Manor Operatic Society’s Sleeping Beauty Review

4 and a half stars

It’s the end of the Christmas holidays and what better way to finish it off than with a panto. This time it was time for Manor Operatic’s festive production Sleeping Beauty. Oh yes it was! Of the three Manor pantomimes I’ve seen this was the strongest, with the story remaining the centre of the production for the most part. The show was overflowing with well sung and choreographed musical numbers, possibly even a couple too many. Well done to Richard Bradford and Linda Kelly for putting on a great show!

Manor Operatic have always shown off a very talented cast and this was no exception. Emily Mae Hoyland plays the title role and she completely captures what all little girls expect a princess to be. Her handsome prince(s) is played by Liam Gordon who is wonderfully dashing and charming in the role. Emily Mae and Liam aren’t given long enough together however to create a fully believable romance.

Robert Spink and Paul Hill work brilliantly together as Queen Rita and King Crumpet respectively. Robert gets plenty laughs whilst Paul does a very good job his more straight acting role. Chris Hanlon and Andy Finnerty are very strong as Pick and Flick giving a great rendition of Anything You Can Do. It’s no easy task to establish yourself into a show where your character doesn’t serve much of a purpose to the storytelling but both Chris and Andy did this brilliantly.

Emily McGeoch did an outstanding job in the role of Witch Caraboss. Her voice was tremendous and blew the roof right off! It takes quite a performer to sing No Good Deed and One Night Only one after the other and she nailed both of them. She was perfectly terrifying and evil. Her counterpart Fairy Winter was played by Emma Flanagan who gave the most stunning rendition of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes and delivered her rhyming couplets excellently. Her characterisation was wonderful too! Grace Stoddart, Hannah Carter and Bethan Griffiths as Fairy Spring, Fairy Summer and Fairy Autumn all did an equally excellent job and all demonstrated some very strong vocals in Dreamgirls, despite the microphone issues. The three of them felt very underused however which was a shame.

The two stars of the show were James Smith as Muddles and Lauren Lomas as Silly Sue. James always wins the audience over immediately and he never fails to impress with his incredible vocals. Lauren’s Silly Sue was wonderfully ditzy and very likeable. You could not tell this was her first leading role with Manor Operatic. She could easily have been a panto veteran! Both James and Lauren could easily have stepped straight onto a professional stage and no-one would know that they weren’t professionals.

No show is complete without a talented ensemble and this was no exception. With a huge ensemble, you were never short of things to be seeing! Special mentions must go to Conner Povey and Jack Skelton who are heavily featured in the dance numbers and do a terrific job.

Manor Operatic always put on a great show so make sure to get tickets to their upcoming ones.

Manor Operatic Society’s Sleeping Beauty runs at Sheffield City Hall until 7th January 2018. Manor return to the venue with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from 16th to 19th May and their 2018/19 pantomime will be Aladdin. Their 2019 musical will be Our House the Madness Musical and play from 15th to 18th May 2019.

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The Greatest Showman West End Dream Cast

I was tempted to do a review of The Greatest Showman after seeing it yesterday but it is simply incredible and I couldn’t possibly do justice to just how good it is in words without making it sound very cliched so I thought instead I would share my thoughts on who should be in The Greatest Showman if and when it makes it to the West End stage.

P.T. Barnum

Michael Xavier

Michael Xavier

Michael Xavier is one of the West End and Broadway’s most loved performers with an incredible number of shows on his CV. His brilliant vocals as well as his experience in the arts would make him the perfect person to play the role of P.T. Barnum.

Andy Day

Andy Day

CBeebies presenter Andy Day is a household name for many young families across the country and families from all over the country would flock to see him perform as Barnum. After his performance of Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat in Dick Whittington at Sheffield Lyceum, it’s clear that he has the vocal ability to do justice to the role and his energy would lend itself brilliantly to the role.

Charity Barnum

Carolyn Maitland

Carolyn Maitland

Currently starring as Marion in the brand new revival of The Woman in White, Carolyn Maitland is known for her stunning voice and incredible acting skills. Her rendition of Tightrope would be sure to bring the house down and her dedication to every role she plays would ensure that whoever her onstage husband was, she would have a beautiful chemistry with them.

Caroline Kay

Caroline Kay

Best selling artist Caroline Kay reached number 1 with her debut EP Notes in 2017 and she’s a much loved member of the online musical theatre community. With an exquisite voice and wonderful warmth about her she would definitely do a stunning job in the role of Charity.

Verity Rushworth

Verity Rushworth

It could be argued that Verity Rushworth is a household name in the UK after her role in Emmerdale but she has also performed many a great musical, including The Sound of Music, Hairspray and she is currently playing Lauren in Kinky Boots. Her wealth of experience would definitely mean she’d give a beautiful performance in the role of Charity.

Pixie Lott

Pixie Lott

Pop singer Pixie Lott made her theatrical debut in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 2016 to great acclaim and gave stunning renditions of the songs in that play, most famously Moon River. Her beautiful voice would lend itself incredibly to the score of The Greatest Showman.

Philip Carlyle

Joshua Dowen

Josh Dowen

Hot off the heels of the hit UK tour of Footloose, Joshua Dowen would make a great Phillip Carlyle. With very strong vocal ability and wonderful acting talent as well his good looks, he could give Zac Efron a run for his money in this role.

Dylan Craig

Dylan Craig

Fresh from drama school, Dylan Craig is currently impressing audiences in Sheffield in Mother Goose. His likeability and charm, as well as impressive vocals, would enable him to give a very strong performance as Phillip Carlyle.

Jenny Lind

Rebecca Trehearn

Rebecca Trehearn

Olivier-award winning actress Rebecca Trehearn has always impressed audiences with her soaring vocals and incredible acting skills in every role she has played and that would be no different if she were to play Swedish songbird Jenny Lind.

Laura Pitt-Pulford

Laura Pitt-Pulford.jpg

British musical theatre favourite Laura Pitt-Pulford would be sure to give a stunning performance as Jenny Lind and phenomenal rendition of Never Enough. She has always impressed audiences and this would be another role in which she could do that.

Anne Wheeler

Eva Noblezada

Eva Noblezada

After wowing audiences in Miss Saigon on the West End and Broadway and instantly becoming a musical theatre favourite, her looks, incredible vocals and likeability would lend itself itself nicely to the role of Anne. She would look incredible doing those aerial acrobatics!

Gabrielle Brooks

Gabrielle Brooks

Gabrielle Brooks is currently leading the cast of The Wizard of Oz at Sheffield Crucible to great acclaim. Her incredible performance of Over The Rainbow leads me to believe she would be amazing singing Rewrite The Stars and she would definitely be a strong contender for the role of Anne in The Greatest Showman.

Lettie Lutz

Leanne Jones

Leanne Jones

Immediately after leaving the cinema I thought to myself ‘When are we going to hear Leanne Jones sing This Is Me?’ Her vocals would lend themselves perfectly to this role and her rendition of the song would definitely hit the bar that Keala Settle has set so high.

Wendi Peters

Wendi Peters

Wendi Peters’ exceptional vocals would also be perfect for the score of The Greatest Showman and she would well and truly nail the role of Lettie! Wendi as Lettie would be a performance not to be missed!

If you’ve seen the film, did you enjoy it? Who would you like to see in a UK stage version? Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet @jacobjb251

Thanks for reading and I shall see you real soon.

Mother Goose Review

4 stars

Last night I went to see this year’s Christmas pantomime at Sheffield Lyceum and this year’s festive treat was Mother Goose!

Mother Goose tells the story of Mother Goose who is very poor and can’t afford to pay her rent. One day Fairy Goodfeather provides her with a goose who lays golden eggs so all her financial problems are no more. Demon Vanity and Fairy Goodfeather have a bet and Demon Vanity says he will prove that all people want is beauty on the outside. He eventually tempts Mother Goose to go into the pool of beauty and she comes out more beautiful on the outside but she’s become ugly on the inside. Will Mother Goose become nice again? Will Demon Vanity realise that beauty is on the inside? You’ll have to see the show to find out.

The story was a little lacking unfortunately and the songs weren’t particularly well known or memorable but the show had a great cast and was a great laugh.

Jake Canuso (Benidorm) made his stage debut as Demon Vanity and he definitely looked the part and got the chance to show off his dance routes. It was a shame he didn’t sing in the show but it did give Jack Warren the chance to have a solo number and he impressed with some great vocals. Jake Canuso could have been more menacing and scary in his role I felt. He played the character a little too likeably.

