‘SPINACH’ is not a musical. It is not an opera. It is a play where every word just happens to be sung…
Waking up tied together, Tom and Kate can’t remember a thing…. not about the last few days anyway. Everything is a total blank, except for a halloumi kebab and a double-decker bus. As piece by piece they unravel their memories, each step brings them closer to knowing their captors, closer to their terrifying fate… and closer to each other.
‘Spinach’, written and directed by Janine Waters with music by Simon Waters, premiered at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2011 then transferred to London’s King’s Head Theatre for a critically acclaimed season.
This 10th anniversary production at The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Manchester, 30th November – 18th December, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of both the play’s premiere and the venue.
Reviews of the 2011 production of Spinach’ at the King’s Head Theatre
“A truly unique piece of musical theatre”
5 stars – Whatsonthefringe
“Sung-play ‘Spinach’ is one of the most enthralling, unique musical theatre experiences to hit the Off-West End stage. It is a riveting psychological romantic comedy that will certainly have you on the edge of your seat” 5 stars – Mellow Day London
“A gloriously theatrical experience and ultimately heartwarming”
Gary Naylor, Broadwayworld
“Very often funny and deeply engaging, this is an entertaining piece with great originality” 4 stars – Whatsonstage
Being whisked away from a dark autumnal night into 1960s glitz and glamour, whilst surrounded by fabulous drag queens strutting along the red carpet can only mean one thing; one of our all-time favourite musicals Hairspray is back in Manchester!
This is an incredibly exciting multi-coloured and multi-layered production, with a serious and important message at its core. Based on the 1988 John Waters film, Hairspray follows Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show. Tracy isn’t as conventionally looking as the show’s usual crew and faces an uphill battle from the start. What begins as a burning ambition to win a role on her favourite teen show soon becomes a campaign for social change which sees Tracy crusade to promote racial integration as she battles not only bigots but body shamers too.
After receiving the job offer at the beginning of 2020 and having to wait until mid-2021 to start in the role, Katie Brace finally makes her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad – and oh was it worth the wait! With her infectious smile, powerful voice and boundless energy she fits this role perfectly. Her comedic acting is flawless, this young actress has a huge career ahead of her.
The show opens with Tracy waking up in her bed in Baltimore, bursting onto the stage with the first number Good Morning Baltimore. The strong Baltimore accents are prominent from the first note, and aren’t dropped once throughout the show. You’re really taken into Tracy’s world in Baltimore there and then.
Alex Bourne and Norman Pace star as the hilarious duo Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. The audience roared with laughter as they lapped up Timeless To Me – clearly a favourite throughout the auditorium. They both deliver their witty characters perfectly, never breaking character despite the audience being hysterical and the scene being rather raunchy!
The costumes throughout the production are bright and bold, and are coupled with strong, punchy, fast paced choreography – which together really take you straight back to the 1960s. The show promotes an important message of equality and inclusion with wit and charm, but it’s not at all preachy. The entire show has you beaming with happiness.
The set, the lights and the live band accompany the cast to make this incredible show really come to life. Hits like You Can’t Stop The Beat, Run and Tell That and Welcome to the Sixties are all feel-good songs that will keep you in smiling all week long.
This timeless show never fails to entertain – it’s empowering, it’s exciting, it’s hilarious and overall it’s a bloomin’ great night out!
Hairspray is at the Palace Theatre in Manchester from Mon 25 – Sat 30 October & Mon 8 Nov – Sat 13 November 2021 tickets available here.
If there’s one thing theatre audiences love, it’s a Disney adaptation. From full-scale productions such as the long-running Lion King to the newly opened five-star smash, Frozen, right through to magical musical numbers and glittering finale scenes in local pantos; Disney’s influence runs right through British family theatre and is often the first theatrical experience many children have.
Latest adaptation, Bedknobs and Broomsticks flew into Manchester’s this week, stopping at the Palace Theatre on it’s World Premiere UK tour, amazing to think despite celebrating it’s 50th anniversary there’s never been a full-scale production before!
