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Tag: what’s on in Manchester

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Forget the story you think you know of Beauty and the Beast, and be transported back into a world of folklore and enchantment with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s retelling of this classic fairytale.

From the moment the curtain rises, you’re thrust into a magical medieval relm and back to your childhood. The swish of a cloak turns a bright eyed bushy tailed fox into a fiery red headed girl almost instantly. Furniture that serve unexpected guests of their own free will. Seeing is most definitely believing, and you’re not even wondering about the how, because it’s all too captivating.

Yvette knight was innocent and unassuming as Belle. Perfect for “a girl with her nose ways stuck in a book” Her stature and pose gave her dancing an etherial quality.40182381283_cf236822a6_o

The Beast was danced by Brandon Lawrence. He performed with great power and intensity, an angered and ferocious wild animal. His leaps and jumps are gravity defying.40182381453_bc023aedfe_z

Beatrice Parma as Vixen was my personal favorite. With a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step, she was every inch the sprightly fox maiden. Her dancing was effortless and the height of her leg extensions were breathtaking!40182381063_cee32c0db8_z

The setting and lighting designs seemed to have been lifted straight from pages of a fairy story. Grandeur book cases filled with leather bound, gilded books, castle ruins suffocating in vines and roses, not forgetting an enchanting ball room, complete with candles and chandeliers. Artifical smoke played a huge role in creating atmosphere, with beams of light breaking through to create light and hope, and dim underlighting when a more ominous feel was needed.46233108045_929f0ea552_z

There were surprising comedy elements included, particularly in Act 2, involving Belle’s 2 sisters (Laura Purkiss and Samara Downs) fighting over a portly suiter Monsieur Cochon (James Barton) and a pompus court dance!

The costumes really were exquisite! With luxury silks, heavy velour and plenty of embroidery and brocading, it was clear no expense was spared. The Beast’s and other animal’s fur ‘skin’ was very cleaverly achieved with catsuits covered in textured tufts, and their masks were immediately identifiable as to the animal they were. I, along with everyone I’m sure, were waiting to see Belle’s trademark yellow princess gown and how that could possibly be danced in. When she finally emerged, there were gasps from the audience. A very extravagant yet practical conpromise had been made, that still created all the drama and opulence you’d expect! Stunning!47147351751_c21d0690bb_z

2 scenes stood out for me in particular. The first, when Belle is transported to the Beast’s castle by a flock of birds. There were so many dancers on stage, all intertwining in different directions, just like a group of starlings dance in the sky. Mesmerising and distracting and suddenly Belle is flying above them. The second, when Belle and the Beast dance in the ballroom with all the other enchanted animals. They waltzed and turned, reminding me of the scene from the film ‘Labyrinth’ where Sarah is dancing with Jareth at a masquerade ball and the other gueats are all wearing animal like masks.

 

This production would make a wonderful family treat. The BRB have a programme called ‘First Steps’ – shortened, more easy to follow story lines for a younger audience – however this production was so filled with magic and wonder, it’s an ideal first full length production for children or ballet new comers. It also has a happy ending unlike the majority of ballet tales, so no awkwardness to explain away!

Beauty and the Beast is showing at The Lowry untill Saturday 23rd March, before it heads on to Sunderland and concludes in Bristol,so don’t miss out on your chance to see this gorgoeus production! Ticket info can be found on the website https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/beauty-and-the-beast-2019

Unitll the last petal falls…….

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Saturday Night Fever The Musical Review

Saturday Night Fever The Musical Review

The 70’s movie Saturday Night Fever conjures 3 images – The Bee Gees, the disco dancing and John Travolta! Now the stage version has 2 out of 3 of those, only with Casualty star Rich Winsor playing the cocky Italian American Tony Manero, and he does not disappoint!

Rich’s credentials all come into play within this musical, acting, singing and of course dancing! “It’s a dream role” he told me in our interview last week. You can read the rest of that interview here Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero His Brooklyn accent never waivers, and he seems to have captured that spunky energy that Travolta emitted perfectly. Rich’s dancing scenes are where he really comes alive, with barrel turns, splits, and triple piroettes no less! Bill Deamer, the shows resident choreographer has done an amazing job with all the dance scenes and classic, stereotypical 70’s dance moves. Larger than life, furious and full of fun, theres no doubt you’ll be throwing your own shapes at home!

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Fighting for Toni’s affections are the 2 main ladies – Stephanie Mangano, played by Kate Parr and Annette played by Anna Campkin. Straight away youre made aware of the girls differences, Annette being the obsessive, needy one firmly in the friend zone whilst Stephanie is the beautiful, talented, palying hard to get character. Her figue is enviable in some extremely high cut leotards that Jamie Lee Curtis would have been proud of! Its clear shes has extensive dance training, as her scenes, particlarly with Rich, were wonderful to watch and they share an exciting chemisty! Annette on the other hand comes alive whilst she sings, and belts out some fantasic songs, full of emotion.

