Behind the Scenes of Elf the Musical – Part 1

Liz

Based on the much loved 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, Elf the musical heads to The Lowry next month as part of their spectacular Autumn/Winter programme and promises to be the must see show of the festive season.

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’s much anticipated arrival will spread Christmas cheer far and wide as we follow Buddy the Elf in his hilarious quest to find his birth-father.

Ahead of opening on Friday 24th November we headed to Hamley’s in the Trafford Centre for the Lowry’s official Elf launch, as well as making our own Christmas baubles and tucking into the most incredible Elf celebration cake we caught up with the shows stars Liz McClarnon who plays Jovi and Ben Forster who reprises the role of Buddy after an enormously popular run in London’s West End.

Elf launch

Part One of our ‘Behind the Scenes at Elf’ is out chat with the lovely Liz McClarnon, founding member of Atomic Kitten and experienced musical theatre star, Liz gave us the inside information on what audiences can expect from this magical production.

Opening Night (ON): Jovi isn’t exactly full of Christmas cheer but we know you’re an eternal optimist who loves Christmas so how will you balance the two?

Liz: I’m so obsessed with Christmas, if I could start talking about it in April that would be fine with me, everyone around me is like ‘Please chill, just stop’ but I think what I really like is that Jovi has that dark, sarcastic humour and actually being a Scouser I feel I’ve lived that my whole life, so when I read for the part I added a few little bits and they were really well received so I think I’ve definitely got the dark humour but I’ve also got the Christmas love at the end.

ON: How did you become involved in the show?

Liz: I was sent the a song to audition with and when I heard it I realised it was in my perfect key, so I got really excited about it, so I went to the audition, sang and they were really happy with me, it’s like the song was made for me. I think we were all happy with the situation coz basically three hours later I got a phone call telling me I’d got the part; it’s never been that fast before. Singing musical theatre feels so natural for me, I’m so excited to be part of this show.

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ON: Are you looking forward to working with Ben?

Liz: Absolutely, I’ve actually known Ben for years, we’ve got lots of the same friends, I went to see him in Phantom and I already knew we had a few mutual friends and I brought one of my friends with me and Ben already knew her too so for me I know already it’s going to be so much fun.

ON: Are you ready for the ice skating/rollerblading in the show?

Liz: I am honestly the clumsiest person ever, I probably should have said that in the audition to be fair, ha ha, but I will absolutely be rollerblading/ice skating. I’m really excited about starting rehearsals but also a little bit petrified so will be taking every opportunity to practice.

ON: Elf has become such a Christmas classic, is there a pressure in taking on something so iconic to deliver?

Liz: Yes, of course, it’s come from the West End, Ben has already done it in the West End, Kimberley Walsh was amazing in it, so yes absolutely. When I did Legally Blonde that had come straight from the West End as well so you really have a sense of don’t mess it up! But it honestly feels so right doing it that I’m more excited than scared. I can’t play Jovi like Kimberley’s done I will absolutely have to play her my way and put my own stamp on it, which I’m really excited to do.

Elf Cake

ON: Are you looking forward to performing at the Lowry?

Liz: Absolutely, I’ve been a few times to see different shows, I’ve taken my Mum to watch ballets there before, I love it there, I think it’s a beautiful theatre, it’s bigger than I realised too which is exciting and a little bit daunting. It’s funny just before I go on stage performing I get a real feeling nerves and fear and I think ‘why do I do this job?’ then three seconds in and I’m there performing on stage I think ‘THIS is why I do it’ it’s the BEST feeling ever!

ON: Do you have any superstitions or rituals you have to do before a show?

Liz: Yes, but different superstitions for different shows. For Legally Blonde my character Paulette had a lot of earrings and massive shoes, so the left earring had to go on first, then the left shoe had to go on because that’s how I did it on opening night, so then I felt like I had to do it like that the whole time. So generally it’s something that happens and then I remember I’ve done it and then I have to then do it every show, so we’ll have to see what it is for Elf.

ON: When do rehearsals start?