While the lesser recreated of the Sherman Brothers penned Disney hits (Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) it’s charm and appeal have made it a firm favourite for fans, while it’s classic score is still a childhood staple. Yes, the plot is a bit bonkers at times, but for many that’s a huge part of this cult classic’s charm.
Film fans will be happy to hear that this stage adaptation remains largely faithful to the film with some padding out of backstories which works beautifully.
Set in the 1940’s, evacuees and siblings Charlie, Carrie and Paul have been sent to the countryside after losing their parents during an air raid in London. Miss Eglantine Price takes them in and they soon discover all is not as it seems as apprentice witch Price reveals she just needs one final spell from former tutor Professor Emelius Browne in order to use her magic in a bid to help the war effort. With the help of an enchanted bedknob their adventures begin!
Additional songs by Neil Bartram fit well with the much-loved classics, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, The Age Of Not Believing and my personal favourite Substitutiary Locamotion with new addition Negotiality feeling like it’s been there all along.
Jamie Harrison’s impressive set and dazzling illusions really add to the magic of the piece. The bed really does fly as does Miss Price who swoops up into the air on her broomstick and as for the final battle scene, well seeing really is believing!
Gabriella Slade’s costumes are stunning, intricate, elaborate and utterly gorgeous while there’s a wonderful use of puppetry weaved into the production. Designer Kenneth MacLeod has created some spectacular puppets while the cast bringing them magically to living, breathing life. Norton the Fish portrayed fabulously by Rob Madge deserving of a spin off show of their own! While actors being turned into rabbits right before your eyes is a whole lot of fun! This really is physical theatre at its finest.
Dianne Pilkington is sublime as Miss Englantine Price, witty, charismatic and with a voice that’s pure perfection. Charles Brunton compliments her wonderfully as Emelius Browne, his eccentricities and magic skills endearing him to the audience immediately.
Conor O’Hara gives eldest child Charlie true depth as he demonstrates powerfully the influence war has on the life of a child. His journey as Charlie breathing fresh ideas into to this classic tale.
The quieter moments are given the time that they deserve to be impactful while the big full ensemble numbers really take the entertainment levels up a notch. The Portabello Road scene and the Beautiful Briny dance competition are a joy and leave you wishing there were a few more full ensemble numbers to enjoy. I must also mention how wonderful it is to see such a representative cast on stage, more of this please!
The ensemble work hard in this show, moving sets and becoming scenery throughout. This took a little getting used to and on occasion felt like there was a little too much to look at. The pace of Act 1 slows a little at times while Act 2 burst into gorgeous, glittering life and before you know it the bows are being taken.
This is a beautifully crafted show, technically brilliant, superbly designed and wonderfully delivered. There’s peril, romance, incredible puppetry and thrilling magic. Film fans will come away happy while an army of new fans no doubt will be gained. An enchanting production which will delight young and old alike.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is on at the Palace Theatre until Sunday 24th October tickets available here.
“Mum, I know you’ll think I’m potty… but at last I think I’ve found him!”
Tell Me on a Sunday is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s first (and often forgotten) musical love child. This bittersweet tale is the story of Emma, played by the powerhouse that is Jodie Prenger, as she travels across the globe, from London, to New York, to California and back, on a quest for long-lasting, meaningful love. A one hour, one-woman show, which brings to the surface all the nostalgia and sentimentality of falling in and out of love and all the wonderfully uncomfortable bits in-between.
Although maybe not as well known to a wider audience as some of Webber’s other works, musically the show does have some beautifully powerful numbers, including the stunningly heartbreaking title song Tell Me on a Sunday, which witnessing Prenger nail is an absolute treat and a stand-out moment.
Francis Goodhand musically directs with panache. But there are plenty of ‘Goodhands’ here in the band too who play beautifully throughout. In fact, in conversation after the interval, Goodhand describes this as musical theatre at its best – ‘no smoke or mirrors,’ just really rather good music, which is most definitely true. Its also nice to have the band onstage throughout, who are a very worthy backdrop to Prengers’ wonderful Emma.
