Legally Blonde

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

High energy, fizzing with fabulousness and full of heart Legally Blonde bursts onto the Palace theatre stage this week for the final stop of the current UK tour.

Based on the 2001 film starring Reece Witherspoon which later became an award winning Broadway musical, Legally Blonde continues to be a massive crowd pleaser with every audience member up on their feet by the end of the show.

Dumped by law student boyfriend Warner for not being a serious enough girlfriend, Elle decides to take matters into her own hands and sets about gaining a place of her own at Harvard Law School in a bid to prove she is the perfect accessory.

The tongue-in-cheek innocence of the story ensure this camp, bright and fluffy production raises smile after smile while never taking itself too seriously.

Lucie Jones bursts with personality as the Malibu marvel, with great comedic timing and a voice that packs a punch her goofy but smart Elle proves her status as a musical theatre star is secured.

Rita Simons excels as Paulette, fun and feisty she ensures the loveable hairdresser gets her moment of glory with snake-hipped UPS guy Kyle, played superbly by Ben Harlow.

Special mention must also go to Laura Harrison as Vivienne and Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham, both shine in their respective roles, with Petrovna’s skills with a skipping rope during Whipped Into Shape simply mind-boggling!

Director and choreographer Anthony Williams ensures this is a production bursting with energy, enthusiasm and most of all fun. There! Right There! Being a real highlight of Act II and further cementing Legally Blonde as a kitsch, camp couple of hours of perfectly pink uplifting escapism.

With a winning energy this pink princess succeeds against the odds to find her own perfect prince and sends a reminder about the importance of sisterhood that is more than just skin-deep.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 30th June tickets available here.

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From 10am on Tue 12 Jun, you can get a free child’s ticket (age 16 and under) to one of 40+ London theatre shows, including Aladdin, Bat Out Of Hell, Wicked, Brief Encounter, and Les Misérables, throughout August when you buy a full-priced adult ticket via the Kids Week website.

There are 172,000 tickets available in total (this includes adult and child tickets) through Kids Week and you can book until the offer ends on Fri 31 Aug – some shows have excluded days and the offer will end once all tickets are sold.

Last year, 104,839 tickets sold within the first 24 hours, so you’ll need to go quick if you’re after a particular performance!

There are no booking or postage fees, and you can save £11.50-£80 depending on the show and seats you choose. You can also get 50% off for up to two more children per adult, so what are you waiting for!

Head to Kids Week for further information and to check out the available shows!

 

Blood Brothers

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Running at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for the next two weeks, Blood Brother’s remains as deeply moving and powerfully relevant as ever.

Willy Russell’s award-winning epic tale tells the tragic story of twin boys separated at birth only to be reunited by a twist of fate, a mother haunted by a dark secret and the heart-breaking reality of social depression. As they boys grow up on opposite side of the track the draw the timeless themes of inequality, social class and mental health struggles remain sadly as relevant today as the day it was written. Despite the though subject matter, Blood Brothers is by far one of the wittiest scripts of any musical with laugh out loud moments perfectly measured against the heartache.

Taking on the lead role is Lyn Paul, who first stepped into Mrs Johnstone’s shoes back in 1997 when she made her musical theatre debut in the West End production. She makes for a compelling and impressive Mrs Johnstone, with a depth of emotion that tugs on your heart strings, making you feel every ounce of her heartfelt pain.

Matthew Craig is exceptional as the ever-present and ominous narrator, a dark and menacing reminder of the shady deeds of the mother’s pact; he has a strong and foreboding presence on stage. With just the right amount of Scouse rasp his harmonies with Lyn Paul are simply beautiful.

Veterans of their respective roles as ill-fated twins Mickey and Eddie, Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson captivate the audience with performances that will have you howling with laughter one moment and reaching for the tissues the next. Sean Jones gives a masterclass in character acting, lighting up the stay as care-free young Mickey making the journey he goes on, to broken and defeated young man in Act II all the more devastating.

The ensemble cast are impressively strong, delivering Willy Russell’s witty script with fresh energy as they take on multiple roles with gusto. Special mention must go to Sarah Jane Buckley, Danielle Corlass and Daniel Taylor who each shine as Mrs Lyons, Linda and Sammy respectively.

Blood Brothers has the ability to take you on a roller coaster of emotion from joyful highs to heart aching lows. The tear filled finale one of the most moving fifteen minutes of any musical, repeatedly followed night after night by a full standing ovation, a testament to the enduring appeal of this powerful production.

It is a story that will stay with you long after the final curtain, a timeless classic which no doubts cements Will Russell as one of Britain’s best loved and most talented storytellers. It is a show that appeals to all ages from eager school groups to audiences returning for the second, third, fourth visit and more, each and every audience member stunned into silence. The phrase ‘must-see’ is often banded about but in the case of Blood Brothers it is entirely true, a powerful, captivating and entirely moving production.

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 26th May rickets available here.

