Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Northern Stage – until 2 June 2018

Reviewed by Andrew Harrison


Frankie and Johnny are both single, have been on a date and ended up at Frankie’s New York Apartment, which is where we get our first glimpse of them, through the sounds we can hear we are left under no illusions as to how this night has ended up so far. Both are in their 40’s, even though it takes them a while to admit to it and have a number of failed relationships behind them. Johnny is a cook and Frankie a waitress, over the next 2 hours we take a tender and intimate look at why it would or wouldn’t work for this couple to take this one night further.

An intimate space has been created in Stage 1 for this production, the audience facing each other, on the main stage, with the New York apartment set between them. Initially watching through net curtains, it gives you the sense you are in the apartment across looking out of your window and watching what the neighbours are up to, something Frankie obviously does regularly.

Richard Blackwood as Johnny is an unnerving character to watch, he plays it with slight insecurities of what might happen, but also a strength and confidence, which comes out when he refuses to leave the apartment. Ruth Everett as Frankie is engaging throughout with a vulnerability making you warm much more to her character than Johnny.

It does feel dated, as director Mark Calvert keeps it in its original time of mid 1980s, bringing it up to date may have given it fresher feel, but this is still a slick and well-paced production.

Exciting cast and creative team announced for Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre













An exciting cast and creative team has been announced for the hotly-anticipated, intimate revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love, which opens at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in July.

From Olivier Award nominees and West End regulars to young talent making their professional debuts – a company of 10 will be bringing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-admired musical to life under the direction of Hope Mill Theatre favourite Jonathan O’Boyle.

The production runs from Thursday 5 July to Thursday 9 August and is the third of five in-house musicals in 2018 from the successful and ambitious collaboration between Joseph Houston and William Whelton, co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre and producer Katy Lipson, from Aria Entertainment, resident producer and co-Artistic director of Hope Mill theatreand follows the hit revival of Spring Awakening, which played to standing ovations earlier this year.

Aspects of Love is based on the novel by David Garnett, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart and is directed by Jonathan O’Boyle (Hair, Pippin), and features the iconic song Love Changes Everything, which became a huge hit for Michael Ball, who starred in the original production in London and on Broadway.

It tells the story of passion, love and loss across three generations of a family and their artistic companions, against a background of 1940’s France and Italy.


Aspects of Love was first produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on 17th April 1989, where it ran for 1,325 performances before finally closing in June 1992. Since then it has toured the UK and recent productions include the Menier Chocolate Factory (2010 and more recently in Holland (2013).

It has never been professionally produced regionally in the North West making the premiere of this production a landmark theatrical event in the region, and beyond, this summer.

A hugely exciting company of 10 performers has now been announced for Aspects of Love.

Making up the cast is Kimberly Blake (Half a Sixpence, Barnum) who plays Giulietta, Jason Kajdi (Our HouseAssassins), in the role of Hugo, Felix Mosse (The Rocky Horror Show) as Alex, Julia J Nagle (An American in Paris) as Elizabeth/ensemble, Minal Patel (The Secret Garden, Bend it Like Beckham) as Marcel, Jerome Pradon (Jesus Christ Superstar, Pacific Overtures – Olivier Award Nominee 2003) as George and Kelly Price(That Day We Sang, A Little Night Music – Olivier Award Nominee 2010) in the role of Rose. Making their professional debuts in the production are Rosie Cava-Beale, ensemble, Jack Churms, as Jerome/ensemble and Eleanor Walsh as Jenny/ensemble.

Director Jonathan O’Boyle’s recent credits include Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/ Southwark Playhouse), London, Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults, London) and Resident Director of An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre, London)

The production has musical direction by Gareth Bretherton, set and costume design by Jason Denvir, choreography by Sam Spencer-Lane, Lighting design by Aaron J Dootson, sound design by Calum Robinson and casting by Jane Deitch.

Aspects of Love is produced by Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, William Whelton and Joseph Houston of Hope Mill Theatre. And co-produced with Neil Eckersley and Jim Kierstead.

Following Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre is The Return of the Soldier that runs from Thursday 6 to Saturday 29 September and A Christmas Story The Musical that runs from Friday 26 October to Saturday 1 December.



