The Secret of Christmas Eve

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

After the huge success of last year’s festive fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel Oldham Theatre Workshop return with an original Christmas musical which promises to be the perfect family treat.

The Secret of Christmas Eve introduces us to a very special little girl called Eve (Natasha Davidson) who is about to experience the most magical of adventures which sees elves brough to bright and brilliant life, adventures on flying carpets and a whole host of colourful characters as she’s tasked with the small job saving Christmas!

Brian the elf (Jabez Sykes) is bereft, this year’s Christmas wish letters have failed to reach the North Pole and without them the elves are redundant, there will be no presents and no Christmas! Thankfully and although she may not yet know it, Eve is the perfect person for the job.

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The intimate studio space at Oldham Library feels cosy and inviting as the small performance space is transformed into a welcoming home, grumpy Mrs Grimble’s Post Office and Nula Nu’s Shop of Lost Things throughout this enchanting production.

Creatives Sarah Nelson and James Atherton have worked together to create a piece of theatre which wouldn’t be out of place on a West End stage. Their imaginative storytelling is both poetic and utterly joyful capturing the Christmas spirit with warmth and wit. They have a unique ability to interweave heartfelt and important messages into seemingly simple stories packing them with an emotional depth you don’t often find in family shows.

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Audiences of all ages will take away something special from this show with its themes of family, hope, adoption and belonging all beautifully wrapped up in a feel-good story that will stay with you long after the Christmas decorations have come down.

The clever and catchy original songs are teamed with a melodic score and a hugely witty script which is delivered to perfection by a committed cast. Natasha Davidson captures entirely the wide-eyed wonder of Eve, fiercely determined to succeed despite the challenges life has given her. Jabez Sykes is a joy as Brian the Elf with bucketloads of charisma and a great gift for comedy he lights up the stage as the ever-so dramatic Elf.

Laura England is gloriously grumpy as Mrs Grimble while also displaying a wonderful warmth as Eve’s foster Mother Suzia. Purvi Parmar breathes life into the adorable Digby the Dog and is great fun as Eve’s friend Nisha while Madeleine Edmondson captivates as the mysterious and magical Nula Nu.

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Collectively the cast take on multiple roles whist also acting as narrators leading you through this delightful tale, delivering faultless harmonies with ease. There’s also an appearance from several members of the young company who add additional festive magic to this heart-warming production.

If you’ve yet to find your festive cheer then I prescribe a visit to The Secret of Christmas Eve immediately! This beautiful show packed full of heart and humour is a piece of theatrical magic. A truly enchanting Christmas adventure that will leave you feeling merry and bright well into the New Year. A truly wonderful production from Oldham Theatre Workshop and at an accessible £8 per ticket an absolute gift to us all.

The Secret of Christmas Eve is on at Oldham Library until Saturday 28th December tickets available here, you can also call the Box Office on 0161 770 3240.

 

PROM! The Musical

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Billed as a modern day Cinderella story, Oldham Theatre Workshop have reimagined writer Sarah Nelson and composer James Atherton’s PROM! The Musical for a 2019 audience; the result is an uplifting, vibrant and enormously entertaining piece of musical theatre which feels fresh, original and timely.

Taking inspiration from High School Musical as well as Harry Potter this production sees ordinary and magical worlds collide resulting in an enchanting production with spellbinding storytelling.

Georgia Conlan takes on the role of Prom’s Cinderella style character; ill treated by her self obsessed step sisters Lisette (Millie Gibson) and Noushka (Ella Marshall) life for her is pretty grim. If she’s not doing their homework she’s cleaning the house for overbearing stepmum Clarissa who firmly believes her precious little darlings Lisette and Noushka can do no wrong. Life gets even worse when Clarissa rocks up at school calling the shots and taking it upon herself to decide who will be belle of the ball…(prom).

If ever divine intervention was needed it’s now and thankfully there’s a Fairy Godmother at the other realm high school, Defixus Academy just waiting for a person who is worthy enough for their assistance in order for them to both graduate and save their magical academy from closure.

Georgia Conlan is outstanding as Ester, her voice is sheer perfection while she has a sweet sass which embodies the character perfectly. Her performance is entirely captivating, she wins the audience over from the start with a genuine charm and an abundance of talent.

Millie Gibson and Ella Marshall succeed convincingly in portraying the loathsome, spoilt Lisette and Noushka while Sophie Elliott gives a hugely entertaining performance as the outlandish Clarissa, her comedic timing and character acting is a joy to watch.

Billy Barlow and Sajata Dey make for a great pairing as Fairy Godmother’s in training Rayden and Effie while Poppy O’Brien and Niamh Palmer both give scene stealing performances as Miranda and Little Fairy.

Noah Valentine makes for a great high school hearthrob and is without doubt another one to watch for the future.

Director James Atherton ensures each and every cast member has the opportunity to shine with vibrant ensemble pieces and the clever use of individual characters ‘vote for me’ campaigns we especially loved Nathan Horrocks’ ‘Boris’.

It really is a credit to the sheer talent within OTW that it feels almost unfair to single out individuals as each and every cast member gives their all in this production and every one is worthy of praise.

The audition scene is a wonderful showcase for the talent in this cast as each friendship group within the school takes their turn to deliver their own unique take on prom entertainment. The song sung by The Notes is a real highlight written and performed by Noah Valentine, Megan Meakin, Amelia Taylor, Kendra Marshall, Seb Lowe and Lewis Green, showing not only the quality of the cast but of their writing too, both catchy and contemporary.

Joseph Ed Thomas’ atmospheric lighting design compliments the simple yet effective set beautifully. The use of a mix of microphones and projection resulted in some dialogue being very occasionally missed but this really is a minor quibble in what is a fantastic piece of theatre.

