MTA Nominations 2018

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Nominations for this year’s Manchester Theatre Awards have been announced, celebrating the best work on stage and off within the city in over 20 categories, with winners being announced at a red carpet event at the Lowry theatre on Friday 9th March which will be hosted by local funny man Justin Moorhouse.

With some interesting choices and some considerable omissions, our personal pick and who Opening Night will be backing when we head to the ceremony will be;

Performance in a Fringe Production – Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical,

Best NewcomerHope Mill Theatre, Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre,

Best Opera La Cenerentola , Opera North, The Lowry,

Studio Production – From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Best Performance in a Studio Production – Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production The Lowry, La Strada, The Lowry

With four incredible selections for Best Musical it will be a hotly contested category, we adored each production but would loved to have seen additional nominations for Hope Mill Theatre’s spectacular Pippin and Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s uplifting audience favourite The Band.

 

The nominations are as follows;

Actress in a Leading Role

Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum

Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places & Things, HOME

Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival

Janet Suzman, Rose, HOME

 

Actor in a Leading Role

Cliff Burnett, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

Jason Merrells, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Kenneth Alan Taylor, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Ashley Zhangazha, Guys And Dolls, Royal Exchange

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Alison Halstead, The House of Bernarda Alba, Royal Exchange

Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange

Kerry Peers, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Katie West, Uncle Vanya, HOME

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Michael Blyth, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

David Fleeshman, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Andrew Sheridan, People, Places & Things, HOME

 

Actress in a Visiting Production

Ria Jones, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

Natalie Radmall-Quirke, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

Sheridan Smith, Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

 

Actor in a Visiting Production

Danny Mac, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Graham McDuff, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Palace Theatre

Sean Murray, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Ensemble

Oh What A Lovely War, Oldham Coliseum

Operation Black Antler, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Performance in a Fringe Production

Rosie Fleeshman, Narcissist in the Mirror, Greater Manchester Fringe

Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre

Alexandra Maxwell, The Loves of Others / Freak, Greater Manchester Fringe

Danny Solomon, Days Of Wine And Roses, 53TWO

 

Performance in a Studio Production

Rhodri Meilir How My Light Is Spent, Royal Exchange

Lucy Jane Parkinson, Joan, Contact

Keisha Thompson, Man On The Moon, Contact

Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

 

Robert Robson Award for Dance

Debut, Acosta Danza, The Lowry

English National Ballet double bill, Palace Theatre

Ghost Dances, Rambert Dance, The Lowry

Leviathan, James Wilton Dance, Contact

 

Design

Jenny Melville (set) and Lysander Ashton (video), Paul Auster’s City of Glass, HOME

Bunny Christie, People, Places & Things, HOME

Alex Lowde, Persuasion, Royal Exchange

Yael Bartana, What If Women Ruled the World?, Manchester International Festival

 

Fringe Production

Bad Advice, Greater Manchester Fringe

Gypsy Queen, Hope Mill Theatre

The Marriage of Kim K, Greater Manchester Fringe

Moth, Hope Mill Theatre

 

Musical

Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell the Musical, Opera House

Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

 

New Play

Gypsy Queen, writer Rob Ward, Hope Mill Theatre

How My Light Is Spent, writer Alan Harris, Royal Exchange

Narcissist in the Mirror, writer Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe

Narvik, writer Lizzie Nunnery, HOME

 

Newcomer

Gemma Dobson, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

Vinay Lad, The Railway Children, The Lowry

 

Opera

Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM

La Cenerentola, Opera North, The Lowry

Opera North Little Greats, Opera North, The Lowry

The Snow Maiden, Opera North, The Lowry

 

Production

The Father, Oldham Coliseum

People, Places & Things, HOME

Rose, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Running Wild, The Lowry

The Toad Knew, The Lowry

Under Glass, Clod Ensemble,The Lowry

 

Studio Production

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Joan, Contact

Man On The Moon, Contact

Swansong, The Lowry

 

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production

La Strada, The Lowry

My Country; a Work in Progress, HOME

Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Youth Panel Award

There is a Light/BRIGHTLIGHT, Contact Young Company

Singin’ in the Rain, RNCM Young Company

Tis Written in the Stars, Oldham Theatre Workshop, Oldham Coliseum

The Band head to The Lowry!