Anyone familiar with Prenger, knows that she not only oozes bucket loads of charm and charisma, but is a formidable performer. Least not her vocals, which are effortless and consistently sublime during this hour long song-cycle; in fact they are Streisand-esq at parts (and I don’t say that lightly!) Her portrayal of Emma is full of subtlety and raw sentiment, as she carefully navigates us through a whole range of emotions, from hopeful to desperate, vulnerable to strong, taking us on the journey with her every step of the way. Prenger provides a wonderfully crafted, fully realised performance, as she commands the stage and without us even realising the hour has passed; she is a pure delight to watch.
Unusually and unique to this production, after the interval we are invited to re-join Prenger for what is a mini ‘An Evening with…’ style second act and proves equally as enchanting as the first. Bursting back onto the stage, Prenger welcomes us back with vigour and so much likability and humour, its (ironically) hard not to fall in love with her!
She spoils us with some more songs and answers some interesting questions from the audience. This evening Harry, 11, asks for any tips about entering the acting industry, to which Prenger quickly exclaims: “DON’T DO IT!” prompting fits of laughter from the audience; she most certainly has them in the palm of her hands. We are also introduced to the very talented Jodie Beth Meyer (Understudy Emma), who performs for us alongside Prenger, and whose voice is equally impressive. In a clever turn by the producers, this addition of an ‘Act 2’ really makes you feel like you’re making a night of it and getting your money’s worth!
It must be acknowledged that its been a tough old time for the arts and as such producers are in requirement of that much needed revenue boost, which performing in large-scale spaces can enable. However, this revival of the 2016 Watermill Theatre’s acclaimed production does at times seem a little lost in the Lyric theatre here in the Lowry. It’s certainly easy to see how this intimate, personal show lends itself better to a smaller-scale space and possibly would have been better suited to one of the smaller spaces that the magnificent Lowry has to offer.
Yes there are elements of the show that appear a little outdated, but the premise still remains universal and the message rather poignant as Prenger aptly reminds us towards the end of show, ‘Dreams Never Run On Time’ which hits us differently, especially with the world still in a strange, unsettling and unpredictable place. However, the audience are still hugely thankful to be back inside an auditorium watching and listening to live musical theatre and here Don Black’s clever, cute, conversational lyrics, are beautifully matched by Webber’s distinctive and indisputable music, both of which are perfectly complimented by Prenger’s show-stopping talent and makes for a lovely mid-week treat – never mind a Sunday!
Tell Me on a Sunday runs at the Lowry Theatre until Saturday 23rd October tickets available here.
“If you’re having fun then you’re Number one!” proclaims a certain Mr. Peter Andre as Vince Fontaine to a packed out Manchester Opera House – and boy he wasn’t wrong!
This Tuesday evening Quay Street was buzzing with excitement and that wasn’t just because it had actually managed to stop raining for an hour, but probably to do with the fact that yes it’s still an absolute treat to have live theatre return to the heart of the city. Amongst the many excitable attendees queuing to take their seats were multiple sets of Manchester’s own Pink Ladies, whom will have waited patiently for over a year to see this latest production.
Although now synonymous with the Travolta/Newton-John illustrious partnership, it’s easy to forget Grease the movie actually succeeded the theatrical production’s New York debut by six years. However, the story of the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys (the original T-Birds) and their subsequent trials and tribulations as they make the painstaking journey from adolescence to adulthood, still lies at the heart of this cult classic.
Nikolai Foster’s production, originally planned for 2020, but halted due to the Covid pandemic, clearly pays homage to the production’s original predecessors. Foster does a superb job at bringing together all the elements to make this a great comeback for the latest UK touring production.
The production is a visual delight, the characters look every bit the part; the jeans, the jackets and the ‘Grease-y’ hair styles are out in full force. All of which is smoothly complimented by Richmond’s clever and versatile set design, which centres around a 1950’s school gym, manoeuvring and evolving throughout, becoming the school hall, canteen, the local diner, the girls’ bedroom etc. accordingly.
