Annie

Annie 2

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Nikolai Foster’s revival of family favourite musical Annie has gone from strength to strength since it first debuted at the West Yorkshire Playhouse back in 2011. With a sell-out UK tour in 2015/16 followed by an extended run in the West End plus a recent sell-out season in Toronto all safely tucked under its belt; Annie is back on the road for 2019 opening a new UK tour here in Manchester.

Set in New York during the Great Depression it is indeed a hard-knock life for 11 year old orphan Annie who finds herself living in miserable, gin-swilling Miss Hannigan’s all-girl orphanage. Consumed with a fierce determination to find her real parents Annie manages to escape the boozy clutches of Miss Hannigan when she is picked to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. However Miss Hannigan and her good-for-nothing brother Rooster aren’t quite done with orphan Annie and set about trying their best to get in the way of her happy ending.

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Based on Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie comic strips the original musical opened on Broadway in 1977, it is however the 1982 film starring Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters and Eileen Quinn that remains most firmly etched in many people’s minds. It was without doubt one of the most worn out VHS tapes in my house, my sisters and I knowing every line, my eldest sister can still be called upon to belt out a deafening rendition of ‘Rover, why not think it over?’ should the need arise. With clearly many other Annie fans at the Opera House tonight it’s a welcome relief to see that director Nikolai Foster’s production respects the audiences love for this piece and has kept the changes to a minimum. It is still packed full of unforgettable classics including Hard Knock Life, Tomorrow, Easy Street and Little Girls while Miss Hannigan remains gin-guzzlingly awful but has a new technicoloured vibrancy about it.

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Its colourful escapism is reflected in Colin Richmond’s intricate set and costume design, jigsaw pieces scattered across the set reflecting Annie’s journey as piece by piece her life and identity come together all beautifully lit by Ben Cracknell. Yes at times it is schmaltzy but heck if Annie can make the President of the United States sit up and listen just imagine what she could do if unleashed into Brexit negotiations!

A large part of what makes Annie so endearing is of course the kids in the show and they really do make this production. Taziva-Faye Katsande is a charming and confident Annie supported perfectly by Team Chrysler for this evenings press night, each girl is outstanding bursting with life and vibrant energy with little Orla McDonagh threatening to steal the show as Molly on what is her professional debut.

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Anita Dobson makes for a cranky and world weary Miss Hannigan while Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks transforms before our eyes from hardnosed business man to smitten adoptive father. The ensemble deliver Nick Winston’s inventive choreography with sass and style adding exuberant energy to the much-loved musical numbers.

Annie is feel-good family fun, a real celebration of courage and innocent optimism as well as a wonderful reminder to us all that when the hard knocks come we need to find our inner strength and fight back remembering what seems impossible today will look different tomorrow. Joyful family entertainment with a great story at it’s heart.

On at The Opera House until Saturday 16th February tickets available here.

 

 

 

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Big hair, big laughs and even bigger voices, Rock of Ages is lewd, loud and most definitely proud!

This riotous rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza return’s to Manchester this week as part of a new UK tour, with uncomplicated debauchery at the top of its agenda. Right from the opening scenes it’s clear that Rock of Ages is a show which doesn’t take itself too seriously and is more than happy to poke fun at the era, the script, the cast and even the audience who absolutely lap it up.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Rock of Ages transports us back to the 1980’s where small town girl Sherrie (Danielle Hope) and wannabe rock God Drew (Luke Walsh) have headed to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Things of course don’t quite go according to plan and despite clearly fancying the pants off each other their love story seems more stop than start as they search for their happy ending on the Sunset Strip. Add to this a couple of German property developers who want to turn their beloved Bourbon Room into a snazzy mall and we soon find that not only do they have to try to save themselves but the Strip too.

There’s so much to enjoy about this show that the lack of narrative really doesn’t matter, the cast came here to rock our socks off and that is exactly what they do. It’s clear to see why this feisty and fun show has a huge cult following, not only are the performances top class the show is also incredibly witty with an infectious energy.

