Peter Pan

 

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Promising to be a ‘musical adventure’ Selladoor Worldwide bring J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan to Blackpool’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring X Factor, I’m A Celeb and soon to be Dancing On Ice favourite Jake Quickenden as Pan with Liverpool legend Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Hook and Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling, Peter Pan is a magical, feel-good, re-telling of an all time classic.

Designer Jessica Curtis sets the action beneath a large eye catching & atmospheric draped tipi, a simple but effective set which lends itself well to scene changes and captivates audiences imaginations as we fly with Pan, Wendy, John and Michael through their bedroom window to Neverland.

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Quickenden is on fine form as he makes his stage debut, he is hugely likeable and makes for a charismatic Pan, showcasing his vocal talents beautifully in each of the crowd pleasing musical numbers which include Uptown Funk, Can’t Stop The Feeling and We Are Family.

Ellison’s Hook perfectly compliments Quickenden’s Pan, she is fierce, feisty and boy does she know how to play a baddie……oh yes she does! She has the audience in the palm of her hand from the off as she revels in the boos and delights in the hisses, a glint of devilment in her eyes, she’s all about having fun with this role and giving the audience the great time they came for.

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The strong supporting cast work incredibly hard doubling up as both the Lost Boys and Hook’s motley crew to great effect. Director Kirstie Davis ensures each character is clearly defined as they work together seamlessly, each and every cast member full of energy and enthusiasm, engaging the audience entirely. With an additional creative element of puppets taking on the role of Nanny the Dog and the ticking crocodile, both really add to the magic of the piece. Special mention must also go to Grace Osborn as Wendy, strong and sassy, her duet of Breakaway with Quickenden is a real highlight of the show.

The promise of a musical adventure is entirely accurate, while there are some of the fun elements of panto with audience interaction and great humour delivered by local Radio favourite Scott Gallagher as Smee, Robert Marsden’s adaptation of Peter Pan is a step up from the cheeky gags of panto and is more a musical dramatisation of a classic tale. Act One allows the audience to settle into the production before a fast paced all action second act keeps everyone engaged as they will Pan to win the day as he battles to save Wendy, John and Michael from walking Hook’s plank.

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The production has something for everyone, an engaging story, well chosen musical numbers, lots of humour as well as strong individual performances. Let your heart be warmed by this magical adventure, highly entertaining, well delivered and jolly good family fun.

On at Blackpool’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January tickets available here.

Dick Whittington

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Opening Night verdict 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

Qdos Entertainment, the worlds biggest pantomime producer bring their magical production of Dick Whittington to Manchester’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring the hugely popular John Barrowman, an absolute  panto pro he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the off, whipping off his trousers to reveal the tightest pair of pants to ever grace the panto stage! Joining Barrowman are legendary double act, The Krankies, stalwarts of the cabaret circuit since the 70’s, Dick Whittington marks their seventh season alongside Barrowman and their on stage chemistry is electric.

Sprinkled with lots of adult humour Dick Whittington is high on audience interaction and chock-full of laughs as Dick (Barrowman) falls in love with Councillor Krankie’s (Ian Tough) daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). dastardly King Rat (Phil Corbitt) however has other ideas as he tries his best to come between our lovebirds.

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Fun and frolics are high on the agenda as Barrowman greets the Manchester audience with an “Ey up chuck!” he is a highly entertaining, hugely charismatic, singing, dancing, innuendo spouting machine! Pair this with an outrageous performance from the Krankies and you really have got a match made in double entendre heaven. Lots to keep little ones and Mum & Dad highly amused with a few jokes perhaps a little too close to the bone for older children, who Mum and Dad may be desperately hoping don’t get certain jokes, let’s just say there could be some interesting conversations on the way home!

The rest of the sparkling cast compliment our leads perfectly with special mention to Jacqueline Hughes who delights as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Ryan Kayode as Tommy the Manc Tabby Cat who judging by the applause received was clearly an audience favourite too.

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As you’d expect there are ad libs galore particularly between the hilarious Krankies who remain sharp as a tack. Jeanette Tough, now aged 70 could give Debbie McGee a run for her money as she’s flung around the stage, barely stopping for breath and even ending up inside a giant sharks mouth!

