Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical

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Originally released in 1977, Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell has sold an eye-popping 50 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time, if this wasn’t impressive enough 16 years later Bat Out Of Hell II was released, which produced the unstoppable hit I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).  In 2006 Steinman and Meatloaf triumphed again with the release of Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose. Excitingly for us these three almighty collections with the addition of a newly written chapter have been translated into a new musical which will make its world premiere at Manchester’s Opera House on 17th February 2017 before heading to London’s West End for a limited season.

Originally called Neverland, and based on a futuristic version of Peter Pan which Steinman work-shopped in 1974, Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical has been many years in the planning. Set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city adrift from the mainland we meet Strat (Andrew Polec) the forever young leader of The Lost who has fallen for Raven (Christina Bennington), daughter of Falco (Rob Fowler), the oppressive ruler of Obsidian, who has been locked away in the palace towers. The show takes us on an adventure of romance, rebellion and rock and roll, which features many of the monster hits we all know and love including You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Bat Out Of Hell, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, as well as two previously unreleased songs, What Part of My Body Hurts the Most and Not Allowed to Love.

Manchester was treated to a preview of the show this week when the cast descended on Albert Schloss to perform three tracks from the upcoming show, full of energy and sounding incredible, Polec lead the charge as Manchester audiences were given a taste of what to expect when the show premieres in February. Directed by award-winning theatre and opera director Jay Scheib, Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is no doubt set to become a theatrical triumph , vibrant, sassy and full of attitude, the cast delivered each song with passion and were brimming with energy and the self-assured confidence you’d wish for from any rock star.

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Adding his support to the new musical was the legendary Meatloaf who spoke of his passion for the music of his great friend Jim Steinman;

“This has been Jim’s dream for 50 years, he wrote Who Needs the Young when he was only 19 years old! The genius of Jim Steinman added to the passion and meaning he puts into his music combined with the feeling it gives you is immeasurable.  Bat Out Of Hell doesn’t belong to me, it doesn’t belong to Jim it belongs to each and every one who listens to it, who performs it, it belongs to you, and now it needs to belong to Andrew Polec who will in turn make it belong to the audience”

Tickets are available now via http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/

Website: www.batoutofhellmusical.com

17 February – 29 April 2017

Opera House, Manchester

Performances: Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, Thurs & Sat at 2.30pm (no matinee on Sat 18 February)

Tickets: from £17.50

All or Nothing – The Mod Musical

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We’ve been celebrating Mod culture for well over 50 years: the influence this movement has on music and fashion still prominent today. You only had to look at the Lambretta scooters outside the Manchester Opera House or take a look at the nifty threads some of the audience members were wearing to see how apparent this is. Clearly there is a great appetite for nostalgia and a trip down memory lane so it seems right that one of the leading lights of the Mod scene get the musical treatment.

The Small Faces were a seminal band during the mod movement, members Kenny Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and lead singer Steve Marriot formed the group in 1965, and went on to have chart success in the UK and the States: All or Nothing – The Mod Musical, not only charts the bands rise and fall but celebrates the music and culture of the swinging sixties.

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The story opens with the bands demise at an infamous gig on New Year’s Eve at Alexandra Palace. It is here we are introduced to an older middle aged and tragically deceased incarnation of Marriot (Chris Simmons). Older Steve is our guide through the ups and downs of the band. Simmons is in full cheeky chappy cockney geezer mode, he is outstanding in the role of the beer socked narrator. His energy and enthusiasm shine through when the band is on the rise, which makes his decline all the more poignant, as we see the drink and drugs take hold.

Simmons performance is mirrored by Tim Edwards, who play the young Marriot, full of zest, but then with the wheels falling off begins to spiral into his own madness matching Simmons tortured performance. Edwards is ably supported by Joshua Dowen, Josh Maddison, and Drew-Levi Huntsman: fully encapsulating the spirit of being in a band, all talented musicians in their own right.

