SIX the Musical

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It was just a month ago that the Spice Girls announced a series of comeback gigs that seemingly sent the music world into a feverish frenzy: Girl Power was back and back with vengeance. However way, way, way before Girl Power was a thing, we had Queen Power in the form of six strong, powerful, inspirational ladies who just so happened to be married to the same man, Henry something or other.

With the exam aiding rhyme of: Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived coursing through your brain from the outset Six bursts into life with the vibrant, ballsy opener Ex-Wives where we are introduced to our six monarchs: Aragon, (Jarneia Richard –Noel) Boleyn, (Millie O’Connell) Seymour, (Natalie Paris) Cleves, (Alexia McIntosh) Howard (Aimie Atkinson) and Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed. This certainly sets the tone for the evening, there are big tunes, ostentatious costumes, and some seriously sublime and sassy performances.

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The premise for the show is a simple one, the women want to step out from the shadow of their husband, Henry VIII, with each of them convinced that their story is more interesting than their counterparts. The only way to find out who the ‘Queen Bee’ is, is for each one to tell their story and let the audience decide.

Writers Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss have created a modern masterpiece. Songs weave historical facts with smart, cutting and cheeky lyrics. The show is a hybrid between a traditional musical and what could easily be a huge stadium concert marrying the two together whilst at the same time sending them up in the process. The pair poke fun at the X Factor whilst in addition making some serious points about the media trying to divide strong females instead of encouraging unity and sisterhood.

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The all-female cast are on fabulous form with each of them getting their moment in the spotlight. All the ladies demonstrate their huge talent by singing various styles: drawing inspiration from artists such as Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Adele, Britney Spears and Alicia Keys to name but a few. They are supported by a great backing band who perform a wide range of musical genres, from hip-hop, to German techno, with some unique interpretations of Greensleeves thrown in for good measure.

Stand out songs (and believe me it’s difficult to pick as they are all exceptional) are the brilliant and bizarre German electro pop ditty, Haus of Holbein, and the catchy Anna of Cleves solo, Get Down. It’s not all fun and frolics as the Katherine Howard led, All You Wanna Do takes the show into a momentary but necessary dark place, as we vividly realise the abusive treatment she endured, so relevant today with the #meto movement, brilliantly and cleverly performed by Atkinson.

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This is a fun and enormously entertaining show filled with glitz, glamour, plenty of attitude and more than a razors edge to it, it’s addictive and then some. Whilst sisters may be doing it for themselves isn’t it better when they work to unite, in this case six heads are better than one, even if two of them have been chopped off!

Six is at the Lowry Quays Theatre until 16th December. Tickets available https://thelowry.com/whats-on/six/

First look Doctor Dolittle

Have you booked your tickets yet?

Be quick as you’ve never seen anything like it!

We are absolutely loving these production shots from Doctor Dolittle which opens at The Lowry next week.

The magical musical which promises festive fun for all the family will run from Tuesday 11th December until Saturday 6th January.

Starring Harry Potter star Mark Williams at the Doctor, Corrie favourites Brian Capron as both Albert Blossom and the mighty Straight Arrow, Vicky Entwistle as trusty side-kick Polynesia while Adele Anderson (Fascinating Aïda) will be playing Lady Bellowes and Poison Arrow.

The spectacular stage show follows Doctor Dolittle on his magical adventure in pursuit of the Giant Pink Sea Snail which holds the secret of life and making the world a happier place. We’ll meet marvellous humans as well as some mighty impressive animals along the way including the Pushmi-Pullyu and the Doctor’s trusty sidekick Polynesia the Parrot. The show promises to be a thrilling Christmas treat for young and old.

Tickets are available now and can be found here.

Stick Man Live

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Julia Donaldson has created a firm family favourite in Stickman: the book has brought happiness and joy to families all over the world. So with Scamp Theatre bringing a live stage show to the Lowry this Christmas this will undoubtedly be one of the must see events of the festive season.

Stickman is a simple, but captivating story: Stickman leaves his Stick Lady Love and their three stick children at home whilst he goes for a morning stroll.  Unfortunately, on his jog he encounters a rather boisterous dog who takes a shine to our little wooden friend. Poor Stickman is thrust into an unwanted adventure involving adults, children and animals: whilst also taking him to the beach, the bottom of the sea and for an unforgettable sleigh ride with St Nicholas! Will Stickman make it back to his beloved family and their family tree?

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This production is fantastic: a great blend of storytelling, catchy songs, puppetry and humour. The music by Benji Bower and musical direction from Alex Higgins is unique and ‘off the wall’, perfect for the show. The three actors work their socks off throughout playing all the various characters and different musical instruments. They are brilliant and certainly know how to get the best out the audience. All three have a tremendous gift for physical comedy.

The other star of this show is the audience, there is plenty of audience participation involved in this performance and children and adults alike firmly got into the swing of things.

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The show is completed by a magical set design by Katie Sykes, which brings to life Stickman’s world: we are transported from a winter wonderland to under the sea, from the beach to Santa’s sleigh.

This is the perfect Christmas show, fun, engaging, full of energy and dollops of Christmas spirit. It is a treat for the whole family.