This vibrant piece of theatre is well written and superbly delivered. The strong characterisation allowing several intricate storylines to develop clearly while at all times remaining engaging and entertaining. An outstanding piece of theatre which deserves to be seen by many. PROM! is a slick, stylish production, magical fun from start to finish.

PROM! The Musical is on at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 27th July tickets available here.

 

Preview | PROM! The Musical

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After an enormously successful run back in 2010, Oldham Theatre Workshop is reviving contemporary, feel-good musical PROM!

The teenage take on the Cinderella story is will be performed by some of Oldham Theatre Workshop’s finest young performers.

The story is set in two schools in two parallel worlds: the magical school for Fairy Godmothers (Defixus) and the real-world school (Delawick); both are under serious threat of closure. As we see both schools head towards graduation and Prom night the two worlds are about to collide in a wonderful explosion of magic and music.

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Georgia Conlan, whose recent credits include Closets the Musical (Hope Mill Theatre) will be playing one of the leads Esther, she said, “I am so excited to have been cast as Esther in this production. I feel lucky to be a part of Oldham Theatre Workshop this year and cast in an incredible role. I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together and performing it at Oldham Coliseum, which is such a beautiful venue.”

If you love the cheery energy of High School Musical, the magical essence of Harry Potter, and the irresistible joy of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, then you’ll love PROM!

Suitable for everyone (recommended age 7+) PROM! The Musical is on at the Oldham Coliseum from Wednesday 24th until Saturday 27th July tickets available here.

 

Hansel & Gretel

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from the huge success of last year’s Peter Pan, Oldham Theatre Workshop bring another classic to life with their spin on the much-loved fairy tale Hansel & Gretel.

The intimate performance space at Oldham Library is transformed into an atmospheric wintry wood as we follow Hansel & Gretel on their unexpected journey; cruelly abandoned in the forest at the request of their wicked Stepmother they think their luck has changed when they stumble upon a little house made of gingerbread and sweets, how wrong they are!

Creatives Sarah Nelson and James Atherton once again prove to be a formidable team with this joyful and poetic production; the use of songs, puppets and imaginative storytelling all marrying beautifully to bring this Brothers Grimm tale to vivid and vibrant life. The original songs are both inventive and enormously catchy….munch, munch, nibble, nibble and combined with a melodic score add humour and depth to this wonderful piece.

The strong cast deliver the story with real style and delightful conviction. Natasha Davidson and Sam Winterbottom are excellent as Hansel & Gretel whose childlike innocence develops into strength and determination when the going gets tough as this story becomes a great example of good triumphing over evil.

Daniel Harkshead makes for a strong and loving father, battling between the love for his children and the manipulating ways of his bitter wife. Sophie Ellicot is outstanding as both the stepmother and the calculating witch; clearly having great fun with both parts and proving once again what a fine character actor she is.

Madeleine Edmondson quite literally shines as the moon, doubling up as narrator she guides us through this enchanting story beautifully, young and old enthralled with every line. While the addition of three young performers playing the woodland animals brings extra cute factor to this charming production.

Oldham Theatre Workshop once again excels at delivering accessible and enthralling theatre. This magical production will enchant people of all ages, taking you on a feel-good, heart-warming festive adventure which at only £8 per ticket proves to be a festive treat for the pocket too.

Magical storytelling delivered with real heart, a delight for all the family.

Catch Hansel & Gretel at Oldham Library until 29th December tickets available here.

The Visitor’s Book

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Written by Sarah Nelson and Oldham Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Director James Atherton. New Musical The Visitor’s Book is an uplifting exploration on the impact of loss, abandonment and ultimately the importance of family and forgiveness.

Mum (Sophie Ellicott) holidays annually with children Jack, Sophie and Betty at Cathy’s (Jo Gerard) Cumbrian cottage. A sanctuary away from the city with clean air, green fields and an endless supply of fresh brews in the pot, problems however travel too and tensions soon rise as grief and confusion take hold.

Eldest in the family Jack is desperate for answers, a chance discovery however leads him to search for something else entirely when a strangers message in the Visitor’s book captures his imagination, offering a much-needed focus for his grief.

The play spans several years with scenes and stories beautifully interwoven. Younger and older versions of the children seamlessly move in and out of scenes as lies are uncovered and truths are told. The static set, a cosy living room within the holiday cottage allows the cast to move freely from one scene to the next, often inhabiting the stage at the same time to great effect. Slick direction ensures the clear narratives develop at just the right pace to both engage and entertain.

Sarah Nelson and James Atherton’s excellent writing ensures each character is entirely believable, from the moody teenager to the ‘holding everything together’ Mum to the baby of the family who entertains and amuses with her adorably quirky ways. There are many laugh out loud moments, moments you’ll entirely relate too as well as moments you’ll be gulping away the lump in your throat.

In Hope Mill’s intimate space there is no room for error and this hugely talented cast demonstrate superbly just how powerful and incredibly entertaining honest and heartfelt theatre can be. Each and every cast member giving their all.

Sophie Ellicott delivers a strong performance as Mum, warm and loving she embodies the role perfectly. Young and older Jack, Tommy Douglas and Jabez Sykes are both exceptional as anger and frustration is channelled into hopeful determination. The score is excellent allowing for some beautiful harmonies wrapped up in incredibly well observed lyrics delivered note perfect by the cast. Madeleine Edmondson and Poppy O’Brien shine performing their hilarious duet, big voices and even bigger personalities.

The Visitor’s Book is ultimately a story of hope, forgiveness and the real importance of family. This hugely entertaining production has the ability to both touch you deeply and entertain you enormously. Full of heart, deeply moving, beautifully told and superbly delivered, a joyous success.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Friday 11th May, tonight’s performance is SOLD OUT but follow @Visitor_Book and @OTWOldham for further information.