Award winning Michael Jackson tribute coming to Manchester

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A decade on from his untimely death, fans of the King of Pop get a chance to enjoy Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, performed by one of the world’s top tribute performers, in the stunning surroundings of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester this Spring.

2019 marks 10 years since the death of Michael Jackson and lifelong fan Ben Bowman is considered one of the best MJ impersonators in the world.

He’s embarking on a massive UK tour that celebrates the life and work of Jackson, one of the most popular and influential entertainers of the past 50 years.

Michael starring Ben visits Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday March 8.

Ben was just eight-years-old when he saw his musical hero live in concert. Already a devoted fan, the experience lead him to embark on a life-long career as a tribute artist to the star.

Some 25 years later, Ben is in demand across the world for his shows which include an incredible live band, stunning costumes and iconic dance routines and he says its an ‘honour’ to use his talent to pay homage to Jackson, and to his legacy.

Michael Starring Ben features not only the greatest hits of Michael Jackson but also The Jackson 5. The show includes Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Man In The Mirror and many more. The production mixes elements of Jackson’s own stage shows with exciting new arrangements combined with a stunning light show to create a perfect celebration of Michael and his music.

Tickets are on sale and are available here.

Interview | Joanne Clifton talks Rocky Horror

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Professional dancer, singer and actress Joanne Clifton is quickly gaining a strong reputation as one of the most versatile performers in the business as she continues to win rave reviews for her musical theatre performances. After appearing in Manchester recently as both Milly in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Alex in the iconic Flashdance, she’s now back to do The Time Warp at Manchester’s Opera House alongside her Flashdance co-star Ben Adams in The Rocky Horror Picture Show which opens tonight in the city.

We caught up with Joanne ahead of opening night to hear a little more.

Welcome back to Manchester Joanne, what a fun show to return with!

Absolutely, I am having so much fun it’s the craziest show to work on and I’m so excited to be back in Manchester, I can’t wait to perform and get back to my favourite places like Albert Schloss and Australasia too. I have really come to love Manchester, when I was doing Strictly with Ore I was training up here in Manchester and came to really love the city and he showed me so many amazing places. Plus working on this show is just so much fun, I really didn’t know much about it at all before I auditioned and I’ve come to love it so much.

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I guess you danced The Time Warp many times in your dance career, how does it feel performing it on stage in such an iconic show?

It’s brilliant, we get such a buzz from the audience too, I’ve probably been performing the Timewarp every Halloween since I was a little girl without every really knowing what it was so to perform it on stage with this incredible company is just wonderful. It’s such a loved show.

It certainly is a show which has cult following, how has that experience been for you?

In rehearsals our director Christopher Luscombe had told us to expect shouting out and gave examples of what we can expect at the usual parts where people shout out which we all found so funny but then when you are out of the rehearsal room and have a theatre full of people shouting out different things at unexpected times it’s something else. That’s what really makes this show so special, its fan base is amazing. Just looking out to the audience and seeing all the effort people have made and the different costumes they’re wearing, seeing different people dressed as your character and so many others is brilliant. I’ve noticed after seeing people being so daring with their costumes I’ve started getting a bit more daring with my clothes for press nights and things.

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Do you think the fact people can be adventurous and a bit more daring is part of the shows timeless appeal?

Yes, I think the message of just being who you want to be really is what we all want, what we’re all striving for and that message really speaks to people.

How is it working with Ben Adams again?

It’s great, we’re best mates so I knew we’d have loads of fun, we had a great time doing Flashdance and now this, it’s almost like we come as a package. We recorded a song from Flashdance which did really well and now we’ve recorded Damn It, Janet from Rocky Horror which is available on Spotify and Itunes, we’re also writing a musical together which we’re really excited about.

Your brother Kevin is about to star in Rock of Ages which we had in Manchester recently have you offered him any advice?

Not really advice as such but Kevin decided he wanted to try musical theatre after seeing how happy starring in shows has made me, we’ve both been performers from such a young age and we love doing that. Kevin had his first rehearsal this week and he couldn’t wait to ring me and tell me how much he loved it. It’s something that makes me so happy and seeing that convinced him to give it a try too.

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show tours the UK until 2nd November 2019. For tickets and venues visit http://www.rockyhorror.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Preview | What’s Love Got To Do With It

Tina Turner the Musical might currently be wowing West End audiences, but north west fans of the iconic soul singer can look forward to a chance to see a stage celebration of her greatest hits a little closer to home in early 2019.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a new tribute show embarking on a massive UK tour next year – featuring all the hits fans of Tina Turner would expect.

