Dirty Dancing

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Based on the iconic 1987 movie starring the incredible Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, this revamped version using impressive new sets and songs from the movie not originally in the stage musical has been wowing audiences across the UK all year, reaching its final stop of the tour in Liverpool last night.

Director Federico Bellone, choreographer Gillian Bruce and designer Roberto Cometti, have sexed up the original stage musical (yes it’s EVEN sexier than before) as the classic story of Baby and Johnny is played out by the most talented of casts.

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Getting us all hot under the collar as Jonny Castle is the immensely talented and deliciously dangerous Lewis Griffiths, he literally made Liverpool scream as he stepped into Swayze’s Cuban heels and gave Baby (Katie Eccles) the summer of her life. The chemistry between the two is electrifying, you find yourself rooting for them right from the off, the buzz in the audience as we build up to ‘that’ lift is almost enough to raise the roof of the Empire. Eccles is superb as Baby as we see her find her inner strength and go after her heart’s desire. Indeed the energy from the entire cast is incredible; Carlie Milner makes for the most perfect Penny, her skill and talent quite breath-taking as she dances up a storm on stage.

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Roberto Cometti’s set is streets ahead of those we’ve seen in previous incarnations of this production, inventive and impressive it allows for real creativity in the staging. Add to this Gillian Bruce’s incredible choreography, sizzling, sexy and so so slick there’s no wonder audiences keep coming back for more.

Chock full of heartache, passion, sensational dance routines and all the classic hits fans know and love including Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, She’s Like The Wind and the legendary (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, this production is everything fans of the film could wish for. The hardworking cast deliver in spade loads, whipping the audience into just the right level of excitement before taking it up a notch again, until we literally reach fever pitch at the finale, uplifting, exciting and hugely entertaining surpassing all previous productions, Dirty Dancing will undoubtedly give you the time of your life!

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With only five more days to catch this impressive production, head to www.dirtydancingontour.com/tickets-tour for tickets.

Liverpool Empire Mon 18th – Saturday 23rd September 2017

Lowry Competition!

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We are thrilled to be able to offer a family ticket to see the fabulous Fauna on either Thursday 21st or Fri 22nd September at the Lowry.

Winner of the Total Theatre and Jackson’s Lane Award for Circus at Edinburgh Festival 2017, Fauna is a unique mixture of acrobatics, dance and movement with a brilliant live musical score – a mesmerising evening of extraordinary strength and sublime skill!

To enter all you need to do is follow our page and share this post, good luck!

Further information can be found at http://www.thelowry.com/events/fauna

Cover My Tracks

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Charlie Fink, formerly of Noah and the Whale brings his latest album Cover My Tracks to the Lowry: however the evening promises something a little different. It is billed as a piece of ‘gig theatre’ and Fink shares the stage with actress Rona Morison to tell the tale of a singer song writer, a lover, a masterpiece, heartbreak and loss.

Armed with a stool, acoustic guitar and a dimly lit spotlight, Fink arrives on stage followed by Morison and between Fink’s songs and Morison we learn about two unnamed lovers torn apart by the apparent suicide of one, leaving their partner to cope with the loss and a chance to unravel the mystery as to what really happened.

The story is filled with highs and lows as we see how the couple met, their life on the road, the moment they write a huge hit record and finally the breakdown in their relationship as one desperately wants to escape from the trappings of modern life and eventually make the ultimate sacrifice…or do they?

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This is a fascinating piece of work. Fink may be the star attraction on the poster, but his is a low-key, restrained performance and certainly the delivery of his songs was reminiscent of the late Leonard Cohen. This is in stark contrast to the ball of energy that is Morison, who is excellent as our narrator conveying the joy, misery and raw emotion of someone desperate for answers. Morison also gives Fink a run for his money in the vocal department, demonstrating a fine singing voice.

The story is told through some truly beautiful songs with standout tracks being Firecracker and I Was Born to Be A Cowboy. The plot is riddled with intrigue as we know very little about our protagonist including their names and their gender further enhancing our engagement with the drama.

The production isn’t without flaws, taking a rather romanticised view of grief and mental health issues in some parts but on the whole this an innovative and engaging piece, a unique and hugely enjoyable way to listen to an album with a context.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 16th September, for tickets head to http://www.thelowry.com/events/cover-my-tracks

 

The Addams Family

Credit: Matt Martin

The Addams Family, photo credit for images: Matt Martin

Halloween may be over a month away but The Lowry is already getting theatre-goers in a ghoulish mood with the latest production to make the Salford location its home, The Addams Family.

If you are old enough (and want to admit it) you might remember the cult black and white series back in the 60s focusing on the macabre but loveable family, or, if not, the more recent 90s movie of the same name starring the deliciously dark Angelica Houston and Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez Addams.

As is the case now with most successful films they eventually get transformed for the stage and, having already been a hit on Broadway, the musical comedy version of The Addams Family is finally hitting UK and Irish audiences with its premiere tour.

