MTA Nominations 2018

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Nominations for this year’s Manchester Theatre Awards have been announced, celebrating the best work on stage and off within the city in over 20 categories, with winners being announced at a red carpet event at the Lowry theatre on Friday 9th March which will be hosted by local funny man Justin Moorhouse.

With some interesting choices and some considerable omissions, our personal pick and who Opening Night will be backing when we head to the ceremony will be;

Performance in a Fringe Production – Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical,

Best NewcomerHope Mill Theatre, Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre,

Best Opera La Cenerentola , Opera North, The Lowry,

Studio Production – From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Best Performance in a Studio Production – Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production The Lowry, La Strada, The Lowry

With four incredible selections for Best Musical it will be a hotly contested category, we adored each production but would loved to have seen additional nominations for Hope Mill Theatre’s spectacular Pippin and Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s uplifting audience favourite The Band.

 

The nominations are as follows;

Actress in a Leading Role

Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum

Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places & Things, HOME

Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival

Janet Suzman, Rose, HOME

 

Actor in a Leading Role

Cliff Burnett, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

Jason Merrells, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Kenneth Alan Taylor, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Ashley Zhangazha, Guys And Dolls, Royal Exchange

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Alison Halstead, The House of Bernarda Alba, Royal Exchange

Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange

Kerry Peers, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Katie West, Uncle Vanya, HOME

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Michael Blyth, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

David Fleeshman, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Andrew Sheridan, People, Places & Things, HOME

 

Actress in a Visiting Production

Ria Jones, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

Natalie Radmall-Quirke, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

Sheridan Smith, Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

 

Actor in a Visiting Production

Danny Mac, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Graham McDuff, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Palace Theatre

Sean Murray, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Ensemble

Oh What A Lovely War, Oldham Coliseum

Operation Black Antler, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Performance in a Fringe Production

Rosie Fleeshman, Narcissist in the Mirror, Greater Manchester Fringe

Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre

Alexandra Maxwell, The Loves of Others / Freak, Greater Manchester Fringe

Danny Solomon, Days Of Wine And Roses, 53TWO

 

Performance in a Studio Production

Rhodri Meilir How My Light Is Spent, Royal Exchange

Lucy Jane Parkinson, Joan, Contact

Keisha Thompson, Man On The Moon, Contact

Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

 

Robert Robson Award for Dance

Debut, Acosta Danza, The Lowry

English National Ballet double bill, Palace Theatre

Ghost Dances, Rambert Dance, The Lowry

Leviathan, James Wilton Dance, Contact

 

Design

Jenny Melville (set) and Lysander Ashton (video), Paul Auster’s City of Glass, HOME

Bunny Christie, People, Places & Things, HOME

Alex Lowde, Persuasion, Royal Exchange

Yael Bartana, What If Women Ruled the World?, Manchester International Festival

 

Fringe Production

Bad Advice, Greater Manchester Fringe

Gypsy Queen, Hope Mill Theatre

The Marriage of Kim K, Greater Manchester Fringe

Moth, Hope Mill Theatre

 

Musical

Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell the Musical, Opera House

Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

 

New Play

Gypsy Queen, writer Rob Ward, Hope Mill Theatre

How My Light Is Spent, writer Alan Harris, Royal Exchange

Narcissist in the Mirror, writer Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe

Narvik, writer Lizzie Nunnery, HOME

 

Newcomer

Gemma Dobson, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

Vinay Lad, The Railway Children, The Lowry

 

Opera

Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM

La Cenerentola, Opera North, The Lowry

Opera North Little Greats, Opera North, The Lowry

The Snow Maiden, Opera North, The Lowry

 

Production

The Father, Oldham Coliseum

People, Places & Things, HOME

Rose, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Running Wild, The Lowry

The Toad Knew, The Lowry

Under Glass, Clod Ensemble,The Lowry

 

Studio Production

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Joan, Contact

Man On The Moon, Contact

Swansong, The Lowry

 

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production

La Strada, The Lowry

My Country; a Work in Progress, HOME

Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Youth Panel Award

There is a Light/BRIGHTLIGHT, Contact Young Company

Singin’ in the Rain, RNCM Young Company

Tis Written in the Stars, Oldham Theatre Workshop, Oldham Coliseum

Interview | Brendan Cole

Brendan Cole’s spectacular production, All Night Long, returns to the stage this week after a hugely successful and critically acclaimed run in 2017. Manchester audiences can catch the Strictly favourite at the Bridgewater Hall on Friday 19th January as part of an extensive UK and Ireland tour. Created by Brendan himself the show takes audiences on a journey through all genres of dance and music including an impressive 13 –piece band and singers as well as a sensational cast of talented championship dancers. We caught up with Brendan ahead of the show’s arrival in Manchester to hear a little more about this critically acclaimed show.

