Review | Kerry Ellis: 20th Anniversary Tour | Waterside Arts, Sale

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West End leading lady embarks on a UK tour to celebrate her impressive and jam-pack 20 years of starring in the West End and performing.

After making her West End debut in 1998 in the musical My Fair Lady at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Kerry has made her mark in the West End and on Broadway. Kerry originated the role of ‘Meat’ in We Will Rock You and was the first British ‘Elphaba’ in both the West End and Broadway productions of the smash hit Wicked. Her many other leading role credits include ‘Nancy’ in Oliver! And ‘Grizabella’ in Cats at the London Palladium, ‘Eliza Doolittle’ in My Fair Lady, ‘Ellen’ in Miss Saigon and ‘Fantine’ in Les Miserables.

Onstage with Kerry was her talented and easy on the eye band, made up of Steve Geere on keys, Dave Storer on bass, Stuart Roberts on drums and Andy Waterson on lead guitar. Andy also arranged the show, and I must applaud him for some incredible covers of some favorite musical theatre songs as well as some newer ones.

Bouncing onto the stage in a sequin jumpsuit, Kerry gets the evening going and the audience singing from the get-go with Roll With You.

Singing a range of styles including some country-esk songs, Kerry’s vocal ability bends and adjusts to each song, proving that as well as a successful musical theatre performer, Kerry is also a vocal artist. Kerry has released four albums, all of which have charted in the UK, including a collaboration with the talented Br Brian May.

One of my favourites and a song that keeps popping into my head is the stunning Butterfly, a song which celebrates growth and development.

Being the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attacks and being performed in Manchester, Kerry dedicated a beautiful acoustic cover of Amazing Grace to the audience and the people of Manchester, which left tears in the eyes of the audience.

The second half of the concert showed Kerry in her element – musical theatre. Getting the audience singing the part of ‘Glinda’ in Wicked’s For Good was a highlight for the audience, and even trying to belt out Somebody to Love from We Will Rock YouKerry originated the role of ‘Meat’ in We Will Rock You, and we were reminded of her excellent version of No One But You, which Kerry sang with ease and passion.

It wouldn’t be a proper Kerry Ellis concert if she didn’t end the show with her most famous song, Defying Gravity from Wicked. As soon as the opening piano twinkle sounded, the audience knew exactly what we were getting, and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

Tackling a dramatic quick change and just making on stage for the famous first lines “Something has changed within me,” Kerry blows the audience away with her rock-inspired version of the iconic song. Accompanied by the talented students from the Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre Choir, the last song of the evening left the audience blown away.

Charming and charismatic on stage and when talking to the audience, Kerry Ellis is a natural entertainer, and a masterpiece to watch!

You can catch Kerry Ellis’ tour around the UK and information and tickets can be booked here.

Interview | Hannah Ellis Ryan on the UK Premiere of “Things We Want”

With the opening night just around the corner, I caught up with Play With Fire’s founder Hannah Ellis Ryan to see how the rehearsals have been going and what the show is going to entail.

After launching in 2014 with their acclaimed production of Orphans at the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre, the resident theatre company Play With Fire is bringing the UK Premiere of Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Things We Want to Manchester.

The themes of grief and how different people react to it is met with comedy as three brothers living together for the first time since childhood. Drugs, love and new age spirituality consume their search for purpose until a surprise visit from an upstairs neighbour turns everything upside down and challenges all the brothers thought they believed.

After receiving its Wolrd Premiere Off-Broadway in 2007, directed by and starring Ethan Hawke, Hannah is nervous but very excited to put Manchester’s stamp on the piece. “I am a bit nervous about being the first people to show this wonderful play to the UK, but I’m so excited too.”

“Two things shows should do is to entertain and educate the audience – we hope that our production of Things We Want does both,” says Hannah. “The themes in the show hopefully will be relevant to all audiences members in some way or another, so we need to do to script justice.”

Things We Want, directed by Daniel Bradford, features Alex Phelps, William J Holstead, Paddy Young and Hannah Ellis Ryan. This production marks Play with Fires’ first time collaboration with Swaggering Crow, a new theatre collective set up by Paddy Young and William J Holstead – two graduates from Manchester School of Theatre.

Since setting up Play with Fire in 2014, Australian Drama School graduates, Hannah Ellis Ryan and Daniel Bradford have moved to Manchester and created some incredible productions! “Having the ability to play with scripts and develop our versions of the shows is cool and keeps us interested.”

Things We Want is playing at Hope Mill Theatre Wednesday 30th of May – Saturday 9th of June, and you can book tickets for Things We Want here.

Since launching PWF, Hannah and Daniel have opened Hope Studios – offering affordable and accessible rehearsal space for Manchester’s creative community.

Their next production for PWF will be their first main stage production for Oldham Coliseum – coming in September 2018.

Review | Blood Brothers | Manchester’s Palace Theatre

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A musical and story that has been done time and time again and seen many tours all over the world, Blood Brothers never loses its charm and style.

