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Tag: what’s on in Manchester

Circus 1903 | Review

Circus 1903 | Review

Travelling circus’ in today’s day and age have evolved greatly from those of yesteryear, and certainly aren’t on the same size scale. Gone are touring cities as they were known, and gone are the use of captive animals, thank goodness. But, there is something so nostalgic about the golden age of circus, and Circus 1903 have captured the essence of that perfectly.

Bringing the big top to the stage, Circus 1903 is everything you would hope and imagine it to be and more! From the music composed by Evan Jolly, to the set and costumes, everything is there to transport you back to your youth, a more simple time of good old fashioned fun and wonder. Comedy and participation from the children in the audience bring a whimsical and genuine feel good factor to the show. Contortionists with eye watering flexibility, acts of balance that seem to defy gravity, jugglers with skills faster than the speed of light, performers using ariel silks creating a ballet in the sky, this show has it all and more.48479750521_5781cc6017_k

The creators of the show really wanted to harness the essence of a typical circus in their hay day, and it was important to them to keep the show as original as possible. Acts such as the ‘russian cradle’ (where the ‘flyer’ is thrown and caught by the ‘catcher’ who is secured by a harness, and essentially acts as a human trapeze,) are included as a traditional circus acts and display not only feats of flexibility and timing, but incredible strength. Another aspect to the authenticity of the show, are the 2 life size elephant puppets, Queen and baby Peanut, created by the team behind War Horse. Majestic Queenie takes up half the stage with her imposing size, her eyes seem to reveal a real soul. Baby Peanut is as mischievous as any young animal, and is a firm favourite with the children in the audience. Whether it be down to the ingenious design and construction, or the true magic of the circus, these 2 elephants are brought to life right before your very eyes!48479901342_83c84b755f_k

Willy Whipsnade, the resident Ringmaster, is the glue that holds all these individual acts together. Originally from a magic background, Willy (aka David Williamson) is the perfect ringmaster, introducing each act with his fabulous story telling skills, which effortlessly build anticipation in the audience! His real skills lie in creating a magical experience for the younger members of the audience! He clearly adores children, and frequently pulls them up out of the audience for some magic tricks and comedy interludes. As they say in showbiz, ‘never work with animals or children’ and poor Willy has to do both! Needn’t fear though, as his razor sharp whit and quick as a whip ad lib moments means he controls rampaging baby elephants and unpredictable children with a healthy dose of comedy. Willy Whipsawed is the eccentric uncle figure, who’s traveled the world and has the most exciting stories of adventure to tell!48479750191_abdc0543aa_k

Circus 1903 is 2 hours 20 minutes of pure escapism that will awaken your inner child for an evening without worries or regrets, just simple, innocent fun and wonderment. In this day and age, that is priceless.

Circus 1903 will be rolling into The Lowry, Salford Quays, on Tuesday 19th November until Sunday 24th November. Tickets are available now on this link https://thelowry.com/whats-on/circus-1903/

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MB New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET | Review

MB New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET | Review

Sir Matthew Bourne’s company, New Adventures, are frequent visitors to The Lowry in Salford Quays. The were the second ever company to perform there when the theatre was newly built, and as such, scedule tour dates at The Lowry around twice a year. Last year, I reviewed their infamous Swan Lake, which you can read here Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review and now they have a 5 night stop with Romeo & Juliet.

As with all Matthew Bourne’s productions, expect the unexpected. Yes, this is a tragic story of two clandestine lovers, but definitely not the one you will be familiar with. From the very first glimpse of the production, you know you’re in for a treat. The dramatic fall of the blood red sheer curtain sets the tone for the whole show, as does the stark and clincal white stage set revealed behind it.