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ON: What can audiences expect from the show?

BC: I really like to think we offer audiences a bit of everything, obviously it’s a Strictly type show but it’s very much got my name on it, it’s not put on by a production company, it’s my creativity that’s put the show together. It has everything that you’d want from Strictly and more, we have a live band, 13 incredible musicians on stage, they really are phenomenal, they cover Michael Bublé, Tom Jones, that kind of calibre of musician, they really are the best, which adds an extra element to the show, it could even be a musical show on its own without the dancing, but of course audiences have come to see that dancing and that is what they’re gonna get.

ON: In terms of dance, what can audiences expect to see a mixture of Latin and Ballroom?

BC: Everything you know from Strictly we do on a stage, with a bit extra, whether it be a waltz, a cha cha, an Argentine tango, a foxtrot, a jive, a samba, we cover every element of dance and we try to cover all genres of music too, from old to new because the Strictly audience is very diverse, they really are all ages and it’s very important to me that we have a complete show, My name is on the door so I want us to be delivering something that people love then hopefully we can offer a phenomenal nights entertainment.

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ON: How does performing on stage differ to appearing on Strictly?

BC: With the magic of television they can change camera angles, there are floor effects, ceiling effects so that magic that’s created in the studio is not just about the dance but on a stage show you are there for all to see, so with that the audience truly gets to see everything, not just a zoomed in section, but every step the dancers take, the emotion, the beauty of the numbers, the magic of the dance takes centre stage. For example the waltz that we do, normally a waltz is the story of a romance, a love story where a couple meet, then fall in love and live happily ever after, the waltz that we do we use a Michael Bublé song called ‘At this moment’ and it’s the story of an affair, so it’s very different but really powerful theatre, I love it as you see the audience transform as the story of our waltz unfolds, waltz is my favourite dance anyway so to be able to perform that dance and get a really genuine reaction from the audience is brilliant. Then one number later we do a really passionate Argentine Tango which is just wow and really full on then we might next be doing something really soft, romantic and beautiful, it’s chopping and changing to make sure audiences don’t feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over again, every number is different, the cast are phenomenal, all the elements, the music, the lighting, the staging, the costumes, the talent, everything comes together in a two hour spectacular of what people love seeing in their living rooms but they get to see it live on stage.

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ON: How do audiences differ from city to city?

BC: It’s really interesting and varies massively, if an audience is quiet it can be quite soul destroying, I’ve performed for audiences who while they appreciate what you do just sit quietly and take it in, so you can start questioning what you’re doing. I’d definitely say the further North you go the bigger the reaction, Southern audiences tend to be more reserved, which of course is absolutely fine but it can be tough to gage how much they are enjoying the show, you can think you’re dying a death on stage then after the show there can be 50,60, 80 people outside stage door telling you how phenomenal they thought the show was, it’s a really funny thing then other times you can go out on stage and before you’ve taken a step or played a note and the audience go crazy, that’s what we do this for, it’s all for the audience, we want people to walk away very, very happy having had a really great night, that’s the main thing.

ON: Are there additional pressures to performing live?

BC: When the curtain goes up you have got to be ready to perform, whether you’ve been locked out of the building, haven’t done your hair, it doesn’t matter you have to be ready. Once we had terrible storms and couldn’t travel across the Dartford bridge in London, so myself, lots of the dancers and musicians couldn’t get to the venue, my sat nav took me on a horrendous route and I finally got to the show 8 minutes before the start of the matinee, but I walked on that stage and it’s like bang, you hit the ground running, the audience doesn’t need to know the problems you might have had, it’s live and anything can happen at any time, you have to deliver and I think that’s what makes it exciting.

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ON: We’ve heard you play the guitar on stage, is this talent you’ve always had or a new skill?

