Category: Manchester

PAM ANN: Touch Trolley, Run to Galley – Salford

‘Touch Trolley, Run to Galley’ is the 20th anniversary UK tour for the comedy icon that is Pam Ann (alter ego of Comedian Caroline Reid).

Pam Ann has developed a global cult status amongst her devoted fans and her new celebration show starts positively with a video montage of her previous shows and iconic comedy gold moments of which her fans are very familiar. An intended introduction the video actually quickly highlights that this new show is pretty much the same comedy that Pam Ann has delivered for the last 20 years with very little variation. In fact, it is fair to say that many of her previous shows have been much funnier and this tour lacks originality.

Over the last 20 years, Pam Ann has developed a skill for delivering unscripted comedy based on the participation of unplanned audience members. She loves “her gays” and of course bounces off the inevitable cabin crew audiences. However tonight that seemed to be lacking, and the comedy felt disjointed and at times failed to fall well with the audience especially as at the start of the show when, without any real warm up she picked on four audience members to join her on the stage to create a new Spice Girls band. The first “volunteer” was a “hungry gay bottom” (Leroy) who also works as Cabin Crew so Pam Ann was in her element with the delivery of her one-liners. When Leroy also announced that he works for Easy Jet, Pam Ann was in her element. However, moving down the line to the Care Home Manager and the Call Centre Worker it was easy to feel that the humour was fast sinking. I wished that she had picked on four Cabin Crew so that we were guaranteed some harsh put downs and quick one-liners. I guess that is the luck of the draw though and Pam Ann did her best with what she had to work with.  

There was definitely something missing in the first half. Pam Ann threw in some new material about the current issues relevant to the airline industry: bad treatment of passengers by United Airlines; failed IT systems for British Airways and some jokes about Airbus but these were short and mixed in with the rehashed familiar jokes that she has delivered may times before. Act one then ended abruptly with the announcement of an in-flight presentation which was a cleverly devised film clip, in which we see Pam Ann taking over from Mary Berry in the Great British Bake Off tent. It’s extremely funny, but incredibly lazy. In the past, Pam Ann would have performed this section live, so I was left wondering why I was watching a film screen.

The second half delivered many jokes over the cabin trolley, laden with champagne and cocaine. Of course we have seen and heard the jokes before, but you can’t help belly laughing because the delivery is perfect. The rolling around the stage in a cloud of cocaine was extremely funny and a real highlight of the show especially as Pam Ann attributed the delivery of the giant bag of drugs to Nigel (Ex-Policeman) who is sat in the audience. Unfortunately, Pam Ann chose to use plastic dolls to deliver some of her funnier well known Cabin Crew material: Lufthansa; Virgin; British Airways and the like which didn’t work as well as picking on audience members who work for the respective airlines.
If you’ve never seen Pam Ann before or you are a die-hard fan you will adore this show. It’s rude, offensive but incredibly funny. However, if you’re not one of the above you need to know that the show is 2 hours long with a 20-minute interval and 20 minutes of video footage which may leave you slightly short changed. This show could easily have worked better as a shorter one act show in a smaller venue.

The UK tour continues around UK venues throughout June: www.pamann.com

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 4th June 2017  

This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★

http://northwestend.co.uk/index.php/comedy/2106-pam-ann-touch-trolley-run-to-galley-the-lowry-salford

Thoroughly Modern Millie – Manchester

The story of Millie Dillmount, the small-town Kansas girl who moves to New York in search of a wealthy businessman to marry was originally a cinematic musical hit for Oscar Award-winning Julie Andrews in 1967. Based on a 1956 London stage musical, the 2002 Broadway production with book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan and music from Jeanine Tesori went on to win six Tony Awards and critical acclaim.

Things don’t go to plan for Millie (Joanne Clifton) as on her first day in the new city, she has her money, handbag and shoe stolen. She ends up living in a “hotel for actresses” run by a white slave trader Mrs, Meers (Lucas Rush) and falls for the penniless Jimmy (Sam Barrett) instead of hooking the attentions of her rich boss (Graham MacDuff).

The star of this production is without doubt MacDuff in his performance as Mr. Trevor Graydon. MacDuff steals the show at regular intervals, his talent and comedic timing overshadowing that of everyone else in the cast. He had the audience rolling around with laughter in Act Two in ‘I’m Falling in Love with Someone (reprise)’ during which is acting skills were genius. Add to this, brilliant vocals and some nifty footwork and you have the definition of “triple threat performer”.  

Some clever comedy moments were also stolen by Rush as Mrs. Meers, the kimono-clad owner of the Priscilla Hotel who speaks Pidgin English and turns out to be a white male slave trader. Although it is very difficult to accept the questionable casting choices of Director, Racky Plews and Casting Director, Sue Talbert. Rush is a seasoned Musical Theatre performer and it feels like he was set up to fail with a role that feels very uncomfortable when played by a non-oriental performer. A lot of Mrs. Meer’s lines failed to land with the Manchester audience, and at one point a “tough audience” comment from Rush seemed to sum up the lack of laughter in the auditorium.