It’s difficult for me to write this review without giving too much away, and as art is subjective, I want you to be able to come to your own conclusions of the plot. What I will say is rather than having 2 familes at war, Sir Matthew has created the segregation but as a boy/girl gender divide. I felt that Romeo & Juliet have a sort of role reversal. Romeo (Paris Fitzpatrick) being the unsure, deer in headlights, damsel in distress, who is taken under the protective wings of Juliet (Cordelia Braithwaite). She is a character who knows what she wants, and how to get it, and certainly seems to take the lead in their duets together.ROMEO AND JULIET

The contemporary dance style compliments this new theme and plot. Bold, strong and accented steps along side some very lyrical, soft and at times, practically floating sequences, match the themes of lust and true love, violence and submission. I particularly enjoyed the guttural noises, audible heavy breathing and stamps in unison, adding yet another intriguing layer. Of course, the original score by Prokofiev allows for such yin yang choreography, however, even the music is different! This version has had a brand new reworking of the original music, and it has been so intricately intertwined with the story.ROMEO AND JULIET

Fear not, for there are some things which cannot be unwritten. What holds are 2 young people finding eachother against the odds and declaring their undying love for one another. Finding a bond so strong that they would (and do) die for each other. Expect a lot of blood, which contrasts perfectly with the bleached white surroundings. The aftermath is a bloodbath, horror film worthy vision!

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET is appearing at The Lowry 11-16th June. Tickets are still available via The Lowry https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-romeo-and-juliet/

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New Adventures Company Interview | Neil Westmoreland

New Adventures Company Interview | Neil Westmoreland

Laat week I was invited to a special preview performance of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company ‘Romeo & Juliet‘ in Manchester, ahead of the tour visiting The Lowry. I was able to not only watch rehearsals and see the inner workings of the cast and crew, but also got to chat with the resident director, Neil Westmoreland and a couple of the young cast members about working on a retelling of a classic story and what it’s like being part of such an innovative dance company.

*Sitting at a small table in an open plan space, Neil Westmoreland joins me for a casual, informal chat, ahead of the planned schedule, due to an important meeting, as is so common within the arts. Plans are susceptible to change and you have to be versatile *

DN: Neil, you are a former New Adventures company dancer and are now the resident director. Would you say that’s a natural progression in the dance world?

NW: I started dancing with New Adventures about 2003, then took time out for around 5 years to teach. I teturned to dance for NA, and then luckily landed the role of residnet director. I wouldn’t say it’s always a natural progression for everyone, but it was for me, as I got a chance to tie both my skills of dancing and teaching together.

DN: You’ve previously performed Romeo & Juliet with Northern Ballet and English National Ballet but never New Adventures. Do you feel like you’ve missed out somewhat?

NW: No not at all. I’m too old now *laughs* The score is so brilliant on this production, I just feel lucky to be here and part of such a collaborative effort. We have 2 cast teams , Capulets and Montagues (of course) touring the country at the same time, with a young cast ensemble from each destination. It’s a huge undertaking.

DN: Matthew Bourne is famous for putting his own spin on well known stories. Without giving too much away, what can the audience expect from his version of Romeo & Juliet?

NW: *hmm* without giving too much away is quite difficult, I don’t want to spoil it! There is a lot of drama, it’s quite intense. Whatever you are expecting, it’s not going to be that! It’s very musical, quite unique!

DN: Which character is your favorite in this production and why?

NW: Hard to choose just one! *Thinks for a moment* Romeo is really special, he’s such a multi-layered character, and the men who are dancing his part are fantastic. Tybalt is an interesting twist! Juliet is not a typical feminine role. She’s young and strong. She embodies what’s happening in today’s world with the feminist movement.

DN: Why should people come and watch new Adventures production of Romeo & Juliet?

NW: Why?! Why not! A) This is our version of a classic story, New Adventures fans are going to be very pleased! And B) with the addition of the toung cast ensemble dancers from each location, we are championing new emerging talent from their local areas, and by coming to watch, the audience will be helping to suppprt them. And it’s not only the dancers, we have local experts in music, set design, costume, lighting, it really is a spectacle!

DN: Lastly, describe the show in 3 words.