The story here is simple; Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love. Nothing wrong with that…apart from the fact it is with Lucas an all American boy with an all American family. When Wednesday decides to bring Lucas and his family home for tea, she realises meeting the Addams might have some kooky consequences on their relationship! And how will her mother Morticia (Samantha Womack) react when she finds out her daughter has fallen in love with somebody ‘normal’?

It’s a fans dream from start to finish with the overture including the familiar TV theme tune getting people clicking along in glee plus there’s a script sprinkled full of Addams gimmicks. The opening number When You’re An Addams certainly packs a punch, setting the show off on the right tone and proving from the get go that the production has a talented cast of singers and dancers. Peaking so early may be to its detriment as from then on in there’s long number after long number which makes the action drag, especially in the first half of the musical.

credit: Matt Martin

Full Disclosure

Andrew Lippa may have created an original soundtrack but there’s not many of the 20 plus songs which are memorable after you leave the theatre and most could be cut down to a shorter length to give them a snappier feel. Plus, there’s no disguising Lippa’s inspiration from the musical Chicago with Full Disclosure, which gives much more than just a nod to the Kander and Ebb classic, We Both Reached For the Gun.

Aside from that the cast perform an impressive job of bringing the songs to life and encapsulate the spirit of the cherished characters from yester year.

credit: Matt Martin

Cameron Blakley as Gomez and Samantha Womack as Morticia.

Former Eastenders star Samantha Womack is perfect casting for Morticia, maintaining the dark sombre air of the matriarch of the kooky clan. Womack is a pro with a back catalogue of stage credits which shows here as she slinks her way effortlessly through every scene.

credit: Matt Martin

Les Dennis as Uncle Fester

Les Dennis shines as bright as the lightbulb he puts in his mouth as Uncle Fester. The well-loved comedian turned actor is endearing as the quirky Uncle who just wants everybody to be happy. His facial expressions are on point as is his high pitched broken accent which encapsulates the Fester that fans are used to.

The strongest vocals come from Carrie Hope Fletcher as the Princess of Darkness, Wednesday. Her solo rendition of Pulled is truly superb and leaves the audience with goosebumps at her incredible talent.

credit: Matt Martin

Oliver Ormson as Lucas and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday.

The real showstopper of the piece has to be Cameron Blakely as the vibrant and funny Latin lover Gomez. His comedic delivery as he wrestles between his loyalty for his wife and his daughter has the audience in stitches, along with his delivery of witty one liners such as, “Wednesday’s growing up, she’ll be Thursday before we know it”!

Full marks go to designer Diego Pitarch for an incredibly atmospheric set which craetes the spooky tone of the show. His lavish Addams mansion is impressive with its boarded up floor to ceiling windows and hanging paintings (which, if you look closely, have people moving in them).

All things considered The Addams Family will provide you with a fun night at the theatre. It may not be in the league of Wicked or Hamilton but it has bags of enthusiasm, plenty of laughs and enough to keep you entertained for the duration.

You won’t go out humming the original score but you will still be wanting to finger snap your way to the car park!

Runs at The Lowry until 9th September

https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-addams-family

 

Pippin

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First premiered on Broadway an incredible 45 years ago, Katy Lipson, Guy James and Hope Mill Theatre’s revival of Tony award winning Pippin shows no signs of age and is as magical and enchanting as we hoped it would be.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, Pippin tells the tale of a young man in search of something to believe in, a path to follow, ultimately, he is in search of himself. Loosely based on ‘Pepin’ the son of 8th Century King Charlemange, Pippin sets about trying out life and all it has to offer via different careers and different directions in order to find his corner of the sky. Maeve Black’s stunning Victorian Vaudeville setting paired with stunning lighting design from Aaron J. Dootson allows the players to truly tell this tale in the most theatrical and immersive of ways, making Pippin a remarkably bold and striking production.

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Pippin’s search and the different paths it leads him down illustrates clearly that with all its craziness and drama the world is indeed a stage, as the players perform and indulge Pippin his desires, we realise everything we see is an act. Leading player Genevieve Nicole is a wholly commanding presence, she steers and controls her fellow players who perform beautifully on her instruction, she shines in the role and bursts with sass and dangerous charisma as she steers Pippin through his search for fulfilment.

Jonathan Carlton is brilliantly cast as Pippin, he perfectly portrays the young Prince’s naivety and frustrations, the development in his character is wonderful to see as each experience leaves its mark and changes his outlook on life. Carlton’s delivery of Corner Of The Sky is especially beautiful, full of emotion and wonderfully displays the hopelesness he feels with his inability to fit in and understand his path in life.

The whole ensemble are superb, hardworking and utterly captivating. Director Jonathan O’Boyle has created a tight and incredibly slick team who are entirely in sync with each other. William Whelton’s choreography is sharp and precise and really adds to the beauty of this special piece while musical director Zach Flis delivers the sublime score to perfection.

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High praise must also go to Mari Barclay who plays both Fastrada and Berthe, her characterisation is exceptional, with brilliant comic timing and larger than life delivery she excels in both roles and also as a member of the superb ensemble.