 

The Band Q

Due to overwhelming public demand, Tim Firth’s smash-hit new musical, The Band, featuring the music of Take That, will return to the North West with a stop at The Lowry from Wednesday 16th until Saturday 26th January 2018.

The show which we gave a well-deserved five stars. is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams takes audiences us back to 1992 when for five 16 year old friends The Band is their absolute everything, they live, breathe, eat & sleep the music. Fast forward 25 years and life is somewhat different for our ladies as they attempt one last time to meet their teenage crushes. The winning of concert tickets to Prague soon becomes a journey of self-discover as they not only attempt to reconnect with each other but remember and realise the hopes and dreams of their 16 year old selves.

With superb direction from Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, The Band has quickly become the fastest selling touring musical of all time as the show continues to delight audiences across the country.

Ticket information can be found here.

The Gruffalo

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tall Stories Theatre Company arrived at the Lowry’s Quay’s theatre this week for their month long run of the glorious Gruffalo.

This beautiful musical adaptation Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic picture book brings the animals of the deep, dark wood to life as we follow mouse (Lauren Scott-Berry) on her search for hazelnuts, during her journey through the woods mouse meets a mixture of woodland folk (all played wonderfully by Alastair Chisholm) including a cunning Fox, a supposed wise old Owl and a hilariously hypnotic Snake. All fancy a little bit of mouse for dinner but the clever little creature outwits them with the threat of the Gruffalo (Aaron Millard), but we all know there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo is there?

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Tall Stories which was founded in 1997 by joint artistic directors Olivia Jacobs and TobyMitchell have excelled in translating this children’s classic from page to stage, each and every child in the audience entirely captivated from start to finish. The tree actors work together beautifully as they enchant the young audience, characters are differentiated through a variety of voices, movements and simple but very effective costumes. The short book has been perfectly padded out to ensure an hour of quality entertainment including a dancing snake, a bossy old owl and if you’re lucky you may even get the Gruffalo sat beside you!

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The delight on the children’s faces for the entirety of the show is worth the tickets price alone, with wonderful audience interaction, a charmingly authentic set, sweet and simple songs the Gruffalo is the perfect family festive treat!

On at the Lowry until Sunday 7th January tickets available here.

Around The World In 80 Days

80 Days

Who knew that we could take a trip around the world without even having to leave Salford?

Laura Eason’s fast-paced adaptation of the Jules Verne’s classic novel sailed into Salford last night, as it continues its Christmas run at the Lowry theatre.

The 1872 classic tells the story of the mysteriously wealthy Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard), who puts his life savings on a bet that he can travel around the world in just 80 days, whilst avoiding the devious Inspector Fix (Dennis Herdman), who believes he’s a bank robber.

Passepartout is Fogg’s lovable companion, played by Michael Hugo who certainly knows how to steal a show. Hugo and Passepartout are a match made in heaven, superbly displaying his skills as an actor, from martial arts to his improvisation with unfortunate members of the audience – which was particularly impressive.

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Director, Theresa Heskins pieced the whole show together in a staggering 25 days and the hard work has truly paid off as she’s transported the classic book onto stage effortlessly.

The brilliance that is set designer, Lis Evans can’t go unmentioned either. Evans easily transports us around the globe with her simplistic set design of suitcases and maps. These objects may seem relatively uninteresting, however in this case with the help of choreographer Beverly Edmunds, the duo manage to turn a set of old battered suitcases into stairs, trains and even boats with the blink of an eye.

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A talented ensemble of only eight actors play a globe’s worth of more than 100 different characters. The strong cast work like a well oiled machine, switching seamlessly between not only characters but countries too. One moment we’re in France and the next (with a change of a hat) we’re whisked away to Italy.

The intimate Quays Theatre at the Lowry is the perfect setting for this well-loved classic. Even without the use microphones and an audience filled with young children, sound projection was never an issue.

Eight actors, 125 characters, eight countries, six trains, five boats, four fights, a circus and an elephant all crammed into a two-hour show – we’re exhausted just thinking about it.

You can join Philleas Fogg and Passepartout in their race against time at the Lowry Theatre until January 7th 2018 tickets available here.