NW: wow, you’re really testing me now! *Thinks for a moment* Ok, so firstly, dramatic!!! Secondly, musical. The socre is wonderful, it’s very melodic. Lastly, I’d say innovative! It’s fresh and new, very exciting!

You can see for yourself how exciting it looks by watching the official trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLvAiPOg_5M

New Adventures Romeo & Juliet arrives at The Lowry, Salford Quays tonight, Tuesday 11th June until Saturday 15th June. Tickets can be purchased through their website here https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-romeo-and-juliet/

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10 reasons to take your children to My First Ballet

10 reasons to take your children to My First Ballet

My First Ballet is a special programme conducted by the English National Ballet especially designed to be viewed by children. They take the classic ballet stories we all know and love, and adapt the plot, choreography and staging to make it suitable for a younger audience. Here are 10 reasons why your children will love My First Ballet.

• There are characters they will recognise – many traditional ballets feature iconic characters or are based on well-loved fairy tales, this version of Sleeping Beauty includes Aurora, Carabosse and Lilac Fairy as well as other well-known characters such as Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots.

Introduce them to new music – Tchaikovsky can rarely be heard on CBBC and this ballet will help introduce them to a whole new world of classical music. There may also be some music that they recognise, the Garland Dance from Sleeping Beauty is featured in the Disney film so may be familiar to young ears already!

They will learn something – most story ballets have a take away message that the audience can leave with, often several, and English National Ballet’s My First Ballet series includes ballets especially designed to help children learn something through the acting and movement. The key messages in My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty are the importance of inner beauty, kindness, forgiveness and friendship.

It’ll be an experience for the whole family – it’s the perfect treat for children as well as parents. Dance is a universal language, and My First Ballet is also narrated to help explain some of the ballet mime so that the story is clear to any newcomer (young or old).

They can get dressed up – if your children want to go in their favourite outfit, or even ballet costume, anything goes. Going to the theatre can be a very ceremonial affair, or you can stick to casual wear too!

It’s better than watching TV… – if you’re wanting to get your children away from their screens, why not take them to a show – experiencing live theatre and dance is sure to make a more lasting impression on young minds.

The costumes – tutus, sparkles and pointe shoes… need we say more! There’s something for all, with an array of animal costumes featured in Sleeping Beauty as well as the traditional.

They will leave feeling inspired – if you have a blossoming dancer at home, going to see a professional ballet performance will only help inspire them to stick with it, they may even want to try out some new moves!

They’ll be blown away – by the strength and power of the dancers and by the sheer impressiveness of some of their leaps and positions they hold.

They’ll be able to understand everything – the My First Ballet programme includes widget symbols which help everyone to understand the movements on stage, and the narrator also helps to explain the action and ballet mime so that everyone can follow the story.

My First Ballet is wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the theatre for the very first time, yet it proves so effective, that people return with their little ones year after year and enjoy some quality family time together as well as being culturally educational.

My First Ballet – Sleeping Beauty will be arriving at the Manchester Opera House on 25th & 26th May, before visiting Oxford and Tunbridge Wells to compete the current tour. Tickets and all other information can be found here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-sleeping-beauty/opera-house-manchester/

Finally, I’ll leave you with a trailer so you can see how amazing the production is!

https://youtu.be/JBDztQh64Psn

I will be reviewing the production next weekend, so keep an eye on my instagram and facebook pages for sneak peaks in the stories!!!

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Dirty Dancing on Stage | Review

Dirty Dancing on Stage | Review

The 1987 box office hit Dirty Dancing is one of the most popular, classic films of all time, thats why I included it in my list of top dance movies you can read about here http://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/ The film also includes one of the most iconic dance scenes, replicated at weddings everywhere! The musical version first hit stages in 2006, and became the fastest ever selling west end show! After productions being rolled out world wide, the current adaptation came back to UK soil in 2011, with this tour starting in September 2018.

Right from the offset, you know you’re in for a real treat of an evening! The clever staging of Kellerman’s is almost like an exact replica, instantly recognizable, including other focal points like the wooden stairs leading up to Jonny’s chalet, the front of his black Chevrolet, and the infamous stage inside the main house.