A show like this would’nt amount to much if it wasnt for the huegly talented supporting cast and ensemble. All of them from Toni’s crew to the competitors in nightclub 2001 Odyssey were 100% commited to the choreography and routines, with so much high energy, they literally blew the roof off! The effect of dancing full out like that ripples into the audience and by the end of the show, not one audience member in the auditorium were sat in their seats!

To complete the package, the set and lighting team hit the nail on the head. They brought to stage a noisy, colourful downtown 70’s Brooklyn, including muticolured squared dance floor in the club and strategicly placed disco balls in the auditorium which transformed the whole place into one big discoteque! The live band were nestled between the high rise scaffolding, and the show’s very own Bee Gees, played by Edward Handoll, Alistair Hill and Matt Faul. No detail has been left out in this show, as even the Gibb brothers are kitted out in suitable fit and flare trousers and their trademark long hair! The boys appear to perform all the classic songs from the movie and their vocal talents are staggering. You’d swear you were listening to the movie soundtrack!

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All in all, its a fantasic production which will have you up on your feet and reaching those soprano top notes like a pro! The language is a little on the fruity side, and there are some daek moments in the show, so I wouldn’t recomend it for younger members of the family. It’s currently on stage at the Palace Theatre Manchester now untill 26th Jan, so you’ll need to be quick to book tickets, however they are performing matinee showings most days to make up for such a whislte stop tour! Tickets and price information are available on the website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/saturday-night-fever/palace-theatre-manchester/

So if you fancy a bit of Night Fever, stop your Jive Talking, put on your Boogie Shoes and experience this Disco Inferno of a show! It’d be a Tragedy to miss it!

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Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Richard Winsor is a household name in the UK. Tele addicts may know him as Farther Fransis from Hollyoaks or Caleb from Casualty, whereas dance fanatics would recognise him from the movie StreetDance 3D or as the lead in Sir Matthew Bourne’s critically acclaimed Swan Lake (you can read more about that production here Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review ) Whether its acting or dancing, Richard’s talents know no bounds, and his latest role – Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever – allows him to combine 2 of his passions! I spoke with Rich about taking on such a huge task, read on below!

 

D.N. You were classically trained, attending Central School of Ballet and later becoming a company member of New Adventures. Was dance your first love?

R.W. Yes I guess it was. My mum ran a dance school in Nottingham, so I grew up being surrounded by dance, it’s in my blood.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_090

 

D.N. How did you get into acting?

R.W. Ballet is such a strong discipline which lends itself well to acting, remembering your lines and rehearsing them over and over to commit them to memory. I have just as much love for acting. I went on as many courses and workshops as I could, it was a real driving force for me.

 

D.N. Saturday Night Fever is such an iconic film and combines dancing and acting. Is it a dream role for you, and did you watch the film to prepare?

R.W. It’s the perfect show for me. I get to be physical in the dancing scenes and really show off my acting skills. Its quite a dark and gritty story. This stage production is a brand new version. We’ve tried to stay as true to the film as we could!

* It’s so iconic, I mentioned it in my list of top dance movies to watch! Have a look Top dance films you NEED to watch right now  *

 

D.N Do you have a favourite scene from the show?

R.W. Yeah I love all the scenes with Tony’s family in. You get to see the dynamics of his family and his roots. It helps you to really understand him as a person.Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_ 026

 

D.N. Tony Manero, played by John Travolta in the film, is such a big character to play! How did you prepare for that and did you practice his legendary strut?

R.W. Tony is a great character to get into and bring to life. He’s multidimensional. He has this huge love for dance, charismatic and also arrogant, nut at the same time, almost naive to life, until auditions open him up to the world. And yes, I practiced ‘THE STRUT’The Cast of Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_013

 

D.N. Tony portrays this big bravado, but is also very self critical and full of self doubt. Have you ever experienced the same and how do you overcome it?

R.W. That’s a great question. I think everyone in this industry will have self doubt at one point or another. It’s almost a natural thing. You face a lot of rejection and it can cripple you if you don’t have the right mindset. You have to take it with a pinch of salt, remember it’s not about your talent, more that you went quite what they were looking for. It’s all about mindset and vision, using rejection and self doubt as a driving force to better yourself. Negativity is dangerous in this line of work. It will kill your performance.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_023

 

 

D.N. What would be your biggest piece of advice to aspiring actors and dancers out there who want to succeed?

R.W. PREPARATION IS KEY! Actors – really get to know your character so that you become them and give the best of your ability! Dancers – stay physically fit, work on all different genres. To everyone – put the work and time in. Know your role inside out. Be the best you can be!

 

Saturday Night Fever is currently touring and will be visiting the Palace Theatre Manchester from Tuesday 22nd Jan until 26th Jan, tickets available here ATG TICKETS It then continues on its tour to York, Carlisle, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds.