Equally, it’s pure joy to watch Arlene Phillips’ Choreography, which again brilliantly honours the original era, but also packs a little extra punch with some modern elements sprinkled in, providing us with some stand-out ‘WOW’ ensemble moments, including the dance break of both ‘Greased Lightning’ and ‘We Go Together.’
Musically the production was faultless; beautifully arranged by Travis and directed by Glover to get the best out of both the band and the vocal harmonies. It’s easy to forget amongst the classic sing-along smash-hits that there are some delightfully stunning little melodies gifted within the score. Doody’s (Alex Christian) rendition of ‘Those Magic Changes’ produced a beautifully sweet moment, sensitively crafted and wonderfully performed.
Leading the cast, Dan Partridge excellently personifies Danny Zuko with the poise and self-assurance needed, together with Ellie Kingdon (alternate Sandy) whom whilst making her professional debut on this production, stepped in as Sandy for tonight’s performance with hours to spare as part of a couple of last minute cast changes, simultaneously managing to deliver one of the most powerful Hopelessly Devoted To You’s I have ever witnessed, fully deserving the rapturous applause she received at the end of the number.
The cast as a whole are bright, exuberant and energetic, they constantly drive the show forward with confidence and charisma, most certainly breathing fresh life into this old classic. It is utterly refreshing watching this dynamic and vibrant cast doing their thing! Whom, apart from Andre, who did in fact deliver a rather good all-round charming performance once he came down from his raised DJ booth and onto the stage in Act 2, mainly consists of a relatively unknown, fresh, young group of thriving triple threat musical theatre actors.
Although special mention has to go to the ‘scene-stealing’ Jan and Roger (played by Byrne and Barnett respectively), both of which embody these two hilariously-sweet characters so wonderfully.
At times this production veers slightly away from the recognisable ground that die-hard Grease fanatics would be expecting, with a few chop and changes along the way and the inclusion of some lesser known musical numbers. However at the centre of this production remains the same familiar, loveable, funny, warming story of the Rydell High class of 1959.
Forget your Pumpkin Spiced Lattes…this is certainly not only the one that you want, but the one that you need to lift your spirits and give you that warm fuzzy feeling this Autumn.
Grease runs at the Opera House Manchester until 23rd October tickets available here.
The five actors who will be playing Osmond brothers in the world premiere of THE OSMONDS: A New Musical have been announced.
Ryan Anderson as Merrill Osmond, Jamie Chatterton as Alan Osmond, Alex Lodge as Jay Osmond, Danny Nattrass as Wayne Osmond and Joseph Peacock as Donny Osmond will lead the UK & Ireland Tour which begins at Leicester’s Curve on 3 February 2022 and will arrive at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on Tuesday 9th until Saturday 13th August 2022.
THE OSMONDS: A New Musicalwith story by Jay Osmond tells the true story of the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade. From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969, to pop stars and ‘Osmondmania’ from 1971 to 1975, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, a popular variety TV show, from 1976 to 1979, The Osmonds lived a remarkable life recording chart-topping albums, selling out vast arena concerts and making record-breaking TV shows – until one bad decision cost them everything.
The musical features a list of 1970s anthems, including One Bad Apple, Down by the Lazy River, Crazy Horses, Let Me In, Love Me for a Reason, (We’re) Having a Party, Puppy Love, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Paper Roses and many more.
Bringing the audience straight back to 1987, Rock of Ages opens with a guitar solo which had the audience whooping, cheering and clapping from the very beginning!
This riotous rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza is back entertaining audiences of Manchester once again, featuring all your favourite 80s rock hits including Don’t Stop Believing (Journey), We Built This City (Starship) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar).
The show is put together in true jukebox style, with incredible vocals coming from both the leads and the ensemble.
The plot of Rock of Ages is a classic love story – a small-town girl Sherrie (Rhiannon Chesterman) has moved to the big city to achieve her dreams of being a Hollywood actress.
