Fatal Attraction

Reviewed by Paris Rogers

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I feel lucky that I’ve not watched Fatal Attraction via Film or in the theatre before. It allowed me to have a completely clear slate and no comparison when writing this review.

Fatal Attraction by James Dearden follows Alex Forrest (Kym Marsh) as she takes us on an absolute roller-coaster of emotions ending in becoming unhealthy obsessed with Dan Gallagher (Oliver Farnworth) all resulting from a one night stand. 

The play had an extremely strong start, drawing me in with a spotlight on Dan Gallagher. His voice was clear and crisp and had a way of silencing the audience into their seats. It also started, light, upbeat and with Dan Gallagher in a happy marriage to Beth (Susie Amy). I sometimes struggle to gauge what’s going on in the beginning of a play and what relationship the characters have but the stereotypical marriage between the two was clear from the start and portrayed nicely on stage.

The set was almost black box theatre. Simple yet effective. The simplicity encouraged the audience to use more of their imagination and focus on the actors. It also permitted incredibly smooth scene changes. Video calls were used to transform the story from the 1980’s to modern day. I felt this was not needed and took the focus away from the dialogue and flow of the play. It felt awkward and pardon the pun, staged. However, I can understand that it is difficult to bring every scene of the film to the stage, these calls were a quick interject to keep the story moving.

There was an incredible amount of background noise used which set the scene but again took away the focus from the actors. I felt they had to work twice as hard to carry the scene along. This sometimes came across rushed and their accent fell now and then. 

Speaking of which, it is difficult enough to see facial expressions on stage without a lump of hair constantly covering an actor’s face. This meant the actors body language had an even greater role to play. At times this disappointingly did not match the dialogue. There were uncomfortable movements, especially walks off stage and jarred hand gestures throughout. 

One of the most iconic scenes in the film fell flat in the stage adaptation, when Dans wife Beth discovers her daughters pet rabbit has been boiled alive. I’m not certain how I would react if I found a cute bunny boiled on my stove, but I it wouldn’t be a single scream.

In comparison, Marsh put buckets of detail into her performance as Alex. The dialogue and scenes she had to deliver were undeniably challenging but she managed to make me feel compassion for her even at the evillest parts of her actions. Her approach to the character was not only exceptionally clever and thought through but made me constantly question her motives. Was she just ill and been taken advantage of or was she a calculated woman with hatred for men running through her veins? 

The ending to the play allowed me to interrogate two different scenarios in my mind. This permitted ongoing questions after leaving the theatre. The street was filled with different views and endings, it clearly provoked debates and conversations during and after.

Fatal Attraction is on at the Opera House until Saturday 26th February tickets available here.

Blood Brothers

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“So, did y’ hear the story of the Johnstone twins? As like each other as two new pins…”

I mean if you haven’t…where have you been!?

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers seems to have been around forever, be that in the West End, touring or internationally for over 30 years and yet still maintains it’s huge magnetic pull, attracting repeated audiences and new ones alike.

Set in 1960’s Liverpool, Blood Brothers is the all engrossing and poignant tale of the Johnstone twins, ‘Mickey’ (Josh Capper) and ‘Eddie’ (Joel Benedict), who are painstaking separated at birth, by their struggling single mother Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans). Whilst one is given away to Mrs. Lyons (Paula Tappenden), the other is kept, highlighting just how different growing up on the opposite side of the class system can be. This story sees the coming together of love, friendship, social circumstances, superstition, destiny and their fateful consequences…

It’s now the middle of February 2022, and yet again we are still reminded of the ‘fateful’ consequences and uncertainty of making theatre in a pandemic, as for this evening’s performance there were a couple of last minute on the day cast changes, with Mickey being played by Josh Capper and Sammy by Pete Washington. It has to be said whilst both did a fantastic job fitting into the company seamlessly, special kudos must go to Capper for not only stepping into one of musical theatre’s most iconic shoes to keep the show alive, but also managing to do it successfully with the style, verve and charisma that is needed to pull off the role of Mickey.

Setting the scene of down-trodden council estate 1960’s Liverpool, we see the ensemble cast flourish. In particular Tim Churchill’s hilarious turn as the ‘Milkman’ and quick change to the ‘Gynaecologist’ is a crowd pleaser. It’s these scenes that light up the stage, beautifully juxtaposed and offsetting the audience for what’s to come later. Musically the ensemble numbers are really enjoyable and allows for a welcome escape, with ‘Kids’ Game’ and ‘Bright New Day’ being two of the highlights.

Malone’s band are faultless and the score provides some great songs. Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans) has the best of them, her beautifully rich, empathetic voice is perfect for the role and we feel all her emotions through it, particularly with her powerful rendition of the iconic ‘Tell Me its Not True,’ which is a show stand-out and devastates the whole auditorium.