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Cinderella Panto Review

Cinderella Panto Review

With the arrival of the Festive season, comes the arrival of Panto season………'”OOH yes it is” A time when theatre land truly comes to life, and the young and young at heart enjoy the retelling of classic fairy tales with added romamce,dancing, sing songs, slap stick comedy and more one liners than a page of dot to dots #sorrynotsorry

This year’s Cinderella panto at the historic Manchester Operah House does not disappoint! I went along with 2 of my youngest reviewers (my children) to see just what fun and frivolities were involved, and the girls first taste of Panto delight!

On receiving the programme, an all star cast shone out. Gareth Gates, originally of Pop Idol fame, now a household musical theatre name, steps out as Prince Charming. His chisled jaw and dimpled cheeks quickly win over the audience. He is every bit the dashing Prince, with his upper class accent and air of nobility to his posture. His vocal talents have a smooth tone to them and woos Cinders with his love songs.

Cinderella is played by Shannon Flynn, who has appeared in many tv and radio shows to date. Shannon has a wonderfully sincere and understated quality to her acting, perfect for the dowdy Princess to be. She has a natural presence on stage and sings with a sweet quality. A special magical moment is when she ‘transforms from her rags into a shining full length gown with just a twirl, right before your very eyes. My children were in awe!

Cinderella could not undergo her huge transformation if it wasn’t for her Fairy Godmother, aka Hayley Ria Christian. Hayley has many theatre credits under her now sparkly belt as well as being one of the Uk’s go to soul vocalists, something that is immediately apparent with the opening of the show, and her first song. She mixes power ballad and smooth soul sounds seamlessly.

The love struck Buttons, played by comedian Ben Nickless, remains firmly in the friend zone by being Cinders side kick and right hand man. The puns roll effortlessly out of him, giving the audience some great bet laugh moments. His impersonations are so realistic in both audible and visual aspects, it’s as though he has been possessed with their souls!

Who could forget the Ugly Sisters Phelkna and Michaela, played by Coronation Steet duo Connor McIntyre and legendary Law Dennis. The pair work so well together, bouncing off eachother, in some scenes quite literally too, with their outlandish and down right hilarious costumes, which trigger laughter as soon as they step out from the wings. The laughter became contagious to those even on the stage, with the actors all stiffling their sniggers. They are the characters we all love to hate, and Connor and Les certainly revel in the boos and hisses.

The special effects and audience participation are what really bring the magic to the panto. Buttons has some wonderful scenes involving some water pistols of varying sizes. Avoid the stalls if you lack in humour or melt when in contact with water!

The Ugly Sisters also participate with a bit of audience banter, picking out a gentleman to ask for his name, which they refer back to on numerous occasions, and who provides the butt for some of their jokes.

The highlight for me, and certainly my children was the flying pumpkin coach and horses. The special fairy godmother magic enabled the coach containing Cinderella and the Prince to levitate up off the stage and out into the stalls, with galloping strides from the horses. My slightly sinical child yelled and pointed that there were indeed ‘no strings’ and that magic was truly involved! A special moment.

Some special unplanned moments also made this panto one I shall never forget. Les forgetting the name of the audience member and replacing it with one from the matinee show had the cast in giggles. How he and Connor used ad lib to include the mistake into the script is a sign of true masters of their craft. During the rendition of Panto classic “if I was not in pantomine” song, where The Ugly Sisters, Buttons and the Prince were racing up and down the stage with various props and buckets of water (health and safety would have a coronary) Connor’s towering wig fell of and was rolling about the stage. It was a perfect cherry on the already iced, slightly wonky cake, but hey, that’s panto!

All in all, Cinderella was a huge hit. Everyone, young and old enjoyed the musical theatre delights. There were dance scenes that could have been plucked straight from a Disneyland parade, brightly coloured costumes, fireworks that were not of the metaphorical kind, and a heap load of jokes that included ones for all ages!

Theatre is a magical place in itself and one I’m so grateful I can share with my children. Pantos provide a perfect opportunity for families to come together and share the magic, and Cinderella does not disappoint!

Cinderella pantomime is on at The Opera House until 30th Dec. Tickets can still be purchased and all information is available on their website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/opera-house-manchester/

Special thanks goes to the team at the Operah House Manchester and Phil Tragen Photography.

“He’s behind you”…………..

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Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne has an incredible talent for turning an age old and traditional story, such as Swan Lake, and thrusting it beak first into the 21st century. His take on the classic tale, with his company New Adventures is far more menacing and somber than the original. Its one of inner turmoil and depravity, provocation and lust, entrapment and finally freedom.

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The show opens with the young Prince in bed, being awoken by the hum drum of palace life. The mixed corps de ballet of butlers and maids all hurry with military precision. , using angular arm and head movements, swift changes of direction and robotic stature. With it, we sense the beginning of the Prince (played by Dominic North) is unhappy with his regimented and stifling life.