Liz: We start rehearsals on 16th October, so we’ve got about a month of rehearsals. It’s funny on the first day you think ‘argh a month’s never enough time’ but it always is, I’ve done shows with only two weeks rehearsals and you think no way is that enough time but it always is. I’ve got my script already and I’ve highlighted all my bits so I’m ready to go.

Elf flyers

ON: What is it about Elf that makes it so appealing to audiences?

Liz: I think it not only delivers that magical Christmas feeling but you also get funny, you get sarcastic, you get to laugh at Buddy at first but then you do really fall in love with him and go through this magical adventure with him. The magic that happens on stage I’ve been told is incredible and I can’t wait to be part of that, I’m gonna have to try and contain my own excitement, it sounds like it really does have to be seen to be believed.

ON: Do you have any Christmas traditions within your family?

Liz: Oh yes lots! A few drinks on Christmas Eve is definitely one coming from a big Irish family, we also always have about three or four different meats with our Christmas dinner coz everyone like different things, my Mum has the posh meat, my boyfriend has the lamb, I like Chicken, my brother likes beef, my Dad likes beef, my Mum opts for goose or pheasant so there’s all sorts going on.

ON: Are you family coming down to see the show?

Liz: Absolutely, I’m getting messages from people claiming to be family members I didn’t even know I had, that’s how excited everyone is about this show. Everyone is going nuts about this show, my family are genuinely very, very supportive, my immediate family especially, they will come and see me in a show eight or ten times, I’m very lucky knowing they’re very proud of me.

Elf The Musical runs at The Lowry from Fri 24 November 2017 – Sun 14 January 2018, tickets available here https://www.thelowry.com/events/elf-the-musical

 

 

The Kite Runner

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Based on Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 international best-selling novel which was adapted for the screen in 2007 and following a hugely successful West-End run, The Kite Runner arrives at the Lowry this week, its second stop as part of an extensive UK tour.

First produced in the United States back in 2009, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation is as beautiful and breath-taking as fans of the book would have hoped, with rich storytelling via lead character Amir’s non-stop narrative, Director Giles Croft ensures The Kite Runner is a powerful and cleverly delivered theatrical experience.

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There are no gimmicks needed as the compelling and haunting story is sensitivly told. Amir and Hassan are opposites in every way, Amir is privileged, Hassan his servant, poor, illiterate yet fiercely loyal. As Afghanistan their homeland is about to be torn apart by war, so too is their unique friendship.

While there are many elements which make up this unforgettable piece it is ultimately a story about a young boy’s guilt and later journey towards redemption. After witnessing a tragedy as a child which impacts profoundly on the lives of the core characters, Amir is forever burdened by his guilty secret, knowing he chose not to speak up to stop the heart-breaking act. Even moving to the other side of the world to start a new life doesn’t enable him to escape the dark and crippling secret. As we follow his journey, his plea for forgiveness captures the true heart of this incredibly rich and utterly captivating production.

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David Ahmad as Amir delivers a powerful and extremely moving performance, on stage for the entire production his clear narration allows the piece to flow gently and build dramatically as tragedy unfolds and secrets are revealed. Emilio Doorgasingh is perfectly cast as Baba, Amir’s Father, he embodies the character entirely, from strong proud, privileged Pashtun to elderly and infirm immigrant, Doorgasingh is superb. Jo Ben Ayed’s portrayal of both Hassan and Sorab is deeply touching and incredibly powerful, mild and submissive yet unshakeably loyal to his friend Amir.

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The set is simple yet hugely effective, dominated by a fan-shaped kite and evocative screen projections from William Simpson, guiding the audience softly from Kabul to San Francisco. The whole production is gently underscored by live tabla player, Hanif Khan, whose music stirs emotion and adds further authenticity to the piece.

Emotional, deeply moving and beautifully staged, The Kite Runner runs at The Lowry until Saturday 7th October tickets available here www.thelowry.com/events/the-kite-runner

The Play That Goes Wrong

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Bursting onto the Lowry stage this week with a crash, bang and almighty wallop is West End smash hit and recent Broadway transfer, The Play That Goes Wrong.

Mischief Theatre have come a long way since their humble beginnings in an Inslington Pub and their original production continues to thrill as the company delivers the silliest and most calamitous night out at the theatre you’re ever likely to witness.