Audiences can look forward to hearing stunning musical arrangements of Tina Turner’s most-loved classic hits including Private Dancer, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Proud Mary, River Deep, Nutbush City Limits, Simply The Best and many more.

Bringing to the stage Tina Turner’s famous high energy performances and incredible vocals will be Elesha Paul Moses (Whitney – Queen Of The Night, The Voice, X Factor) supported by a full 10-piece live band.

Speaking about playing Tina Turner, Elesha said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be touring the UK with What’s Love Got To Do With It? This is going to be a magnificent show and one that truly celebrates the incredible music and career of Tina Turner.

“Tina is a great persona to emulate on stage. I have performed as her many times over the years so to now be the lead in a show that will travel all over the UK and celebrate everything about her is an amazing opportunity and one I’m really looking forward to.”

The show comes to the Liverpool Empire on Tuesday 19th February, at the start of a massive 50 date tour.

Other north west dates in the tour include Blackpool Opera House on Saturday 20th July, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday 20th September and Warrington’s Parr Hall on Friday 13th March.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is presented by leading live entertainment promoters Cuffe & Taylor, and Paul Roberts Productions.

For more information visit www.cuffeandtaylor.com.

Interview| Kinky Boots Cast | Callum Francis | Joel Harper-Jackson |Paula Lane

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Based on the 2005 hit screenplay by Tim Firth, the musical which first opened on Broadway in 2012 has become a worldwide sensation receiving an incredible 13 Tony Award nominations, winning 6 including Best Musical and Best Score. In 2016 following it’s West End premiere the awards kept on coming with an incredible three highly prized Olivier Award wins.

After an incredible opening night at Manchester’s Opera House, earning 5 star reviews across the board and receiving one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations we have EVER seen, we were lucky enough to catch up with Kinky Boots stars, Callum Francis who plays Lola, Joel Harper-Jackson who plays Charlie and Paula Lane who takes on the role of Lauren.

Opening Night: With all three of you having connections to Manchester how did last nights opening night feel for you?

Paula: I’ll be honest I felt a little more nervous than usual last night, I’d said to Helen who plays Nicola, “You’re gonna have to give me a little pep talk just before the show” and she did and was great, some really wise words which really helped and then once I came on stage the love we got back from the audience was just unbelievable.

Callum: It was another level last night it really was.

Joel: I don’t well ever forget the reaction from Manchester, we all had friends and family in last night and the energy was just the best, it was incredible.

Callum: We’ve all been so excited to get to Manchester, it’s been so brilliant in all the other cities we’ve been to and now we’re here in Manchester we just all feel so lucky.

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ON: This is such a well loved show, is there a pressure in delivering the first ever UK tour?

Callum: Yes, I would say so but then I do feel that doing this show anywhere comes with a lot of pressure, the incredible message of acceptance is more than just playing a part in a show it’s a reponsibility, people comes and soon realise it’s much more than just a show. People are really learning something as well as having a great time. I think anywhere you do it be it the first tour, be it in the West End, the responsibility is still massive. There are some incredible fans out there, there’s one fan in particular who saw me in London, she travelled to Australia, she’s already been to three venues on this tour and is coming to Broadway to see the show, so you also want to get it absolutely right for those committed fans, old and new.

Paula: I actually see it slightly different in a sense as it’s a show which has won so many awards and clearly is a fantastic musical the mould is already there so we’re all already onto a winner, it can’t not be great because it’s such an incredible show to be involved in, it’s an honour.

Callum: This show has taken over the world, it might be coming to an end in certain places but there’s something about it that will be talked about forever. The show itself is an absolute legend along with the legends who put it together, it’s a brilliantly made show, brilliantly written with brilliant music, it’s just taken over.

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ON: Do you think the message of inclusivity is key to the success of Kinky Boots?

Callum: Yes I think so 100%, it’s still needed, the message of acceptance is still one that needs to be pushed.

Joel: We’ve come on a massive way, but there is still such a way to go, massively. Any person who comes along to the show who maybe has been dragged along by their wife and doesn’t really want to go, they are the people who need to hear this message and incredibly they are always the people who are up on their feet at the end of the show.