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The Queen, was played by Katrina Lyndon. She bought a regal and sophisticated edge to her character. Her dancing was elegant and had wonderful poise, using her upper body well, and great strength and control with her legs, to effortlessly glide across the floor. Katrina used her facial expressions well, an eye roll here, a displeasing look there, which were discreet yet added to the story perfectly. My favourite scene of hers was at the Black Ball, held at the Palace. Everyone wearing black, yet she appears in a stunning red dress. She dances with The Stranger in a immensely provocative routine. She echoes perfectly the traditional role of the black swan, the seductive temptress, bold and confident in her approach, with burning eye contact. This is possibly why she is wearing red, as, did you know, Odile didn’t wear black until the early 1940’s, the original productions instead choosing bright and bold colours.

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Dominic North’s performance as the Prince is a harrowing one. He starts off frantic in his movements, to shoe his resentment to his life, changing to being light and free when he has the love and affection from The Swan, will well elevated and athletic allegro, finally lashing out in desperation at the end. His pas de deux with his mother is particularly upsetting. You see his need for love from his mother, begging her to hold him, literally clinging onto her. You see her rejecting him to conform to standards. As an audience member, you almost plead with her to relent and just give him a hug. Dominic’s performance is powerful and emotive.

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The girlfriend character (Carrie Willis) is a brash character adding a layer of humour to the production. Everything from her costume to her demeanour and actions provoke laughs from the audience. She perfectly captures the stereotypical air headed bimbo character and certainly puts her gazelle like legs to good use.

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The Swan and The Stranger are played by the same dancer, just as Odette and Odile are also danced by the same ballerina. Will Bozier did an incredible job of acting within his dancing, being so convincing as 2 separate characters, you’d be forgiven in thinking they were not the same people. As the swan, he is coy at first, unwilling to interact with the Prince. His movements are large and strong, imitating a real swan when it is threatened, protecting itself. Then he softens, when he and the prince dance their pas de deux, becoming the protector role, lifting the Prince, nuzzling and nurturing him. As The Stranger, not only does his appearance change, so does his dancing and with it his character. With his leather trousers, he is immediately portrayed as a bad boy role. His lusty looks and bold swagger transform him to represent power and danger. He dances with every woman in the ballroom. The dance is reminiscent of an Argentine tango, full of passion, bodies always close, legs frantically working. He ends as the swan again in the scenes. The Princes protector once again,from the other swans who have turned on them both. Will uses his body language and facial expressions so well, that even if he were not in specific costumes, you’d instantly identify the character he would be portraying.

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The final scenes are danced with an all male ensemble, the traditional corps de ballet being replaced by a male corps. Included are some sequences from the more traditional productions, including ‘entrance of the swans’ and ‘dance of the cygnets’ but of course with an altogether more robust and rugged feel, with far more jumps, syncopation and unique poses, now synomymus with his version. The swans take on the role of an angry mob. Their muscular and athletic physiques perfectly embody than of a swan, beautiful to look at yet strong and powerful, a force to be reckoned with. They act and think as ‘one’ ultimately seizing control of the situation, strength in numbers. The use of the resistance in their arms and hisses audible to the audience create an imposing and sinister feel from the very beginning.

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Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has been performed for over 20 years now, premiering back in 1995. He uses concepts and ideas from the more traditional versions yet adds a more contemporary and modern feel, adding highlights paying homage to other great choreographers such as Bob Fosse. In 2018, the production underwent some revising to the set, lighting and choreography to keep it just as fresh as its ever been. It deals with relevant topics in todays society of sexual preferences, acceptance, temptation, and the basic human need for love. And boy did the audience love it on opening night at The Lowry Manchester, with a staggering 4 minute standing ovation. That alone is testament to the talent of the cast, and Matthew Bourne’s success in creating a production that’s become a traditional one in its own right.

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Don’t just take our word on how mind blowing it is! Read more about the production, the company members and tour life, in our interview with cast member Andrew Ashton https://danceniche.com/2018/11/29/qa-with-andrew-ashton-new-adventures-company-member/

New Adventure’s Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry Manchester until 1st Dec. Ticket prices start at £28.50 and can be purchased via their website here TheLowry.com Further information about the tour’s upcoming dates and locations can be found on the New Adventures website MB’S New Adventures

*Special thanks to The Lowry Manchester and photographer Johan Persson, using photographs from the production at the Royal Theatre Plymouth*

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Matilda The Musical Review

Matilda The Musical Review

The story of Matilda is a childhood classic, written by one of the nation’s favourite children’s authors, Roald Dahl, and is celebrating its 30 year! The musical adaptation will soon be entering it’s 9th year, and is now a classic in its own right, with critical acclaim and no less than 85 awards under its belt! once you’ve seen it, its not hard to see why.

There are so many individual factors that all play their part in making Matilda The Musical such a huge success. The stage adaptation written by Denis Kelly, and the catchy songs and lyrics by Tim Minchin are the corner stones. Imagine the daunting task of taking something as beloved as Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and adapting it for the stage, that would serve the original justice, yet tell a more visual story. The songs and lyrics sit perfectly well within the scenes, blending effortlessly and further enhance the plight of Matilda. You can even buy the Matilda the Musical soundtrack on CD or download it, meaning you can carry on signing them long after you’ve left the theatre!

Next, has to be the innovative and complex stage set. I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of Matilda at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and the sheer scale of design and function was jaw dropping. Without spoiling the magic of the production for anyone, the stage setting and scenes have their own choreography. Things (and people) fly, slide, and manouver around the stage seemingly effortlessly, yet timings and placements have to be exact and precise, when you factor in the actors on stage at the same time. They harmoniously dance around each other

The already larger than life characters, thanks to the genius imagination of Dahl, are brought to life, larger than ever, by a wonderful adult cast, and enhanced with a ingenious costume wardrobe! Miss Trunchbull, by far one of the most loved characters, or love to hate, is traditionally played by a man. Craig Els is the current actor. His comedic edge, flouncy walk and penetrating stare do the character justice, and evoke hoards of laughter and reactions from the audience. His stature is lofty, but further enhanced by his costume, towers over the children to emphasise the difference.

The biggest mention by far, has to go to the children’s cast, and in particular, of course Matilda. They are Sam Lathwood”s (assistant dance captain and swing) favourite to work with! You can read our interview with him on his role here What does it take to be a musical theatre swing? There are actually 4 whole different children cast that work on a rota basis. The Royal Shakespeare Company do a sterling job of looking after the wellbeing of all the children, even supplying tutors and having their school work posted to them so they do not fall behind academically. The maturity and professionalism shown from ones so young is admirable, their parents must all be so proud! Matilda was played by Emma Moore the night I watched. She blew me away. Her talent is extraordinary. She adds sorrow and cheekiness in equal measures. She builds intensity as Matilda grows in confidence, and particularly in her song ‘Quiet’ is so authentic in her skills, she becomes Matilda.

As for the rest, it is that special touch of magic that you can’t quite put you’re finger on. Just how does Bruce Bogtrotter eat ALL that cake? How does that glass move all on its own? It’s the story of how someone so small and insignificant overpowers rule to fight for whats right, the equality, the justice, the self belief. We all love an underdog story, because it gives us hope and faith of better things to come. That’s what I took away with me from watching Matilda The Musical. That no matter how bad things seem, there is always something that can be done, always light at the end of the tunnel. If you believe in yourself wholeheartedly, then you are an unstoppable force. What a wonderful sentiment to be presenting to our children.

I would recommend for anyone of any age to watch Matilda The Musical. Its family entertainment at its finest, and is sure to capture the hearts of the next generation, continuing the legacy. Matilda is currently on stage at the Palace Manchester until 24th Nov, before moving on to the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff over the Christmas and New Year period, and various other venues until summer 2019! For more information on dates and locations, go to the official website Matilda The Musical

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What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

Musical theatre is a tough genre to succeed in. You have to be equally proficient in all 3 styles – dancing, singing and acting – a triple threat. So imagine being hired in a show and having to memorize EVERY SINGLE ROLE! That’s the mammoth task undertaken by a ‘swing’.

Swings are absolutely vital to the smooth running of any theatre production. Not only do they help with prompting of lines, if, heaven forbid, someone forgets, but they are instantly on hand, ready to fill in for roles due to sickness, or any sort of absence. Sam Lathwood is the current swing and assistant dance captain for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Unlike other productions, at least half the cast are children, including the main part. We all know how quickly children can become ill, and you can’t do a show without the lead, so being a swing for Matilda the Musical is most certainly one of the most demanding roles. We spoke with Sam about his job, how he copes, his favourite role, and what it’s like working with the younger members of the cast!

DN. You’re the current assistant dance captain / swing for Matilda the Musical. How do remember all the choreography so well without actually being in the roles permanently?

SL. When we first started to learn the show back in January, it took a lot of staying behind after rehearsals and dancing in my living room to help solidify all of the information in my brain. I work both visually and practically to get the choreography into my muscle memory, and once the choreography has gone in, it’s all about recapping the information, referring back to notes/ maps of the routines and watching the show as much as I can (when I’m not already on stage performing) to help retain the information.

DN. Knowing all the roles so well, who is your favourite character in Matilda and why?

SL. I would say my favourite character in the show has to be Miss Trunchbull, she has some brilliant dialogue, she’s intimidating and dark yet comical and outrageous. She gets to perform a whole solo dance routine with a ribbon in an extremely difficult costume and fly over a vault in her Olympics uniform/skirt. What’s not to like!

DN. It’s a well-known saying that you should never work with animals or children! What’s it been like working so closely with the younger members of the cast of Matilda?

SL. I adore working with the children. They never fail to make you laugh and smile. Their work ethic is always second to none. This is the 5th show I’ve done which has had children in the cast and I find they bring such a unique and exciting energy to the theatre both onstage and offstage that you don’t always get on other shows. I always find that the work our children at Matilda do on stage every evening is very inspiring.

DN. You’ve worked in many musical theatre hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Elf the Musical to name a couple. How does Matilda differ to the others?

SL. Matilda actually has the same choreographer as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Peter Darling) so I started Matilda with an understanding of the way the choreography might work. But compared to other shows I’ve done, the storytelling in Matilda is very detailed, specific and plentiful. The show also has a very dark story throughout, unlike Charlie Bucket, Matilda doesn’t get her ‘golden ticket’ until the very end of her story.

DN. Which is the most challenging scene and choreography in Matilda to work on?

SL. I would have to say all of the gate choreography in ‘School Song’. It makes a lot of sense and flows nicely once you’ve got it, but it took many more rehearsals to get there. What I love about the number is that you still get that massive rush of adrenaline each time you dance on the gates.

DN. This year, Matilda celebrated its 30th year since first being published, and has since won many accolades, particularly with the musical adaptation. Where do you see yourself at 30?

SL. I’m in total denial that one day I’ll no longer be in my twenties that I haven’t even thought about being 30 yet! Hopefully I’ll be happy and dancing my 30 year old heart out.

DN. Lastly, a famous quote from Matilda is “somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world” If you could make 1 change, what would it be?

SL. My one change would be to somehow eliminate the huge amount of plastic that is contaminating our planet. I’m a huge fan of watching Blue Planet and it disappoints me that over 8 million tonnes of plastic and rubbish ends up in the ocean each year, come on humans!

Well said Sam.

 

Matilda the Musical is currently on stage at the Palace & Opera House Manchester until 24th November. Tickets are still available at ATG Tickets Palace Theatre , with an incredible special rate of only £5 for 16-25 year olds (terms and conditions apply) before it continues on it’s spell binding tour of the UK finishing August 2019! You can find more details of tour dates, locations and book tickets on the website here Matilda the Musical . Watch out for my review article of the production, and vlog from when I went backstage at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and got to nosey around the dressing rooms of the cast!

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SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX ex wives, joining forces to hate on their ex, may sound like a title from the Jeremy Kyle show, but it’s actually a brand new musical, with a concept that fresh, that it’s already reaching a whole new audience and enticing virgin theatre goers to experience their first taste of theatre action30179563607_509a23a020_k

Six! The Musical, tells the individual stories of the six wives of Henry VIII (that’s Henry 8th, good job I listened in history lessons). Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the show has already recieved critical acclaim after selling over 10,000 tickets at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, Six has been gaining momentum with a multitude of 5 star reviews, nominations in 4 categories for the Broadway UK Awards and shows no sign of slowing down. This musical juggernaut is pelting full steam ahead and seemingly nothing can stand in it’s way, not even Henry VIII.43303878010_598e720c24_k

But just what is it exactly that makes the production so appealing???? Is it the talent?! The six girls cast as the wives all have individual vocal credibilities, including tours with 42nd St, The Colour Purple and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Is it the music?! Songs like ‘Don’t lose your head’ ‘Ex Wives’ and my particular favourite ‘Haus of Holbein’ will creep into your ears and take over your brain with their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. Is it the hint of feminism?! Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, so throw 5 more into the mix, you’ve got a vengeful tribe, shouting out to women with a sorry story to tell to stand up and fight back! Or is it the fact that it re writes history, telling a story that is all too familiar to us, but bringing it bang up to date with 21 century sass-itutde! And a happy ending, we all love a happy ending!44397214974_5ef74388c7_k

The fact that this production has moved away from the traditional stage musical format, opting instead for a pop concert vibe is genius!  The chemistry the six wives have on stage is tangible, yet genuine. So much so, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were an actual girl band – Spice Girls eat your heart out! Watching this musical is more like attending a greatest hits tour! Yet they all have their individuality. Jarneia Richard-Noel  (Catherine of Aragon) the wise wise, loyal one. Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn) the cheeky seductressNatalie Paris (Jane Seymour) the soft endearing one. Alexia McIntosh (Anne of Cleves) the smug one. Aimee Atkinson (Katherine Howard) the niave  misunderstood one and finally Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) the last one and the peacemaker. Their dancing and costumes also reflect this.44397204634_5a54b61549_k

I cannot recommend Six! The musical enough! Perfect for hen do’s, birthday surprises or simply someone looking for a feel good factor show. Not only is it 75 minutes of pure pop hits (songs that would undoubtably rival any current chart topper) but it introduces a whole new audience to the world of theatre, encouraging and inspiring a younger generation to keep theatre alive for the future.  Never mind pop princesses, these queens are taking over, the new royals of theatre land have been coronated and long may they reign!31243712258_6cbafec169_k

 

Six! is currently touring and will be appearing at The Lowry Salford 4th-16th Dec, before heading off to Glasgow SEC 20-30th Dec and finally London Arts Theatre 17th Jan – 5th May. All details and ticket information can be found on their website here Six The Musical 

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English National Ballet’s MANON Review

English National Ballet’s MANON Review

Arriving at the beautiful Opera House in Manchester, you can’t help but notice that the Grade II listed building is perfect for hosting such an opulent and decadent production such as Manon, with it’s hunters green upholstery and gold brocade accents. It truely sets the scene for the ensuing scenes of early 18th century France.

Kenneth MacMillan’s production premiered in 1974 and uses scores by Jules Massenet, although not from his Opera, rather using his other well know works. Manon is based on the novel, Manon Lescaut, by Abbe Prevost. The novel was actually banned in France at the time due to its scandalous, controversial and explicit details! It did however prove to be incredibly popular, with pirate copies being widely distributed. I wonder what they would have thought to 50 Shades?!

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English National Ballet Manon – Laurent Liotardo

The curtain rises on ACT 1 to unveil a scene at The Courtyard at the Inn. We are immediately drawn to the differences in the classes. The present folk are disheveled and dirty, dressed in rags, with their hearty and robust allegro and vigorous, almost out of control pirouettes. They convey a light hearted, fun filled demeanour. This is in stark contrast to the gentry and aristocrats who also visit the Inn. Their costumes of rich, heavy embroidered velvets, corsets, frills and pleats, adds to their grandeur presence. Such restrictive clothing exaggerates their straight, nose in the air posture. Their choreography was bold and regal, proudly displaying like peacocks but always maintaining absolute control and pose. We are introduced to Lescaut  who is awaiting the arrival of his sister Manon, before her departure to a convent. Lescaut – played by Jefferey Ciriotis with his good friend Des Grieux – Joseph Caley , a penniless student. Manon’s arrival attracts the attention of everyone, including that of weathly Monsieur GM – James Streeter

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Jeffrey Cirio in Manon – Laurent Liotardo

Manon – Alina Cjocaru – and Des Grieux  have a chance meeting and it’s love at first sight. At first Manon is coy but relents to her feelings. The pas de deux has a beautiful quality to it. The choreography is light and fluid with seemingly gravity defying lifts, echoing those wonderful feelings of walking on air and butterflies experienced with a new relationship. They hatch a plan to run away to Paris together. Whilst Des Grieux goes to post a letter to his uncle, Lescaut arrives with Monsieur, who has promised Manon to him for a tidy sum. Initially Manon  resists Monsieur’s advances but she is easily swayed by gifts or fur coats and diamonds. The pas de trois between these 3 characters is wonderfully creative. Manon is passed between the 2 men, like a toy. She snakes her way around Monsieur with imaginative lifts. It is clear that Monsieur sees her as a trophy, something to be glorified and lusted over. he displays infatuation more than love and Manon enjoys the power she yeilds over him, using it to her advantage. Lescaut is compliant and convinces his sister to leave with Monsieur. She looks back one last time before being escorted away.

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Alina Cojocaru and Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 2 opens on a a party held at a house of ill repute (where prostitutes can be found if you’re unaware of that term). The music is playful and energetic which mirrors the suggestive and coquettish nature of the ‘ladies’ dancing for the highest bidder. We see Manon, draped in more finery, and Monsieur. This scene includes surprising comedic antics, the audience actually laughing out loud at points. The skill and strength displayed by Jeffrey Cirio is astonishing! To be able to dance as if under the influence of alcohol, stumbling and swaying, whilst still maintaining enough control to be able to lift your partner above your head is highly commendable! Love striken Des Grieux arrives, distraught by the betrayal. Manon is dancing for Monsieur. She sees Des Grieux, but refuses to make eye contact with him, denying her true feelings, but love creeps in, and she begins to flirt and dance for Des Grieux when Monsieur isn’t looking. She’s tempted by more gifts of diamonds but ultimately choses love over money and runs to Des Grieux. A fight breaks out. Swords are brandished. The scene is beautifully lit, casting the shadows off the dual on the backdrop. The lovers flee and plan to leave for Paris. They argue over taking the diamond braclet Monsieur gave, but agree to leave it behind. Monsieur tracks them down and has Manon arrested and kills Lescaut in front of her.

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Joseph Caley and James Streeter in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 3 begins in the dockyard of New Orleans, where Manon and all the other prostitutes have been shipped to. Des Grieux has followed under the premise that he is her husband. The music has a naval theme which turns into the progressive like motion of the waves of the sea. The ladies are all clearly distressed and almost unable to stand. The Gaoler turns his attention to Manon. He thinks she can be bought and offers her diamonds, but she has changed her way and refuses. He forces himself upon her in what is a particularly distressing scene to watch. Des Grieux bursts in and kills the Gaoler. The couple flee into the swamps but the effects of the long journey, assault and heat prove too much for Manon. She has bursts of life, repeating similar steps to the previous pas de duex but shaky and unsteady, then suddenly becoming limp. Her life and recent events flash before her and she gives up. Des Grieux is inconsolable.