She meets wannabe rock star Drew (Luke Walsh) and they clearly have chemistry right from the start, however throughout the show the couple face challenges which prevent them being together. These include friend-zoning, following their dreams, love-rival rock stars like Stacee Jaxx (Kevin Clifton), who focuses his interests on making his ego bigger and doesn’t care who he hurts along the way – much to the disappointment of Sherrie – and two German property developers wanting to take away their hotspot venue and the place that’s given them a chance; The Bourbon Room.
Throughout the show, humour was embedded into both the writing and the performances. Lonny (Joe Gash) interacts with the audience with tongue and cheek jokes – even picking on an audience member and repeatedly returning to her as the subject of his jokes. All of his lines were delivered with endless amounts of energy and brought so much joy to the auditorium. This was a real highlight of the show. He had impeccable comedic timing and had everyone belly laughing after each delivered line. This is a really fun side to the script that really keeps the show moving, especially as the show doesn’t have a strong narrative. However, this doesn’t matter as the cast totally rock the stage without a strong plot – which is what the audiences are really there to see!
A stand out scene was Regina (Rhiannon Chesterman) and Franz (Andrew Carthy)’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot – it’s outrageous, camp and just a scream – it’ll keep you laughing right until the end of the show!
The staging and production totally make you feel like you’re back in the 1980s at a rock gig – the lighting is bright, retro amplifiers are all over back wall and the live band are centre stage.
The night was tied up with an audience favourite ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, which had everybody up dancing and clapping with huge smiles back on their faces.
Kevin Clifton gave a touching speech after the final few notes – thanking everybody for supporting live theatre once again.
Overall, this show is a complete team effort from the cast. There isn’t one or two stand out leads, but instead the whole cast continually bring each scene to life.
It’s big, it’s bold and it’s been entertaining audiences for years! It’s a fantastic night out of nostalgia – don’t miss it whilst it’s back in Manchester.
Rock of Ages is at the Opera House until Saturday 9th October 2021 tickets available here.
Hope Mill Theatre, Ameena Hamid Productions & Chuchu Nwagu Productions today announces the cast for a radical new version of the award-winning Broadway musical The Wiz, which will be this year’s festive offering.
Directed by Matthew Xia (‘Into the Woods’, Royal Exchange), The Wiz is a joyous retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ reflecting contemporary African-American culture. Its 1975 Broadway premiere production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Matthew Xia said: “The Wiz is approaching its 50th anniversary, it now exists within the canon of mainstream musicals and it’s due time for some bold reinvention. Originally a funk and soul-based analogy for the African-American experience, in 2021 Manchester we’re offering a contemporary take on the discovery of self-determination and Black joy with this celebration of Black culture across the African diaspora.”
The cast is made up of Cherelle Wiliams is Dorothy; Tarik Frimpong, Scarecrow; Llewellyn Graham, Tin Man; Jonathan Andre, Lion; Cameron Bernard Jones, The Wiz; Anelisa Lamola, Addaperle; Bree Smith, Aunt Em & Glinda; Kofi Dennis, Lord High; Ashh Blackwood, Evillene. Ensemble: Andile Mabhena, Shayna McPherson, Dylan Gordon-Jones, Samantha Shuma, Marisha Morgan.
The show is produced by Hope Mill Theatre, Ameena Hamid Productions & Chuchu Nwagu Productions. Creative team: Director Matthew Xia; Musical Supervisor and Orchestrations Sean Green; Musical Director Ehsaan Shivarani; Choreographer Leah Hill; Design Simon Kenny; Associate Costume Design Maybelle Laye; Lighting Design Simisola Majekodunmi; Sound Design Tony Gayle; Casting Director Ryan Carter; Casting Mentor Anne Vosser.
Musical Supervisor Sean Green has created new orchestrations. “In thinking about how much the music is loved, I had the thought What if the music was a love letter to black music? I started hearing all sorts of music within the DNA of the score. This exploration has allowed me to incorporate various genres from across the African Diaspora in the new orchestrations which, alongside the funk and soul in the original, really adds depth and colour to the world that we’re creating with this production.”