The music transports you straight away, and although songs in their own right, they are now interwoven with the movie. I have to say, this stage production is just like watching the movie itself. Casting choices, costumes, actors mannerisms are all a perfect homage to the film. Classic one liners like “I carried a watermelon” are all been included for you to mime along with. That being said, there are some wonderful added scenes to pad out sections of story telling that just wouldn’t correlate on stage, and some comedy moments thrown in for good measure!

Kira Malou plays Baby, and is one such character who certainly adds to the laughs! The scenes where she intersects the staff party and has her first taste of saucy swaying is hilarious. Kira’s facial expressions, gawky awkwardness and over the top stiff hip movements have the audience in hysterics! It’s plain to see she is an able dancer, but to portray a character as having no dance experience at all is highly commendable.

Jonny is played by Michael O’Reilly and with his honed physique, snake hips and pants so tight they might as well have been spray painted on, embodies the late, great, Patrick Swayze. It’s undeniable that Swayze made the role his own, and no one could ever recreate that magic, but Michael did an honorable job, and I could think of no one better for filling those boots. The brooding arrogance he brings to the role is offset only by the puppy dog eyes he makes at Baby, making every girl in the auditorium wishing they could trade places with her!

Simone Covele, with her gazelle like legs that seem to go on forever is the perfect choice to play Penny, and boy, does she know how to use those legs! Not only do her legs seemily go up to her ears, but they go beyond that when she unleashes a kick or extension, and with such explosion, , implores gasps of amazement!

The level of dance technique is outstanding. Multiple pirouettes, acrobatics and death defying lifts keep the audience yearning for more! The energy from every single member of cast and ensemble really helps to give the show a buzz that never comes down! The iconic dance scenes from the film are all present on stage, including ‘spaghetti arms’ ‘lover boy’ and THAT LIFT!!!! Michael lifts Kira, but together in that moment they lift the roof off with the rraction from the audience. It really is a special moment and one I have never experienced before!!

Favorite moments include the lake scene which is cleverly devised with set, lighting and sound and not without its own injection of humour, the end dance scene with cast and audience in a state of euphoric ecstasy, and the band keeping the party atmosphere going well after the finale. There are a few, let’s say ‘cheeky’ moments from Michael, lovers doing what lovers do, and rather raunchy dance moments that might prove a little too informative for younger members of the audience, amd it does carry an age guidance of 12+, but on the whole, the show is wonderfullyand thoroughly entertaining!

Dirty Dancing – the classic story on stage – is currently showing at The Palace Theatre Manchester untill Saturday 27th April, tickets can be purchased here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-dancing-the-classic-story-on-stage/palace-theatre-manchester/ It moves on to Guilford, before returning up north and across the Mersey to the Liverpool Empire 6th-11th May, and continues it’s tour, ending in August. Full details of dates and locations cam be found on the official website https://dirtydancingontour.com/ .

This is definitely one show you do not want to miss, and with ticket proces starting at just £13, it’s an absolute steal!!! I can guarantee you’ll be doing salsa in your seat and cha cha to the car!

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Dirty Dancing Tour Cast Q&A

Dirty Dancing Tour Cast Q&A

Dirty Dancing is inarguably one of the most iconic dance films…….ever!! So much so, that I included it in my top dance movies, which you can read about here http://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/

but did you know that there is a staged musical version currently touring the UK?! The Dirty Dancing Tour is set to hit The Palace Theatre Manchester next week, and to entice us, cast members Kira Malou as Baby, Michael O’Reily as Jonny and Simone Covelle as Penny, answered a few questions on being involved in such a cult classic!

How does it feel taking on such iconic roles?

Michael: Once you get over the fact that it’s quite a daunting role to take on because it’s so well-known it’s just really exciting. Everyone is so familiar with the show and they’re so familiar with the characters that you’re just excited to do it justice, you’re ready to put in the work and bring it to life.

