“Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins, as like each other as two new pins. Of one womb born on the self-same day, how one was kept and one given away”

 

Blood Brothers was originally developed as a school play, revolving around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, who were separated at birth and raised at opposite ends of the social spectrum; Mickey in a poverty stricken single parent family, with siblings regularly having run-ins with the Law, and Eddie in a wealthy two parent, only child family having a privileged up bringing.   Mickey finds himself unemployed and in trouble with the Police, whilst Eddie becomes a successful Councillor.   When the brothers fall for the same girl, childhood friend Linda, their friendship is put to the challenge leading to a tragic result.

Following on from last year’s performance of “The Nutcracker”, Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet returns with Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, a ballet in three acts.

This is full on panto season which make this devilishly dark production of Roald Dahl’s classic tale of witchcraft and heroism a very welcome relief.

 

If Dahl is the undisputed king of dark storytelling for children then David Wood who adapted this version of the novel is his theatrical equivalent. He brings all his decades of experience treating children as small grown ups to bear masterfully judging just how much darkness he can keep in so the younger members of the audience don’t go home and wet the bed in fear.

Yeeha! Saddle up Sheffield and gallop on down to the Crucible Theatre to meet the Sharpest Shooter in the West - the world-famous Frank Butler, who is about to meet his toughest competition yet, in the form of Annie Oakley, a pistol packing Mama who can handle a rifle as well as any man.

Based on the popular 1992 film by Baz Luhrmann this new stage adaptation sees its international debut play out at The West Yorkshire Playhouse this December. Staying faithful to the film throughout, this production is a joy to behold from start to end and incredibly well executed by its strong ensemble cast.

I can only assume that there were high expectations in the audience tonight from anybody who has seen the superb Academy Award nominated film of The Shawshank Redemption, itself an adaption of the 1982 novella by Stephen King. I can also assume that those people would not have been disappointed by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns’ gritty and powerful adaptation for the stage which was executed near flawlessly tonight by its exceptional cast. The play met with mixed reviews back in 2009 but this new touring production serves up the themes of status, hope, anxiety and friendship with a sophisticated and assured style which pays homage to the film, but also invites a new audience into the twists and turns of this exciting prison thriller.

I first saw Chicago on Broadway with the mighty Ruthie Henshall ripping the roof off the theatre as Velma but since then it seems to have become a rest home for soap stars and reality show wannabes of wildly varying quality.

 

This entertaining touring production features three soaps legends in former Eastenders Jessie Wallace and John Partridge, who are joined by Corrie and Emmerdale’s Hayley Tamaddon. But the good news is all three have considerable musical theatre experience, and unlike some of the other ‘star names’ have the chops to deliver all night.

It’s very rare that the star name in a touring production doesn’t turn out for press night – so rare in fact it has never happened to me. There must have been a really good reason for former Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding’s unprecedented non-appearance as Molly, but by the end no-one gave a damn. That’s because like the plot of many a musical her understudy Kelly Hampson stepped into the breach, and she absolutely nailed it from start to finish banishing any memories of the supposed big name. It is no exaggeration to say a star was born tonight, and I suspect no-one who had paid hard earned cash for their seat really cared about Harding’s absence as her ‘understudy’ delivered all night long.

Most people will know the basic plot of ‘Frankenstein’, some will have seen films, others read the book or studied it at school or University, but how many people know about the history behind the novel? How did this ground breaking novel come about?

Unless you have been living in a theatrical cave for the last five decades then you will be familiar with the ‘plot’ of the Rocky Horror Show where a sweet young couple are corrupted, but ultimately set free sexually, by a crazed transvestite scientist from another planet.

There must be a part of everyone that enjoys a good Ghost story – huddled around a fire in the dark with friends, trying to make each other jump and scream. Considering that and being so close to Halloween this production is well timed in coming to Leeds as tonight, first and foremost two actors presented us with just that - a terrifying ghost story! Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black has continued to fright and delight audiences for nearly 30 years after it was first adapted by Stephen Mallatratt into a play, but it is not only a great ghost story, but look a little closer and it is also a masterpiece of theatrical storytelling.