Friday, December 9

North West

<strong>BETTY! – A sort of Musical – Royal Exchange Theatre</strong>
North West

BETTY! – A sort of Musical – Royal Exchange Theatre

As we left the Royal Exchange this evening following the World Premiere of 'BETTY! - A sort of Musical', I understood the necessity of the subtitle in attempting to describe this show. 'Betty' is part musical, part sketch comedy and all heart, a Winter warmer that is both funny and completely bonkers but lacks the consistency to make it a real Christmas cracker. Director Sarah Frankcom and Maxine Peake have further developed their long standing working relationship with both each other and this Mancunian theatrical institution, 'BETTY' is their eighth project working together. This time round they have enlisted composer and songwriter Seiriol Davies to tell the story of Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the redoubtable first woman Speaker of the House of Commons and her extraordinary rise to p...
<strong><u>White Christmas – Liverpool Empire</u></strong>
North West

White Christmas – Liverpool Empire

The classic Irving Berlin Christmas film, White Christmas has been turned into a heart-warming musical, that is sure to get even the grinch into the Christmas spirit! 10 years after their last Christmas of the Second World War, Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis are huge music stars. They’ve kicked off the festive season on The Ed Sullivan Show and plan on getting the red-eye (overnight) train from Grand Central station to Florida, to rehearse and try out their new musical revue. Whilst searching for a sister duo to be their opening act, they meet Betty and Judy Haynes and end up with them in Vermont – even stumbling across their old army general, as the innkeeper! The classic romantic comedy storyline ensues, boys meet girls, start falling in love, a misunderstanding happens b...
<strong>Cinderella – Theatre Royal, St Helens</strong>
North West

Cinderella – Theatre Royal, St Helens

With a cast fresh from our TV screens, my expectations for Regal Entertainment's annual Christmas Panto at St. Helens Theatre Royal were high and, fortunately, I was not disappointed. One of the many charms of reviewing the marvellous institution of British Panto, is anticipating how production teams might 'freshen up' extremely overdone fairy tales to avoid audience fatigue and deliver hilarious family entertainment year after year. Cinderella at St. Helens Theatre Royal was anything but tired thanks to an eclectic mix of ventriloquism from the massively talented Jamie Leahey and Chuck (Postman and Speciality Act), stand-up comedy from Jon Courtenay (Dandini), hilarious antics from Lewis Devine (Buttons), breath-taking vocal performance from Rachel Wood (Fairy Godmother) and ah-induci...
<strong>West End to Broadway: A Christmas Cabaret – The Pendleton School of Theatre</strong>
North West

West End to Broadway: A Christmas Cabaret – The Pendleton School of Theatre

Ahh December, a time for proud parents to crowd into overheated school halls and gymnasiums to watch the tradition that is the school Christmas show, usually an event where hymns and Christmas songs are gently murdered by offspring with varying degrees of talent. Fortunately, I am at The Pendleton School of Theatre this evening where no such horrors await, and I'm wafted gently into the festive season on a tide of theatrical artistry that ensures the continuation of the excellent reputation of this school. Nostalgia blankets the programme this evening like the frost outside on this freezing Salford night, with both Musical Director Neil G Bennett and Director Becky Marshall raiding their memory box of Christmas, bringing us a programme that in addition to the traditional, allows a coup...
<strong>The Borrowers – Theatre by the Lake</strong>
North West

The Borrowers – Theatre by the Lake

The tiny people who live in the walls and under the floorboards make a return visit to Theatre by the Lake as The Borrowers provides family entertainment this Christmas and into the new year, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth. The adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s classic by Theresa Heskins follows the adventures of Pod, Homily and their daughter Arrietty whose life is turned upside down when discovered by the humans living in the house where they live under the floor. This re-telling, with the permission of the deFaria Company plays around with the scale of life between the tiny Borrowers, the human child & adults - as well as the wildlife in the open fields surrounding the Borrower’s home. With the use of puppets and set scale, we zoom in and out of the two worlds which colli...
<strong>Cinderella – Floral Pavilion</strong>
North West

