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REVIEW: Wipers Times @ Opera House, Manchester

38785_fullThis extraordinary tale of a group of soldiers who produce a satirical newspaper in the heat of battle in the middle of the First World War is the perfect tribute to the to the British Tommy.

The story sums up both the courage and humour which abounded amidst the conflict and the futility and tragedy of war. As writer Ian Hislop said afterwards in a Q and A with the audience it was the soldiers’ insistence on laughing in the face of death which made the story all the more incredible Read More…

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REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard @ The Palace Theatre, Manchester

38496_fullSunset Boulevard is one if the classic film drams of the twentieth century and the return to stage of Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation could not be more timely. 

The story of a fading film star of the silent era thrown onto the scrapheap by the emergence of the talkies – attempting to make a combat and cling on to her youth through an affair with a young writer, is remarkably prescient.

There is no casting couch in this story, but the message is clear that long before the Weinsteinns of this world polluted the movie industry, one only needed to gently scratch away the glitter of Tinseltown to find something deadly dark underneath, where every barman, waitress and young wannabe would do anything to get their big break in pictures.

Brought to life with incredible staging, the show faithfully recreates the movie magic made famous by Gloria Swanson and Joseph Cotton; and the Phantomesque theatrics and dark music, courtesy of Mr Webber are extremely effective.

Danny Mac also delivered as the struggling writer held in the thrall of ageing star and  Adam Pearce is superb as the devoted butler, Max von Meyerling, with a pitch-perfect performance.

But central to the show was the stunning  Ria Jones as the desperate and maniacal Norma Desmond. The standing ovation was entirely deserved and the close to tearful curtain call indicated the emotional investment in the role.

Runs till Saturday October 28

 

 

REVIEW: Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Palace, Manchester

Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was one of my least favourite musicals until I saw the Bill Kenwright production featuring the magnificent Joe McElderry last year.

And as the show returns to the Palace this week there is no sign that those numerous performances have made the X-Factor winner jaded in any way.

McElderry’s performance is just as strong, delivered with the same energy that has made this version of the  Lloyd-Webber and Rice classic such a winning formula.

McElderry is excellent as Joseph,showing why he won the X-Factor but also that musical theatre is his natural home. He is comfortable on stage delivering the comedy as well as the music.

But it isn’t all about Joe. A very strong cast throws everything at the audience with an energy and enthusiasm which is instantly infectious. Trina Hill is excellent as the narrator and Ben James-Ellis is a hoot as the Pharaoh. Read More…

REVIEW: Son of a Preacher Man @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

son_of_preacherThis is a superb celebration of the songs of Dusty Springfield held together with an original and convincing story.

Son of a Preacher Man is not a juke-box show purely for die-hard Springfield fans, although the excellent delivery of those classic tunes by a very strong cast is sure to please. Read More…

REVIEW: The Band @ The Opera House, Manchester

The cast of The Band, credit Matt Crockett

Pic: Matt Crockett

Take That fans, prepare yourselves for something you’re not going to like. You won’t like this review much, but I’m sure you’ll love The Band, a show featuring the music of that iconic boy group.

I have to admit I came to this show with fairly low expectations. I’ve never been a massive Take That fan, and I thought the X-Factor-style TV show which searched for five lads to star in the show was an afront to Saturday night TV. Read More…

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz @ The Stockport Plaza

The Wizard of Oz Image 3Surely it’s too early for pantomimes in August… Oh no it isn’t!

Stockport Plaza is serving up a summer treat for the kids this week with Regal Entertainment’s production of the Wizard of Oz.

And the youngsters clearly gave the show a huge thumbs up on the opening night, lapping up this fun-filled extravaganza.

The key ingredients of this classic tale of a young girl from Kanzas transported to the magical land of Oz on her way to meet the famous wizard are there.

But there is also plenty of “it’s behind you”, boos and hisses and slapstick, providing a fun summer panto feel.

Former EastEnders star Cheryl Fergison provokes the boos as the Wicked Witch of the West, but for me, it was Maddie Hope Coelho’s Dorothy who stole the show with a pitch perfect performance.

And of course, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion also delight played by David Heath, Philip Shaun McGuinness and Si Foster respectively.

It’s a great fun time for all the family.

Runs till Saturday April 12

Dave Toomer

 

 

Pitch Battle star Maddie lands lead role in Wizard of Oz at Stockport Plaza

Maddie Hope CoelhoYoungsters young and old will be transported on a magical journey Over The Rainbow at the Stockport Plaza next week as Pitch Battle star Maddie Hope Coelho takes on the iconic role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. 

The Regal Entertainment’s production begins its North-West tour at the  Plaza on Monday August 7. Read More…

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