Stickman is at the Lowry until 6th January, tickets available here.

Craig Charles to funk up Salford next week

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The Red Dwarf, Coronation Street star, BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music presenter brings two very special nights of live music, DJ sets and entertainment to The Lowry on Tuesday 4th & Wednesday 5th December.

The ultimate funk and soul party, Craig Charles Funks Up Christmas commences the two-night residency featuring an exclusive Craig Charles DJ set and a fantastic bill of special guest performances. Then on Wednesday 5th December he joins the BBC Philharmonic and acclaimed singer Curtis Stigers for BBC Philharmonic Christmas. The concert & performance is being recorded for BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night show.

In what promises to be the funkiest party of the year, the evening will include performances from soul legends The Real Thing performing their multi-million selling number one singles: You To Me Are Everything, Can’t Get By Without You and Feel the Force.

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Plus, direct from the USA, disco stars Odyssey will play a hit filled set including: Use it Up and Wear It Out, Native New Yorker, Inside Out and the iconic disco anthem Going Back to My Roots.

Also on the bill, original Northern Soul singer Lorraine Silver, who shot to fame performing in the iconic Soul Clubs like Wigan Casino and the Twisted Wheel, will be performing her northern soul classics: Long After Tonight Is All Over and Lost Summer Love.

Following rousing performances in front of thousands of festival goers in London’s Hyde Park, Glastonbury and The Big Chill Festival, The Craig Charles Fantasy Funk Band complete the special guest line up.

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The following evening on Wednesday 5th December audiences can enjoy the highly anticipated world premiere of Scary Fairy Saves Christmas – the latest instalment in Craig Charles’ series of fairy tales as part of the line-up for BBC Philharmonic Christmas.

In conjunction with composer Iain Farrington, (Horrible Histories, Wallace and Gromit, 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony) Scary Fairy features a larger than life cinematic score as Craig presents the third instalment of his modern-day series of fables.

This ingenious fable in rhyme takes audiences on a whirlwind adventure full of humour and childhood nostalgia with many twists and turns, reflecting the world in which we live in today and tackling modern day taboos with Craig Charles’ customary razor-sharp wit.

The evening, hosted by Angelica Bell, will also include BBC Philharmonic, conductor Clark Rundell and special guest Curtis Stigers perform a select programme featuring wintry delights including Stigers hits: I Wonder Why and Never Saw A Miracle, combined with the festive groove of seasonal classics such as Let It Snow and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Tickets for Tuesday 4th December can be booked here while tickets for Wednesday 5th December can be booked here.

 

Interview| Lucy Moss | Six the Musical

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Not one but SIX queens are coming to reign over Salford this festive season proving there is much more to each and every one of them than just a forgettable name in an ancient rhyme.

Smash hit musical SIX arrives at The Lowry for a strictly limited 2 week run from Tuesday 4th until Sunday 16th December as the six wives of Henry IIIV take to the stage in a sassy and sensational sisterly retelling of their forgotten stories. Prepare for their feisty and fabulous her-storical her-stories in full, feel-good glittering glory.

Opening Night were lucky enough to catch up with writer Lucy Moss (one half of writing team Moss and Marlow) ahead of the show’s arrival to hear a little more about this infectious production that’s currently taking the theatre world by storm.

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After meeting at Cambridge University Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow knew pretty quickly they wanted to write a show together; Lucy explained how the disparity of meaty theatrical roles for females was something they thought needed taking on: “In musical theatre particularly the majority of the female songs are about how much the character loves their husband or how sad they are because the man they want to love them doesn’t love them enough. We really wanted to create something that had more interesting and also funnier parts for women, it’s crazy really because it was just created as something for fun and our biggest worry was that our friends would think it was really bad. It’s been so cool it really has.”

Lucy added: The was a slot within the university musical theatre society to take a show to the Edinburgh fridge so Toby applied and came up with the idea of doing a show a bit like a pop concert with microphones and dance routines, I almost never thought it would happen but now we’re here about to go on tour and it’s been incredible.”

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What is striking (and utterly brilliant) about Six is walking into a traditional theatre setting and seeing an all-female cast accompanied by an all-female backing band, sending out a very strong and positive message to theatre goers, we are in effect seeing the ultimate girlband on stage. Lucy explained: “We really wanted to tell the stories from the women’s perspective rather than it being just about Henry and how they died which is what we’ve all heard before, we wanted to tell more about their lives and their experiences. The message of the show and its growth very much coincided with the #metoo movement so I think the themes felt very relevant to a lot of people when the show first started taking off and it’s just snowballed from there.”

If you think you’ve heard earworms before then you ain’t heard nothing yet, prepare to be humming the SIX soundtrack for the rest of time as each track is as catchy as the last and could give any pop princess a run for her money, Lucy explained: “We definitely based the Queens on different pop divas so for example Catherine of Aragon is based on Beyoncé, Anne Boleyn is based on Lily Allen, Catherine Parr is Alicia Keyes and so on.”