Cornley Polytechnic amateur dramatic club invite us to join them as they attempt to stage their bold new production, Murder at Haversham Hall, a 1920’s murder mystery which quickly becomes less whodunnit and more survival of the fittest.

The catastrophes begin immediately as the lights go up prematurely as our victim is still getting himself in place on the chaise lounge. Anything that could go wrong absolutely does in this riotous romp of farcical fun. The physical comedy is hilarious with gag after gag hitting you thick and fast, you just about regain your composure when another disaster unfolds and tears of laughter begin again. From missing props, to set malfunctions you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing as the cast press on with their ‘show must go on attitude’ and remain completely in character despite the chaos unfolding all around them.

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High praise must go to this hardworking ensemble cast, the teamwork involved to enable such slick delivery is impressive; their commitment to making things look so delightfully disastrous is incredible as the madcap mayhem leaves audiences exhausted from laughing so hard. Each person on stage gives their all in this high energy romp and together creates the most wonderful team. Special mention must go to Alistair Kirton as Cecil Haversham he is superb, so thrilled with his own performance any audience applause is too wonderful to ignore. Also Patrick Warner as Inspector Carter, his attempts to remain calm amidst the madness are hilarious. Making it all possible is Nigel Hook’ set which is superb, intricate and sophisticated with all manner of opportunities for disasters to unfold as every piece has its part to play.

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The Play That Goes Wrong is the perfect tonic; the company deliver the most seamless escapist fun, something so important in current times. It’s chaotic, silly, brilliantly bonkers and delightfully daft, an absolute must see!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 10th June https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Extra matinee of The Play That Goes Wrong!

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Due to enormous demand an additional matinee performance of the West End and Broadway hit The Play That Goes Wrong has been added to the Lowry run on Friday 9th June at 2pm!

The multiple international award winning production will entertain north west audiences for a week long run from Monday 5th-Saturday 10th June, this highly physical comedy delivers the finest of slapstick humour and has audiences literally rolling in the aisles as the bonkersly brilliant cast act up a storm on stage.

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The play introduces The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ who are attempting albeit disastrously to put on a 1920s’ murder mystery, but as you would guess (and secretly hope), everything that can go wrong ultimately does, as the accident prone thespians battle on against all the odds to get to their final curtain call.

The Play That Goes Wrong is an absolute riot of expertly choreographed mayhem and side-splitting silliness, a huge audience pleaser an absolute barrel of laughs.

Tickets available via the following link https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Running Time: 2 hours & 5 minutes including 1 interval Suitable for ages 8+.

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Miss Saigon returns to Manchester!

Miss S 5Hot on the heels of yesterday’s exciting Matilda announcement Cameron Mackintosh has today announced that Miss Saigon will land at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on 21th March 2018 and will stay in the city for a total of 7 weeks until 12th May 2018, with tickets going on sale on 18 May. www.miss-saigon.com

Mackintosh also announced the principal casting of his acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical, Red Concepcion will play ‘The Engineer’, Sooha Kim ‘Kim’, Ashley Gilmour ‘Chris’, Zoë Doano ‘Ellen’ and Gerald Santos ‘Thuy’. At certain performances ‘Kim’ will be played by Joreen Bautista.

Here at Opening Night we’re thrilled to hear that Barnaby Hughes most recently seen in Hope Mill Theatre’s stunning production Yank! will be amongst the cast, huge congratulations Barnaby!

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Miss Saigon tells the heart-wrenching story of the last days of the Vietnam War, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For 3 years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

Since its London premiere in 1989, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon has become one of the most successful musicals in history.  The show has since been performed in 28 countries, over 300 cities in 15 different languages, has won over 40 awards including 2 Olivier Awards, 3 Tony Awards, and 4 Drama Desk Awards and been seen by over 35 million people worldwide.

Tickets will be in huge demand for this epic production, we are thrilled to say in Manchester the heat is most definitely on!