Aspects of Love

Thursday 5 July – Thursday 9 August

Hope Mill Theatre

Hope Mill, Ancoats, 113 Pollard Street

Manchester, M4 7JA

Tickets from £16. Visit


FACEBOOK: Hope Mill Theatre

TWITTER: @Hopemilltheatr1 @AspectsOf_Love

TriOperas Review

Peacock Theatre  – until 1 July 2018
Reviewed by Sharon Hinds Kennedy
Plenty of Pazazz but don’t expect Covent Garden!
Three tales of love and death are rattled through; subtleties are all dispensed with in favour of acrobatics. Carmen goes trampolining to avoid arrest. A libretto at times crude: Carmen wants to get her hands on the Matador’s buns. A small group of musicians belt out modified amplified scores of familiar arias.
At times the singers struggle. The plot of Turandot was difficult to follow (even with the subtitles) but the essential message of the Princesses’ detestation of men; replaced, in a short time, with love for Calaf was conveyed.
It wasn’t always clear how the acrobatics, and dancing added to the plot except for an impressive butterfly winging its way across the auditorium as Madam Butterfly’s spirit left the stage.
A Chinese dragon partially disguised as a bull was great fun. However, at one point in Madam Butterfly it looked and sounded as if the Geishas were attempting to copy Riverdance.
Some of the cast shone through with their stage presence: Richard Munday as Pinkerton in Butterfly and the matador in Carmen. Naoto Kaiho was also noteworthy but struggled with some of the higher notes.
Altogether lots of energy and fun but I can see why Bizet didn’t comprise operas to last 33 mins.

Summer Holiday The Musical Review

Grand Opera House York  – until Saturday 2nd June 2018.

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


This week the touring production of Summer Holiday The Musical, has hit the beautiful city of York. Based on the 1960’s iconic film starring Cliff Richard, it promised to be the feel-good musical of the year, bringing us music, fun and laughter, but did it deliver all that was promised?

This is the story of Don (Ray Quinn), a bus mechanic, who with the help of friends Steve, Edwin and Cyril, renovate an old London bus in order to escape the unpredictable English weather and have an amazing summer holiday. Their plan is to go to the South of France and visit St Tropez, after all there is guaranteed sunshine. In this case though, best laid plans go awry when they encounter a stranded group of girl singers on their way to Athens for a gig. Plans change and the bus is rerouted across the Alps to Italy and then Greece. Even then on their merry way they manage to pick up a stowaway Bobby, or should I say Barbara (Sophie Matthew), who isn’t the young lad that she pretends to be, but an American singer escaping the pressures her domineering mother has heaped upon her.

I waited in excitement, along with the audience around me, for that curtain to go up and to be whisked away on a Summer Holiday. Once the band started playing and the cast singing it became obvious that there was an issue with the sound. The band, though very good, were just far too loud and the voices of the singers far too quiet, I for one couldn’t make out anything that was being sung and listening to the comments around, I wasn’t the only one. This did go on for quite a while, but did improve when Quinn appeared on the stage, not sure if it was a mic issue or if he just had stronger vocals. As the show progressed the rest of the casts vocals were not quite as drowned out but were still not loud enough. When the bus first appears on the stage it is a sight to see, moving all over and becoming an integral part, as it should.

Quinn was a charming and charismatic Don. Quinn is a great singer and dancer, definitely the star of the show, it was engaging to watch him on the stage, a natural performer. My only criticism though was his accent. At times it was a bit all over the place and was trying to be too posh (not succeeding), after all the character is a working man from London in the 60’s.

I also enjoyed watching Billy Roberts as Steve, on the stage, a bit of a cheeky chappy who is a terrific dancer and singer, even when things were flying out of his pocket during the encore. All credit must go to the passionate cast, who were so very energetic and sang and danced their hearts out non-stop, even with the sound issues. I must mention the goats!! A surreal and totally bonkers part of the show that got me laughing in the car on the way home, even now it makes me chuckle. I’m not going to say anymore, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.

The first act was not that great but I’m glad to say that things did improve in the second act. Unfortunately the show was just lacking that special something that would, and should have made it a great show, one that I was so looking forward to. Hopefully as the tour continues things will improve and it will become the musical that it promises to be. It is worth giving this show a chance.




Jeffrey Seller and Cameron Mackintosh announce today (31 May 2018) that a new booking period for the London production of HAMILTON will go on sale on Monday 4 June 2018 at 12 noon GMT.  Tickets will then be available to be purchased for performances to Saturday 30 March 2019via official HAMILTON ticketing channels.

HAMILTON has book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is directed by Thomas Kail, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire and is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.  HAMILTON features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg and hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe.

HAMILTON is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and helped shape the very foundations of the America we know today. The score blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway – the story of America then, as told by America now.


Full ticketing information can be found on the official website at which includes details of the HAMILTON West End £10 daily Lottery.  In addition, Patrons are advised to check the official HAMILTON channels for news of late release seats which may become available at short notice.   The producers of HAMILTON are working to combat the unauthorised profiteering of third party resellers and ticket touts.  Delfont Mackintosh Theatres has pioneered for the West End a paperless ticket system for this production – HAMILTON Paperless Ticketing, powered by Ticketmaster.

HAMILTON is produced in London by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill FurmanThe Public Theater and Cameron Mackintosh.