Whilst Tomson’s production is sharp, slick and polished, with all aspects of the production extremely well crafted and excellently brought together, one could argue that this production is pretty much a carbon copy of the countless Bill Kenwright productions that have come before it and doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. But the question is does it need to? After all there’s a reason Blood Brothers has stood the test of time both in the UK and internationally. It’s longevity is due to the grit and soul at the heart of the show, which however many times you watch it, is still there posing the same relevant questions about the same prevalent collective issues; be that the social class system or mental heath. This production still remains punchy, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The ultimate standing ovation show, Blood Brothers has a bit of something for everyone. Whether you’ve seen it 10 times or you’re a first timer, Russell’s long standing smash-hit classic certainly makes for a wonderfully entertaining evening at the theatre.

Blood Brother’s runs at the Palace theatre, Manchester until Saturday 26th February tickets available here.

The Rocky Horror Show

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There ain’t no party like a Rocky Horror Show party!

What an absolute feast for the senses this is. The cast, the music, the gags, the costumes, the lighting design, the choreography, the audience……everything was just as it should be – absolutely thrilling!

There is no other show in this world that grabs the audience and takes them on an journey of absolute wackiness and wild escapism like this ones does. 

The plot (loosely) centres around young, introverted couple – Brad, played by the truly delightful Ore Oduba, and Janet, played by the divine Haley Flagerty, who on their way home from a wedding become engaged just moments before their car breaks down. With no help to speak of, the couple take refuge in a nearby castle, where mayhem and sexual adventure awaits them.

The couple are greeted by Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) who welcomes them in his own menacing manner and introduces them to the wild world of Frank N Furter (Stephen Webb) .

Frank is determined to sexually liberate these two young, naive souls on this special night, as he reveals his newest creation “Rocky” and boy does he liberate them indeed.

Lavercombe and Webb show us that it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since this show debuted (nearly 50 years!) or how many people have played these roles, it is possible for these characters to still be as mesmerising and engaging as they have ever been. Webb is simply outstanding – everything about his performance is sensational. He oozes confidence and swagger, and the audience are eating out of his hands from the moment he begins “Sweet Transvestite”. Even during the curtain call you can feel the audience willing him to sing us just one more number.

The audience participation in this show is something that has grown over time and the actors expect it and rise to the bait. Narrator, Philip Franks, is ready and waiting for the heckles and is hilarious in his quick comebacks and gags: the audience love him for it.

It’s obvious that many of the audience have been to the show plenty of times (and they certainly dressed for the occasion) but it’s not just for the veterans. It’s an experience for all adult theatre goers, who have a sense of adventure and aren’t easily offended. Not many shows have the entire audience up on it’s feet within the first fifteen minutes. Who doesn’t want to do the Timewarp on foggy Monday night in Manchester ?

There is, quite FRANKly, no other show in the world quite like this one.

The Rocky Horror Show is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 22nd January tickets available here.

School of Rock

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

‘I thought you all were a bunch of little douche bags, but now I know that you’re soul brothers and sisters.

It’s no secret that turning the 2003 comedy cult classic ‘School of Rock’ into a musical had been on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s agenda pretty much ever since film’s inception. However, after making its debut on Broadway in 2015 and having since taken the West End by storm, it seems hard to believe Webber’s School of Rock is only just now embarking on it’s UK tour debut.

Based on the cult film, School of Rock the Musical follows the story of Dewey Finn (Alex Tomkins), a low-life loser who’s just lost his job and been kicked out of his own band. He becomes the ultimate opportunist when he poses as his substitute teacher flatmate, Ned Shneebly (Matthew Rowland) in order to pay his rent. However, teaching fourth-graders at the $50,000 dollar-a-year prestigious Horace Green would appear to be harder than he had hoped, that is until he witnesses their musical talent and forms…. ‘The School of Rock!’

‘Music is what speaks to you and that’s what matters most

A story ultimately about music’s transformative influence and power, particularly on young people; Webber is wise to keep in many of the classic iconic tunes (some a little re-mastered) but still holding their authentic power and affability, whilst complimented by some perfectly punchy and well-conceived new theatrical songs, all helping to aid the plot and character development, such as that of Principle Mullin’s (played wonderfully by Rebecca Lock) powerful solo number ‘Where did the rock go?’. The music is what brings all the elements of Director Laurence Connor’s production together and nothing is more impressive than the big group ensemble numbers, which certainly bring the ‘WOW’ factor. It also has to be mentioned that whilst Webber introduces us to the show via a recorded voice message letting us know that ‘yes the children really are playing their instruments live’, Riley’s ‘Grown Up Band’ doesn’t miss a beat and are the consistent backbone of the show.