Callum: I had an audience in Melbourne where I was booed constantly, a lot of rugby guys in the audience who took the show to be more like a pantomime, they cheered for Don, absolutely loved Don and at the interval the rest of the cast were all checking if I was ok, and I told them all I was absolutely fine as I know how this show works and how different parts affect the audience and after Not My Fathers Son it changed and they were the ones up on their feet, cheering and then even went round to stage door asking for pictures, I literally saw a group of men completely change their minds in front of me, it was amazing and I had no doubt that that would happen by the end.

Paula: There was a stand out moment for me on our first night here in Manchester and I caught the eye of a young boy in the audience, aged maybe about 10 and his face at the end was just beaming. I think hearing that positive message of acceptance when you are so young is exactly what needs to happen.

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ON: It’s such an uplifting, high-energy show, we literally left the theatre beaming and that was just watching, how do you come down after such an energetic performance?

Callum: From an energy point of view we put so much into the show that we are tired at the end of the day which of course helps with relaxing afterwards.

Joel: I was so tired after last nights show but I just couldn’t switch off once I did go to bed, it was just such a buzz.

Paula: It’s really hard to come down but I’ve got two children who I need to FaceTime at a reasonable hour as they don’t understand working late and different bodyclocks, if they get up at 6am they get up at 6am.

Callum: When I was the understudy in London I actually used to bake when I got home. I used to get in, make something, pop it in the oven then go and shower and by the time it was done that had relaxed me and I’d then decorate what I’d baked in the morning.

Paula: Can you start baking again now?

Callum: Ha ha if I did it now you’d find I’m so exhausted you’d find my watch or something would be in it or my rings, glitter you name it ha ha.

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ON: Callum, you have some incredibly quick changes as you change from Lola to Simon, what’s your secret?

Callum: Lint rollers gets glitter it off brilliantly. All of my changes are quick changes, I stand in the wing just before the alleyway scene, holding my bag and I’m like ‘ok, here we go, I’m about to begin and then I’ll stop in about 2 hours’ it’s so much fun though we all have such a laugh. During Everybody Say Yeah last night I caught both Paula and Joel’s eyes and it just felt so so good. The energy you put in you get back ten fold.

ON: The show features themes of family and acceptance, were your families always supportive of your career choices?

Joel: Not always, my Dad was builder with his own building company and similar to Charlie really my Dad wanted me to work with him and I was studying drama and he would tell me not to pursue anything in drama because it was too hard but thanks goodness I had my biggest fan who is my Mum who would say “Don’t you listen to your Dad you can do this”. But yesterday really was amazing as he said to me at the end of the show “I am so proud of you”.

Callum: He said that to me too, not about me ha ha but about Joel, he turned to me and said “You think he’s good don’t you? And I said yes I do and he said, yes so do I”.

Joel: Callum’s Dad is so proud of him too, he said back in the day Callum would go to parties when he was a child and he wouldn’t want to stay and socialise but last night he he said “And now look at my boy”.

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Callum: I’m so lucky I’ve been so brilliantly supported, I’m the youngest of five boys and my Grandparents, my Mum and Dad from day 1 have supported me. In 2004 I watched a show at the Palace theatre and thought to myself I think I could do that and within the year I got everything ready to move away, my Dad helped and said we’ll find the money and do whatever we need to do. He’s always been my champion. He’s absolutely desperate and I haven’t mentioned this to any of the producers but he’s desperate to be the Dad in the chair after Hold Me In Your Heart.

Joel: Oh yes how amazing would that be! I’m telling them, that would be so incredible.

Callum: My Grandad is 81 and his background on his phone is me in the red dress, he’s brilliant. I’ve been so extremely lucky.

Paula: I’m lucky too, my Mum is a nurse and I’d told her that’s what I had decided I was going to do and she said “look you can do that anytime I really want you to try and pursue this”. She’s seen me go from high to low, she’s seen me in some really dark places and then it just comes right. My husband is equally supportive and often says “Something will always turn up” and you have to have that belief in yourself.

Callum: You absolutely have to have that belief, even though it’s an amazing industry and we’re loving life right now it can be an extremely lonely one at the same time. But, I would absolutely still do it, even knowing how hard and how lonely it can be I would still do it.

Joel: The highs really make up for it.

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ON: Now about those boots….!

Callum: The blue heels are the hardest, Jerry the director and choreographer didn’t want any stilettos in the show until the finale apart from my blue ones because I’m teaching Charlie and the factory gang about stillettos, they had to be the 6 inch stiletto. But, because they are ankle boots they don’t have the full support of the full leg boots we wear at the finale so it is a challenge.