Clifton carries a strong and spirited vocal as Millie. She is obviously confident with dance, but her acting ability is lacking and not as strong as her on stage peers, which is a shame. She didn’t seem to connect with Millie and at times over performed to the point of becoming pantomime in her styling with wide gesticulation and unusually over the top facial expressions.

Some of the ensemble pulled the audience’s attention away from Millie with their competent and confident multi-role performances. David Muscat and Bobby Windebank particularly stood out, both providing impressive comic timing and exceptional dance abilities.

Plew’s direction is at its best when she is able to showcase her choreography including the Argentine Tango and Charleston. The best number of the production however is ‘The Speed Test’ where principals and ensemble get to show off their impressive tap dancing abilities. Moving around on stenography work stations on casters whilst tapping can’t have been easy but they pulled it off and it worked extremely well.

There were some obvious technical difficulties tonight with the set designed by Morgan Large and Lighting Design by Paul Smith and Sean Quinn. The set was quite impressive with a stage framed by an Art Deco archway that clearly took inspiration from the crown of the Statue of Liberty, with diamond-shaped teardrops that light up and some clever moving pieces including upstairs bedroom corridor at the Priscilla Hotel. However other elements felt weak and disjointed and detracted from everything else going on: the tech crew who struggled to change the Priscilla Hotel sign above the door at the beginning of ‘Not for the Life of Me’ or the hand that repeatedly attempted to move the doorway to Mrs. Mear’s office into place causing the entire flat to wobble uncontrollably for several minutes. Also, the smoke machines to stage left appeared to pump uncontrollably throughout the entire performance and there were some lighting effects that clearly didn’t work. All of this made it feel very amateur.

Whilst lots of fun, Thoroughly Modern Millie simply didn’t sit right with all the contrasts. A distinct lack of consistency and mixed cast abilities meant that it didn’t keep me as engaged as I would have liked. Early on in the production the song ‘How The Other Half Lives’ ironically sums up that Thoroughly Modern Millie is a production of complete contrasts with its references to ups and downs. Put simply there are moments of world class musical theatre in this production, but there are also other moments that are better suited to a local community theatre environment.

The UK tour continues around UK venues: www.modernmillie.co.uk

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 23rd May 2017  

This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★

http://www.northwestend.co.uk/index.php/professional-reviews/manchester/2068-thoroughly-modern-millie-palace-theatre-manchester

In the 90’s, The Crystal Maze was one of the UK’s favourite…

In the 90’s, The Crystal Maze was one of the UK’s favourite television shows. Now it’s your turn to be the star of the show. 

The ultimate team challenge, in which you and your friends face challenges testing your skill, mental and physical ability across four adventure time zones: Aztec, Industrial, Futuristic and Medieval. For each challenge completed your team will earn a Crystal. The more Crystals you earn, the more time you’ll get in the final challenge – The Crystal Dome!

Click here for tickets: thecrystalmazemanchester.seetickets.com

From Shore to Shore – Manchester

Inspired by in-depth interviews with individuals from the UK Chinese community across the Leeds and West Yorkshire region; ‘From Shore to Shore’ is a unique multilingual, dinner-theatre event which expertly examines issues of Chinese tradition, identity, gender, domestic violence, racism and family.

Staged in Yang Sing a popular Manchester Chinatown, Director David K S Tse served up a rich menu of language, theatre, culture, music and food to the Manchester audience.  As is the case in Chinese culture, food is central to Mary Cooper’s original script which eloquently weaves the narrative of three central character’s stories: Cheung Wing (Tse) is escaping war; Mei Lan (Yvonne Wan) is searching for a better life, and Yi Di (Dandan Liu) is desperate for her Father’s approval. The production is complimented by a delicious two-course meal which helps immerse the audience into the storytelling and a traditional soundtrack is provided by musician, Angela Chan.

From Shore to Shore is incredibly warm and emotional at times and there are several likeable characters working together to support the story. The play is cleverly presented simultaneously in Mandarin, Cantonese and English (with some broad West Yorkshire accents). It is a unique and extremely effective method for the versatile cast of actors to present their various stories even for those who are not bilingual. Particularly strong stand-out performances were given tonight by Wan as Mei Lan and also Liu as Yi Di who proved their versatility as performers and storytellers.

I highly recommend that you book to see this special, heart-warming production. It continues to tour around UK venues: www.fromshoretoshore.co.uk  

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 19th May 2017

This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★★

http://northwestend.co.uk/index.php/professional-reviews/manchester/2053-from-shore-to-shore-yang-sing-manchester

5 Writers, 5 Directors, 5 Casts of Actors… 5 Plays in 24…

5 Writers, 5 Directors, 5 Casts of Actors… 5 Plays in 24 Hours!!

In July 1967 the Sexual Offences Act finally decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales. It was a momentous, transformative moment which is marked by a 50-year anniversary this year.