Visually, it’s a feast for the eyes too. Louizos’ set effortlessly turns from classroom to rock stage in a matter of seconds and with the help of Katz’s lighting design and Potter’s sound design, which are equally impressive, we feel like we have been transported to a live rock concert!

It’s never a good idea to fixate on one specific actor playing one specific role, but having become so synonymous with the film, sitting down in the auditorium and much to my childhood disappointment, I had to remind myself that no, 52-year-old Hollywood actor Jack Black would not be bouncing up on this Manchester stage some 18 years later to reprise the role of Dewey Finn. That disappointment was however swiftly and skillfully dismantled by the buoyant and hilarious Alex Tomkins (alternate Dewey Finn) who stormed the stage, literally, exuding the most incredible amount of sheer and consistent energy and vivacity for the entirety of the two and a half hour production that I have probably ever seen.

The classroom scenes certainly prove to be the most heart-warming and enjoyable, as indeed the all ‘acting’, ‘singing’, ‘dancing’ and ‘musical instrument playing’ kids are the beating heart of this production. They pepper about the stage with bucket loads of enthusiasm from the off, but truly establish themselves in Act 2 as we see their character’s personal stories develop. As an ensemble they are quite the force and as such it is extremely hard to pick any standouts, but on this occasion it has to be said that Souparnika Nair’s Tomika had the entire auditorium firmly fixated in bewilderment at her breathtaking vocals as she performed ‘Amazing Grace.’ Special kudos must also go to the casting team here who have cast over 40 children alone (to allow for obvious cast rotations).

Webber, Fellows and Slater have masterly created a production that maintains the best of the film’s original warm fuzzy and familiar moments that in turn makes it a nostalgia inducing and an emotionally uplifting evening to all those ex-15 year olds, who like myself, would have grown up watching the film on repeat and known it word for word, whilst simultaneously establishing a current, up-to-date, modern musical, that equally speaks to the youth of today and families alike.

A whole lot more than just Rock n Roll, this is real life affirming stuff…

The perfect ‘January blues’ pick-me-up for the whole family, School of Rock the Musical plays at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until the 15th of January tickets available here.

The Book of Mormon

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

How do you describe a production like Spinach? A musical pharmaceutical thriller maybe? Operatic Rom-com? Both of the descriptions would actually work for this bonkers, hilarious production, that will guarantee to have you grinning from ear-to-ear!

The play opens with Mancuninan Tom (Joe Parker) and Londoner Kate (Charlotte Linighan), both tied back-to-back to one another in a dark, dingy basement. Neither have a clue how they got there, or who the other one is but together they must work out how they landed themselves in the predicament and more importantly how they get out of it!

All dialogue is sung from the start of the production through to the end, and as the pair sing, their memories come back. We learn that Kate is a part time journalist, but full-time good Samaritan, who helps homeless people as and when she can, whilst Tom is a pharmaceutical worker, who along with his colleague, Darren (Chris Whittaker) believe the company they work for is in cahoots with a Cuban drug cartel. With their lives in danger, can Tom and Kate stop bickering with each other, solve the mystery and maybe have a chance at finding love.

There is so much to admire about Janine and Simon Water’s production: a smart script, filled with twists and turns, married with some fun, punchy lyrics (you’ll kill for a Halloumi kebab by the end). The premise may be absurd but is no less silly than some Hollywood blockbusters.

Parker and Linigihan make a likeable, engaging couple, who have bundles of chemistry. Whittaker is equally in fine form as the co-worker, also dragged into this crazy situation. In addition, there is a scene-stealing turn from Rachael McGuinness as Maureen, another co-worker of Tom and Darren, whose no nonsense, hardened attitude hides an attraction for Darren. All four show a gift for comedy throughout and deserve heaps of credit for 80 minutes of singing, without an interval. The superb cast are backed up by some exceptional musicians with Lawrence Woof on piano and Bess Shooter on Saxophone. The music is at times menacing, playful but always on point.

The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre has a lot to celebrate this year, following an upgrade to the theatre as well as 2021 marking it’s 10-year anniversary as Manchester Theatre for participation. If Spinach is an indication of the ambition of The Edge, then the future is bright indeed.

This is a silly, fun show that provides the perfect excuse to brave the cold and have a night out at a great venue, watching a show of real quality.

Spinach is on at The Edge until the 18th December tickets available

Spinach | The Edge | 30th Nov – 18th Dec

‘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

Tickets £16/14 available now

Hairspray

Reviewed by Nicky Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

Tell Me On A Sunday

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“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.

Grease

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“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 Yous 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 Osmonds : A New Musical | Casting Announced

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 Musical with 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 LoveLong Haired Lover From LiverpoolPaper Roses and many more. 

Website:  TheOsmondsMusical.co.uk 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/theosmondsmusical/

Twitter:  @OsmondsMusical 

Instagram:  Theosmondsmusical