The Wiz will run from Wednesday 24 November 2021 to Sunday 16 January 2022 tickets are available here.
Oh, how wonderful it is to be back at The Royal Exchange Theatre, and what better timing than to be back on their 45th birthday! And what a way to celebrate with the world premiere of Glee & Me.
Let’s dive straight into the deep stuff – the eternal question…what is the meaning of life? A question I’m sure we’ve all pondered at some point in our lives… but the thought of it leads to some sort of existential dread. Well, that question is one that Lola seeks to find the answer to, after she gets the horrific news that she is terminally ill. So, she sets herself a promise to do two things: discover the meaning of life – and have all the sex!
Glee & Me is written by Stuart Slade and won The Bruntwood prize for playwriting in 2019. It tells the story of a sharp-witted, sixteen-year-old Lola, who is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. Despite the way the title reads, it’s not at all a play filled with ‘glee’, on the contrary as glee stands for the shortened version of the particular brain tumour Lola is battling against, glioblastoma multiforme.
The one-woman play is as equally heart breaking as it is quick witted and humorous. Liv Hill as Lola is absolutely sensational. At no point did I believe I was watching an actress on stage: I was there with Lola, listening intently as she tells us her story. Raw, beautiful and poignant.
Slade’s story is a sad one, but its also one of love, hope and gratitude. There are some beautifully written lines, of an almost poetic nature, leaving you to ponder your own life and the love within it. Contrasted with the sharp-witted character he has created, the humorous elements not only add light to what is a dark topic but draws you into Lola’s story even more, helping you relate to her relationships, her youthful nature and her troubles.
There is no better space for this production than The Royal Exchange, as the in-the round environment of the theatre only added to the conversational dimensions of the play. The stage and lighting design, by Anna Yates and Jess Bernberg, were carefully considered not only for the space but for the desolate moments with the play to draw you back to the painful reality that Lola was experiencing. The subtle lighting changes revealed and extenuated the pain and difficulties that Lola faced, becoming more frequent throughout the play and climaxing to a peaceful and enriching ending.
Yet even in these darkest moments of the play, you’re quickly snapped out of them back to the hilarious one liners and relatable topics that had the audience thoroughly amused. It’s an ode to a great writer and a great actress for a play such as this (and a relatively short 1 hour 25 minutes straight through), to make you both laugh out loud and then cry within minutes.
The heart wrenchingly beautiful play is one that needs to be experienced by audiences, and I hope and expect to see this production do great things in the future. Glee & Me is a reminder to us all to find joy even in the darkest of times, something which we have all strived for in the last year or so. As Lola says, “You’ve got to laugh, or it’ll destroy you”.
Glee & Me is on at The Royal Exchange until Saturday 30th October tickets available here.
The ‘Bat’ is back in town! Four long years since its world premiere at the Opera House Manchester in 2017, Bat Out of Hell – the award-winning hit musical – has finally come home to Quay Street. Announcing its return with a victorious lap of roaring motorcycles, smoking tyres, gasoline fumes and lashings of leather, this is a production you could see, hear and taste before anyone had even set foot on stage!
A frenetic fusion of Peter Pan meets Mad Max, Jim Steinman originally conceived Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell as a musical. It took four decades for that vision to be fulfilled – and it was worth the wait.
Enter Strat (Glenn Adamson), the charismatic leader of The Lost – a collective of rock n’ roll-loving misfits who, following a DNA-freezing earthquake, are condemned to be forever 18. Living in a network of tunnels beneath Obsidian (formerly known as Manhattan), The Lost are the scourge of city leader Falco (Rob Fowler), whose disaffected daughter Raven (Martha Kirby) and hilariously disenchanted wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) reside with him in Falco Towers.