The quality and delivery of Pippin is top class, the pairing of Katy Lipson and Hope Mill Theatre is a true gift to Manchester. Engaging, captivating and entirely magical, Pippin convincingly worked its magic and enchanted completely. A real gem of a show delivered with real style and sass.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until 23rd September tickets£20, concessions £18 available via the following link http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

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The Railway Children

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Exeter Northcott Theatre’s charming production of E. Nesbit’s much loved classic The Railway Children arrives at the Lowry Theatre this week.

Directed by Paul Jepson, the play brings together a well-adapted screenplay, outstanding acting and technical wizardry to create a highly atmospheric and snappily-paced adaptation of the children’s novel.

The production is mostly true to the original story of a mother and three children forced to abandon their comfortable London home for a small cottage in the country following the wrongful conviction of their father. The twists and turns in the plot are cleverly adapted from the original to suit the stage with Perks (the excellent Stewart Wright) as the omnipotent observer who fills in the gaps of the lengthy novel without ever losing an opportunity to show off his excellent comic timing.

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The quality of the directing is clear in the naturalness of the dialogue, particularly between the three children Phyllis (Katherine Carlton), Roberta (an outstanding Millie Turner) and Peter (Vinay Lad). Callum Goulden as young John Perks is an excellent comic foil to his more earnest peers; it was a shame not to see a bit more of a highly amiable Andrea Davy as Mrs. Perks. Joy Brook as Mother gives an emotional performance, and the excellent portrayal of family drama is lightened and enlivened by the visits of an increasingly frayed Andrew Josh as the family doctor.

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The stage is often transformed into a sepia-toned 19th century by the beautiful semi-transparent backdrops and there are also very effective video projections which give the big moments a cinematic immediacy. There was some evidence of first-night nerves (a banner went up at the wrong time, and the show started somewhat late) but these could not distract a rapt audience. This excellent production runs until Sunday, July 30th and is not to be missed.

Tickets can be found at http://www.thelowry.com/events/the-railway-children

 

Reviewed by Deirdre Warr

White is the new Black

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Last seen at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in the hilarious self-penned ‘The Community Centre’ Nicola Gardner returns to Manchester with fellow actress Jennifer Banks to deliver two very different yet hugely poignant plays, in the double bill, White is the new Black.

Piece one, The Last Appointment, written by Nicola as a commission for Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre sees black middle class GP Jo (Nicola Gardner) confronted by white Black Lives Matter activist Aretha (Jennifer Banks) who arrives at her surgery for the last appointment of the day. Things quickly become heated and increasingly personal as Aretha struggles to understand why Jo would not want to protest and take up the front line at rallies like Aretha, she tells her to “Get with the programme” and challenges Jo’s position of privilege, aghast that being the only black girl in her school didn’t leave her traumatised and angry at the injustice Aretha feels Jo faced. Whereas Jo wants to forget the struggles and the strife and aspires to succeed, holding people like the Obamas in high esteem and admiring their achievements in life, she wants to look forward not back.

There are some highly entertaining moments delivered beautifully by both actresses, Aretha strives to make Jo believe she too has lived a persecuted life due to being a Scouser, she knows how it feels to be targeted and treated badly, resulting in dramatic and hilarious eye rolls from Jo. Aretha challenges Jo’s attitude just as much as Jo challenges Aretha’s motives, ultimately boiling down to that fact that both just want what they feel is right and is fair despite going about things in dramatically different ways, both ladies show how ultimately despite our choices and actions we aren’t so very different after all.

Piece two in contrast to The Last Appointment reverses the roles of our two actresses, in Florence – The Fight of her Life written by Maurice Bessman, we meet African asylum seeker Florence (Nicola Gardner) as she comes face to face with seemingly cold-hearted Immigration Officer Mrs Lewis (Jennifer Banks). Florence is literally pleading for her life during the cold and demeaning immigration test as Mrs Lewis digs for detail despite the deeply upsetting and heartbreakingly sad reality of the life Florence has escaped from, boxes are ticked and devastating accounts disregarded as Florence fails to provide hard, factual evidence of the stories that she tells. The immigration office want physical proof explains Mrs Lewis and without that she must simply press on and get her job done, detaching herself from the emotion of the story, she simply sees herself as a woman just doing a job. The coldness and reality of the test is hard-hitting and sensitively delivered by both actresses, our characters have a task to complete and both are driven by achieving the best outcome, for Florence it is a life-changing and potentially devastating outcome should she be refused, for Mrs Lewis it’s just another work-placed task that she needs to complete efficiently. Florence has to relive painful and devastating memories, which are cruelly brushed away by Mrs Lewis due to not being documented anywhere as proof they ever happened.

While the two pieces are very different, they both ultimately highlight the same themes, despite colour and differences in race, we are essentially all one, we share so much in life that ties us together and bonds us, we love, we live and we all strive to succeed. While we may differ in our attitudes, choices and approaches, there are many more similarities that draw us together. The two plays both powerfully demonstrate how deep down we really are one, our diversities should be embraced and celebrated as the melting pot we come together in grows in richness and diversity. Emotive, powerful, and beautifully delivered theatre, highly recommended.

White is the new Black has one final performance tonight at the Anthony Burgees Foundation, tickets available here; http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk