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Apr 17th

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Grand Theatre

(Now showing at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 21st April, on UK tour until May 19th)

I caught this classic gothic production at the end of its run in Blackpool, eager to see how the horror of Dr Jekyll’s nightly transformation into the evil Mr Hyde would stand up on stage.

I was not disappointed, for actor Phil Daniels’ portrayal of the two characters forming the dangerously split personality was as close to resembling a physical metamorphosis as you could get in the absence of special effects or time-consuming costume changes.

The Victorian, split level set provided a balcony for singer Rosie Abraham to permeate the proceedings with some eerie melodies. Beneath her, a periodic reversal of the set highlighted which of the physician's personalities we were about to encounter, as Daniels entered or exited his lounge or laboratory respectively. The darkness was lifted by flickering candles, but these were often dimmed, drawing us forward to see better, creating tension. 

Daniels’ use of a Scottish accent paid homage to the writer, Edinburgh’s own Robert Louis Stevenson, but this and the show have generated mixed reviews, particularly during a recent run in the author's home city. However I found his accent, along with the West Country twang of his lively maid Annie (Grace Hogg-Robinson) added a punch, and a rhythmical juxtaposition of harshness and light amidst an otherwise relentlessly terrifying plot. Their relationship was strangely more fascinating than Jekyll’s experiments with a potion that released a savage alter-ego. It culminated in an abused Annie’s psychoanalysis of the finally broken and suicidal man, whose childhood issues bred a monster ready to be unleashed as the evil Hyde.

Overall this production, by Touring Consortium Theatre Company, features a strong and talented cast which affords extra guts via more developed female characters. Whilst it isn't as scary as big budget productions, it does still inject the necessary chills – including a gut-wrenching, bone-crunching assault which successfully illustrates Jekyll’s surrender to Hyde's murderous urges.

UK tour dates are here.

The company’s next production is an exciting new adaptation of Dracula, again by David Edgar and directed by Kate Saxton, in association with Everyman Theatre Cheltenham. For this European Premiere, Bram Stoker’s book has been re-imagined in all its spine-chilling glory by a world-class creative team from London’s West End and Broadway.

Age Guidance; 16+

Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

Fri 28 September – Sat 6 October 2018

Box Office: 01242 572573

Photograph courtesy of Touring Consortium Theatre Company

Dec 23rd

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Opera House, until Sunday 7th January 2018

Peter Pan is sprinkling fairydust over Blackpool this Christmas with a new musical production by the award-winning Selladoor Family, and this show is a welcome alternative to the standard Christmas panto.

The cast features X Factor eye candy Jake Quickenden in the title role, and TV star Jennifer Ellison as an impressive Captain Hook. Radio Wave presenter Scott Gallagher totally steals the show as Smee, and Blackpool's treasured Maureen Nolan plays Mrs Darling. Joining them are a strong cast of triple threats. 


        

No spoiler alerts here, except to say don't book this expecting a traditional pantomime. Whilst there are some panto style comedy moments, this show is exactly what it says on the tin - a musical adventure - packed full of foot-tapping chart hits and energetic choreography. This means lots of nods to the original stage play, so here is the background story of how the boy who never grew up first took flight.

Peter Pan was born in 1902 in J.M. Barrie’s novel The Little White Bird, as a baby who lives on Kensington Gardens’ Serpentine Lake and learns to fly. The story of Peter was adapted to create the children’s book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), which Barrie dedicated to “Sylvia and Arthur Llewellyn Davies and their boys. My boys”. Barrie said these five boys - George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nico - formed Peter Pan’s character: “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. Peter Pan is the spark I got from you”. And so it was that the boastful, careless boy who can fly, and wouldn’t grow up, was brought to life.

However, the origins of Peter Pan are more tragic, as he was first based on Barrie’s brother David, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday.  Barrie and his mother remembered David as “forever a boy” - just as Peter Pan has remained a youngster for over a century, known to fairytale lovers the world over as the beautiful boy with a beautiful smile.

Barrie’s stage play adaptation, the musical Peter Pan, was an instant hit when it opened at London’s Duke of York theatre on 27th December 1904. It was tradition then for women to play young boys, so sadly Barrie never fulfilled his wish to see a boy play Peter, and the much sought after role has continued to be played by females, with West End lead’s including household names such as Lulu and Bonnie Langford.

Next came Broadway and critical acclaim, and then the silver screen, with Disney’s Peter Pan in 1953 and Steven Spielberg’s Hook in 1991. Hook attracted a stellar cast, with Robin Williams (Peter Pan), Dustin Hoffman (Captain Hook), Glenn Close (Gutless the pirate), Gwyneth Paltrow (Wendy), Bob Hoskins (Smee) - and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell.

Tink the fairy wasn’t always played by a pretty woman though, in the original stage production she was a tiny but powerful dot of light. Meanwhile Captain Hook didn’t exist in the first drafts of the play, he appeared later to entertain pirate-loving children and take over the reins of evil from Peter Pan - who was initially the villain of the story. And Peter didn’t wear green, his clothes were the autumnal colours of skeleton leaves.

As for Peter's ability to fly, he tells the Darling children this is only possible through lovely wonderful thoughts and fairydust. Barrie introduced the necessity for fairydust to stop children from injuring themselves while trying to fly like Peter and the Lost Boys. Take note kids – don’t try this at home.

So Peter Pan has glided through various pages and performances over the decades, but it wasn’t until changes in copyright were made that the play could be adapted to create a pantomime. Since then Peter Pan has become a popular Christmas show at theatres across the UK.

Barrie’s instructions over the copyright of Peter Pan have also enabled the character to forever be a help to children in need of support. For in 1929, he gifted it to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which means GSOH receives royalties from every production. When Barrie moved to London from Edinburgh to pursue a career in the arts, his lodgings were in Grenville Street, behind GSOH, and this house was the inspiration for the Darling family’s home. It is a fitting tribute therefore that his magical legacy lives on through such a worthy cause.

Peter Pan's latest swash-buckling adventure in Neverland runs at Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 7th January. Book tickets here.

Photographs courtesy of Selladoor Productions. 

Dec 23rd

The Wizard of Oz at the Heywood Civic Centre

By G.D. Mills

The Wizard of Oz has had thousands of incarnations, the most famous of which must be the 1939 Techni-colour film starring Judy Garland. Few people realise, however, that it started out in life as a children’s book by L. Frank Baum, published some 39 years before the double Oscar winning musical appeared on screen.

 

Liam Mellor’s adaptation for Heywood Civic Centre, like any successful pantomime, amply accommodates for an audience across the age ranges, and comes replete with engaging visuals, groan-worthy puns and a scattering of satirical swipes sophisticated enough for an adult palate.

 

At the beginning, true to the original story, we find ourselves on a Texan farm where a willow-like, honey-voiced Dorothy (endearingly portrayed by Lauren Ramsey) sets off on her mission to find the City of Emeralds.

 

Accompanied along the way by a scatter-brained Scarecrow (Mike Smith – Cbeebies, BBC warm-up man), a timorous lion (Jordan Kennedy – Victoria, Waterloo Road) and the loveable Tinman (James Edgington – Hollyoaks, Downton Abbey) this fantastical triumvirate encounter evil in the form of a cackling witch (Victoria Roberts – Britain’s Got Talent, Let me Entertain You) and the munchkins (represented by the Tymcyshyn School of Dancing), only to discover that the wizard, flamboyantly played by reality show star Liam Halewood, has been with them all along.

 

Julia Haworth’s (Coronation Street, Peak Practise) plays the glittery Good Fairy with impeccable grace, while Mike Smith, a seasoned presenter with a comic’s instinct for killer timing, frequently shatters the fourth wall to deliver some of the funniest lines of the evening.

 

The dialogue gallops along at a break-neck pace (sometimes the audience needed time to process the jokes) and a little judicial editing might have honed the performance to pantomimic perfection, but otherwise this is a stomping good musical with a generous dollop of the Xmas feel-good factor.

 

You can book tickets by visiting the website here:

Heywood Civic Centre

 

Oct 5th

CABARET

By Kirstie Niland

The Opera House, Blackpool Winter Gardens, until Saturday 7th October

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom…and come join the Cabaret in Blackpool this weekend. But prepare to be shocked as well as entertained because this dark, sometimes funny, often thought-provoking musical delivers much more than memorable song and dance routines.

Set in the seedy Kit Kat Club, during a time of tyranny in 1930s Berlin, the tangled lives of Cabaret’s main characters hurtle along a path of destruction in parallel with the horrifying consequences of the Nazis’ rise to power.

The award-winning team of director Rufus Norris and choreographer Javier De Frutos has created a spectacle of decadence and debauchery; underpinned by the unlikely love story of American writer Cliff Bradshaw, played with engaging intensity by Charles Hagerty, and the promiscuous, risqué English cabaret performer Sally Bowles - aka TV celebrity and singer Louise Redknapp. Famed for her success in 90s R&B girl group Eternal, Louise is a natural on stage. With a voice powerful enough to fill the massive Opera House auditorium, she is both distracting and inspiring. Perfectly Marvellous in fact.

As a fan of 80s TV sitcom, A Fine Romance, and the character Helen played by Susan Penhaligon, it was a real treat to see her on stage as the German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider, performing the amusing, sentimental duets with Linal Haft as the Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz; and her rendition of So What? was just lovely.

But the biggest impact of all came from singer and Pop Idol winner Will Young, whose portrayal of the flamboyant, androgynous and ghoulish Emcee is simply mesmerising. I would see Cabaret again for his performance alone.

The other main characters and ensemble execute the script and choreography with just the right amount of abandon to shock – but not too much.

There are some brilliantly staged scenes, such as the Emcee looming above the dancers as a puppeteer pulling their strings, a fast and furious rendition of Money – and a very clever back to front sequence where Sally’s show at the Kit Kat Club goes on eerily behind a fringed curtain, as though we are backstage looking on.

The Opera House, which features one of world’s largest stages, is ideal for the dramatic set design, from the enormous WILLKOMMEN sign, to the dazzling giant letters spelling KABARET and live band perched on a light-framed platform in the backdrop.

 

In 1966 Walter Kerr was famously quoted in the New York Times as saying that Cabaret “opens the door to a fresh notion of the bizarre, crackling, harsh and the beguiling uses that can be made of song and dance.”

Today Cabaret still does that - this surprising, politically charged yet hugely watchable show, with whirling dancing and wry lyrics spinning the characters on a decadent high, before they fall, unravelling, as the Nazis become an oppressive presence, and a tragic finale shows the party is well and truly over.

Highly recommended.

Book tickets here.

Tour dates here.

Sep 21st

HAIRSPRAY

By Kirstie Niland

Blackpool Opera House, until Saturday 23rd September 2017

The fabulously coiffured UK tour of Hairspray arrived in Blackpool this week with an explosion of colour and choreography – and yet another standing ovation at the Opera House.

The Winter Gardens has clearly put the seaside resort firmly on the map as a popular stop-off for sensational shows.

The latest smash hit musical to transform the stunning Opera House stage takes us back to the 60s for the story of Hairspray's loveable heroine Tracy Turnblad. Played by newcomer Rebecca Mendoza with bucket-loads of energy and aplomb, Tracy's passion for dancing catapults her on to national TV, whilst her passion for equality finds her leading the way for black and white teens to dance together on the famous Corny Collins Show. She also lands the local heartthrob Link Larkin (with understudy Daniel Clift stepping expertly into the spotlight for press night).

Layton Williams and Annalise Liard-Bailey are well cast as cute couple Seaweed and Penny, and Lauren Concannon, Melissa Nettleford and Emily-Mae Walker are pure dynamite as…The Dynamites.

The songs are all sensational but my favourite was the duet by Tracy's Mum and Dad, You’re Timeless to Me, performed by a cross-dressing Matt Dixon as Edna and comedian Norman Pace as Wilbur. With lashings of old-time charm and a dance routine reminiscent of Morecambe and Wise this is a classic match made in heaven.

 

A close second was I Know Where I’ve Been by musical theatre and reality TV star Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle, whose larger than life stage presence and powerful vocals demonstrate that she truly does have the X Factor.

The entire show keeps us and the energetic cast (literally) on our toes with excellent choreography by Olivier Award-winning Drew McOnie and direction from Paul Kerryson. The costumes and set are bright, bold and beautiful and the result is a kaleidoscope of colour rotating through a fast-moving, feel-good show that has us all cheering and up out of our seats to celebrate the happy ending.

In Maybelle’s words, Hairspray is servin' up the whole damn feast and there’s still time to see it this weekend.

Book tickets here

Tour dates here

Photographs by Darren Bell

 

Sep 14th

Shirley Valentine

By Kirstie Niland

The Grand Theatre Blackpool, until Saturday 16th September 2017

"I used to be the Mother. I used to be the Wife. But now I'm Shirley Valentine again".

As Jodie Prenger delivers that well-known line you could be forgiven for thinking she really is in Greece, sitting by the sea wearing a sunhat, shades and a happy glow.

For the talented TV and West End star is so believable as the disenchanted, Liverpudlian housewife who flies off to Mykonos that the audience is behind her all the way - rejoicing as she discovers the life she never had and thought she’d wasted.

 

We’re not the only ones. Her previously snooty neighbour is so in awe of her courage she gives Shirley a glamorous silk kimono to take with her, and her swotty old school adversary, Marjorie Majors – now a high-class hooker - reveals she was actually jealous of Shirley at school.

So she always was "Shirley the Brave", she just doesn't realise it – until she finds herself skinny-dipping with Greek taverna owner Costas when he takes her out on his boat and several voyages of discovery.

Many will be more familiar with the film version of Shirley Valentine starring Pauline Collins and a host of other household names, including Julia McKenzie (Gillian), Joanna Lumley (Marjorie), Tom Conti (Costas), Alison Steadman (Jane, the friend who abandons her on holiday) and Bernard Hill as husband Joe.

But this is Willy Russell’s original one-woman play, so it's Jodie’s job to bring the characters in Shirley’s story to life. She does it so well I could picture Julia McKenzie telling her she’s marvellous and Tom Conti declaring her stretch marks lovely, marks of life…before she tells us, the audience, who have become her friends and confidantes by now: “Aren’t men full of shit!”

Educated at Elmslie School and Blackpool and the Fylde College, Jodie has gone a long way before returning to her roots at the Grand Theatre. After winning the role of Nancy in BBC1’s I’ll Do Anything, she’s played a wide range of high-profile roles and has recently finished a stint as Les Misérables' Madame Thénardier in Dubai. TV credits include Waterloo Road and a slot on ITV’s This Morning, and she’s even worked as an agony aunt.

Her bubbly nature and ability to engage and connect with the audience when she breaks the fourth wall, combined with an impressive talent for accents, keeps our attention and ensures the comedy drama pushes all the right buttons during the highs and lows.

You could have heard a pin drop when she explains as Shirley: “I have allowed myself to lead this little life, when inside me there was so much more. And it's all gone unused. And now it never will be. Why do we get all this life if we don't ever use it? Why do we get all these feelings and dreams and hopes if we don't ever use them?”

 

We will her not to back out of the holiday when her horrified grown-up daughter Milandra stomps out, calling the idea of two middle-aged women going off to Greece “obscene".

Then there’s comic relief and we laugh uproariously when Shirley shouts out of the window at her departing daughter: That's right, Milandra, I'm off to Greece for the sex. Sex for breakfast, sex for lunch, sex for tea and sex for supper. A neighbour shouts back: “Sounds like a marvellous diet, love!” and Shirley responds: "It is! Have you never heard of it? It's called the F plan!"

The stage set follows Shirley’s transformation, beginning with the kitchen she has spent her life in, forced to talk to the wall, then changing to a bright Greek beach where a rock becomes her companion instead.

Shirley Valentine premiered at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre in 1986 before becoming a hit movie in 1989. Willy Russell’s witty and moving mix of gentle humour and realism is totally in tune with the mindset of a married woman who feels taken for granted; and Jodie Prenger, under the expert direction of Glen Walford and with input from Willy Russell himself, steps deftly into the role and performs it perfectly.

The costume change and shift in Jodie’s demeanour show Shirley blossom and feel beautiful, reflective of the girl she once was and the more content woman she has become. When Joe comes to get her - regretting his neglect and the chips and egg he pushed onto her lap because there was no steak for the dinner he expected like clockwork - he doesn't recognise her.

Then he sees his young love Shirley Valentine, who has decided that she's alright, and that instead of saying: "Christ, I’m forty-two", from now on she’s going to say: ’Shirley, you’re only forty-two, isn’t that marvellous".

Shirley Valentine IS marvellous and so is Jodie Prenger. I hope between them they prompt a recognition that sometimes it's okay to live the life we want, not the one we have to - along with a surge in holidays bookings to Greece!

Book tickets here

Tour details here

Photographs by Manuel Harlan

Aug 31st

Dirty Dancing

By Kirstie Niland

Until Saturday 2nd September 2017, Blackpool Opera House

The cult musical Dirty Dancing continues to thrill audiences of all generations and the UK tour is currently smashing it in Blackpool.

The cast’s evident delight at the standing ovation on opening night added to the everlasting charm and they drew lots of laughs and applause throughout as the 1963 love story of Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman unfolded at Kellerman’s holiday resort.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the live show and it is difficult not to compare the characters to the film version, but the cast manage to resemble the original stars as well as add their own personal touch to their performances, succeeding in delivering all of the anticipated lines and moments with panache. Lizzie Ottley in particular puts a stamp on her role as Lisa Houseman, with hints of Marilyn Monroe enhancing her humourous rendition of the Hula Hana song.

This is also true of the actual scenes, with all of the favourites in there plus a few extra parts providing depth to characters that are more one-dimensional in the film.

For example Neil, the grandson of the resort’s owner Max Kellerman, is much more likeable, and we see him go on his own journey, from trying and failing to impress Baby with his job, to setting off on his own path of discovery. Greg Fossard gives Neil an endearing quality that makes us really happy for him as he gets his backpack on and leaves Kellerman’s to join the Freedom Rally.

Then some additional scenes featuring Marjorie Houseman highlight Baby’s fall from grace and the pedestal her father has placed her on, and explain his eventual acceptance of Johnny despite the class difference – he wasn’t always an upwardly mobile doctor and the Housemans do remember what teenage love felt like. The backstory helps us warm more to Baby’s seemingly spoilt sister Lisa as the two become closer through the drama and experience of their summer romances.

The plot of the film was controversial at the time of the film’s release in 1987 but screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein won her fight to keep the storyline involving an illegal abortion - and against all odds the low budget movie became a box office hit. Carlie Milner's acting skills and performances with the English National Ballet and National Ballet of Ireland make her the ideal choice for the streetwise yet innocent Penny Johnson who falls pregnant but for whom the show must go on - and whose captivating dancing Baby is so envious of.

There’s no doubt that the attraction of this film is the upbeat love story, music and dancing, but the subplot and social issues keep it real, meaning we root even more for Johnny and Baby’s love to conquer the class divide. It’s also why it never gets old. The movie reached its 30th anniversary this August but three decades on the issues are still relevant and we all long for a happy ending.

Lewis Griffiths and Katie Eccles as the world-famous Johnny and Baby have plenty of chemistry and charisma, expertly mimicking the movements of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to successfully pull off all of the film's magical moments - and then some. The bedroom scenes are definitely more racy and we see a little bit more of Johnny in the show than we do in the film! Lewis has the necessary presence to turn a couple of thousand heads as he strides up the aisle for the iconic “Nobody puts Baby in a corner" scene; and Katie shows unrelenting feistiness as the idealistic Baby falls in love, learns a few lessons about real life along the way and, through Johnny, begins to settle into her real, grown up name of Frances. Ahhh.

