Friday, December 3

North West

Handel’s Messiah – Liverpool Empire
North West

Handel’s Messiah – Liverpool Empire

As the calendar ticks over into December and Christmas looms properly into view, there are certain things that can be guaranteed – that there will be arguments over whether Die Hard is a Christmas film. That you’ll buy yourself a discount advent calendar because you’re never too old. And that somewhere, choirs are dusting off their music for Handel’s Messiah. Tonight, it’s the mighty Glyndebourne opera company who have taken on the mantle, sandwiching it between performances of The Rake’s Progress and Don Pasquale as part of a three-night residency at the Liverpool Empire during their wider UK tour. In contrast to these two shows, their Messiah is set to be a more austere affair, with a simple tier of chairs for the chorus and additional seating for tonight’s four soloists.  An...
Peter Pan – Octagon Theatre
North West

Peter Pan – Octagon Theatre

Peter Pan is a classic – whether you know it as the original children’s book by J.M Barrie, the Disney animation, or any of the other cinematic adaptations that have come since. The problem with a popular story that has been told and retold again is that oftentimes, there is no originality left – you’re so familiar with the story, that there’s nothing new or innovative. However, the audience of The Bolton Octagon’s production of Peter Pan have no such worries – this show has the reassuringly familiar storylines and much-loved characters; yet has been staged so dynamically (and features new musical numbers) that it almost feels like watching it for the very first time. Adapted for stage in 2018 by Sarah Punchon, this production has been brought to life in Bolton by Artistic Director ...
Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress –Liverpool Empire
North West

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress –Liverpool Empire

The art historian in me jumped at the chance to see William Hogarth’s most-celebrated caricature brought to life in Stravinsky’s opera with a libretto by none other than celebrated poets WH Auden and Chester Kallman, and a classic cross-hatched set design from David Hockney providing a very fitting tribute to the original satire. Under the direction of John Cox, we open to our hero Tom Rakewell (Frederick Jones) with his very literal Anne Trulove (Soraya Mafi) in the garden of her father (Stephen Richardson). The devil makes work for idle hands and it’s the appearance of Nick Shadow (Sam Carl) who delivers a Faustian-like pact, but one very much of the devil’s making, that sees our rake’s progress well and truly begin as we move from the brothel education of Mother Goose (Fiona Kimm) t...
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) – Hope Street Theatre
North West

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) – Hope Street Theatre

It is no shock that ‘The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)’ is in fact, a musical by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell. The show premiered off-Broadway in 2003 and went on to tour around London, Australia, Canada and America. It is a brilliant to see that a show like this has now made its way to our very own Hope Street Theatre in Liverpool. From the get-go, it is apparent that Jordan Alexander (musical director) is a musical genius on the piano as he begins playing the opening score with vigor and charm. This complex musical score barely stops for the full duration of the production and his talents lays excellent foundations for this musical creation. The thinking behind this show is unusual in that it promotes the idea that there is ‘nothing new here’. There is a loose plot which i...
The Wiz – Hope Mill Theatre
North West

The Wiz – Hope Mill Theatre

There are a few big secrets in musical theatre. One of the biggest is that aside from one overwrought and over-covered number there’s not a lot of great music in The Wizard of Oz. It’s not the only retelling of L. Frank Baum’s original story, so why is it considered a classic when The Wiz remains unknown to many? Unknown despite having more songs, better music and a lot more heart? Why have there only ever been three professional UK productions of The Wiz on stage? Why has it never made it to the West End, whilst a lordly revival of the Judy Garland movie was deemed worthy of a primetime TV show? Important questions. I will leave the answers to others except to say there was something incredibly powerful about taking a seat in the Hope Mill Theatre in front of a sparse stage and ...
A Show With No Name – Woodford War Memorial Community Centre
North West

A Show With No Name – Woodford War Memorial Community Centre

A musical theatre show is always a must in the calendar of a theatre lover, and after a warm welcome at the door, the audience were in for a treat. The Company put together a very well thought out programme of musical favourites, but also included some less well known but equally deserving songs.  The staging was kept simple which kept the showing flowing, and cast changes were sleek and went without a hitch. The show began with ‘A Million Dreams’ sang by David Lambert and Gilly Thompson with wonderful support from the ensemble, this was an easily recognizable winner to begin with.  The trio of songs from Les Misérables were well performed with a passionate delivery of one of my personal favourite songs, ‘On My Own’ by Abi Frost.  Steve Sheppard treated us to a remark...
Matthew Bourne’s The Nutcracker – The Lowry
North West

Matthew Bourne’s The Nutcracker – The Lowry

It’s endearing, magical and delicious - all in equal measure! Matthew Bourne’s The Nutcracker returns to the stage after almost 10 years delivering a show-stopping performance which engages all the senses and is a must see this festive season! It’s fascinating to witness such a reinvigorated and new adaptation of this traditional ballet; the score remains traditional but the costumes, the sets and the stage presence makes it something totally renewed and fresh and anything but traditional! I particularly loved the mise-en-scene of this reboot; starting with the stripped back - dark and cold orphanage for its opening scene and doing away with the grandeur of the traditional ‘throw everything we’ve got at it’ type of opening; it draws you in to the story and makes the transition to...
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Liverpool Empire
North West

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Liverpool Empire

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and at this particular performance they were also taking selfies with the real-life Jamie who happened to be sat next to us at the Empire. That said, we can’t guarantee this will be your experience (in fact, chances are it won’t be…), so what did we think of the actual show? Well, despite the show being everywhere right now thanks to the movie adaptation, I had deliberately avoided as much about it as possible, so I could see the musical without any preconceptions and I’m so glad I did. What a wonderful, heartfelt, motivational a piece of theatre. Broadway musicals have all the glitz and glamour but there is something about the witty writing of a British musical that just feels like a warm hug in a mug of Yorkshire tea. But I’m getting ahead of mysel...
White Christmas – Palace Theatre, Manchester
North West

White Christmas – Palace Theatre, Manchester

For some bah humbugs out there it may be a little too early to mention the C word. However, myself and the entire audience at the Palace Theatre were only too happy to watch a Christmas musical at the end of November. Despite being based on the 1954 movie of the same name, starring the iconic Bing Crosby, the musical didn’t receive its stage debut until the year 2000. It has since gone from strength-to-strength being performed on Broadway and in the West End. The story follows Bob (Matthew Jeans) and Phil (Dan Burton) who were both serving in the American military in 1944 and deliver a rendition of White Christmas to their fellow troops. After returning to the US, they decide to become entertainers. After setting up in New York, they decide to find a new act for their variety show, ...
DDDivas – Unity Theatre
North West

DDDivas – Unity Theatre

We all know there are plenty of fully-developed, full-length theatrical productions that feel utterly impenetrable to an audience not ‘in the know’. How wonderful then to report that DDDivas, a short 10-minute selection of new material still in development, is beautifully and heartbreakingly lucid. DDDivas - which also has the working title of Ruby’s Slippers - is described as a fictional telling of real events from the life of neuro-divergent, disabled performer Elaine Collins. The audience finds Elaine’s character Ruby on an empty, unlit stage dancing alone to Cyndi Lauper. Dressed from head to toe in colour and glitter, Ruby is, quite literally, the light in the darkness. It’s obvious from the off though that the pink tights, silver bow and purple arm warmers mask a less happy truth...