The LGBT+ theatre movement has also changed radically since the oppressive days of the 1960s, but there is still more that Writers, Directors and Actors could do to rise to the challenge of contemporary issues in “Queer Theatre”.

To mark the 50 years of progress, The Straight Acting Theatre Company are facilitating a unique theatre festival that aims to engage local artists and performers of all abilities and backgrounds to create a series of new LGBT+ inspired theatrical work without discrimination and in a totally safe space.

Tickets £5 available on the door or £4 in advance by clicking the link. All profits from the event will be donated to Manchester’s LGBT Foundation

Tickets Available Here: www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/360724

More Information: www.StraightActingTheatre.co.uk

Daniel Hellmann: Traumboy – Manchester

In his solo performance Traumboy, Daniel Hellmann reports openly, honestly and visually on his experiences as a male prostitute. This unique interactive performance piece gave the Manchester audience a mature and breath-taking view of Hellmann’s 7 years of experience as he guided us through a graphic, and sometimes shocking subject matter.

Traumboy sets out to deliberately question the “double standards of our capitalistic and hypersexualized society” and Hellmann achieves this with a sophisticated level of interactivity with his audience. He slipped in and out of several different roles with ease and engaged proactively through the medium of SMS text messaging, encouraging the audience to be as inquisitive as possible.

Hellmann exposed himself (at times literally) to show the many sides of living as a sex worker. He reminded us that he is not just a prostitute but also a son, an uncle and a lover. With stories and questions that probed our personal boundaries, Hellmann captivated and held the Contact Theatre audience throughout with the right mix of vulnerability, physicality, humour and intense likeability.

Hellmann is a strong, athletic performance artist who appeared to morph in an out of different roles with fluidity and ease. This is a performer that totally understands his own body from head to toe and how to use it within a performance. In addition, Hellmann gave a very strong and consistent dialogue in this, his first UK performance and also his first performance in English.

Daniel Hellmann: Traumboy moves on to Brighton on 24th March as part of the SICK! Festical, and then continues to tour around Europe: http://www.daniel-hellmann.com/en/projects/traumboy

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 15th March 2017  

This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★★

http://northwestend.co.uk/index.php/professional-reviews/manchester/1844-daniel-hellmann-traumboy-contact-theatre-manchester

Funny Girl, The Musical – Manchester

Tonight, Sheridan Smith gave what can only be described as a masterclass in Musical Theatre with a stunning performance that quite rightly brought her Manchester audience to its feet in rapturous applause and adoration on the first leg of a UK wide tour of Funny Girl, The Musical.

Based on Brice’s real-life career as a headlining comedy performer in the Ziegfeld Follies variety shows, ‘Funny Girl’ has never been the strongest when it comes to storyline. However, what it lacks in plot it clearly makes up for in Julie Styne’s music and Bob Merrill’s unforgettable lyrics with iconic numbers such as ‘People’ and ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’.

Although supported by a strong ensemble and several principal characters, it was simply impossible to take your eyes off Smith whenever she is on stage. Without doubt she simply is “Funny Girl”. She owned the role of Fanny Brice; she took expert command of the stage, and from the moment she started singing I’m The Greatest Star early in Act One had cast a spell over the Palace Theatre audience. Early on in the show Fanny boasts that she has “36 expressions”, better than all her theatrical rivals combined. Smith clearly has many more than this and expertly uses her eyes and mouth throughout the show to bring a cinematic realness to the role.

An exceptional performance was also seen tonight by Joshua Lay in the role of Eddie Ryan, Fanny’s closest friend and showbiz mentor. Lay gave us a triple threat performance with some impressive tapping in his duet: ‘Who Taught Her Everything She Knows?’ Lay’s comic timing worked well alongside Smith’s and together they commanded many laugh out loud moments.

Strong performances were also given by Zoe Ann Bown (Mrs Meeker), Rachel Izen (Mrs Brice) and Myra Sands (Mrs Strakosh) with some beautiful, warm interactions with Smith throughout from all three.

The creative team Michael Mayer (Director), Michael Pavelka (Set Designer) and Mark Henderson (Lighting Designer) have created a flamboyant production that moves flawlessly through memories and real time and between different locations. The set, which is essentially a series of different dressing rooms or memories is compact, but also spectacular with a very clever use of etched glass and mirrors to widen the scope of the limited space. A real sense of cinema was achieved with projections and props that helped captivate and which perfectly complimented Smith’s fast paced performance.

This was a gutsy, exciting production all round. But the star-quality of Smith is what makes this show simply brilliant. She is a true leading lady, the likes of which we’ve not seen for many years.

Funny Girl, The Musical continues on full UK tour throughout the year: http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 23rd February 2017

This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★★★

http://northwestend.co.uk/index.php/professional-reviews/manchester/1787-funny-girl-palace-theatre-manchester