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THE OTHER SIDE OF MIKE BENNETT

This is a new series of films covering known artists from a different angle produced by Grey Area Productions.

Today TreTre did her first in a series of People You Might Know for One Thing, But Not Necessarily for Another. The first of this exciting 2 hour series explores the other career of writer, composer, producer Mike Bennett whose wide and diverse credits include Wishbone Ash, ELP, The Fall, Poly Styrene, The Specials, Neville Staple, Christine Sugary Staple and more. I caught up with Mike after grilling him for 2 hours today about his other side…. he was not expecting the questions I asked him. Initially flummoxed by the questions he was being asked, he held his ground and we ended up having great fun as the banter naturally enveloped into a conversation that revealed the other jobs he carries out in tandem with his work in music production. This is how our post show candid conversation went…

  1. How did you feel about doing a 2-hour interview about yourself with no stops and in one take?

 

  1. Well, I was mildly surprised to say the least how things went forward. I was led to believe I was doing an interview about the new Fuzzbox album we’ve done for Gonzo Multimedia and then you started asking me about my personal life, which I was up front about regarding my borstal days. I would like to take the opportunity to downgrade that to Approved School, I did not steal the car, I was just an unfortunate passenger, but I have to say at least you were gracious enough at the end of that tricky moment to acknowledge that my mild turbulent teenage behaviour for good grist for my poetry.

 

  1. Despite my lack of Fuzzbox questions you expected I managed to get to chat to you about your work writing for actors and comedians, you’ve written for Jim Bowen, Phil Cool, Frankie Howerd, Bobby Davro, Anita Harris… who have enjoyed writing for the most to date?

A Difficult question as usual, I was honoured to do the Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Rik Mayall, but I have to say I have just reimagined Aesop’s Fables for my favourite actress of all time, Anna Savva, who is the main reason I watch the period drama series The Durrells. I love the fact that you you’re working closely with Ian Hills because the Granada/ITV connection ties in with Anna Savva and The Durrells and although the connection is tenuous he made me feel easier as you were grilling me, and he was genuinely interested in my work with Anna in respect with my work with Aesop. During the pernicious pandemic pantomime, we have been creative on a daily basis taking a left field spin on Aesop who is a writer from six thousand years ago, whose is as relevant as it is today. Can we not talk just a little bit about the Fuzzbox album?

  1. Maybe later, what was Frankie Howerd like to work with? 

 

  1. He would have loved Fuzzbox, he was into all sorts of stuff, Pet Shop Boys, Motorhead and he did love Sinister Warts by The Fall…he was not as confident as you may imagine, but he was a kind and gifted man, after I did a play with Frank Skinner I was surprised and chuffed that he was a fan of The Fall as well.

 

  1. Not my bag as you know Mike, and as you know there’s a lot if your stuff I am not really into and I will never pull the wool over your eyes just to flatter your ego, which I have to say is rather healthy to put it politely, but I do like Pink Sunshine by Fuzzbox but my favourite version is the one you produced with Steve Etherington who I saw live with The Rubettes ft John, Mick and Steve! Your weird dub version is definitely not for me, it is the students that go to places like District in Manchester or hip students into Psyche music and all the subject’s genres that go with it.

 

  1. Steve Etherington gives every broadcast quality commercial aspect, he is the best! It would be a crap production model to work with the worst. Put a good team together and they will make you sound talented, I love spinning plates and I love throwing in a swerve ball and when I met him on the Shane McGowan sessions I never looked back, as I said in the interview, the artist’s job is to put the painting on the canvas, the production team, which incidentally includes Deborah Allen, who has helped me put the Polyfest stuff together in order to celebrate the life of the late, great Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, she’s meticulous when it comes to strategic but out of the box manoeuvres, she takes good counsel and listens to the often troublesome menagerie of colourful artists. With Steve Bowden, Friedbananaand Andy Chester on audio visuals, Leah Mckavanagh on administration because I cannot even tie up my own shoe laces, and the artists themselves all being brilliant gives me confidence to carry on melding my script writing endeavours with pop music, any genre will do if I get it! I have had to turn down amazing jobs because I knew there were people better than me for that artist.

