It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. Well that is certainly true for the transformed space Event City at Trafford Park. Winter wonderland is back for its fourth year at Event City and with live theatre, a circus big top, more fun fair rides than I have ever seen in an indoor venue before and of course Father Christmas there is literally something for everyone. For the grown-ups, there is also a well-stocked German bar, which has a great range of wines and beers to enjoy whilst soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

This is such a super Musical and I don't know why it isn't more popular. I have seen a couple of amateur presentations of it previously but tonight was the first time I had seen it professionally, and I was veritably impressed.

 

With such a heavyweight team behind the writing of this Musical; book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields; it couldn't possibly be anything else but a hit surely?! Add to that list a talented cast; superb directing by Derek Bond; lovely choreography by Aletta Collins; a set that truly embodied the era and that worked in the round by James Perkins; and a spot-on lighting design by Sally Ferguson, and we are now on to a winner!

What I love most about Hope Mill Theatre is how versatile a space it can be. Every performance I've been to here has configured the staging area differently, and the set this evening, complete with graffiti and road signs, perfectly sets the scene for 'Monopoleyes'.

 

Writer Will Travis explores modern British society and austerity through this dark comedy, which depicts the elites playing a frightening game with us normal folk. The monopoly characters, named for their game pieces, are all deliciously over the top, and a stark contrast with the gritty Northern reality of Joe Bloggs and his family. It's like Coronation Street meets panto, and for the most part, works very well.

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.