Simone: I agree. It’s so exciting. Being able to play such an iconic role in a show that brings the movie to life on stage is an amazing privilege.

Kira: It is really exciting but of course there’s also a lot of pressure to do the characters justice because they are so well-known and so iconic.

What’s your approach in terms of bringing a fresh take to the characters?

Kira: I don’t want to stray too far from what Jennifer Grey did in the film because I personally feel the choices she makes are things I’d do as well. Although I’m being a bit bolder with the choices so when she’s being sexy, I want people to be able to see that “Baby” can be really sexy, fiery and smart – to really show the depths to her.

Michael: It’s about ‘How would I behave if I was in the same situations?’ That frees you up to bring something of yourself to the role, to put elements of yourself into the portrayal.

Simone: It’s about thinking ‘What would I do in this situation?’ whilst thinking about Penny and the era in which the story is set, namely 1963. It’s such a different time to now and what she goes through is quite heavy so to think ‘How would I feel if I was in that time and that situation?’ is a great help because in real life I have a very different personality to her.

In what ways can you relate to your characters? And in what ways are they completely different?

Simone: The big red flag for me is what Penny goes through. She’s in quite a sticky situation and has to make some big decisions. I feel she’s quite isolated and that’s a struggle for me to understand because I’ve never really been isolated myself or had to make massive decisions that would have such a major effect on my life. But I love the fieriness of her, although it’s hard being mean to Kira on stage when we get on so well, I can relate to her passion for dance.

Kira: I’m not proud to say it but I’m not like Baby in terms of education. She knows a lot about politics and what goes on in the world but I feel I’m not in touch with that side of myself as much. But I do feel quite similar to her in that I remember when I was 17 and the first time I fell in love and doing so much to be close to that person – things I’d never think to do on a regular basis just to be with someone. I also relate to the closeness she feels with her family.

Michael: Obviously Johnny in the show is a dancer and I trained in dance myself so that’s kind of the hook I latch onto. We come from a similar background, with the training everyone has to go through, but fortunately I haven’t gone through the serious, crippling financial situation Johnny has been through or the unexplained relationship with his dad and the fact his mum is never mentioned. That’s a whole grey area that we don’t even know about and it’s a part of the character that I have to work to understand.

How is the classic story recreated on stage?

Kira: The script is the same as the film scene-by-scene, with a few extra little surprises in there, and I feel it’s done really well. The set is a smaller replica of the actual Kellerman’s resort and in fact there are three big trucks they use for the staff quarters, the inside and outside of the hotel and the resort cabins. The music, of course, is so iconic and it’s done so well with the live band being on stage. They are fantastic musicians.

Michael: The team do such a good job of bringing the story to the stage so it’s like reliving the film live. You’ve got all the dances, all the music, the band’s on stage kicking butt – it’s such a fun show.

Can you recall when you first saw the film and the impact it had on you?

Kira: I vividly remember watching it on videotape because my mum had it and I remember watching the dance scenes in the staff quarters and I was like ‘Oh my God!’ So I knew exactly how Baby feels when she goes to the resort. It was mesmerising.

Michael: I remember my mum watching it when I was really young and being like ‘That’s not my type of film’ as I went off to play sports or whatever. Then I revisited it when I got into the dance industry more and I was like ‘Actually, it’s a really cool film’. The more time I spent in rehearsals looking through the script, which is the same as the film, we talked a lot about it being about bravery and becoming the person you want to be, regardless of your situation and people telling you you can’t. That’s very inspiring and I think that’s why it has done so well.

Simone: When I saw it I was like ‘I just want to be a part of this, to just be in there’ especially with scenes like Do You Love Me? where they’re just having a party and I remember watching the Mambo and thinking ‘My goodness, I want to do that!’ and now I get to do it.

Michael and Kira, how much pressure is there to get the legendary lift right?

Kira: It’s a huge pressure because everyone is waiting for that lift. It’s so iconic to the film, isn’t it? But when it comes to recreating it, I trust Michael. I trust that even if I fall he’ll have my back, but touch wood nothing’s gone wrong yet.