Andy Day (CBeebies) played Billy Goose and had a wonderful rapport with the audience, although his character generally seemed a little pointless and he didn’t do a lot in the show. Adam Price (Hairspray, Blood Brothers) played the Squire perfectly and was very funny in the role yet perfectly villainous when he needed to be.

Damian Williams (Sheffield legend, Hairspray, The Ladykillers) played the title role celebrating his 10th year as dame in Sheffield (it might have been mentioned just once or twice in the show). Within seconds his incredible rapport with the audience is back, it was great to hear plenty of his strong singing voice this year and he had some of the best costumes this year that he’s ever had.

Cara Dudgeon (Somewhere in Time, Cinderella) played Jill and she had a very powerful singing voice and as instantly likeable in the role. She had a great chemistry with Dylan Craig (Cinderella, Bonnie and Clyde) who played Charlie Goose. He had one of the strongest voices in the show and had a wonderful stage presence and charisma. It was a shame the duo didn’t get more stage time though to develop their romance.

For me, the star of the show, alongside Dylan Craig who is quite clearly born for panto and is destined to be a household name in the genre before too long, was Lisa Davina Phillip (Ghost the Musical, Matilda the Musical, The Lion King) as Fairy Goodfeather. She was very likeable and bubbly and her accent only added to that and she showed off some wonderful vocals in the show too. If you ask me, she was the best panto fairy we’ve had for a long time. I was a little disappointed she didn’t speak in rhyming couplets however.

The show had some great choreography from Sarah Langley and the set and costumes were wonderfully colourful and fun with designs from Morgan Brind and Helga Wood. Paul Hendy never fails to write and direct an incredibly fun show and assemble one of the best panto casts in the country. I will always stand by my word that Evolution Productions put on the very best pantomimes in the country.

Mother Goose is a great festive treat with a lot of fun to be had for all the family. You really never are too old for panto!

Mother Goose plays at Sheffield Lyceum until Sunday 7th January with tickets still available. Next year’s pantomime Peter Pan is already on sale, and Sheffield legend Damian Williams will return as Mrs Smee.

Jacob’s Theatre Awards 2017

Well, here we are at the end of another year of incredible theatre! And that means the return of my theatre awards! The idea was lovingly stolen from @theatrelover199 on Twitter. Go have a look at his on this twitter page.

Here is the full low down on my awards! All nominees are listed in alphabetical order by surname, where applicable. Let’s begin with plays.

Eligible plays are: the UK tours of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Gaslight, La Strada, Out of Order, The Kite Runner and Rita Sue and Bob Too as well as the Sheffield Theatres productions of Julius Caesar, Tribes, Of Kith and Kin and Desire Under The Elms.

Best Production of a Play

Nominees:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Desire Under The Elms

Julius Caesar

Tribes

 

Winner: Tribes

 

Best Sound

Nominees:

George Dennis for Tribes

Ian Dickinson for Autograph for The Curious Incident in the Dog in the Night-time

Nick Greenhill (with Alex Baranowski) for Desire Under The Elms

Emma Laxton for Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

Winner: George Dennis for Tribes

 

Best Lighting

Nominees:

Jon Clark for Desire Under The Elms

Paule Constable for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Paul Keogan for Tribes

Johanna Town for Julius Caesar

 

Winner: Jon Clark for Desire Under The Elms

 

Best Pair – Romantic

Nominees:

David Ahmad and Amiera Darwish (Amir and Soraya) in The Kite Runner

Ciaran Alexander Stuart and Emily Howlett (Billy and Sylvia) in Tribes

James Lance and Joshua Silver (Daniel and Oliver) in Of Kith and Kin

Zoe Waites and Samuel West (Cassius and Brutus) in Julius Caesar

 

Winner: Ciaran Alexander Stuart and Emily Howlett (Billy and Sylvia) in Tribes

 

 

 

Best Pair – Non Romantic

Nominees:

Ciaran Alexander Stuart and Oliver Johnstone (Billy and Dan) in Tribes

Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson (Rita and Sue) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Louisa Connolly-Burnham and Oliver Johnstone (Ruth and Dan) in Tribes

Lucianne McEvoy and Scott Reid (Siobhan and Christopher) in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

 

Winner: Ciaran Alexander Stuart and Oliver Johnstone (Billy and Dan) in Tribes

 

Best Set

Nominees:

Bunny Christie for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

James Perkins for Of Kith and Kin

Ben Stones for Julius Caesar

Amanda Stoodley for Tribes

 

Winner: Ben Stones for Julius Caesar

 

Best Costumes

Nominees:

Rebecca Brower for Out of Order

Ben Stones for Julius Caesar

Katie Sykes for La Strada

David Woodhead for Gaslight

 

Winner: David Woodhead for Gaslight

 

Best Ensemble

Nominees:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Desire Under The Elms

The Kite Runner

La Strada

 

Winner: La Strada

 

Funniest Performance

Nominees:

Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson (Rita and Sue) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

James Holmes (The Waiter) in Out of Order

David Walker (Dad) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Shaun Williamson (George Pigden) in Out of Order

 

Winner: Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson (Rita and Sue) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

Best Movement

Nominees:

Kim Brandstrup for Desire Under The Elms

Cameron Carver for La Strada

Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Dan Watson for Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

Winner: Cameron Carver for La Strada

 

Best Director

Nominees:

Marianne Elliott for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Robert Hastie for Of Kith and Kin

Kate Hewitt for Tribes

Kate Wasserberg for Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

Winner: Kate Hewitt for Tribes

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Jo Ben Ayed (Hassan/Sohrab) in The Kite Runner

Matthew Kelly (Ephraim) in Desire Under The Elms

Joshua Silver (Oliver) in Of Kith and Kin

David Walker (Dad) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

 

Winner: Joshua Silver (Oliver) in Of Kith and Kin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Joanna Bacon (Lydia/Carrie) in Of Kith and Kin

Sally Bankes (Mum) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Samantha Robinson (Michelle) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Lindy Whiteford (Beth) in Tribes

 

Winner: Joanna Bacon (Lydia/Carrie) in Of Kith and Kin

 

Best Leading Actor

Nominees:

James Atherton (Bob) in Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Oliver Johnstone (Dan) in Tribes

Scott Reid (Christopher Boone) in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Michael Shea (Eben) in Desire Under The Elms

 

Winner: Oliver Johnstone (Dan) in Tribes

 

Best Leading Actress

Nominees:

Audrey Brisson (Gelsomina) in La Strada

Emily Howlett (Sylvia) in Tribes

Kara Tointon (Bella Manningham) in Gaslight

Zoe Waites (Cassius) in Julius Caesar

 

Winner: Zoe Waites (Cassius) in Julius Caesar

Now, let’s move onto musicals. Eligible musicals are: the UK tours of Ghost the Musical, Wonderland, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Who’s Tommy, The Wedding Singer, Our House, Footloose and Nativity the Musical as well as the Sheffield Theatres productions of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and The Wizard of Oz.

Best Production of a Musical

Nominees:

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Nativity! The Musical

The Wedding Singer

The Wizard of Oz

 

Winner: The Wizard of Oz

 

 

 

 

 

Best Sound

Nominees:

Paul Groothuis for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Andrew Johnson for Creative Technology for The Who’s Tommy

Tom Marshall for Nativity! The Musical

Dan Samson for Ghost the Musical

 

Winner: Paul Groothuis for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

 

Best Lighting

Nominees:

Lee Curran for Fantastic Mr Fox

Tim Deiling for Our House
Richard Howell for The Wizard of Oz

Tim Mitchell for Nativity! The Musical

 

Winner: Lee Curran for Fantastic Mr Fox

 

Best Pair – Romantic

Nominees:

Daniel Boys and Sarah Earnshaw (Mr Maddens and Jennifer Lore) in Nativity! The Musical

Joshua Dowen and Hannah Price (Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore) in Footloose

Jason Kajdi and Sophie Matthew (Joe Casey and Sarah) in Our House

Carolyn Maitland and Andy Moss (Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat) in Ghost the Musical

 

Winner: Daniel Boys and Sarah Earnshaw (Mr Maddens and Jennifer Lore) in Nativity! The Musical

 

Best Pair – Non Romantic

Nominees:

Daniel Boys and Simon Lipkin (Mr Maddens and Mr Poppy) in Nativity! The Musical

Joshua Dowen and Lindsay Goodhand (Ren and Ethel McCormack) in Footloose

John McCrea and Josie Walker (Jamie and Margaret New) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Jessica Niles and Etisyai Philip (Angie and Billie) in Our House

 

Winner: John McCrea and Josie Walker (Jamie and Margaret New) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

 

Best Leading Quintet

Winner: Gabrielle Brooks, Rhiannon Wallace, Andrew Langtree, Max Parker and Jonathan Broadbent (Dorothy Gale, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion) in The Wizard of Oz

 

Best Costumes

Nominees:

Janet Bird for The Wizard of Oz

Grace Smart for Wonderland

Tom Scutt for Fantastic Mr Fox

David Woodhead for Nativity! The Musical

 

Winner: Janet Bird for The Wizard of Oz

 

Best Set

Nominees:

Mark Bailey for Ghost the Musical

Janet Bird for The Wizard of Oz

Anna Fleischle for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Tom Scutt for Fantastic Mr Fox

 

Winner: Janet Bird for The Wizard of Oz

 

Best Score

Nominees:

Nicky Ager and Debbie Isitt for Nativity! The Musical

Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Jack Murphy and Frank Wildhorn for Wonderland

Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow for Footloose

 

Winner: Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

 

Best Director

Nominees:

Maria Aberg for Fantastic Mr Fox

Robert Hastie for The Wizard of Oz

Debbie Isitt for Nativity! The Musical

James Tobias for Our House

 

Winner: Robert Hastie for The Wizard of Oz

 

Best Choreography

Nominees:

Fabian Aloise for Our House

Ewan Jones for The Wizard of Oz

Kate Prince for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Andrew Wright for Nativity! The Musical

 

Winner: Fabian Aloise for Our House

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Jemma Churchill (Mrs Bevan) in Nativity! The Musical

Lindsay Goodhand (Ethel McCormack) in Footloose

Naomi Morris (Ellie) in Wonderland

Katia Sartini (Miss Rye) in Nativity! The Musical

 

Winner: Jemma Churchill (Mrs Bevan) in Nativity! The Musical

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Luke Baker (Dean Paxton) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Andy Brady (Gordon Shakespeare) in Nativity! The Musical

Charles Dale (Hugo Battersby) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Dominic Gee Burch (Willard) in Footloose

 

Winner: Dominic Gee Burch (Willard) in Footloose

 

Funniest Female Performance

Nominees:

Mina Anwar (Aaliyah ‘Lee’ Begum) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Jacqui Dubois (Oda Mae Brown) in Ghost the Musical

Emma Fraser (Wendy-Jo) in Footloose

Jessica Niles (Angie) in Our House

 

Winner: Mina Anwar (Aaliyah ‘Lee’ Begum) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

 

Funniest Male Performance

Nominees:

Jonathan Broadbent (Lion) in The Wizard of Oz

Dominic Gee Burch (Willard) in Footloose

Andrew Langtree (Scarecrow) in The Wizard of Oz

Simon Lipkin (Mr Poppy) in Nativity! The Musical

 

Winner: Simon Lipkin (Mr Poppy) in Nativity! The Musical

 

Best Ensemble

Nominees:

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Nativity! The Musical

Our House

Wonderland

 

Winner: Nativity! The Musical

 

Best Female Vocal Performance

Nominees:

Jalisa Andrews (TJ’s Mother) for Good News in Nativity! The Musical

Gabrielle Brooks (Dorothy Gale) for Jitterbug in The Wizard of Oz

Sarah Earnshaw (Jennifer Lore) for Hollywood Are Coming in Nativity! The Musical

Lucie Jones (Holly) for Saturday Night in the City in The Wedding Singer

 

Winner: Jalisa Andrews (TJ’s Mother) for Good News in Nativity! The Musical

 

Best Male Vocal Performance

Nominees:

Jonathan Broadbent (Lion) for If I Were King of the Forest in The Wizard of Oz

Callum McArdle (Dad) for Simple Equation in Our House

John McCrea (Jamie New) for Don’t Even Know It Reprise in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Jon Robyns (Robbie Hart) for Somebody Kill Me in The Wedding Singer

 

Winner: Jonathan Broadbent (Lion) for If I Were King of the Forest in The Wizard of Oz

 

Best Leading Actress

Nominees:

Gabrielle Brooks (Dorothy Gale) in The Wizard of Oz

Sarah Earnshaw (Jennifer Lore) in Nativity! The Musical

Carolyn Maitland (Molly Jensen) in Ghost the Musical

Josie Walker (Margaret New) in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

 

Winner: Carolyn Maitland (Molly Jensen) in Ghost the Musical

 

Best Leading Actor

Nominees:

Joshua Dowen (Ren McCormack) in Footloose

Jason Kajdi (Joe Casey) in Our House

Daniel Boys (Mr Maddens) in Nativity! The Musical

Jon Robyns (Robbie Hart) in The Wedding Singer

 

Winner: Jason Kajdi (Joe Casey) in Our House

 

And that’s it for this year! Thank you to all who have made it such a wonderful year of theatre! There is still one more review to come this year, so watch this space. Here’s to 2018!

The Wizard of Oz Review

4 stars

Please note: The Wizard of Oz is still in previews so minor changes will still be being made. The official press night is Wednesday 13th December.

2017 marks Robert Hastie’s first Christmas production as Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres and he decided, for his first Christmas musical here, to stage one of the most ambitious musicals of all time: The Wizard of Oz. This production was colourful and full of joy and new life! It was a completely new production, with some unique characterisations of certain roles and an exciting set and costume design from Janet Bird and brilliant lighting design from Richard Howell. Ewan Jones’ choreography was amazing to watch, particularly in Munchkinland which was the highlight of the show for me.

In the iconic roles of Glinda and the Wicked Witch were Sophia Nomvete (Wind in the Willows, Noises Off) and Catrin Aaron (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Henry V) respectively. Both completely reinvented their characters. Sophia’s Glinda was warm yet strong and not sickly sweet whilst her Aunt Em was equally warm and loving. Her voice was lovely, especially in Poppies. She got some of the best entrances in the show whilst Catrin’s entrances were somewhat less impressive. Catrin’s Wicked Witch was wonderfully destestable yet she had more of a tormenting nature about her as opposed to pure wickedness. Catrin gave a wonderful performance as Miss Gulch, who really was horrid, and she really came into her own in Jitterbug in the second half. Her vocals in Jitterbug were very strong and it was at this point we feared her most.

Ryan Ellsworth (Antigone) did a brilliant job as Professor Marvel and The Wizard of Oz. Both were likeable and very human and he did a wonderful job of keeping Marvel’s scene moving, a scene which can often be quite slow. Michael Matus (King Lear, Comedy of Errors) made for a great Uncle Henry and a wonderfully over the top Oz Gatekeeper. Rhiannon Wallace (The Snail and the Whale) puppeteered Toto brilliantly and really brought the dog to life very realistically.

Jonathan Broadbent (The Norman Conquests) delivered some impressive vocals as the Lion and he brought the loveable character to life perfectly. Andrew Langtree’s (Ghost, Groundhog Day) Scarecrow was full of energy and he captured what the essence of what everyone loves about the character wonderfully. Max Parker (Kiss Me Kate, Guys and Dolls) was perfectly cast as the Tin Man. This trio did a wonderful job of capturing the hearts of the characters and keeping them similar to the ones we know and love yet not copying any previous incarnations of them.

Gabrielle Brooks (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Queen Anne) gave a heartwarming and impressive performance as Dorothy. After seeing many Dorothys in various production of The Wizard of Oz, Gabrielle was by far my favourite. Her voice was gorgeous yet the acting always came first, giving a truly heartfelt rendition of Over The Rainbow at the top of the show. She was very believable in her portrayal of the character and from her first entrance, the audience were instantly on her side.

Despite having long periods of time between songs and those periods sometimes dragging a little, the show is a wonderful festive treat with an inventive set, very creative use of the ensemble and an outstanding cast.

The Wizard of Oz runs at Sheffield Crucible until Saturday 20th January 2018.

Nativity! The Musical Review

5-stars

Last night, thanks to Sheffield Theatres’ sometimes brilliant Live for 5 scheme, I had the chance to see the current UK tour of Nativity! The Musical. This was the perfect early Christmas treat, with an all star West End cast, a brilliantly fun score and a hilarious and up to date book full of modern cultural references.

Simon Lipkin (The Wind in the Willows, Guys and Dolls, Avenue Q, Rock of Ages) played the iconic role of Mr Poppy and he managed to get the audience straight on his side from the pre-show announcement. He was hilarious and demonstrated some very strong vocals. There seemed to be no end to the instruments he could play and despite laughing along with him throughout, towards the end of the show there was one scene of his in particular that did make the audience feel a little teary.