Alina Cojucaru plays Manon beautifully. The way she was able to portray feelings with a simple glance and gesture of a hand was exquisite. Her playful and light mood when dancing with Des Grieux resonates to the audience. The greed in her eyes when she is bestowed with gifts and her enjoyment at being objectified make you despise her. And in the last dance with Des Grieux, her weak, lifeless and limp body whilst she is moved around like a rag doll, makes it evident that this is her swan song, and you pity her. Alina is able to shine on stage without the presence of heavily embellished attire and diamonds.

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English National Ballet in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

Joseph Caley perfectly captures the essence of a young man in love, full of exuberance and vigour. The way he looks at Manon is reminiscent of a puppy dog. Her betrayal leave him completely distraught and his dancing becomes slightly on the border of uncontrollable, lashing out just as one would. When Manon dies in his arms, you can hear his cry without him making a sound, it comes from his soul.

Joseph-Caley-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

You can also read insights of performing with the English National Ballet with other lead principals Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez along with their take on Manon, just following this link ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Manon is an emotional rollercoaster of love, greed and despair. Never have I ever watched a production that has left me so tense and brought tears to my eyes. Unlike the other tragic love stories like Swan Lake or Giselle, Manon is infinitely raw because it could be real. The story is one of life, the dilemmas  presented, the decisions made and the life altering consequences. I defy you to leave the theatre without it having a profound effect on you.

 

Manon is showing at the Opera House Manchester until Saturday 20th October before it moves onto Milton Keynes Theatre 24-27th October and finally at The Mayflower Southampton 31 oct – 3rd Nov. Tickets can be booked through AGT website here. AGT TICKETS

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ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

The English National Ballet are touring with Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon for only the second time in 30 years. It has been selected as one of ‘Autum 2018 unmissable events’ by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday.

Ahead of being invited to the premier for review next week, we thought we’d give you a tantalising teaser with a Q&A with 2 of the lead principals – Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina.

Isaac Hernández, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

I.H. Both my parents were ballet dancers, so it was in the family. I grew up in Mexico, the seventh of eleven children. We were home schooled, and alongside our academic studies, we also did ballet classes. It was a great childhood and I was hooked on ballet as an art form from an early age. I then headed off at the age of 13, to the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

I.H. For me, it’s the narrative – the roles are well defined and so you get a real sense of a story unfolding on stage. I think it’s the most dramatic ballet I’ve ever danced – your acting ability as a dancer is really tested, which I enjoy.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

I.H. I’m dancing the role of Des Grieux, the penniless student who the central character Manon falls in love with. It’s a great role to dance – he’s naïve, romantic and a bit of a dreamer and so taking on his character allows you to go back to the simplicity of being a young man, experiencing life for the first time, and the emotions that go with that.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

I.H. For me, it’s being able to perform for audiences all around the UK – it feels like we build a connection with the cities we tour to and returning to these audiences feels special.

Q. Give us 3 words that sum up the ballet Manon for you?

I.H. Passion, jealousy, tragedy.

Jurgita Dronina, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

J.D. I did lots of different types of dancing as a child – hip hop, street dance, ballroom. I also tried gymnastics, but I didn’t like it, so my teacher suggested I give ballet a go. My mum took me to see a ballet performance and I really liked it. I then auditioned and got into the National Ballet School in Lithuania, and my career started there!

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

J.D. This is one of MacMillan’s masterpieces. The storytelling is just fabulous. As with all of MacMillan’s ballets, he finds the human relationships, emotion and realness in the story. In that sense I can find how to relate this ballet to modern life, and the way that one decision can have such an impact. In this story, you see Manon’s decision and how she can’t escape the consequences that spiral out of control in her life from then on. The audience sees her tragic destiny unfold.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

J.D. I’ll be making my debut in the role of Manon – it really is one of the dream roles for a ballet dancer, and one which I feel I’ve been waiting to do for a long time. She has a complex character and I enjoy working through the different layers and challenges she must face and working out how to best portray them on stage. The way you walk, stand, gesture – it all adds up to her character. I find there is a very clear idea of how she is seen by others and what she is to herself. There’s also her interactions with others on stage and the way the movement can convey the different relationships she has with each of them. It’s fascinating and very interesting to work it out.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

J.D. As we tour we bring the best that English National Ballet has to offer all around the UK. We bring an exciting and varied repertoire to different cities and different audiences and for me that’s really special.

Q. Give us 3 words that best sum up the ballet Manon?

J.D. Love, desire, destiny.

English National Ballet performs Manon at Manchester Opera House, 17-20 October 2018, before heading onto the Milton Keynes Theatre, 24 – 27 October, Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, 31 October – 03 November and finally st London Coliseum 16-20 January. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the website http://www.atgtickets.com

Don’t forget to follow our Facebook http://www.facebook.com/danceniche and Instagram http://www.instagram.com/danceniche pages for up to date news and inside information at the premiere of Manon next week, and check back here o our website for our review article on what we really think of it!

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