Having seen the 2010 tour production with Lyn Paul in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in my hometown of Bournemouth, seeing Paul reprise the role in her final production was terrific.

When a struggling single mother is faced with the decision of keeping both twins babies or give one away to a woman desperate for a child, the children are separated at birth, never to see each other again. Fast forward seven years and the boys connect and become blood brothers; the women have decisions to make as to whether they let the boys bond.

After debuting the role of Mrs J in 1997, Lyn Paul is a seasoned professional and natural on stage, noted as the ‘definite Mrs Johnstone’. She definitely lives up to this name, as her vocal performance and character brings tears to the audience’s eyes and them leaping to their feet for a standing ovation. A mastermind and a perfect actress for the role – Lyn Paul is a marvel.

Playing the two loveable, charming and comical Mickey and Eddy is Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson. Seeing both characters from young boys grow up into men is a beautiful transition and both Jones and Hutchinson excel as young boys and their naughty minds.

Acting as the ghost of the past and every character’s conscience, the Narrator is played by the dominating Mathew Craig. Craig’s vocals are splendid, and he captures the audience’s attention from the getgo and guides us through the story.

This production, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is entirely faultless and has to be one of the best productions I’ve seen this year.

Blood Brothers ends its UK tour at Manchester’s Palace Theatre and runs until Saturday, May 26th. More information and tickets can be booked here.

Review | Manuel Linan – Sinergia | Pavilion Dance South West

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When one says Flamenco dancer, they usually think of a Spanish lady in a red dress, or sadly now, the emoji of the said dancer in the red dress. One might not even consider a male Flamenco dancer, but Manuel Liñan is breaking conventions of dance with live singers, guitar, and dancing to the spoken word.

The use of Flamenco steps as the percussion to accompany the guitarist and singers creates words and script, telling a story through his feet.

Victor Marquez’s exquisite guitar playing makes the instrument come to life. With delicate phrasing and dynamics, the instrument has its own breath.

I have never been so mesmerised by feet before, but Liñan´s quick and precise footwork is stunning and creates its rhythmic phrases.

Opening the show with a piece danced purely to speech, Liñan´s movements are a mixture of cheeky and severe, creating a mixture of emotions within the audience.

The movement and guitar flow and connect fluidly between the beautiful voices of  David Carpio and Ismael de la Rosa. Their influential voices bring drama and attitude to the piece – even though they only sang in Spanish, I understood the story through the storytelling in their voices alongside the dancing.

Using flamenco hand rhythms, the singers accompany every step Liñan takes, creating the perfect combination.

Using only a handful of white chairs around the stage that are moved or tipped over to create sounds, the emphasis and focus are on the performer’s talent themselves rather than a complex set.

Pure white and yellow lighting in used, like the set, with doses of primary colors to quickly change the mood. Similar to the simple set, the focus is on the performer’s talent and ability to change the mood quickly.

A very moving piece of dance that left the audience leaping to their feet and wanting more. Quick, quirky and entertaining.

Reviewed at The Pavilion Dance South West on 5 May.

Review | Titanic the Musical | The Lowry, Salford Quays

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Taking the story of a disaster that influenced and changed history, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s award-winning score and book tackles the story from the creation of the boat to the memorial of the fallen passengers. In two and a half hours, the show takes the audience on the journey and with impressive staging and direction by Thom Southerland makes the audience feel like they are onboard the ship and involved in the action too.

Opening with a lavish and exciting “How Did They Build Titanic?” as the different classes arrive in Southampton to depart on the “dream ship” and “floating city”. Throughout the whole production, the theme of dreams is evident with every character – whether it’s dreaming of being in a higher class, the dream marrying your one true love or getting a job and living a new life in America. Regardless of class, the characters all have their hopes and that powers through the show.

While the story could is a sad one, Yeston and Stone find the comedy and highs in the stories. Adding the comic element to the story is the larger than life and first-class wannabe Second Class passenger Alice Beane, played by Claire Machin. An impressive and quickly worded “First Class Roster” introduces the audience to the First Class passengers, informing their names and achievements.

The lower class steal the show, especially Victoria Serra as Kate McGowan, who is the leading force in the lower class. Leaving Ireland due to an unexpected pregnancy, Kate tries to create a better future for her unborn baby by migrating to America. Serra’s clear and loud voice is tremendous in “Lady’s Maid.”

A strong performance from Niall Sheehy as Frederick Barrett who powerfully sings “Barrett’s Song.” Using some clever choreography by Cressida Carre and supported by the male ensemble, the audience is quickly taken below decks to the boiler room where they work tirelessly to try and make the ship sail faster. I would like to applaud Howard Hudson with a creative and compelling lighting design throughout the show.

An excellent production that is slick and left me speechless. You must see this show this year.

Titanic the Musical is playing at Salford Quay’s Lowry Theatre until Saturday, May 12th, and information and tickets can be found here.