 

Well you don’t appear to be falsely self-deprecating and I have to say your artistic policy appears to be sound and talking about sounds I’m going to include some sounds from your recent work on the slightly seedy film you have made, Laundry Matt, which is finally coming out after 2 years which you amazingly claim you made on a budget of 15p!

 

Just some of the artists and songs to appear on the forthcoming film Laundry Matt.

 

The Rubettes ft John, Mick, and Steve 

Lady Starlight,

Born to Be Alone,

New York City

Mrs Pringle

Dynamite

Back to Drak

 

Melanie Williams

Ain’t No Love Ain’t No Use

 

Fuzzbox

Spirit in the Sky

 

Christina Sugary Staple

Way of life

 

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COVID-19 – Firefighters urge residents to be safe at home

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is urging people to make sure they are keeping themselves and their family safe at home following the outbreak of COVID-19.

With many people now working from home and schools closed to most children, it is even more important than ever that households are taking the right steps to ensure they are safe from fire.

Everyone can do their part by taking small simple steps such as ensuring your smoke alarm is working and never leaving cooking unattended.

GMFRS is urging people to:

  • Fit a smoke alarm on each level of your house and test the batteries regularly
  • Take extra care when cooking – never leave cooking unattended or leave children alone in the kitchen when the hob or oven is on. Never cook while under the influence of alcohol
  • Plan a route to escape your home if there is a fire and make sure everyone in the house knows the plan
  • Check for fire hazards, such as electrical items or hobs left switched on, in your home before you go to bed
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – keep to one plug per socket and also look out for plugs and cables that are poorly wired, as they can be dangerous
  • Always stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully. Don’t smoke in bed or anywhere you could fall asleep
  • Make sure candles are secured in a stable holder and kept away from curtains, fabrics and paper. Always put candles out before going to bed or leaving the room
  • NEVER try and tackle the fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999

GMFRS’ Head of Prevention, Area Manager Paul Fearnhead, said: “We know more and more people are now spending extended periods in their homes, whether that is to work, to take care of children or to take part in social distancing.

“This is absolutely the right thing to do as we all try and do our bit in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and follow the advice to stay at home. However, this brings with it a number of risks when it comes to fire safety and we are asking everyone to also do their bit to ensure people are safe in the home.

“While we are all spending more time in the house there is no excuse to not have working smoke alarms and to not be testing them regularly. Also take extra care in the kitchen, especially if you have young children around and if you are enjoying a drink, consider getting a takeaway delivered instead of making something yourself.

“Scaling back from non-emergency activities will not only help to protect the public and our staff from the threat of COVID-19 it will ensure that we have enough firefighters and fire engines to be able to provide an effective emergency response across Greater Manchester.”

You can find even more information on keeping your home safe from fire here.

Safe and Well Visits

To limit the contact between fire service staff and members of the public due to COVID-19 risk, GMFRS will be assessing people’s fire risk and giving fire safety advice over the telephone instead of the usual Safe and Well Visits.

There is lots of information on the GMFRS website to help people keep safe but if someone is still concerned and wants to enquire about a telephone Safe and Well they should email contact@manchesterfire.gov.uk

There is more about the changes to Safe and Well here.

Specific flat fire safety advice for residents of a high-rise building can be found here.

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Isolate your household

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Wash your hands

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The Thrill of Love Northenden Players Club 20th May 2019

Northenden Players Theatre Club present ‘The Thrill of Love’ by Amanda Whittington. It tells the story of Ruth Ellis, a 28-year-old former model and nightclub hostess.

Ellis became notorious as she was the last woman in England to be executed on 13th July 1955 in Holloway Prison.