Together they join the ensemble for a finale just as exhilarating as if it was the first time.

Book tickets here

Photographs courtesy of Winter Gardens Blackpool.

Aug 23rd

Sister Act

By Kirstie Niland

Until Sunday 27th August 2017, Blackpool Opera House

The sensational Sister Act has arrived in Blackpool and what an entrance the cast made on opening night, gaining a standing ovation and rapturous applause from a full house of over 2,600 people.

This exciting musical, with its highly-accomplished cast, deserves only the best from a leading lady - and they’ve definitely got that in Alexandra Burke, who brings true star quality to the show.

 

Bursting on to a stage set in 1970s Philadelphia, the wayward Deloris Van Cartier dreams of making it as a famous singer, but discovers that the music world isn't interested, her married lover wants her dead (after she witnessed him commit murder) and she has no one to turn to for help.

Time to change her habits. Literally – for Deloris is placed under witness protection in a convent as Sister Mary Clarence, where she causes havoc amongst the nuns before being put in charge of the choir to keep her out of trouble.

Already a fan of Alexandra Burke since her X-Factor win in 2008, I was expecting her vocals to be amazing. What I didn’t anticipate was how funny she would be. As with all much-loved movies, it’s an enormous feat to step into the shoes of Hollywood greats like Whoopi Goldberg. However, such is Alexandra’s comic timing and stage presence, all thoughts of the film version were forgotten within minutes since she makes this role her own, combining beautiful, rich vocals with an engaging performance that had me rooting for Deloris and her fellow sisters to reunite for a performance in front of the pope.

Every single character portrayal was faultless. From the nuns, whose personalities jumped out from their habits (a special mention to Liz Kitchen as the funky Hip Hop Hippy Sister Mary Lazarus, and Susannah Van Den Berg as the jovial Sister Mary Patrick) to bad boy Curtis, played by Aaron Lee Lambert with a swagger and smooth tones reminiscent of Barry White.

Superbly directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, the nuns’ gospel choir scenes, accompanied by the show's live band, are glorious; and a slow motion fight complete with musical instruments as weapons is hilariously inventive. The costumes and set provide the perfect contrast between changes, switching from a kaleidoscope of 70s colour and kitsch to stark black and white against church panels.

Credible performances from the cast elicit the intended feel-good factor as the moral and material makeovers take place. Joe Vetch is endearing as meek cop Eddie whose loyalty and strutting Saturday Night Fever style makeover means he gets his gun as well as the girl. Sister Mary Robert finds her remarkable voice (belonging to the talented Sarah Goggin) along with the courage to wear Deloris’s blessed purple "FM" boots.

And of the course the biggest deliverance of all comes from the sisterhood and the relationship between Deloris and the brilliantly formidable Mother Superior. As they grow to like and respect each other and their respective beliefs, Karen Mann ensures the exasperation of the nun in charge is comically evident, and Alexandra Burke shows her fine acting prowess, drawing hearty laughs from the audience with her prayers: “In the name of the son, the Father and the Holy Smokes…Jesus Christ I want that dress!" – followed by heartfelt smiles as she glows beneath Mother Superior’s high praise: “As true a sister as this convent has ever known”.

Meanwhile the Opera House was postively glowing too, beneath falling glitter and a giant disco ball that sent lights shimmering across the magnificent auditorium and an exuberant audience - who all clearly agreed that Alexandra Burke and Sister Act are simply Fabulous, Baby!

Book tickets here 

Photos by Jay Brooks

Aug 10th

TRIUMPH IN THE RAIN

By Kirstie Niland

Sunday 6th August, West End Proms, Lytham Festival, Lancashire

Singing along to Jerusalem in the middle of a downpour, picnic hampers out, Prosecco in hand - where else except Lytham Festival’s West End Proms. With a host of musical theatre stars lined up for the finale of another week of excellence from Cuffe & Taylor there was no way a bit of rain was getting in the way of a celebration for Brits Up North.

