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REVIEW: Dirty Dancing @ The Palace, Manchester

DDtour–Ensemble–cAlastairM_uir-DD1746SmallDirty Dancing returns to the Palace this week as part of its 2016-17 tour and it is nothing short of sensational.

Not one member of the incredibly strong cast puts a foot wrong in this lastest rendition of the tale of forbidden love, passion, class divide and dance.

The story centres around middle-class “Baby” Houseman, who has ambitions of bright future and changing the world, on a family vacation in a  mountain holiday resort, where she encounters working class dance instructor Johnny Castle.

Johnny is not the kind of guy nice girls like Baby are supposed to mix with. He’s the kind of man protective dad Dr Houseman has fought to save her from. But Baby has other plans and love breaches he class divide.

Lewis Griffiths is excellent in the role of Johnny. From the moment he opens his mouth he owns it. Obviously an accomplished actor who gets the tone just right, the boy can dance too.

But it’s difficult to pick out anyone who really stole the show, such is the strength of this cast – Katie Eccles delivers as Baby and Carlie Milner as Penny also excels putting her considerable ballet experience to good use.

And of course, there is that great music and fantastic dancing in a production which makes full use of all staging possibilities with some clever set design and scene changes.

Director Russ Spencer has served up a real treat. It’s like an all-American burger, with plenty of musical theatrical meat topped topped with just the right amount of cheese.

Dave Toomer

 

REVIEW: Hound of the Baskervilles @ Great Northern Warehouse, Manchester

Hound of the Baskervilles4It’s Sherlock Holmes as you’ve never seen him before, as Northern Rep serve up their unique interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s creepy classic.

Christopher Brown and Angela Hazeldine in the roles of Holmes and Dr Jane Watson take a small audience through the intriguing tale of murder, greed and deception in the intimate environment of the Reading Room next to the AMC Cinema at the Great Northern Warehouse.

All the ingredients of Conan Doyle’s story are there with the pair pulling off a mammoth effort with fluffed lines all part of the show, with hilarious results.

It’s like having your best friends in your front room performing your favourite and best loved story.

Brown and Hazeldine together with Michael Justice and Thea Beyleveld perform on alternate nights throughout the run until September 16.

This is murder mystery transformed into farce and as long as you are not precious about the tale and up for a laugh, it is well worth a look.

Runs till September 16

REVIEW: Talking Heads @ The Bolton Octagon

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David Birrell (Pic: Ian Tilton)

Bolton Octagon’s season has been completed with a wonderful production of Alan Bennett’s beautifully crafted and bitter-sweet monologues familiar to fans of the Northern bard by TV performances by Thora Hird, Patricia Routledge and Bennett himself.

And David Birrell, Cathy Tyson, and Sue Wallace do great justice to Bennett’s scripts for Chip in the Sugar, Lady of Letters and Cream Cracker Under the Settee.

Birrell is superb as the repressed gay man with a history of mental health issues living with his mam. He successfully delivers a performance  which conveys that typical Northern humour bearing the distinctive Bennett stamp.

Tyson is also more than competent as the the busybody not afraid to to express her views in a series of letters to her MP, the police, the chemist and eventually writes herself into trouble.

But for me it is Sue Wallace who excels in a tear-jerking portrayal of 75-year-old Doris, after a fall in her home considers the options of whether to face her grim fate or end up in a care home.

If you think this production is a recipe for a depressing night out – don’t. This production pulls off the remarkable task of presenting a moving commentary on the issues around loneliness and community  whilst at the same time making us laugh.

It is well worth the trip to Bolton.

Runs til July 8.

DAVE TOOMER

 

REVIEW: The Commitments@ The Palace, Manchester

4. The Commitments, photo credit Johan Persson

Pic: Johan Persson

The combination of that beautiful Dublin twang, a gritty but unapologetically feel-good story and those timeless soul classics is what has made the Commitments a great film and now a hugely enjoyable stage show.

And there is little to disappoint fans of the show in this Manchester Palace production which sees Andrew Linnie in the role Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into Dublin’s “hardest working band.”

Linnie gives a creditable performance as Roddy Doyle’s iconic creation and Brian Gilligan also does well as the uncouth but gifted singer, Deco.

Optimized-3. Jimmy's Da (Kevin Kennedy) in The Commitments photo credit Johan PerssonThe show also sees Corrie legend, Kevin Kennedy in the role Jimmy’s Da who maintains the laughter but whose slips into the Manc when he has to say more than a couple of sentences.

After a fairly sedate first half the show builds to a fabulous crescendo with appreciative audience rocking in the aisles by the end.

Coronation Street legend, Kevin Kennedy, is to star as Jimmy’s Da in the UK tour of the critically acclaimed musical The Commitments written by Roddy Doyle, which comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, from Monday 27 March to Saturday 8 April 2017.

The show has been adapted for the stage by Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle, from his original novel. Directed by C Jay Ranger, The Commitments is packed with more than 20 classic soul songs performed live on stage including: Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose .

Runs till April 8

REVIEW: Bat Out Of Hell, The Musical@ The Opera House, Manchester

The cast of BAT OUT OF HELL - THE MUSICAL, credit Specular (3)

Photo: Phil Tragen

This much anticipated stage show based on the classic Jim Steinman album has been hyped for months prior to it’s opening at the Manchester Opera House. So what can we say about Bat Out Of Hell?…

Wow… Just Wow.

Does it live up to the hype? The hype doesn’t do it justice.  It doesn’t come close. Read More…

REVIEW: Grease @The Palace Theatre, Manchester

grease-manchesterVoted the “Number One Greatest Musical”, Grease begins a national tour at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.

It’s the original high-school musical featuring a host of favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the groovy T Birds, the sassy Pink Ladies and the whole gang at Rydell High – and all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’.

But for the show is to completely live up to audience expectations, there is some definite room for improvement if it is to make the grade. Read More…

REVIEW: Funny Girl @ The Palace, Manchester

optimized-funny-girl-sheridan-smith-fanny-brice-photo-credit-johan-perssonIs there anything Sheridan Smith can’t do? Gritty drama, sit-com, and now a faultless performance in the hit Broadway musical, Funny Girl.

Smith excels as Fanny Brice, the role made famous by diva Barbara Streisand in the film which tells the true story of a gawky girl stumbling her way into the limelight rising to stardom as part of the hugely popular Ziegfeld Follies.

This bitter-sweet tale weaves together the glitz of Brice’s fabulous career and her rocky relationship with husband Nicky Arnstein. Smith delivers a masterclass in musical theatre, with outstanding performance of those classic tunes,  which include People and Don’t Rain On My Parade. Read More…

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