BC: It’s a new thing, our musicians are world class, they really are something special, just awe inspiring, we’ve talked over the years about how I wished I’d gone to music school and learnt more about music, I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up a guitar and just be able to play, so they suggested for this new tour they put together a musical number where I play the guitar so I thought brilliant, challenge accepted, I’m not planning on taking over from any musical legends but it’s one of those things where I’ve accepted the challenge and I’m just enjoying it, it’s a lovely Ed Sheeran song. To sit and play amidst that talent while my dancers come out and perform a contemporary rumba is really special and just something I really love doing. Plus for the audience they’re used to watching celebrities out of their comfort zone on Strictly, this was a chance for them to see me slightly more vulnerable and see something different from me, a different element to the show which is so important to me, that the show changes every few minutes, which hopefully keeps the audiences excited.

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ON: We’ve spoken to your former colleague Joanne Clifton who is currently touring with Flashdance is this something you’d be interested in doing in the future?

Yes eventually when the dancing shoes are hung up because it’s quite hard to fit in anything like that when you’re involved with Strictly plus I have my own production now. I have been offered a big role in the West End previously about 4 years ago but I couldn’t accept as it was a touring show before it went to the West End so my commitments wouldn’t allow for that as well, I was gutted to have to turn it down as it would have been a great opportunity for someone like me who isn’t necessarily an actor but who can act, and I can sing so it was one of those things that I had to say no thank you but it’s definitely something I’d look forward to in the future.

ON: Finally and we’re sure you get asked this a lot, who would be your dream Strictly partner?

BC: Ooh I’ve had them haven’t I? The honest answer is I’ve had some great partners over the years, I’ve been very lucky but there’s one person who I’d love to dance with, not necessarily on Strictly as I think that would be tricky to get her to commit, Her Majesty the Queen, I’d absolutely love to give her a Waltz lesson, just to dance a beautiful Waltz with her, I’m sure she’s been shown before but that would be an absolute dream for me, that’s definitely on my bucket list.

Further information, tour dates and tickets can be found here. 

First look – The Toy Boy Diaries

TB Matt Beveridge and Johanne Murdock in rehearsals for The ToyBoy Diaries 2 credit Claire Bilyard

Highly anticipated new British musical comedy, The Toyboy Diaries which runs from Thursday 18th January to Saturday 10th February at Hope Mill Theatre, offers a first look at the production today with these newly released images from the rehearsal rooms.

Charting the hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking ups and downs of mid-life dating, The Toyboy Diaries is the first of 2018’s five in-house musicals from the hugely successful collaboration between Joseph Houston and William Whelton, co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre and producer Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment.

TB Sharif Afifi and Johanne Murdock in rehearsals for The ToyBoy Diaries credit Claire Bilyard

The production, which is adapted from the best-selling memoirs by Wendy Salisbury follows twice-divorced Lily as she inadvertently finds herself under a much younger man, which then opens the door to a whole new world of inappropriate relationships.

The lead role of Lily will be played by Johanne Murdock who was recently seen as Brutus in Julius Caesar and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Guildford Shakespeare Company). The production also features Olivier Award-nominee Nicola Blackman (Destiny Rides Again, Babe the Sheep Pig, Gilgamesh and Just to Get Married) as Lily’s best friend Penny.

TB Matt Beveridge and Johanne Murdock in rehearsals for The ToyBoy Diaries 1 credit Claire Bilyard

Matt Beveridge (The Frontier Trilogy, Titanic – Toronto and House of Therapy – Off Broadway). Sharif Afifi (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Wonderland – UK Tour) will play ToyBoy 2, while Alistair Higgins (Dreamboats and Petticoats – UK Tour, Sweeney Todd – Brighton, Charlotte’s Web) plays ToyBoy 3.

TB Johanne Murdock in rehearsals for The ToyBoy Diaries credit Claire Bilyard

The Toyboy Diaries will be directed by Tania Azevedo, with a book by Simon Warne, music and lyrics by Andy Collyer.

Tickets are available here.

 

 

A Christmas Carol

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Review by Matthew Forrest

Panto season is in full swing at this time of year, but fairytales and jolly japes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if you’re looking for something a little different to get your festive juices flowing, then the MAP Repertory Company’s take on A Christmas Carol offers the perfect alternative.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, has made captivating reading for young and old alike for just short of 175 years when the novel was first published in 1843. There have been countless film adaptations of this classic tale,  all offering something a little unique and this version is no different.

Told with various cast members acting as narrator, we are introduced to Mr Ebenezer Scrooge and his dutiful, down trodden  employee Bob Cratchit as they are busy working on Christmas Eve. We get a look into the blackheart of Scrooge as he berates his employee for want Christmas Day off, as well as mocking his nephew Fred, for his merriment and positive outlook  over the festive season. What follows is Scrooge’s road to redemption as he encounters four spirits who look to save the old misers soul before it’s too late.