Ellis was sentenced to death by hanging at the Old Bailey in 1955 for shooting her lover, 25-year-old racing driver David Blakely, outside the Magdala public house in North London on Easter Sunday.

The story of Ruth Ellis has intrigued the Nation for over 60 years, with books, films, radio and theatre interpretations of this infamous case. In this production we see episodes in Ruth Ellis’s life (Freya Fulton) and Inspector Gale (Andrew Foulks) piecing the pieces of evidence he finds together.

We meet the manageress of the Gentlemen’s Club Sylvia Shaw (Jo Booth) where Ellis was a Hostess who dreams of escape, being befriended by Diana Dors, of fast lives and bright lights, and returning home in a silver Rolls-Royce. Ruth’s best friend another hostess Vickie Martin (Kirsty Hattton) and the char lady Dorris (Adel Firth) all finally drawn characters who play an important role in Ruth Ellis life.

It’s a small cast finely performed, I partially enjoyed the interaction of Inspector Gale’s questioning trying to find the answers to solve the jigsaw puzzle of the murder of Ellis lover, David Blakely and especially the confession scene with Ruth Ellis.

To create the 1950’s look it was played against a black minimalist set relying on furnishing, props and lighting to set the scene, I liked the ‘Dansette’ record player with LP’s scattered around playing Billie Holiday provides the soundtrack to Ruth’s life, in which the fantasy of another, better existence is always just out of reach and the record keeps sticking, a bar, black and white tables and chairs creating a ‘Film Noir’ look. Sound was used with great effect with a lot of music and some good special effects.

Great care was taken in choosing the 50’s costumes, handbags, shoes hair and makeup, Ellis’s was outstanding, the fitted suits and dresses were spot on, well done the costume department.

The acting was brilliant, Frea Fulton as Ruth Ellis was outstanding capturing not only the looks, the London accent and the coldness of a murderess.

If you want to see an interesting historical, gritty drama based on a true story I recommend you go along to see this and when you get home look up why Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged?

The Thrill of Love is on 19th May to 25th May at the Northenden Players Theatre Club Church Road. 7:30pm.

Tickets and membership 0161 445 6868.

facebook.com/northendenplayerstheatreclub/

Northendenplalyers.co.uk

 

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM

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Sunday Night at The Grand Blackpool

An evening of unforgettable conjunction with the Lyndene Hotel, Blackpool and Tower Top Entertainments.

You’ll be taken through a journey of laughter with some of the North West’s funniest comedians, be swept of your feet by some astonishing vocalists and entertained by an array of show stopping dancers!

Headlined by TV’s Comedy Legend Johnnie Casson, 90’s POP Boyband 911 and Britain’s Got Talent star ventriloquist Gareth Oliver.

For a non stop night of the best variety entertainment and all proceeds going to the Not Forgotten Association.

Prices

  • £19 to £27
  • Concessions
  • £1.50 Off
The Grand 33 Church Street, Blackpool, FY1 1HT

 

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Motown the Musical Opera House, Manchester

Review: Motown the Musical Opera House, Manchester 27th February 2019.