The choreography is executed perfectly by the Company who are joined on stage by local children from the Stalder Academy of Dance.

Many of the usual panto traditions are here, there’s ghosts & ghoulies, silly songs and sparkly sets plus a surprise soaking for some audience members, however this is as Dick with no Dame which for me seemed an odd choice, please Qdos can we have our Dame back next year? Preferably Manchester favourite Eric Potts. The 3D section is enormously impressive but scared my young guests to the point of having to cover their faces, much too frightening for young children.

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The cast have undeniable chemistry, particularly evident during an underwater version of 12 Days of Christmas, which has the audience in hysterics from start to finish.  The storyline is secondary to the madcap mayhem playing out before us as Dick Whittington entertains and delivers a highly memorable night, for some this may be classic ‘British humour’ that needs a little updating, there was no doubt however that Dick Whittington brought a lot of laughter and festive cheer to Manchester last night, it’s a cheeky, festive treat!

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January, tickets available here.

Crazy for You

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Starring Strictly champion Tom Chambers alongside a fabulous Gershwin brothers score, the acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of musical comedy Crazy For You arrives at Manchester’s Opera House this week as part of a 2017/18 national tour.

Privileged New Yorker Bobby Child (Tom Chambers) has been sent to close down the theatre in deepest darkest Deadrock, Nevada. Banker Bobby however harbours a not so secret desire to tread the boards himself, cue thrills, spills and laugh out loud silliness as Bobby disguises himself as Hungarian theatre impresario Bela Zangler in order to put on a show and save the theatre.

Tom Chambers shines as Bobby Child, he has the strong physical comedy skills needed for the role as well as an impressive voice and impeccable dance ability. He bursts with charisma and boundless energy and seems to be having as much fun with the role as the audience are having watching him.

Leading lady Charlotte Wakefield as Polly is perfection. Full of sass and spark her warm characterisation is a joy to watch, she literally bursts with personality. The scenes between Wakefield and Chambers are magic, both incredibly skilled dancers they work their socks off throughout the entirety of the show.

The static set is put to good use with changing backdrops and ambient lighting, allowing scenes to change from NYC to Nevada convincingly.

Despite the 1990’s reworking of the show by Ken Ludwig the characterisation and storyline does however remain a little weak, so much so that things just seem to happen with no explanation, fiancé’s swap fiancé’s while hardened New Yorkers move to the Wild West and shack up with the local saloon owner without batting an eyelid. That said the excellent performances and big hitters such as I got rhythm and They Can’t Take That Away from Me are fantastic, all are delivered with high energy and great confidence from the cast of actor musicians.

The cast work incredibly hard, dancing one minute then playing the fiddle the next, all are enormously talented. While there may be less impact from the tap numbers due to actors doubling up as musicians the skilful multitasking roles they deliver entertain adequately.

Crown pleaser Tom Chambers delights with his charming and confident take on the character while Charlotte Wakefield delivers a confident and commanding performance any leading lady would be proud of. All in all Crazy For You is a light-hearted, uplifting and all round fun show.

On at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 2nd Dec, tickets available here

Flashdance the Musical

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By guest reviewer Casey Nicole Gwilliam

Flashback to the 80’s in this dazzling production of the all time classicJoanne Clifton dazzles as the feisty Alex, a young apprentice welder with a passion for dance, and a dream to get into the prestigious Shipley School of Dance.

With the help of her old dance teacher Hannah (Carol Ball), Alex prepares for her Shipley audition, as well as falling for the dashingly handsome Nick Hurley (Ben Adams) and having to save the day and set her friend Gloria (Hollie Ann Lowe) straight, she seizes the opportunity and dances her heart out.

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The numbers that were amongst audience favourites included “Maniac” and “Gloria” as well as the crowd pleasing “I Love Rock and Roll” which wowed the audience as the immensely talented ensemble dazzled with their moves demonstrating some  incredible tricks that made the audience wince and then cheer. The entire ensemble gathered together and created an absolutely amazing and retro atmosphere, wowing the audience with their moves and vocals that left even the audience breathless!

The lighting and set along with the extremely vintage costuming hurled the audience into the 80’s along with the perms and pumps. The authentic 80’s feel gave a sense of nostalgia, and was in keeping with the 1983 movie of the same title. Keeping audiences happily entertained.

