Tag: Opera House

REVIEW: The End of the Rainbow @The Opera House, Manchester


Lisa Maxwell is probably best known for her appearances in the Bill and Loose Women, but it is without doubt that her crowning glory is in the role of screen legend, Judy Garland.

Maxwell is sensational in the role of the Hollywood superstar on the West End and Broadway hit End of the Rainbow  at the Opera House, Manchester, this week, as part of a major UK tour.

If you’re expecting happy little munchkins and a few songs, you’ll be disappointed. But this is great drama with light and a fair bit of dark shade. Garland’s barbed wit takes centre stage, but there is tragedy in the humour.

The play is set in 1968, when Garland, a once-glittering star,  hoped to make her explosive comeback at the Talk of the Town, London .

But off stage, in the claustrophobic environment of her hotel room, Judy is battling with her young new fiancé, her devoted accompanist, and her destructive addictions.

The interplay between the three central characters is superb. Gary Wilmot in the role of the pianist forced to watch his friend  self destruct displays his credentials as a veteran of stage, with a wonderfully crafted performance.

And Sam Attwater is also excellent in the difficult role of fiancé  Mickey, with a performance that keeps us guessing whether he cares for Judy or is driven. solely by the drive to get her career back on track.

It is great stuff and Maxwell is revelation when recreating those classic Garland which produce some real hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments.
Dave Toomer

Review: Goodnight Mr Tom @ The Opera House, Manchester

1. Alex Taylor-McDowall (William) and David Troughton (Tom Oakley) in Goodnight Mister Tom 2015 Credit Dan Tsantilis.jpgThere wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the end of the very moving and brilliantly realised stage adaptation of the classic novel, Goodnight Mr Tom, at the Opera House.

David Troughton in the title role is excellent as the reluctant carer for a war time evacuee finding a new lease of life having endured his own personal tragedies.

The uncompromising portrayal of a nation at war pulls no punches in dealing with horrors faced on the home front and a series of strong performance makes this production a memorable and rewarding theatre experience.

Young William escaping the wartime blitz is brilliantly brought to life by Alex Taylor-McDowell and Oliver Loades is similarly superb as his flamboyant best friend Zach.

The novel by Michelle Magorian  is celebrating its 35th anniversary and  follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart-warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley.

The story is sad and at the same time gloriously uplifting. Well worth at visit.

REVIEW: Mack and Mabel, Opera House, Manchester

I have to confess, Mack and Mabel was one of those shows which never featured on my radar of must-see musicals.

But this new production at the Opera House which re-tells the touching story of the relationship between silent movie mogul, Mack Sennett and the beautiful actress Mabel Normand is nothing short of superb.

Michael Ball excels as the brash and stubborn genius determined to “make ’em laugh”. There are plenty of those in the show and quite a few tears as Ball cements his credentials as an accomplished character actor as well being able to belt out a song.

There was a danger that Ball would dominate and steal the show, but is matched by the brilliant Rebecca La Chance as the young deli girl who stumbles on to the set of a shoot, into a movie career and steals Sennett’s heart.

The show is a directorial triumph for Jonathan Church who has pulled out all the stops with an impressive use of sets including projections to recreate perfectly the excitement and buzz of being involved in those pioneering years of cinema as well as the melancholy that went with the end of the silent era.

So if you’re into musicals and the movies, add this to your list of must-see shows.

Runs till October 24

Review: Love Me Tender, Opera House, Manchester

LOVE ME TENDER,                         , Director and Choreographer - Karen Bruce, Set design - Morgan Large, Costume design - Vicky Gill, Lighting - James Whiteside, Manchester Opera House, Manchester ,2015,  Credit: Johan Persson/
LOVE ME TENDER, , Director and Choreographer – Karen Bruce, Set design – Morgan Large, Costume design – Vicky Gill, Lighting – James Whiteside, Manchester Opera House, Manchester ,2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

It’s got rock ‘n’ roll, it’s got a host of classic Elvis tunes, it’s got a Shakespeare plot and there’s no doubting  that Love Me Tender has gotta whole lotta fun.

With stunning sets, superb choreography and those timeless songs, this production had an appreciative audience all shook up and shouting for more.

The plot is based loosely on the Bard’s Twelfth Night, so there is guaranteed fun and frolics with cross-dressing, and mistaken identity hilarity.

The story centres on rock’n’roller roustabout Chad, descending on an American town where “loud music, public necking and tight pants” are banned.

Ben Lewis is excellent in the role of  the rebel with the cause of breathing some life into the sleepy town.

Shaun Williamson, fresh from his triumph in Anything Goes also impresses Jim, a widower whose daughter Natalie, the town mechanic, falls for Chad. Laura Tebbutt knocks out some of those great tunes as daughter Natalie, who cross-dresses to get closer to Chad.

But for me, it was Mica Paris as bar owner Sylvia, the  mother of rebellious Lorraine challenging the town’s strict segregation laws, whose accomplished vocals steal the show.

REVIEW: The King’s Speech @ the Opera House, Manchester

Raymond Coulthard (King George VI) & Jason Donovan (Lionel Logue). Picture by Hugo Glendinning (1)With the memory of the film still fresh in most people’s minds it was always going to be a tough task bringing the hugely popular King’s Speech back to the stage.

But one thing some less than imaginative direction of this production did achieve was to expose what is in fact a fairly flaky script and it wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the lines were thrown away, losing their impact.

Surprisingly, for me, one of the show’s strengths was Jason Donovan, who did a competent job in the role of Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist tasked with giving the reluctant King (Raymond Coulthard) the voice needed to rally a nation.

But too many performances fell short of the mark in this production and often appeared tired. OK, we know Edward was the baddie and a Nazi sympathiser – but did his portrayal have to be so caricatured? And whilst the take on Churchill was often bordering on the caricature, that of the Arch Bishop aiming to expose the disconnect between a stuffy establishment and the will of the people, was not enough of one.

The use of the panelled wall with doors at various levels was a good staging device, but for me, frustratingly, the production did not make the most of it.

And at times there was a touch of the AmDram about it, especially the scene at the party where characters seemed to be thrown onto the stage aimlessly in what reminded me of a drama student exercise.

There were times when the production had its moments and  looked as though it could be great but fell short at a number of points. Dare I say it, it stuttered.