When Raven discovers a discarded T-shirt following The Lost’s latest protest in Falco Square, she locks eyes with its owner – Strat – setting the two on a romantic collision course that bristles with high-octane energy. Raven is as determined to become one of The Lost as her parents are to stop her, but with their own relationship in dire need of a fuel injection, can Falco and Sloane get on the same page when it comes to their daughter’s future?
Scored with nearly 20 Meatloaf and Jim Steinman classics, this rambunctious rock opera comes screaming out of the gates with ‘All Revved Up with No Place to Go/Wasted Youth’. Act One continues to pack a punch with a sizzling ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ – memorably staged atop of a convertible car – and an achingly tender rendition of ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ by out-of-step lovebirds Zahara (Joelle Moses) and Jagwire (James Chisholm).
By contrast, Act Two starts its engine in comparative idle – a flurry of duets slowing the pace right down. Once again, Fowler and Sexton – reprising their original roles – stand out with ‘What Part of My Body Hurts the Most’, whilst Tink (Killian Thomas Lefevre) infuses ‘Not Allowed to Love’ with palpable yearning. When ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ kicks in, the production bursts back into life; then it’s a home run of stone-cold classics right to the final curtain.
This is one sexy, fleshy, no-holds-barred production with flashes of pink thong, straddled laps galore and blood-smeared abs all making an appearance on stage. Not for the faint-hearted, Jay Scheib’s superb direction errs towards comedy rather than grotesque – lending a light-hearted feel to the whole production.
There was so much to love about the cast in Version 1.0 of this musical, but rest assured, those who are returning for Version 2.0 can find joy in the performances of the latest additions to the billing.
Glenn Adamson’s Strat is fresh and enchanting, embodying the ‘forever young’ aesthetic of The Lost, whilst Martha Kirby’s Raven is his perfect ‘Wendy’ – a wistful romantic on the cusp of love; however, the standout performance is BOOH veteran Sharon Sexton as Sloane, who goes for every laugh and smashes every vocal.
Jon Bausor understood the assignment – bringing us a set and costume design that hits every dystopian note. Falco Towers, suspended above ‘The Deep End’ and revealed to us via roaming videocam, is a particular triumph. It feels like a truly innovative use of space, as throbbing motorcycles, a vintage car and a sofa take it in turns to appear and disappear stage left and right.
Xena Gusthart’s clever choreography gives every member of the ensemble the opportunity to shine – especially during the riot scenes and the ‘push me-pull me’ love ballads.
Of course, this production is all about Steinman’s music. Under the supervision of Michael Reed, the band are an absolute knockout – bringing us home with a final surprise number dedicated to the hitmaker who passed in April this year. Having bounced around in their seats and sung their hearts out, the audience is finally unleashed to give a roaring ovation.
For this reviewer, Bat Out of Hell continues to be the benchmark by which all musicals are measured… For Crying Out Loud, You Know I Love You.
Bat Out of Hell is on at the Opera House until Saturday, 2 October. Find out more and purchase tickets here.
Manchester’s Opera House re-opening week has been filled with glitz, glamour and fabulous fancy dress – the raucous Rocky Horror Show is back in town on Manchester Pride week!
As we headed into the venue surrounded by fishnet stockings, French maid’s outfits and copious amounts of sparkle, it was certain we were in for an incredible night of entertainment.
Rapidly heading towards its 50th anniversary, cult phenomenon The Rocky Horror Show is still as popular as ever. Even before the show began the audience erupted in cheers and applause, as the best-dressed audience member stole the limelight – entering the auditorium in his very own fabulous Frank-N-Furter costume.
The show begins with high energy from the audience, as the opening number Science Fiction/Double Feature proved a big hit. The story begins with Janet (Hayley Flaherty) and Brad (Ore Oduba)’s day not really going as planned, as the prim and proper couple break down in their car and attempt to seek help at the creepy castle two miles down the road. Considering all they wanted to do was borrow a phone, the pair get a lot more than they bargained for.