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Joanne Clifton’s performance stood out as leading lady, Alex. Her husky voice was perfect for the scrappy young dancer and her acting and singing skills were on a par with her dance; proving to be a delightful triple threat. As well as having the audience envy her for pulling off spanks and a sports bra for the majority of the show.

Overall the show makes for an extremely enjoyable evening and was an instant hit with the audience, everybody was up dancing during the finale mega-mix ensuring everyone got a chance to show their moves!

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Flashdance the Musical is on at the Blackpool Opera House until Saturday 4th November, tickets available here http://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/events/flashdance/

The Wipers Times – Ticket Offer!

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Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s The Wipers Times tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme.

The Wipers Times arrives at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday 31st October for one week only, direct from a record breaking West End run.

Best available seats for Tuesday-Thursday are only £19.50 using the promotional code ‘WIPERSOFFER‘ at the online check out or via the booking line 0844 871 3018

For tickets head to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

The Wipers Times – Ian Hislop & Nick Newman interview

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By Matt Forrest

It’s hard to imagine that one of darkest days and bloodiest conflicts the world has ever known could lead to the creation of something as funny as The Wipers Times. Born from the trenches of the Somme this satirical swipe at army life was produced during the 1st World War and helped thousands of serving soldiers smile on whilst all around was going to hell.

However, upon till now little was known of ‘The Wipers’ until writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman 2013 BBC film about the magazine. Based on this film the two have adapted their script for the stage bringing The Wipers Times to the Manchester Opera House, as part of its current nationwide tour, following huge acclaim and sell-out shows on the West End.

Ahead of opening on 31st October,  Opening Night met up with Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to discuss the origins of the play, the writing process,  what the audience can expect, as well as the state of satire, Trump and Ian’s multitasking running the Private Eye office.

Opening Night (ON): How did the idea come about for the play?

Nick Newman: “Ian discovered this story about 15 years ago doing a documentary for Radio 4: we’re always on the lookout for new ideas and he came back with this trench newspaper he had discovered, which we knew nothing about, which is amazing because it looked and had the same feel of an early version of Private Eye.”

Ian Hislop: “I thought how do we not know this? I mean Nick and I are meant to know about our own industry, and I’m meant to know about the First World War, I’ve done programmes about it, but I’d never come across the story and I thought that this A) fantastic, and B) if no one knows this, this is for us. Here is a great real-life story that you don’t have to make anything up and a magazine which is so funny, we could take loads of it and put it on stage.

Nick: Because I come from a military background, I was familiar with squadron newspapers and things like that (Nick’s Father was a serving officer in RAF). All units have their own version of the Wipers Times, but they’re all full of in jokes, “its Pongo did this”, and full of jokes about people in the unit: whereas these are timeless jokes that work today as they did a hundred years ago.

ON: Would the Wipers Times have worked during more modern-day conflicts?

Ian: There is an army website called ARSE, amusingly Army Rumour Service, which is pretty funny, and the spirit of that still goes on today. But the thing about ‘Wipers’ was that it was so popular and probably the first time that anyone had seen that, which makes it so distinct.

Nick: It also turned on its head our experience of what First World War literature was all about: because up until we read ‘The Wipers Times’, you just thought that nobody laughed ever, there was no jokes. You can watch All Quiet on the Western Front, Journey’s End and it’s sombre, it’s about loss and futility. These chaps were living it on a day-to-day basis. ‘The Wipers’ was produced throughout the war as they were moving around France, and were in Flanders actually fighting, going ‘over the top’, surviving the Somme, being sent back to the Somme, going over the top at Passchendaele, they did this and still managed to keep their sense of humour and that is an amazing story in itself.

Did any of the copies make it back to the UK?

Ian: Yes. They started off producing just 100 and then producing more and more, as it became very popular on the front. And then copies started getting back home and there were reports that they featured in The Tatler of all papers, by 1918 someone had put together a collection to be published, so it’s all the more amazing that this has been forgotten. So yes they did make it back home.

ON: So when I was reading the synopsis for ‘The Wiper Times’, it reminded me of Ripping Yarns. Is that something that has influenced the writing process?