Interview | Richard Fleeshman | The Last Ship

Having started his career at age 12 on the cobbles of Coronation Street, Richard Fleeshman has gone from strength to strength, moving into musical theatre and quickly establishing himself as one of the most in demand actors in the country.

Fleeshman’s latest role which brings him to the Lowry in July sees him perform in Sting’s self-penned musical, The Last Ship. Inspired by Sting’s own childhood as well as his 1991 album The Soul Cages, The Last Ship focuses on a community amidst the dying days of the shipbuilding industry in Tyne and Wear. Fleeshman takes on the role of Gideon, a sailor by trade who returns home 17 years after turning his back on his hometown to become a sailor. He returns to reconnect with a lost love, however tensions soon rise as the once proud town he left is in demise and life for the girl he loved has changed dramatically.

“It’s based in what was a real working shipyard, the Swan Hunter shipyard.” Richard Fleesham explains. “I play Gideon Fletcher who was expected to follow in his Father’s footsteps and go working in the yard but he decides that life is not for him, I suppose similar to Sting really, so he joins the navy and heads off to sea, returning 17 years later when he returns to find the place he left behind is very different to the one he has returned to.”

The Last Ship originally made its premiere in Chicago in 2014 ahead of opening on Broadway where it was nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations. Since Sting brought the show to the UK it’s had a new book from director Lorne Campbell as well as the addition of new songs. The focus too has shifted to concentrate much more on the political aspects of the story. “Audience responses have been amazing, I was confident that audiences would enjoy the show as the story is fantastic and the music is beautiful but it’s been lovely to see just how much it’s resonated with audiences. At its heart it’s a story about people, about people being repressed and how they respond to that. As a company we get a real rush of energy from the audience, it’s a very powerful story and it’s clearly affecting people and moving audiences which is fantastic to see from up on stage, we’ve had standing ovations every night so far which is just incredible.”

Fleeshman having starred in both the West End and Broadway productions of Ghost, the Musical, came close to taking a break from musical theatre before hearing about the opportunity to audition for the role, “I’d actually decided before taking this role that I needed a break from eight shows a week and then literally an hour after having that conversation with my agent she called me back and said ‘Look I know what you said about having a break from musical theatre but….Sting…’ as soon as I heard that I said, scrap everything I said!”

Fleeshman was incredibly nervous when he first auditioned for the role knowing Sting was going to be present but has nothing but praise for the award-winning musician. “It’s been so fantastic working with Sting, he is one of the most humble, gracious guys you could wish to meet then you add onto that his unbelievable talent and passion for this project, it really is unbelievable.”

While Fleeshman may not relate to events that have happened in Gideon’s life he certainly relates to the draw of family and a love for his hometown, “In terms of his pride at the end of the show in the town that made him I can fully relate to that, I still go back to Manchester every month, my family are there, my best friends are there, I feel proud of Manchester every single day.”

With Fleeshman deciding he needed a break from musical theatre we wondered what it was that was so special about The Last Ship which made him change his mind, “One of the things that drew me to this show was that it’s a play that has incredible music rather than a musical, there are long periods of time, sometimes 7-8 minute scenes with just dialogue, there’s no underscore, nothing just dialogue so from an acting point of view you get the best of both worlds. The freedom you’re granted when doing a straight play mixed in with the joy of having a full band and full ensemble singing, that’s one of the things I love the most about it.”

As the Last Ship is due to dock at The Lowry in July we asked what audiences can expect from the large scale production. “At its heart it’s a brilliant, gritty story about people, about pride and about resilience. Audience responses have been amazing, I was confident that audiences would enjoy the show as the story is fantastic and the music is beautiful but it’s been incredible to see just how much the audiences have related to and enjoyed the show, I absolutely can’t wait to bring the show to the Lowry, it will be really special.

The Last Ship opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 3rd July and runs until Saturday 7th July tickets available here.

Trump – The Musical

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Trump – The Musical. 53Two Manchester

Director: Kyle Williams

Writer: Laurence Peacock

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

The Blowfish Theatre is carving out quite the reputation for themselves: First there was Boris-The Musical, and now we have Trump – the Musical. It’s a hard task to make some of these influential people of power any more ridiculous than they are or god forbid, they may even show them in a more positive light, however writer Laurence Peacock walks the tightrope between the two and manages to create fun-filled night out.

The plot may at first seem too far-fetched to comprehend but with all that has gone on in the world, nothing would surprise me! It’s 2020 and Donald Trump (David Burchhardt) is running for election and is planning to make America great again (again!) However he has a few issues to contend with: an infatuated Vladimir Putin (Natasha Lanceley), a maniacal Kim Jong-un (Lanceley again in a dual role) and his plan to blow up the moon and of course his biggest issue: the loss of his mobile phone. Meanwhile over in the UK, which is now just England and Northern Ireland, King Nigel Farage (Kyle Williams) plans to invade Scotland, as the UK is on its uppers as a result of Brexit. Only two people can save the day: Rod (Polly Bycroft-Brown) press sectary to Trump and Roger Lavery (Laurence Peacock) Chief Minister to King Nigel: however Lavery has his own sinister agenda.