BBC Radio Lancashire’s Sally Naden put her plastic poncho on over her party dress and stilettos and kept everyone’s chin up with a chat while we waited for it all to begin. The audience covered up in an array of hoods, hats and even a survival bag. The West End Proms Childrens’ Chorus opened the event with a welcome sunny and polished performance of Food Glorious Food, and Blackpool's own Jodie Prenger gave us a flash of her wellies under her ball gown and some characterful numbers including As Long As He Needs Me.

There’s no doubt there was less arm-waving than you’d expect for You’ll Never Walk Alone, even though English National Opera soprano Jo Appleby sang it beautifully. 

The charming Britain's Got Talent winning band Collabro livened things up with Let It Go and also impressed with a fantastic staging of This Is The Moment from Jekyll & Hyde.

Having never seen Marti Pellow in a musical theatre setting before Summertime proved a nice surprise, meanwhile Claire Sweeney provided oomph and entertainment with Hey Big Spender.

Young Britain’s Got Talent finalist, 13-year-year-old Beau Dermott, cut a tiny figure with a big voice on the grand Lytham Festival stage alongside the 60-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

The West End Proms Children’s Chorus made another appearance to accompany Jon Lee singing Joseph’s Close Every Door, and the ex-S Club 7 singer also performed a sweet duet of Sixteen Going on Seventeen with local lass and rising West End star Lucie Mae Sumner.

The highlight of the evening was clearly Lea Solanga who brought Broadway magic and the captivating stage presence which has won her awards as Kim in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Misérables. Singing a variety of the numbers she has made her own, including I’d Give My Life for You, she gave a heartfelt speech to the audience – and recommended the current Miss Saigon tour at Birmingham Hippodrome which is receiving sensational reviews.  

Ruthie Henshall showed her incredible versatility with a powerful delivery of Sunset Boulevard’s As If We Never Said Goodbye before joining the other female leads and ensemble as a jailbird for a spirited performance of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango.

The spectacle of Phantom of the Opera brought plenty of drama to the proceedings, with Jo Appleby’s soaring soprano the perfect match for Luke McCall’s dramatic tenor.

It was well and truly worth getting soaked for the part I was waiting for – a selection of songs from Les Misérables, including Collabro's fabulous alternative to Javert’s solo song Stars and Lea Salonga’s poignant rendition of Eponine’s On My Own.

No proms should finish without fireworks and a patriotic song and we were treated to two cracking displays as we all sang along to Land Of Hope and Glory. But this was still not the end - the climax was a full cast performance of the magnificent One Day More.

Cuffe & Taylor, the singing stars of West End Proms and the hardy audience - we salute you.

Save the date for Lytham Festival 2018 which has been brought forward to July 23 to 29 to avoid clashing with the Ricoh Women’s British Golf Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.

www.lythamfestival.com

Photos: Lytham Festival

 

Aug 5th

WALK LIKE A MAN IS ROCKING THE GRAND THEATRE BLACKPOOL

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 201

 

Walk Like A Man, the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, was like listening to the soundtrack of my life from childhood through to parenthood.

 

 

When I bought the Bay City Rollers' single Bye Bye Baby in 1975, never would I have imagined that 32 years later my son would be breakdancing to a song co-written by the very same man in 2007, at virtually the same age I was. It was a revelation to me that Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio co-wrote both of these tracks, and that so many happy memories would come flooding back with songs I loved in movies, or from before I was born but played to me by my parents.

 

The foursome playing the band were pitch perfect, with Valli’s distinctive voice incredibly well impersonated, and the show featured classics including Sherry, Let’s Hang On, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, My Eyes Adored You, and December 63 (Oh What a Night!).

 

The choreography and harmonies were spot on, as were the corny jokes which charmed the ladies in the audience. In fact their act is so similar to the real Jersey Boys that Walk Like A Man recently won the National Music Tribute Awards' Best Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons act. If that wasn’t testament enough then an audience full of happy faces singing, dancing and clapping along certainly is.

 

 

 

If you’re partial to a trip down memory lane and a night packed full of feel-good classics, then this is the summer show for you.

 

Book it here.