 

*Reviewed by Opening Night guest reviewer Francesca Eagleton*

Interview – Sting | The Last Ship

Sting

Undoubtedly one of the most successful UK artists of all time having sold millions of records, won every award & prestigious accolade imaginable including multiple Grammy’s, Brits, a Golden Globe, 4 Oscar’s nominations, an induction to the Hollywood walk of fame and a CBE to name but a few, Sting has now set his sights on musical theatre with the self-penned, The Last Ship. We were lucky enough to be invited to an intimate launch of the musical which docks at the Lowry Theatre from 3rd July 2018.

Sting may have come a long way since his childhood days spent in the shadows of the shipyard in Tyneside but he has never forgotten his roots. In writing The Last Ship Sting rediscovers the impact industrialisation & loss of identity has on a town and it’s inhabitants. As a child Sting thought of the shipyard as a dark and dangerous place, his biggest fear that he would end up there, unable to fulfil his dreams of being a singer. “Many years later I realised I owed a debt to my community, a community who’d had their incredible skills set thrown on the scrap heap, their dignity in working taken away, I wanted to explore what happens when you take this away, economics does not exist without community.”

Not strictly autobiographical but certainly very influenced by Sting’s childhood, lead character Gideon has turned his back on his hometown, leaving to become a sailor, after 17 years away her returns to reconnect with a lost love, however tensions between his past and his future flare as the once proud town he left is now a community in demise as the local shipyard is closing and fear for the economic stability of the town is overwhelming.

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Of the story Sting said “I know how difficult it is to write an original story, many musicals are based on stories we already know, films, even cartoons but I wanted to take on that challenge, it was fun, it was hard-work, inspiring, challenging, disappointing, thrilling so many emotions, almost like a ship, there are so many moving parts and elements that need to come together, effectively you are the captain of the ship. It was hugely challenging but also so much fun.”

The musical has a very strong sense of regional identity, having lived away from the North East for so many years now Sting feels he is in the perfect place to look from the outside in, “I live an international life, I’m from a community but I live outside of it which to me feels like a good place to be impartial and give a voice to a community who maybe don’t have one.”

Giving his childhood community a voice is clearly a huge driving force behind The Last Ship as well as the emotional debt Sting feels he has to pay. “I was formed by the North East, my engine of ambition was created there, I was very lucky to be able to do what I did and it was only through good fortune when I left at aged 18/19 that I was able to, I am enormously grateful for the environment in which I was raised. It was rich and full of symbolism, the launching of a ship makes me tearful even now, something so enormous being launched by the hands of its makers, the workers of the town, happy and proud of what they have created yet at the same time anxious at when their next job might be.”

Sting 2

Sting explained what drove him to take on the challenge of musical theatre, “I’m undoubtedly driven by curiosity, driven always by the thought of ‘What’s next?’ I never want to keep pressing the same buttons, creativity is an elusive animal, hunting creativity means putting yourself out of your comfort zone, I’m not driven by success but driven by my own curiosity, I’m an eternal student.”

After a runs on Broadway, Chicago, Salt Lake City and now Finland, Sting explained how the piece has been altered slightly for the UK and Ireland tour which opens in Newcastle in March. “I felt the show needed slightly refitting for this tour, it’s more political than it was on Broadway, the struggle of the men takes precedence here as opposed to the love story which was very much focussed on for Broadway. Once I’d started with the characters the songs then came very, very quickly, almost like it was stored up deep inside, a story just waiting to be released. I’ve never been so passionate about anything I’ve done.”

Directed by Lorne Campbell with set design by the Tony Award-winning 59 Productions The Last Ship promises to a powerful, emotional and inspiring piece of theatre. Steeped in the proud history of the North with a stunning score, melodic folk music as well as rousing ensemble numbers The Last Ship starring Jimmy Nail sails into the Lowry from Tuesday 3rd July 2018, tickets available here

 

 

Elf the Musical

Elf

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

West End smash hit Elf the Musical arrived at the Lowry this week for a festive six week stint.

Based on the much loved 2003 film with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf tells the popular tale of Buddy the Elf.

After crawling into Santa’s toy sack as a young orphan boy Buddy finds himself living amongst the elves in the North Pole, with an inability to make toys even half as fast as his fellow workers and being twice the size of every other elf there Buddy realises it’s time to face the truth and admit perhaps he isn’t an elf after all. With Santa’s permission Buddy heads to New York City in a bid to discover his true identity, find his father and hopefully spread some Christmas cheer along the way.