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2 The Northern Soul Hour Extended Play.
There was ‘Dancing in the Streets’ when Motown the Musical arrived in Manchester. The sensational hit Broadway and West End musical has brought its unique sound to the Opera house.
With $1,000 borrowed from his family Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and launched the careers of legendary artists including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves and many more and in 10 years was to become the largest black-owned business in the USA.
This is the next chapter in Motown’s incredible history and is an experience you’ll never forget. Featuring over 50 classic hits including My Girl, What’s Going On, Dancing in the Street, I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Motown the Musical tells the thrilling tale of the man who broke barriers, fought against the odds to create something more than a record label. Discover the story behind Motown, the personal relationships, the professional struggles, and of course the music that made history, defined the sound of a generation and got the whole world moving to the same beat. With an all British cast directed by Charles Randolph-Wright staring Edward Baruwa, Berry Gordy, London Road, Jerry Springer the Opera, the T Boy show. Karis Anderson, Dianna Ross, Girl Band Shooshe, Nathan Lewis, Smokie Robinson Boy Band Five After Midnight, Shak Gabbidon – Williams, Marvin Gaye, Guildford School of Acting BA (Hons) Musical Theatre, plus the large young talented cast playing Motown’s finest.
We open with the 25th anniversary of Motown Records in 1983, with a medley of classics, including I Can’t Help Myself and Get Ready then jump to music tycoon Berry Gordy home where Smokie Robinson pleads for him to make an appearance at the televised event before we go whistle-stop tour of the company’s history starting with songwriter Berry Gordy with $1,000 borrowed from his very reluctant mother to launch Tamala Motown Records. And as they say the rest is history. With every black artist and group in Detroit making a path to ‘Hitsville USA’ the name of Gordy’s recording studios and launched the careers of legendary artists including Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (Motown’s first 1 million seller), The Temptations, The Four Tops, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knights and the Pips, Jackie Wilson, The Marvelettes and many more.
We are treated to iconic early classics like My Girl, Baby Love and Stop in the Name of Love from some of the biggest names in Motown. At one point we are transported back to Manchester where Diana Ross is appearing and having a proper cup of Manchester tea backstage, it could have been in the Co-op’s New Century Hall ballroom where I saw the Supremes along with the Four Tops and the Temptations back in the 1960s
Not everything goes smoothly between the artists and Gordy with lawsuits over money, contracts and artists leaving.  The first act ends with troubles arising for the company and an uncertain future for Motown.
We open in Act 2 in a troubled America with the Vietnam war, cue Edwin Starr’s WAR, race riots the assassination of President John Kennedy and the shooting of Marin Luther King Jnr whose speeches Gordy had released on LP records, here we see Marvin Gaye argues to release his album of protest songs and the uncertainty for Gordy and his company. We get to see the segregation. oppression, race riots and the difficulties of being a black African American and not just in Detroit. The mainstream media was very white, and we see Smokie Robinson pleading to get the local radio stations to play a Motown track by a black artist.
The love affair between Berry Gordy and Diana Ross adds the love interest with Gordy concentrating on just her to the anger of his other acts and later we see Diana leaving Motown to pursue her own solo career at the same time the move of Motown from Detroit to Los Angeles and lawsuits are bankrupting the company.
Then back to the Motown’s 25th Anniversary televised concert with all the original artists come back together for a one-time concert and Berry Gordy decides to join them on stage for a fantastic melody of songs including the new artists with Stevie Wonder leading the way with ‘Happy Birthday’ the audience on their feet singing and clapping along.
Edward Baruwa’s duet with Karis Anderson was outstanding with brilliant performances from the whole cast along with glamorous costumes of the ‘60s ‘70s and ‘80s, the bright colours of the projected sets and stage lighting especially during the psychedelic numbers along with an orchestra and the nostalgia of the music was a real treat for the senses, very fitting as this year is Motown’s 60th Anniversary. This is not a ‘Juke Box’ musical with back to back songs but tells the early history of Motown, I would have liked to see a bit more of the relationships between the artists such as Smokey Robinson marrying Claudette Rodgers one of the Miracles.
Motown the Musical is showing at the Opera House, Manchester until Saturday, March 23rd Tickets from ATGTICKETS/ MANCHESTER.com. Box Office 0844 871 3018 or book in person.
My interview with Nathan Lewis, Smoky Robison by Ian Robert Hills is available to listen to on Mixcloud
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Rocky Horror Show Manchester Opera House 10th January 2019

The biggest party in town comes to the Manchester Opera House.

Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll musical returns to Manchester as part of a sell-out worldwide tour started life in 1973 in London.

It became a cult Hollywood movie in 1975 starring Tim Curry as the cross-dressing Transvestite alien scientist Doctor Frank-N-Furter and Susan Sarandon as Sharon.