Daniel Boys (Avenue Q, Love Story, Rent, The Boys in the Band) made the perfect Mr Maddens whilst Sarah Earnshaw (Wicked, Scrooge, Spamalot, Jekyll and Hyde) was a stunning Jennifer Lore. Their voices worked incredibly together providing some stunning duets in the show and they had a beautiful and believable on stage chemistry which everyone was rooting for succeed right throughout the show. Andy Brady (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, Blood Brothers) was a brilliantly terrifying yet over the top and funny Gordon Shakespeare but equally had a great chemistry with Daniel and Sarah, making a wonderful trio of friends.

This incredible trio of leads were joined by a phenomenally strong supporting cast. Jemma Churchill (Noises Off, The Seagull, Breaking the Code) was wonderful as headteacher Mrs Bevan and was very believable as a primary school headteacher. Jamie Chapman (Neville’s Island, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) was a fabulous Patrick Burns. He gave a very funny and very camp performance which was very enjoyable. Gary Davis (Kiss Me Kate, Titanic, Oklahoma) showed off some amazing vocals as The Lord Mayor and other roles. Katia Sartini was the perfect primary school teacher as Miss Rye although I felt she was a heavily underused character and definitely could have been a bit more of a significant character to the plot. Jalisa Andrews surprised all with her moment to ‘sparkle and shine’ singing a soulful and full out belted duet with her on stage son in the Nativity at the end of the show.

The show has some incredible young performers as the two classes of Oakmoor and St Bernadette’s pupils. The thing that was great about them was that they were completely normal school children as opposed to children who had been through years of drama, singing and dance classes which just added to the believability and authenticity of the show.

Debbie Isitt and Nicky Ager’s writing overflows with hilarity and joy and Debbie’s direction really makes this already amazing Christmas film into an even better Christmas stage musical. Andrew Wright’s choreographer equally brings out even more fun from the show. Duncan McLean and Stanley Orwin-Fraser’s projection design is very effective and David Woodhead’s design mixed with Tim Mitchell’s lighting design is exciting, vibrant and just adds to the fun aspect of the show.

Nativity! The Musical is the perfect festive treat for everyone of all ages whether you’ve seen the film or not. Definitely try and catch this show before it’s too late!

Nativity! The Musical plays at Sheffield Lyceum until 26th November, before touring to Manchester Palace Theatre, Plymouth Theatre Royal, London Eventim Apollo before a Christmas residency at Leeds Grand Theatre.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too UK Tour Review

5-stars

Last night I saw the current UK tour of Rita, Sue and Bob Too. This co-production between Out of Joint Theatre Company, Octagon Theatre Bolton and Royal Court Theatre was funny, grotesque and fast paced all at the same time.

Director Kate Wasserberg (All My Sons, Blasted) managed to bring out the comedy which is definitely needed in such a bleak piece of theatre yet it remained Northern at its heart and very gritty. The set design from Tim Shortall (Our Country’s Good, La Cage Aux Folles) helped with this and Dan Watson’s (StopGAP Dance Company) choreography added to the entertainment value of the piece but also in creating a clear image of what the era was like.

The show has a small yet exceptionally strong cast. David Walker (Hangmen, Emmerdale) gives plenty laughs as Dad and he works brilliantly on stage with Sally Bankes (East is East, Acorn Antiques, Doctors) as Mum. Sally brings this strong yet stereotypical and slightly oblivious character to life brilliantly. Samantha Robinson (Educating Rita, Cilla) did a great job as Michelle, who is quite possibly the strongest and most likeable character in the play.

The three stars of the show were definitely James Atherton (Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) as Bob, Taj Atwal (East is East, Educating Rita, In The Club) as Rita and Gemma Dobson who was making her professional stage debut as Sue. James’ portrayal of Bob was likeable yet unlikeable and he really managed to make the character quite grounded and human, showing his vulnerability as well as his strength. Taj and Gemma had a wonderful rapport on stage and made very believable young people and lifelong friends. You couldn’t tell at all that this was Gemma’s debut. Her performance was of just as high a standard as the rest of the cast.

This one act play is touring the country until February 2018 but tickets are selling fast so if you want to go and see it, which you definitely should do, get your tickets quickly. This show, despite being originally written in the 1980s, is just as relevant today covering some very important themes and ideas.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too plays at Cast, Doncaster until 11th November 2017 before touring to York and Derby before a break over Christmas, before it re-opens at Royal Court Theatre, London on 9th January 2018 where it then runs until 27th January before touring to Huddersfield and Mold.