MISS SAIGON UK TOUR 2017/2018

www.miss-saigon.com

 

MONDAY 3 JULY – SATURDAY 22 JULY 2017

CURVE, LEICESTER

www.curveonline.co.uk – 0116 242 3595

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 26 JULY – SATURDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2017

BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME

www.birminghamhippodrome.com – 0844 338 5000

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 4 OCTOBER – SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2017

BORD GAIS ENERGY THEATRE, DUBLIN

www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie – +353 (1) 677 7999

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2017 – SATURDAY 6 JANUARY 2018

WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF

www.wmc.org.uk – 029 2063 6464

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY – SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2018

FESTIVAL THEATRE EDINBURGH

www.edtheatres.com – 01315296000

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY – SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2018

MAYFLOWER THEATRE, SOUTHAMPTON

www.mayflower.org.uk – 02380 711811

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH – SATURDAY 12 MAY 2018

MANCHESTER PALACE THEATRE

www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester/0844 871 3019

ON SALE 18 MAY 2017

 

WEDNESDAY 16 MAY – SATURDAY 23 JUNE 2018

THE BRISTOL HIPPODROME

www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome/0844 871 3012

ON SALE 18 MAY 2017

 

WEDNESDAY 4 JULY – SATURDAY 4 AUGUST 2018

THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

http://www.theatreroyal.com/01752 267222 ON SALE 18 MAY 2017

 

WEDNESDAY 15 AUGUST – SATURDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2018

NORWICH THEATRE ROYAL

www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk  01603 63 00 00

ON SALE 21 AUGUST

Funny Girl

Funny Girl

Hot on the heels of it’s much adored, critically acclaimed not to mention record breaking West End run, Funny Girl embarks on a 22 city UK and Ireland tour with Manchester being its first port of call. Boasting some of the most recognisable songs in entertainment history, Don’t Rain On My Parade and People, the hugely iconic show tells the story of the delightful Fanny Brice (Sheridan Smith) a lovable comedic singer and dancer striving for a leap across the water from Brooklyn to Broadway.

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The recent West End revival was the first since the original 1964 Broadway production transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre with the one and only Barbara Streisand who then went on to immortalise the role on the silver screen, winning an Academy Award on her way. Big shoes to fill you might think? Enter Sheridan Smith! What a talent!

For anyone wondering how Fanny could be played by anyone other than Streisand wonder no more, book yourselves a ticket and see for yourself, Smith is quite simply perfection. Her characterisation and comedic timing is sublime, you can literally feel the audience fall more and more in love with her with every line she utters and every kooky facial expression she pulls, she is a true star. While she plays the clown perfectly she also has sass and class in bucket loads, she is utterly captivating. She gives the gutsiest of performances from belting out the iconic Don’t Rain On My Parade with heart and determination to her stunning rendition of The Music That Makes Me Dance beautifully tender and deeply moving. You literally cannot take your eyes off her. A personal highlight for me was You Are Woman, I Am Man, where she finally falls under Arnstein’s clutches, although who is seducing who is debatable, I had tears of laughter by the end of this riotous scene.

Funny Girl

Smith is joined by a fine cast who add to the joy of this brilliant production, the dashingly handsome Nick Arnstein, Fanny’s gambling chancer of a husband is played wonderfully by Chris Peluso. The show also has many impressive chorus numbers which are beautifully choreographed by Lynne Page and delivered with precision by the hardworking ensemble. The trio of Fanny’s Mother and neighbours, Mrs Brice, Mrs Strakosh and Mrs Meeker are terrifically entertaining (Rachel Izen, Myra Sands, Zoe Ann Brown). With stunning costumes from Matthew Wright and set design from Michael Pavelka, Funny Girl delivers everything you would hope for and more. It is no surprise that the audience leap to their feet during the finale, this show and Smith truly deserving of the full standing ovation they received.

Funny Girl

If Manchester didn’t feel lucky enough to be the opening stop on the tour then the we must be pinching ourselves knowing that Funny Girl complete with Sheridan Smith will be returning to close the tour in August, tickets are available now but will no doubt be snapped up so act quick! Funny Girl is just magical, an absolute triumph! A five star masterpiece!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/funny-girl/palace-theatre-manchester/

Palace Theatre – Saturday 18th February – Saturday 25th February 2017

Returning Monday 7th August – Saturday 19th August 2017