Rock of Ages UK Tour ©The Other Richard

Lucas Rush shines as the cheeky narrator Lonny, his boundless energy and naughty charisma make him an absolute joy to watch. Danielle Hope is perfectly cast as Sherrie, belting out the big ballads with apparent ease while her love interest Luke Walsh comes close to stealing the show with his knock-out performance as Drew, add to this a power-house performance from Zoe Birkett as Justine and you’ve got some of the finest voices in musical theatre right there on one stage.

Rhiannon Chesterman and Andrew Carthy as Regina and Franz respectively are an absolute scream, their outrageous duet during Hit Me with Your Best Shot has the audience howling; while audience favourite Kevin Kennedy strikes the right note as bar owner Dennis.

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Director and Choreographer Nick Winston ensures the pace is fast and the choreography is as tight as a rock stars jeans as the incredibly talented cast belt out rock classic after rock classic including The Final Countdown, We Built This City, In Want to Know What Love Is and the infectiously uplifting Don’t Stop Believin’.

It’s cheesy and it knows it but oh so entertaining. With its tongue firmly in its cheek, stunning performances and lots of cheeky fun, Rock of Ages is big, bold, in-your-face theatre which entertains from start to finish.

Catch it at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 29th September tickets available here.

The Wedding Singer

Wedding Singer

Based on Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy’s monster hit movie The Wedding Singer arrives at Manchester’s Opera House full of hairspray and highlights for one week only.

Recreating the storyline familiar to film fans where loveable lead singer of wedding band ‘Simply Wed’ Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns) gets jilted at the alter by brutal bride Linda (Hannah Jay-Allan) who decides wedding singing just isn’t cool enough for her rock chick ways. Waitress Julia (Cassie Compton) helps Robbie eventually see past his misery and realise perhaps he hasn’t sung his final wedding song just yet!

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The Wedding Singer bursts into life from the opening, full of high energy dance routines and powerful performances Chad Beguelin’s witty and sharp lyrics are an absolute joy. Chockfull of laugh out loud moments this production is cheeky, charming and full of sass! West End favourite Jon Robyns takes on the role of Robbie Hart and delivers it perfectly, his Somebody Kill Me had the audience howling with laughter, his woeful misery at being dumped reminding us all just how truly ridiculous love can be. His voice is smooth and strong and the chemistry between Robbie and Julia (Cassie Compton) is perfect. Former X Factor contestant Compton is sweet and soulful; her harmonies with Robyns are simply beautiful. The show also hosts another X Factor favourite, 2006 X Factor finalist Ray Quinn who is tremendous in the role of Glen, odious and arrogant Quinn steps into Glen’s 80’s loafers and braces with ease, sharp and snarling, looking like he’s just walked off the set of Wall Street with his slicked back hair and suitcase sized mobile phone.

Special mention must go to Ruth Madoc who plays Rosie, Robbie’s randy rapping Grandmother, Madoc is hilarious and looks like she’s having just as much fun performing as the audience are having watching the show. Her paring with George (Samuel Holmes) for Move That Thang is a scream. Holmes as George delivers witty one lines throughout the production and his specially written song for the Bar Mitzvah just has to be seen!

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Director and choreographer Nick Winston has delivered a real treat of a production, with some stand out scenes that deserve special mention, All About the Green which opens act two packs a punch with some slick choreography and dynamic staging whilst Single in contrast is stripped back and simple but enormously effective, as the males of the cast share their woes whilst gathered behind the bar displaying some clever and entertaining choreography.

The Wedding Singer is a high energy, action packed, feel-good production, with a strong cast and a highly memorable score, it’s an absolute riot of an evening. Grab your hair crimper; slap on your best blue eye shadow and hot foot it down to the Opera House to party like its 1985!

Tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wedding-singer/opera-house-manchester/

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