This is a political-comedy with plenty of bite poking fun at both the late and right: at times it’s absurd and a bit silly with a plot that is nonsense, but don’t let that fool you – some of the gags are bang on point: there are jokes about the treatment of disabled people, racism and immigration which are near-the-knuckle, but rather sadly aren’t too far from the truth; surely good theatre/comedy should entertain but also open up channels of debate and Trump – The Musical does that.

The ensemble cast are on great form: all over-the-top in their lampooning: Burchhardt has the easiest job of playing the narcissist Trump. He really can’t go wrong, whilst Williams is having a ball as the foul-mouthed Farage. However it’s the performances of Lanceley and Bycroft-Brown that really standout; both have a gift for comedy that shines through.

There are some great musical numbers in there, courtesy of musical director Dominic Lo, who also plays Putin’s aid Sergei. Make America Great Again! (Again!) and The New Good Old Days certainly have a satirical edge to them, but stand-out for me is Rootin’ for Putin, which is simply fantastic because of its absurdity.

Overall this is a hilarious, fun filled night out that will have you grinning throughout. A bit like an episode of the Thick of It, only laced with LSD. It’s a must for fans of musicals and satirical comedy, however if you’re easily offended still go along anyway – you’re in for a treat!

For more tour dates of Trump – The Musical visithttp://www.blowfishtheatre.weebly.com/trump.html

 

 

 

 

TEDDY

Molly Chesworth and George Parker as Josie and Teddy

Josie and Teddy, played by Molly Chesworth and George Parker. Photo by Scott Rylander

Opening Night Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If Shakespeare did rock ‘n’ rock musicals I’d imagine they would look a lot like Teddy. Penned by award-winning writer and actor Tristan Bernays this new musical is full of lyrical verse (synonymous with Bernays work) bringing melody into the spoken word and not just the songs around them. It’s a genius production as it rethinks the musical genre and takes risks not just with the content (setting the action in a gritty 50s post Blitz East End rather than presenting the era as the sugar coated ‘dreamboats and petticoats’ dialogue we are used to) but also by having just two actors onstage throughout performing a number of different roles.

Teddy

Photo by Scott Rylander

Molly Chesworth plays Josie, a ladette, decked out in her best ‘teddy boy suit’, red lipstick slicked on, ready to tear up London town for a night to remember. Chesworth fizzes with energy from the moment the spotlight shines on her, portraying Josie as a sassy, fired up, passionate East End girl. She is mesmerising to watch and you can’t help but get drawn into her desire to live life to the full, whatever the cost. Equally impressive is George Parker as the aptly named ‘Teddy’ who strives to live up to the subculture ‘teddy boy’ persona of the era. He’s a wide boy with wide eyes for Josie and together the two anti-heroes are like a watered down version of Bonnie & Clyde, willing to risk anything for each other, driven by the excitement and thrill of doing no good.

It’s like witnessing a masterclass in acting from the duo as they morph into a number of different roles during the production. From gangster heavies, to an old fragile pawn shop owner, their physical and vocal characterisation conjures up images in the audiences’ imagination without the need for a costume or set change. In fact, the majority of Max Dorey’s set design is minimal for this reason I imagine, with just the use of some corrugated iron for the backdrop, a ladder which takes the actors up to an upper level and a number of advertising posters from the 50s up on the wall.

Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts. Photo by Scott Rylander

Not only will the acting impress you but the onstage live band will get your toes tapping too. Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts provide the soundtrack to the musical with a plethora of original songs which suit the mood perfectly and sound like they have just come out of the jukebox. The band gets the party started early on with a short set before Teddy starts and also goes on after the production has finished, resulting in you leaving the theatre wanting to rock ‘n’ roll into the small hours. They are an integral part of the show as Johnny provides the focus as the music idol of our two protagonists as they spend the night trying to get close to him.

Teddy will leave you breathless, not just from watching the vigorous performance on display from the actors (which includes an incredible jive that wouldn’t look out of place on the Strictly dance floor) but also because the dialogue and action is so fast paced it is like taking a ride on a rollercoaster.

So, strap yourself in, get yourself down to The Lowry theatre before the run finishes on 17th Feb, this is one musical you would be a fool to miss!

https://www.thelowry.com/events/teddy

For more tour dates see: http://snapdragonproductions.com/productions/teddy/

 

 

Peter Bergin is Peter Pan!

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Peter Bergin who trained at Rose Bruford, will take flight in Blackpool as he takes over the role of Peter Pan from Jake Quickenden who will soon be appearing on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

Featuring a live band, lavish set and spectacular costumes, JM Barrie’s classic story has been wowing audiences at Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s since December 16th. Read our ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review here.

Also appearing are TV star Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Captain Hook, Blackpool’s own Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling and Radio Wave’s Breakfast Host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s hapless sidekick, Smee.

The show runs until Sunday 7th January, offering audiences just a handful more opportunities to capture this magical family, musical adventure!

Tickets can be purchased here.