This is a highly original attempt at this old classic that doesn’t always hit its mark but is a great deal of fun regardless. The cast all work their socks off playing muliple roles and are clearing having a ball, the show is a blend of music and comedy, with a great deal of joy coming from the introduction of the puppet Tiny Tim. What sets this apart from other productions is the way they used the space at 53Two venue, all aspects are covered with various cast members popping up in the theatre. The soundscope is brilliant especially during the scenes with the ghosts, made all the more immpressive by the limited budget of the play.

With a running time of just under hour, Map rep company have tried to cram as much story in as possible, which doesn’t quite work in parts: the biggest problem being the introduction of the tension between Scrooge and his nephew is left unresolved. In addition Scrooge’s scaving encounter with the charity workers isn’t mentioned until after he has his epiphany: so when Scrooge shows his charitable side it has very little impact as it was seen without context.

This is a fun, smart  show, suitable for all the family that will provide a spring in the step as we march towards Christmas,packed with fine performances, comedy, Christmas  carols and lashings of good cheer it’s well worth watching.

On at 53Two until Saturday 23rd Dec, tickets available here.

 

 

 

Beautiful The Carole King Musical

Beautiful

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Since first premiering on Broadway in 2014, Beautiful The Carole King Musical has gone on to open in London, Tokyo & Sydney winning multiple awards along the way. Manchester audiences are lucky enough to have the show at the city’s Palace Theatre for the next four weeks offering festive theatregoers an wonderful alternative to traditional Pantos available at this time of year.

Telling the inspiring true story of Carole King’s incredible rise to fame from selling her first song as a teenager to her 70’s solo success headlining Carnegie Hall, Beautiful is an incredibly powerful, and enormously entertaining piece of theatre.

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The musical dedicates the perfect amount of time to King’s (Bronté Barbé) early career and skilfully explores the effect her relationship with writing partner & husband Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry) had upon their songwriting, this also extends to the influence of the couples competitive friendship with fellow songwriters Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves) and Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson), both songwriting teams undeniably behind some of the sounds which without doubt helped shape popular music.

The back catalogue available to compliment Douglas McGrath’s book is almost embarrassingly brilliant having written for the likes of The Drifters, The Shirelles and Aretha Frankin the show features classic after classic including Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and You’ve Got a Friend to name but a few.

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Bronté Barbé as King is outstanding, sweet and soulful, she plays King with enormous heart and sensitivity, hugely likeable with a quiet inner strength that grows as her relationship with Goffin stumbles. Barb beautifully portrays a woman who knows her self worth and remains true to herself despite life’s challenges.

Kane Oliver Parry compliments Barbe perfectly, the chemistry between the two is fantastic as real life struggles take hold both deliver some exceptional acting. Special mention must also go to both Amy Ellen Richardson & Matthew Gonsalves, their partnership as Cynthia and Barry is a delight to watch.

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Beautiful further impresses with one of the best ensemble casts I’ve ever seen, slick, sharp and insanely talented each scene is a joyful celebration of incredible music. From the very first ensemble scene the sheer energy and talent on display gives a clear message that this show is something special.

Beautiful raises the bar for jukebox musicals and then some, in addition to the spine tingling performances is an enormously witty script which has the audience laughing out loud throughout. The care and attention given to this biography will no doubt ensure standing ovations night after night. Ultimately this is a story of hope and self belief whilst giving audiences a wonderful reminder of the incredibly emotional impact music can have, a truly joyful, must-see show.

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On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 6th January, tickets available here.

Dick Whittington

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Opening Night verdict 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

Qdos Entertainment, the worlds biggest pantomime producer bring their magical production of Dick Whittington to Manchester’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring the hugely popular John Barrowman, an absolute  panto pro he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the off, whipping off his trousers to reveal the tightest pair of pants to ever grace the panto stage! Joining Barrowman are legendary double act, The Krankies, stalwarts of the cabaret circuit since the 70’s, Dick Whittington marks their seventh season alongside Barrowman and their on stage chemistry is electric.

Sprinkled with lots of adult humour Dick Whittington is high on audience interaction and chock-full of laughs as Dick (Barrowman) falls in love with Councillor Krankie’s (Ian Tough) daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). dastardly King Rat (Phil Corbitt) however has other ideas as he tries his best to come between our lovebirds.

