a burst of brilliance as the iconic Circle of Life plays out in all its theatrical glory, no spoilers here but this truly is one of the most spectacular openers you’ll ever see as the animals of the Kingdom burst into beautiful, vibrant life, immersing the audience fully as they take their places in the Pridelands.

Julie Taymor’s stunning costume design combined with Richard Hudson’s minimalist scenic design, vibrant lighting from Donald Holder and expressive choreography from Garth Fagan unite impressively to bring the sights and the sounds of Africa’s expansive savanna to the stage. Each scene fills you with wonder, often drawing spontaneous applause from the audience as the sheer magnificence of this production plays out. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry’s puppetry combined with intricate masks are spectacular and lift this production to a whole other level.

This is a true ensemble piece with a cast of over 50 talented performers, each and every one bringing their own piece of Disney magic to the stage. The vibrancy of the group numbers is an absolute joy, visually stunning and a total feast for the eyes, you honestly don’t know where to look, there’s so much happening on stage, every corner of the Palace Theatre feels alive.

Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and Nokwanda Khuzwayo are perfectly cast as Simba and Nala delivering the beloved characters with real heart and depth. Jean-Luc Guizonne is superb as Mufasa, commanding and calm with a gentle ease about him. Matthew Forbes is a wonderfully witty Zazu who gets the audience on side immediately with his strong characterisation and incredible puppetry skills. Another audience favourite is Thandazile Soni who is an absolute delight as Rafiki, Alan McHale and Carl Sanderson bring the laughs as Timon and Pumbaa while Richard Hurst as the brooding villain Scar is fantastic.

The show is jam-packed with much loved musical numbers including Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Hakuna Matata, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, Be Prepared and of course Circle of Life while stunning additions for the stage include the powerful Shadowland and the stirring, He Lives in You.

The Lion King is an astonishing piece of theatre, adults will be wowed while children will be filled with awe and wonder. Magical memories will be made every night of this run in Manchester as The Lion King roars out until Saturday 11th March.

Tickets for The Lion King can be booked here.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Series 4 Tour announced!

The Queen’s will make two stops in the North West as part of their official UK Tour

Visiting theatres and arenas across England, Scotland and Wales, the tour will include two north west nights of endless extravaganza visiting Manchester Opera House on Wednesday April 19 and Liverpool Empire on Monday April 24th

ALL 12 queens from Series 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK will feature in the tour including Liverpool’s Danny Beard, Manchester’s Cheddar Gorgeous and Lancashire’s Sminty Drop.

Tickets go on sale at 10am Friday November 4 from 


Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dream girls is a roller coaster of a story that introduces us to three talented young singers, who are starting out singing in a world where not everyone wants to hear them and not everyone has their best interests at heart.

The girls enter a singing competition, but they don’t stand a chance when small time star “Jimmy Early” (Brandon Lee Jones) loses his backing singers s and his manager Marty (Jo Servi) fails to entice the girls to go on tour with Jimmy. Enter Curtis Taylor Jr (Matt Mills) the man who will stop at nothing to convince the Dreamettes to do the tour and let him be their new manager. And he has big plans, which don’t always include everyone.

Curtis Taylor and songwriter C.C White (Shem Omari James) begin their dream to get the girls to the top of the charts, and in Curtis’ case, at all costs. The story tells the tale of fames, fortune and heartbreak. And most of all friendship.

And I am telling you , I am not going to ever stop raving about this show. 

Wow, wow, wow. I have never seen a show with such power and strength, in storyline, cast and music. This show is something else.

The casting are incredible: each and every cast member plays their part perfectly and with immense talent and emotion. The hits just keep coming. One after another. The staging is clever and functional. We are told the story through seeing, not by being told. We feel the emotions of the characters because the actors show us and pull us along for the ride.

The Dreamettes have a bond, both in script and onstage. Their performances as a group are electric and note perfect. Paige Peddie, who plays Lorrell, works the audience perfectly and we adore her within seconds. She starts of as a timid young girl, and we see her grow into a strong woman. Natalie Kassandra, who plays Deena, is excellent in her portrayal of a young woman who is manipulated by a man who is controlling and coercive. That is until she absolutely comes into her own in Act two in her duet of Listen, with Effie White (Nicole Raquel Dennis). I was mesmerised and moved by this number. These women are incredible.

Now I knew that Nicole Raquel Dennis was going to be good, because I follow her on Twitter and I’ve seen what she can do, but I was not prepared to see her live. This woman is something else. I have no idea how it is humanly possibly to do what she does, day in and day out. I have never, ever seen an audience jump to its feet in the middle of a song in Act One. “And I am telling you I’m not going”, was the single greatest performance I have ever seen. Nothing could have prepared me for how I would feel during that performance. I’ve heard Nicole compared to Jennifer Hudson, she doesn’t need comparing to anyone. She is exceptional in every single way, she’s beautiful, majestic and talented.  I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

Now, while it may seem that the women dominate this show, their talent is matched by the male leads also. Brandon Lee Sears performance as Jimmy is energetic, humorous and at times heart wrenching. And boy can that man move his hips! Shem Omari James is beautiful in his role of Effie’s brother C.C, he is a great talent, and I’m sure we are going to see him in the West End over and over again in the coming years.