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Carol Harrison, who plays Steve’s Mum also wrote and produced the production, a self confessed Mod this certainly is a love letter to this period in history; the story of success/failure being a well-worn path, the script certainly has more than enough pathos to keep you engaged. Despite the tragic tale at the heart of the production there are also some moments of comic brilliance, the sending up of Juke Box Jury and Top of the Pops being the highlights.

This is an ambitious production well matches its own lofty ambitions. From the offset the Small Faces back catalogue including All or Nothing and Tin Soldiers, as well as numbers by artists including Dusty Springfield and PP Arnold are performed with so much life and energy it’s difficult to single anyone for particular praise as they all work their socks off: however special praise must go to Daniel Beales and Russell Floyd who seem to relish playing the multiple roles done with great comic timing.

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Overall this relatively new production has the perfect blend of humour and nostalgia to make for a fantastically fun night out. The show draws to a close with the cast performing a medley of The Small Faces greatest hits: which had the audience dancing in the aisles and a few lucky punters up on stage. The “Mod” culture was certainly alive and well at the Manchester Opera House tonight!

All or Nothing – The Mod Musical is at the Manchester Opera House till 22nd October.

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/all-or-nothing/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Dancing

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With this year’s Strictly now in full swing, dance fever has struck once again! If the week long wait for the celebrities and professionals to hit the dancefloor is just too much then shimmy down to the Palace theatre for dance extravaganza, Keep Dancing!

Starring ex-Strictly pro’s Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis with guest celebrity and 2012 winner, Louis Smith (who gets a huge cheer from the audience); Keep Dancing is an explosion of sequins, salsa and some seriously impressive hip swivelling! Showcasing everyone’s favourite dances from the Tango to the Charleston and everything in between, Keep Dancing is a delightfully entertaining production which will thrill all the diehard dance fans amongst us.

The stars of the show are undoubtedly Robin and Anya, performing both pieces with the ensemble dancers as well as some exquisite solo pieces; they truly give a masterclass in dance with each discipline just as impressive as the last. The speed and agility in which they move is incredible, they are true professionals and utterly mesmerising, if I even attempted some of the intricate routines they glide through I’d end up in A&E with at the very least a dislocated hip and several broken bones.

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Interspersed between the dance numbers are beautiful musical and vocal pieces, singers Adam Warmington, Harriette Virginia Mullen and the superb Lisa-Marie Holmes were excellent, delivering gorgeously reworked versions of well-known classics which offered the dancers the perfect soundtrack to showcase their skills. The set design is simple and effective with staircases on both sides leading to an upper deck for the singers/musicians, teamed with dramatic and atmosphere lighting the scene is perfectly set.

The choreography team of which Robin and Anya are a part of have done an incredible job in delivering a tight and engaging show, jam-packed with top class routines, a particular highlight for me was the all-male paso, totally stunning and as dramatic as any good paso should be, add to that the bare chest of Robin Windsor and the swooning soon began!

If you’re looking for a fun night out, teaming with sensational routines and stunning choreography then Keep Dancing more than hits the mark, fun, flirty and totally FAB-U-LOUS!  

Palace Theatre, Manchester – Tues 4th-Sat 8th

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/keep-dancing/palace-theatre-manchester/

 

All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical

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Telling the story of The Small Faces rise to fame from a wannabe rhythm and blues band up until their much documented break-up on stage at Alexandra Palace, All Or Nothing is an engaging and hugely entertaining new musical.

With a book by Carol Harrison and directed by Pat Davey, All Or Nothing delves into the troubled past of a band who started out as fresh faced and full of attitude teenagers who wanted to change the ‘Mersey-beat’ scene and deliver something fresh, raw and exciting. We follow the band as they change from cheeky newcomers into a top sellers racking up iconic hits including Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday, Sha La La La Lee and of course All Or Nothing until years of constant working, exhausting touring, clashes of ego and general disillusionment with life at the top takes its tragic toll.