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Fun and frolics are high on the agenda as Barrowman greets the Manchester audience with an “Ey up chuck!” he is a highly entertaining, hugely charismatic, singing, dancing, innuendo spouting machine! Pair this with an outrageous performance from the Krankies and you really have got a match made in double entendre heaven. Lots to keep little ones and Mum & Dad highly amused with a few jokes perhaps a little too close to the bone for older children, who Mum and Dad may be desperately hoping don’t get certain jokes, let’s just say there could be some interesting conversations on the way home!

The rest of the sparkling cast compliment our leads perfectly with special mention to Jacqueline Hughes who delights as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Ryan Kayode as Tommy the Manc Tabby Cat who judging by the applause received was clearly an audience favourite too.

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As you’d expect there are ad libs galore particularly between the hilarious Krankies who remain sharp as a tack. Jeanette Tough, now aged 70 could give Debbie McGee a run for her money as she’s flung around the stage, barely stopping for breath and even ending up inside a giant sharks mouth!

The choreography is executed perfectly by the Company who are joined on stage by local children from the Stalder Academy of Dance.

Many of the usual panto traditions are here, there’s ghosts & ghoulies, silly songs and sparkly sets plus a surprise soaking for some audience members, however this is as Dick with no Dame which for me seemed an odd choice, please Qdos can we have our Dame back next year? Preferably Manchester favourite Eric Potts. The 3D section is enormously impressive but scared my young guests to the point of having to cover their faces, much too frightening for young children.

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The cast have undeniable chemistry, particularly evident during an underwater version of 12 Days of Christmas, which has the audience in hysterics from start to finish.  The storyline is secondary to the madcap mayhem playing out before us as Dick Whittington entertains and delivers a highly memorable night, for some this may be classic ‘British humour’ that needs a little updating, there was no doubt however that Dick Whittington brought a lot of laughter and festive cheer to Manchester last night, it’s a cheeky, festive treat!

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January, tickets available here.

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland 2016 promo

Event City’s mega 22,000sq m of exhibition space has been transformed once again into a fabulously festive Winter Wonderland which will undoubtedly thrill young and old alike.

Now in its 5th consecutive year, Manchester’s biggest attraction boasts more rides than you can shake a candy cane at, as well as shows, festive food and drink and of course no Wonderland would be complete without the big man himself, Father Christmas! There are even a couple of very special guests to entertain the little ones this year in the form of classic children’s favourite’s, Rainbow’s George and Zippy!

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With over 50 rides and attractions all under one roof you really are spoilt for choice, from an indoor circus to classic fairground favourites Winter Wonderland quite literally has something for everyone, with the added bonus that everything (apart from food and drink) is included in your ticket price, so no need to worry about limiting the number of rides you go on or searching for loose change, you can enjoy the rides as many times as you like from the minute you arrive!

For the littlest members of the family there’s a baby chill out zone including large soft play area as well as a meet and greet with Santa, numerous toddler friendly rides with flashing lights and beeping horns which kept my little visitor entertained long past her usual bedtime and although this is Christmas you can even take a trip to the seaside at the giant sandpit. A huge positive is that sessions are limited to avoid overcrowding, which further added to our enjoyment of this incredibly magical place.

Winter Wonderland

For older children and adults there’s all the favourite classic rides you’d hope to see, the dodgems, the waltzers, hilarious bucking broncos and an enormously fun cyclone (which I’d advise going on before you enjoy one of the delicious bubble waffles!)

If this wasn’t enough there are lots of fabulous shows at various intervals throughout each session, Rainbow Live with Zippy & George, a fabulous Christmas Circus, The Ice Princesses, Jedi Knight Training, an all-new Daisy & Ollie Show from Cartoonito, as well as an opportunity to enjoy a Christmas Melt-Down – fun and dancing on the main stage with Winter Wonderlands crazy DJ!

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With tickets prices, £20.50* (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee) per ticket for adults and children aged 3-16 (under 3’s free) or £70 for a family of four, Winter Wonderland really is excellent value for money with each session lasting for four hours. My group and I left feeling festive and giggling about all the fun we’d had whilst planning our next visit to this magical place, an annual visit (or two) has quickly become one of our favourite Christmas traditions, with fun and lots of it guaranteed!

Open from 9th December 2017 until 1st January 2018, booking is highly recommended as some dates are already sold out, tickets are available here.