Rocky Horror Show is a campy, musical spoof on the haunted-castle / sci-fi, alien B movie in a 1970s glam-rock world.

This classic musical extravaganza stars Coronation Street star Beverley Callard (Liz McDonald) as the Narrator with Strictly Come Dancing Champion Joanne Clifton as Janet and A1’s Ben Adams as Brad. West End star Stephen Webb plays the role of Frank and Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff with Miragle Change as Columbia, Laura Harrison as Magenta and Callum Evans as Rocky.

Directed by Christopher Luscombe and featuring timeless classics, including Sweet Transvestite, Damn it Janet and, of course, the pelvic-thrusting Time Warp, The Rocky Horror Show is the story of two squeaky clean college kids, Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down with a flat tyre outside a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor Dr. Scott, they are led inside by Riff Raff the Butler to meet the Master, the charismatic Doctor Frank’n’Furter and his wild guests and then the fun begins.

Beverley Callard our narrator starts telling us the tale with some lively heckling from the audience to which her put-downs are wonderful and soon we are on our feet singing and doing the ‘Time Warp’ as Frank-N-Furter dramatic entrance and under his cloak, he is wearing a Basque, stockings and high heeled boots strutting centre stage. The madness continues when we enter his laboratory where he has created Rocky with a perfectly formed tanned body in Leopard skin speedos. Lots of fun, debauchery, down and dirty with Brad and Janet with Frank to the attack by the aliens on the earthlings, it’s fun and fabulous with everybody in the audience up on their feet singing and dancing along to this fantastic 1970’s Glam Rock production.

Visually stunning, fabulous costumes and a brilliant movie like set adds to the total production. It was like going to a party with many of the audience dressed up for the occasion as transvestite Frank and as Sharon in her underwear added to the fun. Not to be missed.

Manchester Opera House till 26th January. ATGTICKETS.COM/MANCHESTER

Reviewed by Ian Hills, Wythenshawe FM 97.2 Media.

 

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Cinderella Opera House Manchester

Pic copyright Phil Tragen

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2

This magical family pantomime stars Coronation Street’s Connor McIntyre (Pat Phelan) and TV presenter, comedian and actor Les Dennis as the Ugly Sisters, alongside pop star turned theatre star Gareth Gates as Prince Charming.

Joining them are CBBC’s Shannon Flynn (Dani’s Castle, Friday Download, Waterloo Road) in the title role, alongside comedian Ben Nickless as Buttons, Soul singer Hayley-Ria Christian as the Fairy Godmother, Jack Wilson as Dandini and the Stalder Academy of Dance.

We follow Cinders as she transforms from rags to riches, outwits her very Ugly Sisters, and, with the help of her best friend Buttons and one very magical Fairy Godmother, wins the heart of the dashing Prince Charming.

Cinderella features all the ingredients of the perfect pantomime; a fabulous orchestra, laugh-out-loud comedy, superb casting, spectacular stage sets, jaw-dropping special effects, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses.

The big names this year are Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis as wonderful, over-the-top dames who play the show’s ugly sisters, Phelina and Michaela. Coronation Street fans will have plenty to laugh at – look out for their song “I Gotta Phelan” and each entrance featuring increasingly outrageous, hilarious outfits.

Chart-topping Gareth Gates is the handsome Prince Charming. With plenty of Pop Idol gags, my personal favourite was: “We really wanted Will Young but he was booked up.” Gareth Gates sings his biggest hit ‘Unchained Melody’ when he falls for Cinderella, played by CBBC’s Shannon Flynn.

Buttons (played by Ben Nickless) as the lovelorn best friend of Cinderella, brought us celebrity impressions and hilarious comedy routines that I have never seen before. Soul singer Hayley-Ria Christian as the Fairy Godmother is a delight.

The transformation scene of Cinders to a Princess and the pumpkin and mice to a crystal coach and flying horses offers the most magical panto effects I have ever seen at the Opera House, something you might expect to see in Las Vegas.