Paula: Due to timing/quick change I get the red shoes but they too are so hard to dance in, the amount of surface area on the floor is tiny. When Charlie spins me round I have to be careful I don’t just keep on spinning, one day if I’m a bit egar everyone’s gonna be looking saying ‘yep she’s still going!’ but at least I can style it out as ditzy Lauren.

Callum: The two hardest dance numbers have the hardest shoes to wear ha ha. Joel on the other hand was an absolute natural! He put them on and it was like he’d literally been born to wear then.

Joel: It was actually harder to look like I couldn’t walk in them. The falling over part is the biggest challenge to make it look realistic as I was so comfortable in them from the start!

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ON: Finally Callum we have to ask you how did you feel when you got the call about Broadway?

Callum: It’s an absolute dream come true, it’s so strange to be able to talk about it now. I’ve actually known since February and now the news is finally out, it feels incredible. I’ll be getting to make my Broadway debut with a part that has changed my life completely, it’s amazing I am so so lucky.

And we’re lucky enough to have the show in Manchester for a limited 3 week run. You can catch Kinky Boots at the Opera House until Saturday 1st December and take advantage of a final opportunity to catch Callum Francis as Lola before he heads off to Broadway. Tickets available here.

Kinky Boots – Opera House – Manchester until Saturday 1st December

http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk

Kinky Boots

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Broadway and West End sensation Kinky Boots has hit the road on its first ever UK tour and if you were ever in any doubt that these boots were made for walking the deafening roar of last night standing ovation should comfortably settle any such fears.

Based on the 2005 British film written by Geoff Dearne and Tim Firth this superb show with music and lyrics from the legendary Cyndi Lauper serves fierce, feel-good fun with a capital F.

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Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) is left the failing family business when his shoemaker father passes away, leaving him torn between saving the family business and the jobs of the friends he’s come to know as family or giving it all up to follow his girlfriend Nicola (Helen Ternent) to a life in London.

After a chance meeting with spectacular drag queen Lola, Charlie soon begins to realise he may just have the power within him to save the factory and indeed save himself as he explores the challenges of following his heart and learning how to be who he truly wants to be.

Joel Harper-Jackson last seen in the city in Hope Mill Theatre’s 2017 production of Little Women is superb as Charlie. Torn by the decision he faces he brings genuine warmth and powerful emotion to the role which ensures the audience are rooting for him from the start. Particularly impressive is his powerful delivery of the challenging ballad Soul Of A Man, note perfect in his execution and packing a powerful emotional punch.

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The relationship between Harper-Jackson and Lola (Callum Francis) is an absolute joy to watch; as their friendship grows so does our affection for them both.

Francis gives a world-class performance as the outrageously brilliant Lola, fierce and utterly fabulous he is completely mesmerising, you literally cannot take your eyes off him. It comes as no surprise to learn he’s off to Broadway soon to take up the role there, how lucky we are that we get to see him in Manchester for 3 whole weeks first.

He entirely dazzles as Lola, oozing sass and style one moment then grabbing you right in the feels the next during the heartfelt tender ballads I’m Not My Father’s Son and Hold Me In Your Heart. Commanding and charismatic you’d struggle to find a better performer on any side of the pond.

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Paula Lane makes a welcome return to Manchester bringing great humour to the role of factory girl Lauren who falls hopelessly in love with Charlie. Clearly an audience favourite she is kooky, kitch and magnificent fun.

The real show-stopping moments which push the story forward at a perfect pace belong of course to Lola’s magnificent angels, as they back-flip and high kick their way through electrifying numbers showing off Jerry Mitchell’s choreography to perfection. In addition to the angels the incredibly hardworking and hugely entertaining ensemble cast come together so tightly they truly lift this show to the next level.

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There aren’t many shows you’d happily stay in your seat and watch immediately again, Kinky Boots is undoubtedly one of them.

It’s witty script and effortlessly catchy score deliver and then some, while its message of love and acceptance really touches the heart. There is glitz & glamour in this high-kicking, high-energy show but at its heart is a joyous, uplifting and deeply moving story. A kinky, kick-ass treat!

On at the Opera House until Saturday 1st Dec here.

 

Putting It Together

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

While the West End enjoys a triumphant Sondheim revival in the form of Marianne Elliot’s gender-swap Company, us Northerners can also delight in a Sondheim sensation as Hope Mill Theatre, Aria Entertainment & Neil Eckersley bring us a fabulous festive treat with the cleverly constructed and enormously entertaining Putting It Together.

