It has been a long time since I walked out of the Palace Theatre in Manchester and witnessed such a buzz and atmosphere as I did tonight. There was an air of disbelief, amazement and sheer respect for each and every actor upon that stage tonight. I am referring to Billy Elliot which has arrived in town just in time for Christmas and is possibly one of the most complete pieces of musical theatre I have seen this year.
The setting of post First World War England is the perfect backdrop for one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies of love - Much Ado About Nothing at the Opera House Theatre, Manchester. The touring company from the RSC have brought a contemporary twist to this tale of maiden’s honour and passion.
Manchester Actors' Platform and 53TWO have been around for only a few months, and already they are taking Manchester's theatrical world by storm, and with this, their latest offering, they must surely be affirming themselves most concretely in the belief that they can do for plays what Hope Mill are now doing for Musicals.
These days performers are trained to be ‘triple threat’ but I occasionally refuse to believe that every performer should be so. Take one who wishes to pursue a career in Shakespearian theatre, should they be made to dance and sing? Their passion shines through their acting and the disciplined timing of the comedy contained within the Bard’s text, surely that is enough work to undertake and focus on without mastering choreography and spending time practicing music and learning the techniques of singing. This does not however mean that I don’t admire the talents of Peter McGovern’s Moth, whose vocal ability and cheekiness are evident during his singing - or that of John Arthur’s Sir Nathaniel, Stephen Pacey’s Holofernes (a schoolmaster), Sam Alexander’s King of Navarre and during the ensemble pieces, particularly that which ends the show.
‘Ghosts’ was created by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1881 and includes diverse, weighty themes of religion, venereal disease, sibling incest and euthanasia.
This new modern interpretation, by David Watson, is layout as a naturistic Greek tragedy and claustrophobic thriller, performed over 3 acts in an uninterrupted 120min arch, ultimately ending in a heart-breaking climax. We are propelled, by the scruff of the neck, through a story of dark secrets, interconnecting characters and impending doom.
Most people will be familiar with the Boris Karloff/Herman Munster-esque image of Frankenstein's monster. Tonight's Monster, created by Blackeyed Theatre, bore no resemblance to either of those previous incarnations but 'he' was extremely effective and I won't forget him for a long time!
The show tonight was imaginatively done with excellent use of lighting and live music/percussion which was used to great effect.
For one night only, Frank Wildhorn, the Broadway composer of scores such as Jekyll And Hyde and Bonnie And Clyde, came to Manchester's Palace Theatre bringing with him 8 hand-picked soloists, a renowned Broadway conductor, and joined forces with the Manchester-based orchestra, Manchester Camerata to bring the audience an evening of Wildhorn hits, brought to life by the singers, the orchestra, and of course Wildhorn himself playing the piano, introducing the pieces, and throwing in some lovely little anecdotes along the way.
Candoco Dance Company is a contemporary dance company formed of disabled and non – disabled dancers. The evening consisted of their ‘Double Bill’, two separate pieces, ‘Set and Reset/Reset’ and ‘Let’s Talk About Dis’ both of which were very different to each other. Both pieces were danced by Megan Armishaw, Joel Brown, Tanja Erhart, Adam Gain, Jason Mabana, Laura Patay and Toke Broni Strandby.
Both the press and public alike have been throwing heaps of praise at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, with some even calling it the Menier Chocolate Factory of the north. Following their successful first in-house production of Parade earlier this year, tonight their latest offering HAIR had its press night. After seeing this show. I find myself asking if the Menier Chocolate Factory will soon be called the Hope Mill of the south!
Being a life long fan of Roald Dahl, I was excited to take my daughter to view George’s Marvellous Medicine tonight at the Manchester Opera House. Produced by the The Birmingham Stage company, George’s Marvellous Medicine is a fantastic children’s theatre production and one that had my family in stitches from start to finish.
If you are going to see an opera at the Opera House and it is your first time - just like it was for me last night, having never seen an opera in that building before, and it was also my introduction to both La Boheme and the famous Ellen Kent Productions - then you really could not do better than this. It was a fabulous production and extremely accessible. I am certainly no opera 'buff' and there are only a handful of operas that I would profess to know and like, but if anyone wants an introduction into this quite often wrongly snubbed art-from, then seeing an Ellen Kent production is undoubtedly the way forward. With her you know that you will get: spectacle, showmanship, lavishness, hand-picked performers and orchestra, but above all, an opera that is true to the composer and faithful in it's retelling, with a little extra thrown in for good measure!
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