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The show is narrated by an older, no longer with us, Steve Marriot (Chris Simmons) looking back at the story of his life while his younger self performs in front of him, his narration is witty, revealing and brings a great pace to the production. Thoughtful and at times nostalgic, Simmons gives an outstanding performance, we see him go from light-hearted, dancing round the stage to crumbling before our eyes as the lifestyle becomes too much for his younger self, the liquor bottle becomes his constant companion as he smokes and drinks himself past the point of no return.

The use of an on-stage narrator works extremely well, Simmons swiftly creates a warm relationship with the audience and gently guides us through his compelling tale.

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The four cast members playing The Small Faces are excellent, Kenney Jones, (Drew-Levi Huntsman) Ian McClagan (Joshua Maddison), Ronnie Lane (Joshua Dowen) and Steve Marriot (Tim Edwards). All four act and play throughout, their musical pieces are tight and their scenes together authentic from bright-eyed wannabee hit makers to worn out and irritated popstars, each cast member gives their absolute all.

Special mention must go to Carol Harrison who as well as writing the book delivers a moving performance as Kay Marriot, mother of Steve. Carol delivers not only comedy and plenty of laugh out loud moments but also emotional and intense moments as she sees the tragedy that is unfolding before her.

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Rebecca Brower’s set is simple and effective, allowing the music and story to take centre stage here. This isn’t a musical with narrative dropped in around it; it’s a well written play which uses the music of its subject to great effect. With authentic 60’s clothing as well as props this is a piece that has been developed with true love and affection. The ensemble are excellent, playing various roles with some great comedic timing. The audience lapped up the witty jokes and cheeky quips and many a sound of recognition was heard as the cast kicked into one of The Small Faces classics. All Or Nothing makes for a fabulous night out, fun, feisty and totally fabulous!

On at Buxton Opera House until Weds 5th Oct

Manchester Opera House 18th Oct – 22nd Oct

http://www.allornothingthemusical.com/tickets.html

 

 

Sister Act, The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Returning to Manchester after her triumphant spell in the Bodyguard, Alexandra Burke proves this diva is here to stay as she delivers all the sass and attitude that makes Deloris Van Cartier such a loveable and unforgettable character.

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Directed and Choreographed by Strictly legend Craig Revel Horwood, Sister Act tells the story of wannabee singer Deloris who sees a little too much during a late night discussion between her married boyfriend Curtis (Aaron Lee Lambert) and his no good cronies, one of which he believes has ratted him to the cops. Deloris flees for her own safety and finds sanctuary in the local Convent under the instruction of local cop and former school friend Eddie (Jon Robyns). Life as a Nun is a million miles from her usual liquor swilling, cigarette smoking, good time gal days but that irrepressible Deloris spirit soon has chance to shine when she’s given the opportunity to work with the choir of Nuns who currently sound like a cat’s chorus.

Burke is perfect in the role of Van Cartier, with just the right amount of sass and diva attitude she also has a lot of fun with this role and her comedic side is given the opportunity to shine, add to it that voice and wow, we have our star!

Burke is complemented by a strong cast; the Nuns really do take this production to the next level, each of their scenes is full of joy and every actress gives their absolute all. Notable performances come from Karen Mann as Mother Superior whose stern guidance despite frustration after frustration eventually develops into a solid bond, and the fabulous Sarah Goggin whose is a joy to watch as Sister Mary Robert, gaining in confidence with more than a little guidance from her new found sister. Jon Robyns makes for a great Eddie and you’re desperately willing him and Deloris to get together pretty much from the start of the show.

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The choreography is fun and flirty and further adds to the laughs this production provides, Matthew Wrights set and costume design works well transporting us from 1970’s nightclub to quiet Convent with ease. The one thing that distracted me a little during this production was the use of actor-musicians, whilst this works wonderfully for some shows for me I wanted my Nuns giving it their all for the fabulous choreography rather than being distracted from their booty shaking by playing the trumpet, but that comes down to personal taste and that being said everyone on stage absolutely excelled at both.

Sister Act is fun and totally fabulous; Burke’s voice is big, bold and beautiful, a heavenly production with bucket loads of feel good factor!

On at the Palace until Saturday 3rd September

Tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/sister-act/