The Sound of Music is at the Palace Theatre this week and is sure to have fans of the timeless musical singing along to those classic tunes.
This tale of love blossoming between novice nun Maria and the frosty Captain von Trapp when she arrives as governess to his children has been a regular festive favourite in Christmas TV schedules and is now beautifully brought to the stage with impressive and lavish sets and high production values.
It is based on the true story of the von Trapp family singers who fled Nazi-occupied Austria as political refugees.
After a slightly underwhelming start to the show when it would have been nice to have seen a little more personality from the nuns ruminating about how to solve a problem like Maria, the production picks up with some delightful performances by the children.
Lucy O’Byrne does well as Maria, delivering those familiar tunes with aplomb. Neil McDermott seemed to struggle as the Captain in the first half of the show with some of his singing being drowned by the music, but his performance grew on me and he did much better after the interval.
The interval came following a truly show-stopping performance of Climb Every Mountain, by Megan Llewellyn in the role of Mother Abbess. It was magnificent.
Acclaim should also go to Kara Lane and Howard Samuels who excelled in the roles of the Captain’s prospective wife Elsa and impressario Max Detweiler. Neither would be out of place in Hollywood roles.
Overall, a charming production which is well worth a visit.
Runs till Saturday March 17
If you are new to Shakespeare, trying to take in his longest and most quoted work could understandably be considered to be thrown in at the deep end.
But there can be no better introduction to the bard than this stunning production at the Bolton Octagon which presents an accessible and absorbing drama, as gripping as McMafia or Collateral, without compromising on the themes Shakespeare sought to explore more than 400 years ago.
Hamlet is the classic revenge tragedy – the story of a young prince attempting to avenge the death of his father at the hands of his uncle who has usurped the throne and the dead king’s widow. Hamlet’s obsession is at the core of this drama and David Ricardo-Pearce portrayal is excellent.
The universal and timeless themes are brilliantly explored with Denmark transformed into a more contemporary militaristic regime where the soldiers carry AK47s and the leaders are dictators akin to Stalin or Putin.
There are two halves of 75 minutes, punctuated by a 20 minute interval, and action flies by – such is the quality of the production.
And it is no one-man show. Brian Prothero is superb as the usurper, Claudio with Eric Potts delivering a suitably tragi-comic portrayal of the bumbling civil servant Polonius, recast as a priest for this production. Also worth a mention is Margot Leicester whose portrayal Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude – now married to her former brother-in-law, the new King – is sensational.
The Octagon’s former artistic director, David Thacker, who was invited back to direct this production, can be proud of what has been achieved. The theatre’s 50th anniversary season goes from strength to strength.
Runs till March 10.
Geeky clown Emilion heads up Circus Funtasia’s fiery new show this Half Term
Instead of face-paint and big wigs, comic clown Emilion Delbosq prefers a smart shirt and geeky glasses when he performs in the ring. Enigmatic and energetic, Emilion is centre-stage at Circus Funtasia with their brand new 2018 show, which opens on February 16 in Wythenshawe Park.
“Last time I performed with Funtasia was back in 2016. I’m back this year with plenty of new surprises and laughs up my sleeve!” His unique blend of nerdy humour and seamless showmanship is a hit with all ages.
Emilion says, “Thrill-seekers will love this year’s cast which includes the whip-cracking, fire-breathing Antonio Candela. He’s a hot act to follow!”
Antonio’s act fuses real flames with dramatic tricks. Antonio also performs a comedy ladder act, guaranteed to make you laugh as he falls off and sets himself on fire.
Heading up the stunts inside a giant rotating ‘Wheel of Death’ are daredevil Duo Sifolinis. Watch as they alternate between spinning wheels in the air, complete with blindfold and skipping rope. Plus Circus Funtasia’s infamous Globe of Death motorcyclists are back with new riders and new routines taking the Wall of Death to a whole new dimension.
Lucy-Louise shows off her dazzling power in a dangerous routine high in the air. Dangling from the roof of the Big Top, Lucy swings and dances over the audience. Petite Felicia performs an aerial act known as Straps, which sees her twist and hold her body into impressive positions on a long elastic strap, requiring great strength and years of experience.
Strength is the key ingredient in Hungarian acrobat Atilla’s act. Once a painter and decorator, Atilla now puts himself in the spotlight with a dramatic hand-balancing act. Balancing on poles up to 2m high to Sam Smith’s ‘Only Human’, he certainly tests the limits of the human body.