Ian: (Chuckles) Yes

Nick: We’re greatly influenced by everything we’ve seen. We did feel there was a real ‘pythonesque’ element to all of this. There’s a joke which we haven’t used but it could be a Spike Milligan joke: an officer sees a soldier digging holes in No Man’s Land and he thinks he’s sending signals to the Germans by aerial reconnaissance and he says to the soldier, “What the hell are you doing?” and the soldier says “I’m trying to save you money sir…the way I see it, the artillery fires a shell which costs £5 and all the shell does is make a bloody big hole. If I just make the bloody big hole, then they don’t have to fire the shell.” And that’s just a fantastic Spike Milligan joke.

Ian: So your answer is yes. Milligan, Goons, Python, there’s a lot of it in them. But I think it may well be because “they” did it first and that sort of British comic tradition, I think they’re firmly in it. We got Michael Palin to be in the film, which is about as good as it gets if you’re fans of all that, which we are.

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ON: Being friends and writing partners for such a long time, do you argue over jokes etc?

Nick: We both share the same sense of humour so if one of us finds it funny, the chances are that both of us will. I don’t think we had any disagreements about what material from the Wipers Times should go in. We generated much more stuff than could possibly go in and left it to others to decide. There were odd snatches of the Flammen werfer sketch and things like that where we thought it was that or that; let somebody else decide. Luckily we have a good producer, a good director whose judgement we trust. So where it’s a question of we’re just undecided what would work better on stage…

Ian: But if we’ve agreed something when we write the script, we say this is what we think it should be, it’s because we’ve agreed it already so we can argue it; rather than argue for your own stuff. Look, we both think this is funny, there’s lots of stuff which will have fallen along the way. With either Nick going “well that’s not very funny”, or me going “you’re kidding, that’s pathetic!”So we edit quickly as we’re going. And that’s the benefit of old friends.

So it’s not a case of being precious?

Ian: No, maybe when we were nineteen!

Nick: I’ve worked in writing rooms where the star of the show will dissect your joke and publicly humiliate you in front of other people. Luckily we don’t do that with each other – it either hits, or it doesn’t!

Ian: And because Nick’s a cartoonist, I always say that he has a very strong visual sense, which helps hugely.

Nick: I do keep saying, what are we looking at? (Laughter) It’s tough to know, even with The Wipers, even though you’re restricted by the set and the locations, there are visual elements to it all the time and you have to think, how can we make this more interesting for an audience?

Ian: I mean, two people talking in a room, great, the dialogue’s great, what else? That’s the dimension that you mustn’t forget.

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To create the right aesthetic, are there high production values for the play?

Nick: It’s astounded us. When we first wrote it, we imagined it’d be done on a bare stage and people would conjure up the world by their acting. But little did we know that our producers had other plans in mind and would bring in Dora, a brilliant production designer, Dora Schweitzer who has created this magical set which is trenches, dugout, it’s a sort of fantasy land beyond No Man’s Land. It is quite magical; there are stars in the sky, there are moving images and all kinds of things. The production values are much higher than we ever anticipated.

Ian: It’s rounded off with a soundscape, which makes you feel in the middle of it – the bombs are going off nearly the whole way through. As the audience, you just have to get used to that. It’s inescapable. And all that is great because it means you’re stuck like they were.

I suppose you want it to be as realistic as possible?

Nick: Yes. Steve Mayo, our sound engineer has created these enormous base amplifiers so that your seat shakes. You’re ear drums aren’t going to bleed, don’t worry about that! Hopefully you’ll get a sense of, and the reviews so far agree, what it might have been like in the trenches.

Ian, did you not fancy treading the boards after your acting debut?

Ian: I fancied it hugely, however unfortunately I’m very bad! Which is a drawback as an actor, so no!

Nick: Also Ian is far too old to be brutally honest! Mitford’s Granddad! He’s too old to even play a general!

Ian: Even the generals were in their forties! No I’m completely past it!

Nick: Our cast is about the right age. Most of them are straight out of drama school, so it’s their first job in their early twenties.

Ian: And you believe it. Our lads have spent a lot of time together on tour, they feel like a platoon.

Like a Pals Regiment?