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As well as being massively entertaining, seriously just wait until you see it, SIX is also impressively educational as each Queen becomes so much more than just a name, we asked Lucy out of all the fierce Queens did she have a favourite? “My favourite Queen’s story is Anne of Cleves because she’s the only one who has a happy ending really, yes she got divorced but she ended up living in this really fancy palace in Richmond, drinking mead, going hunting and outlived every one of them even Catherin Parr who survived, she absolutely lived her best life til the end of her days.”

From starting off as a small fringe production the rise of Six fever really has been incredible. “We had absolutely no idea the show was going to do anything more than the fringe, I was excited then at the thought of somebody maybe coming to see it and inviting us to do one night at a fringe venue in London, that was like, in my wildest dreams and now were here it’s so cool, we’re definitely super hyped to come to the Lowry.”

Six the musical opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 4th December and runs until Sunday 16th December to ensure you have a spectacular Sixmas book your tickets here.

 

 

 

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer Kate Goerner

Some shows are so iconic that a single image immediately identifies them, and 23 years after the all-male swans first leapt onto the stage in a flurry of feathers, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has certainly earned this status

Taking the classic score by Tchaikovsky, and reimagining it with a male central pairing and corps, Bourne – who directs as well as choreographs – shook up the traditional concept of classical ballet with this piece when it premiered in 1995.

He admits that not everyone in the dance world welcomed the bold move but it was worth every ruffled feather!

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Now updated for 2018, the production has lost non of its impact, and indeed looks and feels as fresh as ever.

The production opens on the bedroom of a restless prince (Dominic North, whose youthful appearance belies his experience in this role). The forced perspective of Lez Brotherston’s Palace set trapping the young royal figuratively and literally – tight bed covers restricting him just as his royal role does.

The society scenes that follow are a witty joy – we even have a royal corgi – with lots of little winks and nods for the audience. There’s so much to see, this is definitely a show that would lend itself to repeat viewings to take everything in.

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We follow the Prince and his mother the Queen – an arch Katrina Lyndon giving off perfect ‘Princess Margaret in The Crown’ vibes – going about their royal business.

Trying to conform, the Prince hooks up with party girl Carrie Willis (a real scene stealer of a performance) and they go on a date to the theatre – there is some ‘classical’ ballet in the show – of sorts!

Things don’t go well and the Prince finds himself in a deserted moonlit city park – when the swans arrive, lead by Will Bozier (authoritative and reminiscent of the great Adam Cooper)

What follows is some seriously strong dancing in all senses of the word, which culminates in the mesmerising pairing of North and Bozier. Seeing the Prince shake off his doubts and realise at that moment he is free to be himself is a genuinely joyous and touching moment.

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The male company dancers as swans are menacing and magnetic – they even hiss – yet are incongruously vulnerable too. The physicality displayed is done justice by Bourne’s unique choreography – all stamps, jumps and bird-like angles.

Act II brings the sexually-charged Palace Ball scene, with Bozier doubling as the Stranger. Leather trousers replace’s Odette’s black tutu, but the edgy menace remains.

The scene gives the whole company a chance to shine – as things whirl towards the chilling conclusion of the ball, and the poignant final scene.

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The Lowry audience were straight on their feet at the end, and indeed probably would have stayed there for a while longer if the curtain hadn’t been brought down. I’m not sure I can recall a warmer and more enthusiastic response to a dance show.

A very special evening watching a very special production. At The Lowry until Saturday December 1 – one not to be missed. Tickets available here.

The Damned United

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

In 2006 The Damned United hit the bookshelves, blending fact and fiction it told the story of charismatic, controversial football manager, Brian Clough and his ill-fated tenure at Leeds United. Author David Peace described it as “An English Fairy Story”. In 2009 it was turned into a film starring Michael Sheen, and now somewhat inevitably it has been adapted for the stage by the Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Following the same narrative structure of the book, we start with the end of Clough’s playing career due to injury. The demons, the nagging self-doubt are there for all to see from the onset, as well as the brash arrogant showman the world of football came to love or loath depending on your point a view. The action zigzags between him taking the helm at Leeds in 1974 and his successful but turbulent run as Derby County manager from 1967 through to 1973.

This is a fast paced, journey into the tortured mind of one man battling many enemies – unhappy players, interfering chairman, the bottle and rival manager Dom Revie. However, it’s Clough’s own insecurities and his relationship with his assistant manager and best friend Peter Taylor that is the heartbeat of the production.

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The time-hopping narrative structure can be a little confusing at times, but the production is anchored by two outstanding central performances: Luke Dickson puts in a nuanced, layered shift as Clough, filled with subtly traits and mannerisms: it would be easy to play this as a caricature but Dickson avoids this. David Chafer is also on fine form as Taylor, a man loyal and true to his friend but growing disillusioned by his treatment. Their relationship is what holds the production together. They are supported by James Smelt who morphs into all the other parts in the play.

The action is played against a corrugated fence backdrop: adding to the tension and authenticity of the surroundings, you can almost feel the deep-heat in the air. The fence doubles as a screen with various images projected on it throughout, pushing the drama along.

This is a fascinating look at obsession, addiction and self-loathing that is well worth a watch.

The Damned United is at the Lowry until the 27th October tickets can be found here.