Over fifty years has passed since the first stage version of Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver!’ was performed, and it is unsurprising that this musical is still extremely popular with audiences today.

This particular production, performed by the Port Sunlight Players, delivered on many levels. The essence of the tale was certainly captured by all, and the opening scene performed by the Workhouse children certainly drew you in to what would be a very enjoyable show. The children had great enthusiasm and you couldn’t help but watch them with a smile on your face, but not just out of pity for them (which can sometimes be the case when watching children perform) but because they were genuinely very good.

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Presented as part of the Palaver Festival which celebrates and promotes language, music and performance in French, German and Chinese in Manchester, and produced by students of The University of Manchester German Society, this was a production of Schiller's masterpiece, Kabale Und Liebe, { Intrigue and Love } performed in German.

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s2smodern

I've often thought that Into The Woods must be one of the hardest musicals to stage. Tricky characters such as a cow and a giant, a huge cast, and a ridiculously complex musical arrangement by Sondheim are not the easiest hurdles to overcome. I'm pleased to say that under the musical direction of Simon Pickup, Hyde Musical Society absolutely nailed it!

The musical tells the story of several fairy-tale characters, their respective plot lines interwoven with a new challenge. The baker and his wife are desperate for a child, and to do so must break the curse placed upon them by the witch by collecting four items; the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the slipper as pure as gold, and the hair as yellow as corn. Even after everyone's wishes come true there is still more peril before their happy ever after.

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26 years after it first appeared on the West End stage Bob Carlton’s Return To The Forbidden Planet is as fresh today as the day it was conceived. A clever, if not sometimes predictable fusion of Shakespeare and Rock ‘n’ Roll music no matter what your age it is difficult to come away from this show without at least admitting your toes were tapping and you were actually singing along to yourself all night!

Inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, this juke box musical is packed with over 30 rock 'n' roll classics such as “Heard it Through the Grapevine”, “Young Girl”, “Good Vibrations”, and “Gloria”.  Presented at the magnificent Stockport Plaza by Romiley Operatic Society, I have to say they made a pretty good job of it.

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In school halls up and down the country every week productions of musicals and plays take place that don’t get seen by a wider audience, and are sometimes restricted to just family and close friends of those in the productions. By not seeking out these productions we are in danger of missing out on seeing possible future stars of the stage taking their first steps on the road they call “showbiz”. In a week, which for me has been dominated by youth and school productions, tonight I found myself at Flixton Girls School to watch their production of Fame.

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s2smodern

Little Shop Of Horrors is something of a cult Musical, and a complete and shameless Mickey-take of the trend in the late 1950s for Hollywood to produce low budget horror films, affectionately categorised as B-Movies. In the case of this particular story, we see Mushnik, owner of a flower shop in a run-down, poor and forgotten NY neighbourhood, and his two hapless employees. The rather ditzy tart-with-a-heart, Audrey, and the clumsy, myopic and downtrodden Seymour. Their fortunes are certain... they are going nowhere and the shop is closing up for good... that is until Seymour shows his employer a 'strange and unusual' plant that he has been cultivating. This plant, now nicknamed Audrey 2, is the shop's and Seymour's saviour. It brings them fame and fortune in untold measure. But all this comes at a price, a very heavy price indeed. The plant thrives off fresh human blood. At first this doesn't cause any concern as Seymour quite happily adds anaemic to his list of complaints, but then, the fates turn against them and he finds himself feeding the plant with Audrey's dead dentist boyfriend, and then with Mushnik, and before long even Audrey falls foul of the plant's blood lust. If all of this sounds a little dark and macabre, don't panic, it's all very tongue-in-cheek and sent up in the best possible taste! And with some fantastic Musical numbers, it can't fail to be a hit!

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This amateur performance by members of Zodiac, a Cheshire based amateur musical theatre society (ZAOS) is set in the 70’s disco days and tells the story of Roddy O’Neil, the local lothario, superbly played by Anthony Farrell growing up in a world of ridiculous fashion,(did we really wear clothes like that?) The music and hits which are now iconic, the loves and lives of family and friends the hopes and dreams of the young.

Before the musical even starts you know it’s going to be fun as you take your seats and on stage are a few members of the cast, on the set of a disco, with a bartender, DJ and the cleaner mopping the floors not forgetting the bouncer wandering around the audience, the audacity of wanting to search my handbag! And throwing in some comic moments.

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For one of my very rare ventures outside the Greater Manchester County, I went last night to watch Tempo Youth Theatre's production of Lloyd-Webber's Starlight Express. I made the journey because, not only do I happen to really like the show, but because I had heard so many good things about this youth group, and wanted to experience them for myself! And did they live up to expectations? No, they exceeded them!

For those of you who still don't know anything about Starlight Express, then in a nutshell, it is a story all about love and egos, about jealousy and comradeship, about cheating and about playing fair, about respecting your elders and about holding on to what you truly believe in.... just your average, everyday set of ingredients for most Musicals. The difference here however is that they are all train engines and carriages.

......oh, and the cast are all on roller skates!

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s2smodern

There cannot surely be a more iconic tragic-romantic film than Brief Encounter. Filmed and released in the mid 1940s, but set in 1939, and adapted from the stage play by Noel Coward, 'Still Life', the film follows the doomed love affair of a bored suburban housewife and a GP, after a chance meeting on a railway platform cafe.

Of course the film is most definitely a period piece now... nothing more than a novelty and reminder of a time and place when self-repression and moral sacrifice made sense. That doesn't however, mean that the story should be trivialised and made into some kind of light-hearted comedy.

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On a cold March evening in Adlington we arrived at the Community Centre to see St Paul’s Players present ‘Legally Blonde The Musical’ - produced and co-directed by mother and daughter Liz and Lilly Blundell. The atmosphere was very much community spirited with numerous proud friends and family in the auditorium.

The staging was remarkable with the use of projected imagery on a large screen at the back of the stage, Books as props for the girls to seamlessly keep appearing from behind and several moveable sets for each scene. The music was supplied by a live band which played magnificently throughout the evening. The Costumes design by Jane Harrison and Michelle Crispin was magnificent adding to the amazing experience of this stunning musical. The Choreography was second to none and kept the audience captivated by their moves.

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s2smodern

Tucked away in a side street of Bolton I found Bolton Little Theatre. What a beauty. A cosy 163 seat proscenium arch theatre with raked auditorium. I wasn't sure what to expect having never visited before but I was not disappointed, certainly not with the bar prices! What more could you wish for than a cosy welcoming theatre, cheap bar and Richard Sheridan's most famous Farce.

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