If you enjoy a traditional pantomime you will enjoy this Cinderella and leave the theatre in a festive mood this Christmas.

Cinderella is on at the Opera House until December 30th with performances at 7pm and matinees each day except Tuesdays (Check online for times).

For tickets phone the Box Office on 0844 871 3018 or call in person 90 minutes before a performance. For online bookings go to atgtickets.com/Manchester.

[Pic:Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn starring in Cinderella – Phil Tragen Photography]

 

 

 

 

 

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Wicked the Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, Palace Theatre, Manchester

Review by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2

A Witch’s broom has been seen parked up by the Stage Door of the Palace Theatre, which can only mean one thing, Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, is in the building.

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire’s acclaimed 1995 novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, re-imagines the Land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story, written by L. Frank Baum, and first published as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ in 1900.

’Wicked’ tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.

Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Having seen Amy Ross in her role as Elphaba from ‘Wicked’ singing at the Manchester Christmas lights switch on, I was very impressed with her powerful and beautiful voice which had me looking forward to seeing the production at the Palace Theatre.

Having worked on a production of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and having seen the classic film which made a star of Judy Garland in 1939, I am very familiar with the storyline so I was very interested in this prequel which tells us the story of Glinda and Elphaba, before the moment at which ‘The Wizard of Oz’ starts, but also runs in a parallel timeline, overlapping the events of its forerunner.

The curtain rises on a on huge clockwork dragon roaring and piercing us with its bright red eyes. As monkeys bounced onto the stage, the performance was off to a fiery start, all housed inside a massive fantastic constellation clock setting.

Glinda’s arrival on the clock’s pendulum from above, as the princess, could outshine the arrival of the singer Cher who comes to Manchester next October. Not Disney, nor Barbie, is this Princess; she is smart, sassy and with a ‘wicked’ sense of humour.

At Shiz University of Sorcery we meet the students Glinda (Helen Woolf), Elphaba, (Amy Ross), Madame Morrible (beautifully played by Kim Ismay), and the love interest of both girls, Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell).

In other notable scenes, we meet the Wizard of Oz/Doctor Dillamond (Steven Pinder) and the classic scene from the film where the tornado blows Dorothy’s house away and the denizens of the Emerald City, dazzling in every shade of green. We also get to see how the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and Toto the Dog come together.

With a 15-piece orchestra and 20 wonderful songs, both the solos and duos by Helen Woolf and Amy Ross were beautifully sung. The big number of the show, ‘Defying Gravity’, with the full cast was truly spectacular and a huge hit with the audience.

The combination of great cast of over 30, the incredible sets, wonderful lighting, visual and sound effects, brilliant costumes, wigs and makeup, made it a truly outstanding production from London’s West End.

If you want to see something totally different this Christmas this is the show to see.

‘Wicked’ is on until 5th January 2019.

For tickets contact the Palace Theatre box office on 0844 871 3019.

Book online at atgtickets.com/Manchester

 

 

 

 

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Kinky Boots UK Tour arrives alive and kicking at the Manchester Opera House

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2  13th November 2018

Since winning the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Kinky Boots is the winner of every major Best Musical award and is the most anticipated show to tour the UK this year. Based on a true story when a London based store specialising in glamour wear for Transvestites and Drag Queens wanted some high heeled boots in men’s sizes contacted a shoe factory in Northampton who produced handmade shoes.

It was brought to life by author Harvey Fierstein for the theatre and was made into a feature film in 2005. With songs by Grammy and Tony winning Cyndi Lauper, this fabulous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. 0

Kinky Boots takes you from the factory floor to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price, played by Joel Harper Jackson, is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son with the shoe factory future hanging in the balance help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, played by Callum Francis, a Drag Queen performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Kinky Boots stars two different characters, we have Charlie from Northampton set to inherit the family shoe factory and Lola, Simon who is a performer in a London Drag Queen club they both have a problem with their fathers which is revealed later.