Elf 3

West End favourite Ben Forster reprises the role he won rave reviews for and it’s clear to see why, he commands the stage with his witty, warm and charismatic take on the loveable Buddy. His confused interactions with the hardened New Yorkers are hilarious and his innocent boisterous wooing of Jovie (Liz McClarnon) is a delight to see. Forster is perfectly cast, he completely makes the role his own, no easy task for such an iconic character made so famous by Will Ferrell. Forster bursts with enthusiasm and Christmas cheer, he entirely captivates with his joyful characterisation, his voice is smooth, strong and pitch perfect.

Forster is joined by a talented cast including Liz McClarnon as love interest Jovie. McClarnon is superb as Christmas pessimist Jovie, with the most beautiful of voices and strong characterisation, Jovie’s ice maiden persona takes some melting, she is witty, sarcastic and the perfect sour to Buddy’s sweet.

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Tim Goodchild’s sets are lavish and impressive, sparky and slick as scenes move effortlessly from one to the next. The additional use of Ian William Galloway’s video design further adds to the wow factor of this big budget production. Sue Simmerling’s costume design is perfection, glitter, sequins, red and green for the North Pole, sharp grey suits for NYC.

The production remains true to the film but is so charming in its storytelling that those who haven’t seen the film (yes they do exist) will thoroughly enjoy the musical regardless. There are the classic lines we would all wish for hilariously delivered, a stunning score with catchy uplifting songs which you’ll be humming for days, the score literally has it all from stand out beautifully choreographed showstoppers to a witty yet moving solo from Jovie (Liz McClarnon).

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Elf is a heart-warming, sparkly, spectacular. The message of love, hope and family is a special one, wonderfully and hilariously delivered. The audible gasps of joy from the audience will warm the coldest of hearts and will ensure you’ll leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, offering hugs to anyone who will accept one and maybe even a few to those who won’t! Elf delivers the most perfect escapism from the crazy times we’re living in, funny, feel-good and oh so fabulous, a festive treat for all the family.

On at the Lowry until Sunday 7th January tickets available here

Around The World in 80 Days – Interview with Matthew Ganley

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Matthew Ganley

Manchester born Matthew Ganley will spend Christmas at home in Salford after spending the year touring the UK in the stage adaption of Around The World in 80 Days. The New Vic Theatre’s celebrated production of Jules Verne’s famous novel, that follows the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he travels the world in a race against the clock, plays at The Lowry for a 6 week run over the festive season.

Opening Night caught up with Matthew to get the lowdown on the high spirted escapade before it opens in Salford on 5th December.

ON: What can we expect from Around the World in 80 Days?

MG: It’s a fast paced epic journey with a lot of action, fight sequences-there’s a circus, an elephant, lots of twists and turns and plenty of audience involvement. It’s quite an unforgettable experience!

ON: There’s only 8 of you in the cast playing 125 different roles-what’s the challenge of doing something like that every night?

MG: It’s keeping your stamina up as there’s never a dull moment. You run on stage as one person, you run off, do a quick costume change and you are back on doing something completely different. I go from an English aristocrat to a Bombay street seller in one of the changes between scenes!  

ON: It sounds like quite a spectacle we are in for…

MG: There’s obviously lots of different countries that Phileas Fogg travels to and in a short space of time we portray each of those environments with different sounds, feelings and accents. It’s a real visual treat for the audience.

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Around The World in 80 Days, photo credit: Andrew Billington

ON: Now you are a local actor, from Salford and this show sees you play your home ground for Christmas at The Lowry, how does that feel?

MG: I’m really chuffed to be at home for Christmas and it’s so nice to have friends and family that I can spend time with and share this great show with as they come to see me in it.

 ON: This isn’t the first time you have been on stage at The Lowry is it?

MG: Yes, over the years I’ve been in a number of different shows and I always love going back to The Lowry, it’s such a great theatre.

ON: Do you find things have changed now for northern actors such as yourself now we have these amazing theatres in the North West bringing some big productions to our stages?

 MG: Absolutely, particularly the Manchester Fringe scene. It is so vibrant now and there’s so much great work which gets produced.  That all feeds into the arts scene as a whole and it makes Manchester and Salford a very exciting place for outside companies to come and visit.

Listings:

Around the World in 80 Days

The Lowry, Salford

5 Dec- 7 Jan 2018

https://www.thelowry.com/events/around-the-world-in-80-days