The show really kicks in once we meet Frank-N-Furter (Stephen Webb) and the full ensemble – everybody was up dancing and singing along within the first 30 minutes of the show. There was no waiting for the inevitable Time Warp curtain call here! The audience also built up a gorgeous atmosphere during Brad and Janet’s A Light Over at the Frankenstein Place, taking out their phone torches and glow sticks out for the number.
A stand-out performance comes from Narrator – Philip Franks. His quick wit, cheeky jokes and comedic timing had the audience shouting out heckles from his first line, and his jokes rely on an equally quick-witted loyal audience playing along with him. He did not get caught out once, and he gave it back as quick as he got it!
The Time Warp arrived in the show much earlier than I expected, and it had the whole auditorium up and dancing. Frank-N-Furter’s entrance was another stand out moment, with Sweet Transvestite being lapped up by the audience. It was raunchy, sassy and vocally powerful.
The creative team have done a superb job to create such a visually stunning show, from the set to the costumes. The set transitions beautifully from rainy windswept roads to the castle interior, and each one sets the scene perfectly. The costumes have a modern twist, but keep a close match to the character’s classic outfits from the original 1975 film. All of the costumes are clearly well loved throughout the show’s loyal fanbase, with some remarkable fancy dress being showcased within the auditorium and all over the cities bars following the show, I’m sure.
A horror on stage? How on earth will that work? A question I asked myself before seeing this production. Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story: you may or may not be familiar with the 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe, whilst the big screen benefits from visual trickery and CGI effects that would have you believe everything you see, a live theatrical performance with a mere cast of two doesn’t benefit from these luxuries.
As stated from The Actor played by Antony Eden, an audience can use their imagination, and as truth be told your imagination will be the thing that haunts you the most through this production.
Arthur Kipps, played by Robert Goodale, is a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes was cast over him by The Woman in Black. He engages a young actor, played by Mr Eden, to help him tell his terrifying story. As we begin to observe the innocent and jovial play within a play, the story delves deeper into Kipps’ darkest memories, and you find yourself whisked away to an eerie estate in the country as they share his chilling tale.
Goodale and Eden present two very well-rounded characters. Goodale’s initial reservations about ‘acting’ out his tale of dread soon give way to a brilliant multi-role performance through which he changes with ease. His farcical moments give the piece much needed release from tension, ultimately lulling you into a false sense of security!
Eden offers a solid performance from start to finish, mimicking the reality of the audience by experiencing the horror as he tells it.
The sparce, seemingly small spacing is drenched with cloth and minimal décor, immediately creating that unsettling atmosphere, and as the production unravels the wonder of the staging is made apparent. The clever use of staging combined with simple yet effective lighting, creates the illusion of the manor house where the terrifying events took place. The shadows, created by the lighting designer (Kevin Sleep) epitomises a true and classic horror façade, amplifying those eerie scenes of anticipation and fear.
The Palace theatre seams the perfect setting: the theatre that dates back to 1891, seemed to creek through the silences, and every footstep or rustling from the audience was magnified by the expectant thrill of horror within the production.
The simple yet well-timed elements of surprise and jumpy moments were presented ingeniously. The audience follow each one with a laugh at their own vulnerability, which instinctively and somewhat disappointingly releases you from the clutches of Kipps’ tale.
The sound design, by Sebastian Frost, is yet another element that makes your spine tingle and your hands grip ever so slightly tighter to the seat. This in some ways achieves that big screen cinema feel of surround sound, with the clinkering noises and deathly screams echoing all around you and the theatre, thus mirroring perfectly the horror unfolding on stage from the two brilliant actors.
The power of the production truly lies in the suspense and expectancy. As a piece of theatre I really enjoyed it, but as a big horror fan watching a horror play, I wanted more: more suspense, more jumps, more thrill. However, this could be seen as a testament to the production that it left me wanting more of the elements it does so well.
Overall a brilliant piece of theatre – though not for the weak of heart. If you’re looking for a thrilling evening of suspense and classic horror then this thrilling ghost story will satisfy your imagination.
Playing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 28thAugust.