The opening scene takes place inside the Price and Sons beautiful Victorian shoe factory with the big musical numbers including some brilliant dancing and singing on a moving conveyor belt When we see Simon as Lola in the night club ‘The Land of  Lola’ dressed in a long red sequin dress, full wig, makeup and in red boots you don’t see Simon but a fabulous Lola strutting down the stage with an impressive command of stilettos that most women could only dream of with his six Angels. It’s the first time we hear the fabulous singing voice of Callum Francis and what an entrance.

Charlie realises thigh-high boots for drag queens could be the niche market he needs to save the shoe factory, he invites Lola and the Angels to the factory to design the kinky boots.  The end of Act 1 for me has one of the best Cyndi Lauper songs ‘Everybody Says Yeah’.

Act two is getting the high heeled boots ready for the most prestigious footwear show in Milan, a wonderful moment when Lola and the Angels arrived at the midlands-based shoe factory to meet the workers. Time is running out to have the boots ready for the Milan show tempers are short the workers walk out, and Lola goes back home to Clacton, but all is not lost the kinky boots are finally ready, Lola and the Angels arrive back to save the show as the Italian models have not been booked through lack of funds. In Milan Lola and the Angels sashaying down the walkway as transvestites dressed in glamorous outfits with thigh high heeled boots, they are the new stars of the shoe fashion world and the factory is saved.

Paula Lane, Lauren (ex Coronation Street) returns as one of the factory girls makes the character her own and is the love interest when she falls for her new boss Charlie, told in her very moving solo ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ I enjoyed Don, Demitri Lampra’s, another factory worker performance who takes on Simon in a boxing match.  My favourite songs in act 2 are Hold me in your Heart and Raise you Up/Just Be had the audience on their feet.

Kinky Boots has a great cast, flamboyant, theatrical, camp, celebrates drag culture, very funny and sad, with music and songs by Cyndi Lauper. It  is a fabulous production, one of the best shows in Manchester this year.

Finally on a personal note, I was part of a BBC TV crew who filmed the late Cilla Black when she visited a men’s shoe factory in Northampton, it would be a wonderful coincidence if it was the same factory Kinky Boots was based on in true life.

Showing at the Opera House till Saturday 1st December.

Ticket Box Office 0844 871 3018. Online www.atgtickets.com/manchester.

 

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Christmas Pudding Dash Sunday 2nd December in Wythenshawe Park

Hundreds of local people will be pudding their best foot forward for a special event this weekend in aid of St Ann’s Hospice.

Families from across Greater Manchester will gather in Wythenshawe Park on Sunday 2nd December to take part in the eighth Manchester Christmas Pudding 5- Mile Dash.

The festive race – where Christmas-themed fancy dress is encouraged – comprises a two-lap, flat, off-road course, using the footpaths, fields and trails in the park.  Suitable for both experienced runners and beginners, there’s also a 2.5 mile course, for those not wanting to take on the full 5 mile distance. A children’s race is also available for youngsters wishing to join the festive fun.

Organised by Nice Work, the annual event has proven popular with runners who enjoy the Christmas puddings and other festive goodies on offer on the day, as well as receiving a medal when they cross the finish line.

Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Nice Work for choosing St Ann’s as the local charity to benefit from this year’s race.  It will be a fantastic family event, and all of the money raised in sponsorship will help us to make a real difference to the lives of the patients we care for.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Christmas-themed outfits on display on the day too, as I’ve heard there have been some brilliant ones in previous years.  It’ll be a great way to start warming up for the festive season too.

“We’d love as many people as possible to sign up to take part.  It’ll be a cracker!”

The Manchester Christmas Pudding Run starts in Wythenshawe Park at 11am on Sunday 2nd December.