Ian: Exactly that.

(ON) With all that is going on in the world at the moment and with you both being satirists: Is difficult to come up with material that isn’t dated an hour later?

Nick: There are various people saying that satire is dead because you can’t beat the real world: well we can jolly well try.

Ian: If the world gets more ridiculous then you have to try harder. I think the thing with someone like Trump , yes you can say he’s got stupid hair and he’s funny a colour, that’s a start. In the end he’s quite used to that, but if you can say your businesses all failed and the one thing you claim to be good at your absolutely useless at, that hurts, and there are things that do undermine him and wound him. I l love the fact that he tweets about Saturday Night Live, it’s not clever it’s not funny. Good they’ve got you.

British politics is pretty bonkers at the moment, but that’s not new either.

Nick: You always say that Juvenal was saying that satire is dead.

Ian: Yes, 1st century AD Roman satirist: well what can you do you exaggerate how ludicrous Rome is, anyway he made a perfectly good living out of it. We’re an old game.

(ON) I think more than ever it’s so important with all that’s going on in the world you need something to have a good laugh at I suppose. I don’t know if you saw about an hour ago someone handed Teresa May a P45 at the Tory party conference? With people doing stuff like that it must be quite difficult.

Ian: Yes someone landed her a perfectly good joke: I think we have done it. I think we did what would make me more popular… just resign. We had done the joke I don’t mind the public getting a bit late. (laughing)

ON: Finally it would be remissive if I didn’t mention this: My Girlfriend’s Dad is a subscriber to Private Eye. I don’t see him that often but whenever I meet up with him he always tells me that he once rang the Private Eye office because his subscription was late, and when he did he got you on the phone. He was made up. He’s dinned out on that story for years.

Nick: (Laughs) You didn’t say fuck off to your readers.

ON: He didn’t say that he said you were more than polite.

Ian: (Laughs) You see, wish him my best and that’s the sort of organisation we are. The editor deals with the subs, and we can’t afford staff.

Nick: Ian is the designer, chief journalist, sub writer.

ON: I don’t know how far back that goes, but he loves that story

Ian: That’s very funny, well say hello. Thank you.

ON: Well it’s a pleasure meeting you both and can’t wait to see the show.

Nick: On the 31st (October) we’re doing a Q and A come along to that if you’ve not bored of hearing us.

ON: I will do it would be my pleasure.

Directed Caroline Leslie, produced by Bob Benton and David Parfitt. The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House from the 31st October till 4th November.  In addition the play is touring the UK throughout the autumn.

Tickets for Manchester can be purchased here: www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2018

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The Manchester Theatre Awards in association with Target Live will be held at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on Friday 9 March 2018, hosted once again by Manchester favourite, comedian and actor, Justin Moorhouse.

The annual awards seen by many as the most important theatrical awards outside of London has been an important fixture of the North West cultural calendar since it first began back in 1981 and is an opportunity to honour productions seen in Greater Manchester during 2017

From big receiving venues like The Lowry and the Palace Theatre and Opera House, via acclaimed producing houses such as HOME and the Royal Exchange to exciting fringe spaces like Hope Mill Theatre, over 20 awards categories recognise the exciting array of theatre on offer to audiences in the region and beyond.

In recent years the Awards have expanded to include a group of enthusiastic young critics who also choose an annual award from the city’s youth theatre productions.

Coronation Street and Broadchurch actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, herself a previous multiple MTA winner, paid tribute to the awards and the importance of the Greater Manchester theatre scene, saying: “I love the Manchester Theatre Awards. It’s always such a lovely coming together of our artistic community in the best city in the world, and is a celebration of all things theatrical here: From the emerging raw talent of the burgeoning fringe scene to the bobby dazzler spectaculars in our main houses and from the internationally acclaimed cultural highlights of MIF to a couple of people in a tiny space above a Salford pub.”

Kevin Bourke, chair of the Manchester Theatre Awards, said: “Helping to celebrate the tremendous, passionate and creative work in the Manchester theatre world is not only a huge honour and privilege for my colleagues and me, but also great fun and genuinely exciting – just like the shows we try to spotlight”.

Further information on the awards can be found at www.manchestertheatreawards.com and @MTAwards