Michael: The fun bit is when we do the lift in the water, which is done by visual effects. That’s fun because it’s where you get to mess it up and go wrong.

What other challenges does the show present for you physically?

Kira: I’m a trained dancer, but I have to appear like I’m not. I have to reverse everything I’ve been taughtand make it look bad, without making it look like I’m trying to be bad.

Simone: The Mambo is quite challenging. It sort of comes out of nowhere and is really explosive and fast-paced.

Michael: It’s a very dance-heavy show, as you’d expect, but I don’t think I realised quite how dance-heavy it is until we started rehearsals. There are a few numbers back to back and you’re dripping with sweat, like ‘Oh man, we’ve got to go on for the next number’ before you’ve even got into the next costume. Physically it’s a tough show but that’s why we do it – we love that challenge.

And what are the emotional challenges?

Michael: All of our characters have a moment where we have to go to that place emotionally and it’s always a challenge, but as an actor I feel like those are the fun moments too because they’re the moments where you can be brave enough to go to that place and feel all those feelings. You trust the audience is there with you and your partner is with you on stage emotionally too.

Simone: I think most of us break down into tears at some point in the show and you don’t want to make it look fake so you have to make it as real as possible. When you come off stage after a scene like that, you just have to shake it off because you get really emotional. It’s a rollercoaster but it’s exciting.

Kira: You have to take yourself to a place that maybe you don’t want to go to on that day but you just have to let yourself go there. In the scene where Baby is talking to her dad there’s this big monologue and it’s quite emotional, then you have to come off from that scene and go into the next scene with a new mindset whereas in real life you’d have a few hours to sort yourself out.

The music is a massive part of the Dirty Dancing experience. Do you have a favourite song from the show?

Kira: Hungry Eyes. I love that song and always have. Before I even auditioned for the show it was my alarm in the morning!

Michael: For me it’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life. It was a massive hit and it’s such a popular song.But it’s my favourite because it comes right at the end of the show. It’s such a climactic moment where everyone is on stage dancing together and there’s a moment where Johnny comes through the crowd so there’s a real connection with the audience.

Simone: Mine’s Do You Love Me? Love the routine, love the song, and it feels free where it’s like a party scene with your mates. It’s really raw and fun.

Michael, this is your professional debut. How are you finding it?

Michael: It’s been indescribable really. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so privileged to be able to do it. It’s a great role, a great show, the cast have been amazing, the team have been fantastic, everyone’s helped me along on the journey and it feels like we’ve become a really strong team.

What are you all most looking forward to about taking the show on tour?

Kira: I love connecting with different audiences in different venues. We get excited moving around the country so we’re buzzing on stage and the audience feeds off that.

Michael: I think we’re really lucky to take the show on tour because we get an opening night every week. It also means you get to perform for a huge range of people and the fact you’re travelling together makes you a stronger company.

Simone: It keeps it exciting because you’re not within the same four walls for a long time. It feels new each time and for me, being from Australia, getting to travel the UK is awesome.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?

Michael: I’d have to say my NutriBullet…

Kira: [Laughs] Six-pack yawn!

Simone: For me, it’s my hubby. He’s coming on tour with me so he’ll be my taxi driver.

Kira: I like to have books with me. I do like reading and it’s nice to wind down after shows by taking yourself off to some imaginary place.

It sounds amazing! But don’t just take thier word for it, check out the trailer here!!! https://youtu.be/bgOVcCrZjoo

Goosebumps!!! Dirty dancing Tour will be arriving at The Palace Theatre Manchester from Mon 22nd April to Sat 27th April. Ticket and date information can be found on their website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-dancing-the-classic-story-on-stage/palace-theatre-manchester/

I will be watching on press night, so keep an eye open for the review article!

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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…….

Dance Niche

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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!

Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_090

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!

The Cast of Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_050

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!

Dance Niche

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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”…………..

Dance Niche

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