Set at a festive cocktail party in a Manhattan loft apartment, two couples socialise together while Andrew Gallo acting as narrator observes their interactions & anticipates their unraveling with a knowledgable word to the audience as the story develops.

The very first scene, Invocations and Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs clearly lays this out as a night of pure enjoyment, so sit back, relax & let the remarkable talent of this fine cast paired with the music and lyrics of the mighty Stephen Sondheim entertain you.

The construction of this show taking numbers from several different productions is absolute genius, as songs we know and love are given new meaning while some of the lesser known tracks are given a platform to be heard.

As the lives of the characters mixed with their human complexities intertwine songs are used to great effect to portray the emotional longing of each character.

Hello Little Girl from Into The Woods is given a whole new twist as Gavin Jones lusts after Simbi Akande in a daring attempt at seduction while Pretty Women (also from Sweeny Todd) becomes a gentle, tender and touching love song, delivered beautifully by Alex Cardall and Gavin James.

Described as a ‘musical review’ created to showcase Sondheim’s work the plot is never intended to thicken much but this really feels unimportant when you have the opportunity to sit and listen to five stunning actors at the absolute top of their game deliver the most brilliant, beautiful lyrics accompanied by sublime music played on-stage by the enormously talented Michael Webborn.

The pace is fast & once we start we gallop through, each piece thrilling in equal measure. Bronagh Lagan’s confident direction paired with William Whelton’s impressive choreography drives the piece from start to finish; Bang from A Little Night Music performed by Andrew Gallo, Simbi Akande and Alex Cardall perfectly illustrating this, punchy and powerful.

Special mention must go to Lauren James Ray whose delivery of Getting Married Today absolutely brings the house down, impressive throughout her wit and acting are both superb, she is a joy to watch.

Every member of this small cast delivers and then some as they work their way through each musical number; each track feels real, authentic and is honestly delivered. Sondheim’s lyrics so slick and witty ensuring we travel each emotional step with the characters.

Putting It Together is the festive treat you didn’t quite realise you needed but once you’ve sat and enjoyed a sublime evening in the company of this stellar cast you’ll be without doubt wanting to come back for more.

Joyfully entertaining from start to finish.

Putting It Together is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 24th November tickets available here.

Magical Christmas Movie Experience comes to Manchester

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Here at Opening Night we’ve started to feel a bit festive with the announcement of some Christmas movie classics being screened at a new pop up cinema launching next month – including Home Alone, Love Actually and Die Hard (and yes Die Hard IS a Crimbo movie – no debate!)

The Magical Christmas Movie Experience will showcase some of the best-loved Christmas movies in the surroundings of a beautifully transformed Mayfield Depot near Manchester Piccadilly.

Cinema goers will enter a magical kingdom through a secret wardrobe, finding themselves in an enchanted forest full of festive surprises.

Running over four long weekends from November 23 to December 16, the festive film programme includes The Greatest Showman, Love Actually Weekend and two Christmas Classics weeks.

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The phenomenon that is The Greatest Showman will be brought to life in colourful fashion with, stilt walkers, fire breathers and a fabulous choir creating a fully immersive experience. And there will also be sing-along screenings. Yeah ok it’s not really an Xmas movie – but we’re not complaining!

The Love Actually weekend takes the yuletide feelgood favourite, starring Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Martin Freeman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley among other famous faces and adds the seasonal sound of a live gospel choir as well as some more surprises. We’re already welling up at the thought of THAT Emma Thompson scene (dammit where’s the tissues!)

And the Christmas Classics weeks features a host of heart-warming, thrilling and hilarious favourites including Home Alone, The Holiday, Elf, Die Hard, The Polar Express and Gremlins.

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There’s be plenty of food and drink to feast on too.

In the cinema, a range of seating will include giant bean bags, and while people are encouraged to dress warmly for the winter weather, there will also be blankets on offer to snuggle under which will keep audience’s toasty – and which will be donated to the city’s homeless after the final screening.

Steven Matthews Event Organiser said: “Last Christmas Love Actually appeared in the same location, that was huge and really well received.”

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“This is something new for Manchester – it’s the first experience of its kind with an enchanted forest and everyone’s favourite festive flicks. Audiences can expect loads of surprises, and a totally unique experience.”

Doors to the enchanted forest and food court open at 6pm on Thursdays, 5pm on Fridays and from noon at weekends.

Tickets for all the films start from £14.99.

For more details visit http://www.magicalchristmasmovieexperience.com