“A hula hoop and tightrope act is performed by French artist Elodie. And our teenage Harley Quinn lookalike Nia will also be back on her Segway, making everyone envious of her incredible knife-juggling skills!” says Emilion.
You won’t find any animals at Circus Funtasia. Ringmistress Tracy Jones explained “with state of the art lighting and a modern soundtrack, we’re moving away from circuses of yesteryear. We love being a contemporary family show that everyone can enjoy.”
Circus Funtasia runs twice daily from Friday 16th until Sunday 25th February in Wythenshawe Park. Visit www.circusfuntasia.co.uk or call 07706168507 for more details and to book.
When a legendary classic comedy like Dad’s Army is brought to the stage a by an amateur theatre fans of the show can’t help being a little apprehensive.
But DON’T PANIC – this production by the Northenden Players is a superb recreation of the 1970s sitcom featuring the hapless misadventures of the Walmington-on-Sea home guard platoon in their efforts to defend the nation from the heel of the Nazi jackboot.
This is a very ambitious show and you have to salute the bravery of anyone who would attempt a homage to a comedy institution still shown on TV today.
But thanks to a strong cast and effective use of sets which enables swift scene changes, the Players pull it off admirably.
Everyone contributes to the success of the show, but at the centre of it all is an uncannily accurate portrayal of the pompous but heroic Captain Mainwaring.
Bill Platt just is Mainwaring and it is no exaggeration to say his performance is probably the closest thing you’ll to the brilliant Arthur Lowe’s rendition on TV.
The production comprises three classic episodes – The Deadly Attachment, featuring one of the most repeated lines in comedy history; Mum’s Army; and The Godiva Affair – rounded off with an hilarious attempt by the platoon at rendition of The Floral Dance.
The cast work well together to serve up a comedy treat and will not disappoint fans of the programme. The interplay between Mainwaring and his posh effete Sergeant Wilson, played by Peter Bowers is wonderful.
And Cyril Walker and David Hunt delight in the roles of doddery veteran Lance Cpl Jones and dour Scotland Private Frazer.
It is a hoot from start to finish and a great night out.
Runs till Saturday Feb 17.
It was always going to be a big ask to bring Patricia Highsmith’s tense psychological thriller to the stage and this production doesn’t quite pull it off in the way that Alfred Hitchcock famously did on the silver screen.
There is much of merit in the show, with some effective mood lighting and innovative use of sets, but the pace and direction lets it down and it is certainly a play of two halves.
The story is based around the consequences of a chance meeting on a train between Guy Haines, an ambitious architect and alcoholic wreck, Charles Bruno. In a drink-fuelled stupour, Bruno comes up with a hypothetical plan, where he would to murder the wife Haines is about to divorce in exchange for Haines killing Bruno’s father. When Bruno unexpectedly keeps to his side of the bargain, pressure is applied for Haines to deliver, thus providing the main premise for the drama.
But prior to the interval, the dramatic action is laboured, slow and frankly quite boring. When you don’t care that much about the fate of the characters, you know something is wrong. However, maybe some-one had a work in the break, because the pace picked up in the second half culminating in the dramatic conclusion at the end.
Chris Harper as Bruno and Jack Ashton as Haines deliver reasonable performances although there are one or two instances of the audience perhaps laughing when they shouldn’t as Bruno becomes increasingly psychotic.
Overall, not a terrible night at the theatre, but one that is distinctly underwhelming.
Runs till February 10
Dance, and music will combine to create a visually stunning piece art as the acclaimed Illuminate comes to Wythenshawe Library on Friday.
Following much-praised performances by Company Chameleon at Manchester Central Library in November, there will be special performances at three libraries this week.
The performance, on Friday Feb 2 is free, but booking is essential, bringing cutting-edge, contemporary dance to the heart of local communities, providing an extraordinary experience between the bookshelves and showcasing just what exciting and creative spaces libraries can be. Read More…
A stage adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one of those productions that could go horribly wrong.
But Bolton Octagon continues its 50th year celebrations in fine style with a superb version based on the classic novel.
Jessica Baglow takes on the title role, providing a convincing and passionate portrayal of the strong willed woman, ahead of her time.
And Baglow’s impressive performance is matched admirably by Michael Peavoy who is perfect in the role of the smouldering, brooding tragic hero – Mr Rochester. For anyone who has read the novel, he is everything you expect. Read More…