For more information, or to book a place and join the race, got to the website:

https://www.nice-work.org.uk/races/manchester-pudding-dash

[Pic: Participants at last year’s Christmas Pudding Run] 

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Corrie legends open the world-famous Manchester Christmas Markets

Corrie Legends Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre were on hand to officially open this year’s Christmas Markets ahead of their appearance as the ugly sisters in the city’s panto production of Cinderella at the Opera House in Manchester

Each year millions of visitors flock to the city for the festive attraction that spreads across the city centre squares with hundreds of market stalls selling mouth-watering food and drink, and a huge selection of gift ideas to help tick off that Christmas shopping list.

Manchester’s transformation in to the UK’s Christmas capital is Celebrating 19 consecutive years in the city, traders from across the North West and Europe return to host  much-loved favourites to the Christmas Markets this year – includes the ground-breaking Yorkshire pudding burrito – who will be joined by an exciting roster of new foodie delights and craft traders.

Albert Square is the traditional hub of the Manchester Christmas Markets and will see an impressive injection of gastronomic re-invention, from the brand new Amsterdam Frites stall, boasting 30 different toppings and sauces over their triple cooked fries, to Zouk – a traditional curry house with two new curries every day, along with a range of veggie and vegan options.

The sweet toothed visitor will be spoilt for choice with first time trader Zara Cakes putting cupcakes to the top of the menu, and a desert stall of pure imagination as Charlotte and the Chocolate Factory load topping after topping onto fresh, warm brownies.

For the social media obsessives, St Anne’s Square welcomes the Birdie photo booth – a vintage VW Campervan where visitors can get free print outs of their snaps, which will also be automatically shared to Twitter using #MCRChristmas. Last year, Manchester was the most Instagrammed Christmas Market in Europe and this is your chance to be part of the celebration.

A new Bubble Waffle bar will continue the sweet treats on St Ann’s Square and traditional British favourites will be on the menu with Ginger Vikings Deserts on Market Street – think Christmas puds and trifles.

New Cathedral Street welcomes a visitor favourite café in the making, as Bar No3 arrives outside Harvey Nichols. Taking inspiration from modern ski-lodge architecture, Bar No3 will be purveyors of the finer things in life, including espresso martinis and honey cream infused gin cocktails amongst a variety of other offerings.

King Street is known for its more relaxed atmosphere and fine food, and new trader Eat Grk will bring a taste of the Mediterranean to Manchester with warming gyros and halloumi fries.

Another key hub, Exchange Square hosts an eclectic range of food stalls from authentic Italian pizza and arancini to Elsie May’s Brownies and her shimmering Rose Gold Prosecco. the traditional favourites – bratwurst and mulled wine – will be available in abundance nestled alongside some of the best pop-up and street food vendors the city has to offer.

Cathedral Gardens will reprise its role as the family-friendly area of the Christmas Markets where younger visitors can escape the crowds and enjoy some free festive activities.

The festive family area at Cathedral Gardens will be completely reimagined this year as the UK’s first dedicated ice attraction comes to Manchester.

The Ice Village Manchester is a breath-taking snowy experience, complete with Ice Cavern, ice sculptures and frozen ice bar – all carved using 250 tonnes of solid ice.

Heaton Park’s “A Place to Potter” will also be in Cathedral Gardens for the first time, inviting youngsters to paint a pot (or Santa) in a specially built marquee attraction. A Place to Potter is completely free, but visitors can book ahead. Details to book your slot will be available soon.

Long-time Christmas Market favourites will also make their expected appearance. The limited edition Christmas Market mugs are back with a brand new design (get yours quick, before the run out) and the undisputed king of Christmas in Manchester – the giant Santa – will take up his usual perch in front of town hall.

As always the Giant Santa will be taking to twitter to provide his sometimes peculiar take on the city’s festivities. Follow him @MCRSanta.

Follow all the Christmas conversation using #MCRChristmas

And find out more: www.manchester.gov.uk/christmasmarkets

 

Take a look at our video at the opening of the Christmas Markets