Matt Mills, who plays Curtis Taylor is multi talented and plays the greedy, desperate manager fantastically. Another excellently cast performer, who delivers in every scene.

The entire cast deserves a mention, they are slick and powerful and deserve every standing ovation that they receive. This show is big, bold, loud and full to the brim with talent. 

The music, oh the music, I grew up with my parents listening to Motown, so I was always going to love the music. I wanted to get up and dance many a time during the show. Tom Eyen and Harry Krieger deserve every accolade they receive, they know how to write a hit.

This show is everything it should be- glitzy, glamorous and oozing with talent. It’s not to be missed. I want to go back again and again and again.

Dreamgirls is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 24th September tickets available here.

South Pacific

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Credit: Johan Persson

Rather surprisingly that hottest place in Manchester last night wasn’t the mythical island of Bali Ha’i central to the plot of South Pacific (this was due the fabulous air con at the Manchester Opera House), however make no bones about Daniel Evans’s revival of this Roger and Hammerstein classic is one of the hottest tickets in town!

From the much-praised Chichester Festival Theatre production, South Pacific is a dual love story. The first involves a French plantation owner and an American nurse; the second an American GI, and a native Tonkinese woman. All four find themselves on an island in the South Pacific, with the spectre of World War 2 hanging over them. However, it’s not war that threatens their relationships, but their past lives, clashes of culture and most certainly current prejudices that stand in the way of true love.

Credit: Johan Persson

Cards on the table I’ve never seen South Pacific, so seeing racism tackled in such a forthright manner was quite unexpected, especially when the prejudice came in the guise of the production’s ‘heroine’, nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush. When Oscar Hammerstein penned the lyrics to ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ over 70 years ago he hoped that the subject of racial equality would have improved but sadly we’re not quite there yet.

With such a weighty subject matter the production requires some powerhouse performances and lucky for us that’s exactly what we get. Julian Ovenden is in sublime form as plantation owner, Emile de Becque. Charming, charismatic, and tortured, his rendition of ‘This Nearly was Mine’ is the highlight of the night from a show jam-packed with highlights. Opposite him is the equally excellent Gina Beck as Nurse Forbush, a performance packed with energy, like a 4tth of July firework set she draws your attention throughout, radiating warmth and joy which makes the characters prejudices all the more shocking.

Credit: Johan Persson

In addition, there are some fine supporting performances Joanna Ampil puts in a great comedic turn as Bloody Mary, the personification of a survivor, doing all she can to protect herself and family. Whilst Rob Houchen as Lieutenant Cable and Sera Maehra as Liat, bring something wonderfully different to the second love story. Houchen with his delicate vocals on the aforementioned, ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ is superb while Maehara opens the production with a beautifully haunting dance routine, which then feature throughout.

As well as Amil’s Bloody Mary, there is additional light relief from Douggie McMeekin’s scene stealing, Luther Billis, a dodgy GI, with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, think Dad’s Army’s Private Walker and you’re on the right track.

Credit: Johan Persson

Of course, being such a classic South Pacific has some big ensemble numbers in its arsenal, from the hugely infectious ‘There is Nothin’ Like A Dame’ to the bright and breezy ‘I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa my Hair’, that will have you itching to sing along.

Director Daniel Evans’ South Pacific has a contemporary feel to it and is all you could want from a night at the theatre, fantastic performances, great show tunes and more importantly a social commentary on racism, which sadly still blights society today. 

South Pacific is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 23rd July tickets available here.

Lord of The Dance

Reviewed by Robyn Molyneux

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Last night I had the pleasure of attending one of Manchester’s most beautiful theatres, the Palace theatre. The architecture is just stunning, and having taken my seats with no pre-conceptions of what I was about to see, I was blown away by the talent shown by the dancers that made up the troupe for this mid-week evening performance; the energy was infectious, and it is clear to see the hard work and dedication that goes into preparing for and delivering each performance.

I wont lie, I’m not sure what I had expected but this felt like a dream you have had when you’ve had too much cheese before bed, the kind of randomness that just sort of works!

In almost equal measure was the cheesiness and fun that the show delivered, with a loose storyline of good triumphing over evil! The show was full of charisma and embodied the famous style of Michael Flatley, cut from the same cloth with light-hearted comedy moments and showcasing the talents of those toes whilst flexing and “blue steel” posing all at once.

Between the main acts of dancers was a solo female singer who although talented, felt like she was drafted in to give the audience a break from the high energy show however, I found a bit out of kilter with the rest of the shows essence. Also, there were two violinists who played beautifully that accompanied the dancers throughout some numbers, maybe they should stick to playing the violin and avoid the awkward dance moves that went with it?

In terms of the difference numbers, my favourite part has to be when a dance off takes place. The slow build of articulate noise that can be created from their tap shoes is amazing, you feel the beat and excitement build in the rhythm as it comes to point.

Overall, the show was great fun and something a little different that everyone should see at some point in their life, full of feel-good vibes and incredible talent!

Lord of the Dance is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Sunday 17th July tickets available here.