Cinderella – Floral Pavilion

Floral Pavilion and Martin Dodd for UK Productions bring Cinderella to audiences this festive season. With a cast known from TV, Pop bands to theatre stars, there was an array of talent on stage tonight. Cinderella follows the story of a young girl, Cinders, who is treated unfairly by her stepsisters and follows the handsome Prince Charming as he throws a ball to find the girl of his dreams. This evening’s show was their first day of performances and as an I felt that they had not yet fully settled in. There were a few issues with sound where, on numerous occasions, mics did not come on at the beginning of people’s lines meaning the audience were missing bits of dialogue. In the larger numbers in the show, the band seemed to completely overshadow the cast on stage, again, leaving the a...
<strong>SHREK The Musical – Liverpool Empire</strong>
North West

SHREK The Musical – Liverpool Empire

This family-focused musical with music by Jeanine Tesori is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire; it brings all the familiar characters from the film to life. It is a very funny, unusual fairy-tale in which curses are reversed, donkeys and dragons find love, princesses in all shapes and sizes are beautiful and monsters get the girls. The moral of the story is that it's important to accept people who are different and the title character, who is a green ogre, definitely fits the bill. Shrek is a swamp-dwelling ogre who, in a make-believe land, embarks on a quest to reclaim his land.  He encounters a smart-aleck donkey with the gift of the gab, who becomes a good friend, battles a scarey fire-breathing dragon an...
<strong>The Possibility of Colour – Online Stream</strong>
North West

The Possibility of Colour – Online Stream

The Possibility of Colour, written, directed and produced by Pete Carruthers, is an exploration of mental health, synaesthesia, neurodiversity and how healthcare institutions, compulsory treatment, and relationships with friends and family affect people’s lives. Set in a terrifying dystopia in the near future, this play is a fantastic meeting of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Black Mirror which takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and will leave you with plenty to reflect on in terms of your own mental health and that of others around you. Joseph (Pete Carruthers) is a socially awkward architect with a seemingly insurmountable problem. His latest clients have bought a beach house in a neighbourhood where everything has to be white, but they want him to inflect “the possibility...
<strong>A Christmas Carol – Shakespeare North Playhouse</strong>
North West

A Christmas Carol – Shakespeare North Playhouse

Shakespeare North Playhouse is one of the most stunning venues in the country, there is absolutely no doubt about that. Home to the only timber-built “cockpit” theatre outside London, it was built throughout lockdown and is an experience unlike anything else you can find in the North West. The play is a mixture of modern and traditional costumes, dialogue, movement and northern references, and is a pantomime musical with original songs delivered by the four actor-musicians. The folk music involved at least 10 instruments, all played by the incredible multi-skilled ensemble and musically directed by Jessica Dives. Even for a pantomime there was a lot of audience involvement, with some exciting things for us to do during the performance. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but the kids ...
<strong>The House Amongst the Willows – Hope Street Theatre</strong>
North West

The House Amongst the Willows – Hope Street Theatre

Robert Scott’s The House Amongst the Willows is a psychological thriller which explores the darkness which can hide in seemingly happy families and the inevitable tragic shadow that falls over a relationship with someone whose previous partner has passed away. Directed by Mark Holland and Gabi Castro, this is a tense and dramatic show with plenty of twists and turns around the eponymous copse of willow trees out front. The play opens with Fletcher (Sab Muthusamy) and his fiancée, Sadie (Josie Harrison) arriving at the holiday home of Paul (John Michael Rooke) and Erin (Sarah Howes-Dixon), who are Fletcher’s dead wife’s Laura’s parents. Sadie is understandably nervous over meeting Laura’s parents, but Fletcher is very keen for the weeklong break to go well as he is closer to Paul and Er...