Dates                               now booking to Saturday 30 March 2019

Theatre                            Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London SW1E 5EA

Performances                    Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm

                                      For Christmas schedule check website


Social Media            


Birdsong Review

Kings Theatre, Glasgow – until 2 June 2018

Reviewed by Linda McLaughlan


One of the most moving, emotional performances adapted for the stage I have watched in a long time.

The reality of what soldiers went through during the lead up to the Great War and the Somme was brought to minds of everyone who watched last nights performance of Birdsong. Reading the book and seeing the screen show did not allow you to feel the emotions that emanated from the stage from the remarkable performance from a truly outstanding cast. The audience were able to truly feel the fear and heroism of the brave men who fought above and below ground (known as the Sewer Rats) for a war that the truly may never have understood. Young boys who lied about their age to enlist, brothers, fathers and sons all fought shoulder to shoulder and many died, some by their own hand from fear of what lay ahead.

The performance laid bare the fears felt my many through this period of time but also a feeling of camaraderie shone through in the performance from Jack Firebrace (played by Tim Treloar), Stephen Wraysford (played by Tom Kay) and Arthur Shaw (played by Simon Lloyd). The underlying story behind the performance was one of love, lust and the longing to be home with family and in the distance throughout you could here the faint sound of the lark singing amidst the intervals of the bombings.

If you are interested in the events of the Great War and love the works of Sebastian Faulks then go see this performance….. you will not be disappointed.

This House Review

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – until Saturday 2nd June 2018

Reviewed by Melanie Torley


This House is set in 1974 and writer James Graham takes us through the political turmoil of a hung Government and Labour’s struggle to stay in power with the narrowest of seats. It’s a fictional account but has been inspired by true events.

The play starts with a select number of the audience being invited on to the stage to make up the back benches. In the middle of stage are the Whips’ offices from the two opposing parties and the fast-moving play weaves between these offices and the underbelly of Westminster. The scenery captures the essence of the Palace of Westminster wonderfully.

There are a lot of strong character’s throughout the show and special mention has to go to Martin Marquez (Bob Mellish) and William Chubb (Humphrey Atkins) who both portray their characters to a tee. Natalie Grady plays the strong woman Ann Taylor who is trying to make her way in a male orientated world, and manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and hold her own quite nicely. Then there’s the minister who is brought in to Westminster less than a week after giving birth and has to breastfeed in the Whips office, causing much consternation. There’s a brilliant moment in the show when Louise Ludgate (MP for Coventry South West) shows her defiance of the Whips.

This review wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the live band, who supported the cast throughout the show.

All in all I would say this is a show worth seeing. There’s some genuine laugh out loud moments and will keep you on the edge of your seat with all the high and lows of the political engine room.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical Review

Grand Theatre, Leeds – until 2 June 2018


Although I know who Carole King is – my parents had a vinyl version of Tapestry – I wasn’t aware just how many songs she was responsible for.  Thankfully now I’ve seen Beautiful in Leeds, my music knowledge is slightly more complete.

Bronte Barbe stars as King in the show’s first (and hopefully not last) national tour.  From the emotive vulnerable performance of Its Too Late and resilient You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, Barbe’s performance is flawless and awe-inspiring.  Her excellent Brooklyn accent serves as a constant reminder of her humble roots and her striving not just for success but for the normality of suburbia.

Covering the early part of the singer’s career as 17-year-old Carole Klein, living with her divorced mother, Genie, (Carol Royal) in Brooklyn. Working with lyricist-boyfriend Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry), the story focuses on the struggle and the heartache that preceded the breakout success of King’s 1971 Grammy-winning solo album Tapestry, including the hits most associate with her today.

After meeting with producer Donnie  Kirshner (Adam Howden), Carole gets her lucky break composing while she attends high school with Gerry.  The two produce their first hit Some Kind of Wonderful followed by Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. With King-Goffin songs like Up on the Roof, The Locomotion (sung by their real-life babysitter, Little Eva) and One Fine Day, the soundtrack is boosted by friendly rival songwriting duo Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves) and Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson), who contribute immortal tunes like the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and The Drifters’ On Broadway.  The pair effortlessly complement Barbe and Parry.  Richardson strong and sassy as Cynthia and Gonsalves awkward but lovable as Mann.  

Unlike many Jukebox musicals which shoehorn songs into a weak and questionable plot, Beautiful has a true story to tell, and it doesn’t shy away from the facts.  With marriage, success and two babies, all seems right with King’s life just as Goffin starts exhibiting signs of mental stress and infidelity.  Parry embodies the role with swagger, warmth and intensity – seducing the audience with velvet vocals and boyish charm. Despite his flaws, you warm to his portrayal of the broken and mentally unstable Goffin and empathise with his plight

The many iconic stars of the 60’s and 70’s (Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers, The Shirelles, Little Eva) are all played by the ensemble, the choreography by Josh Prince along with the talented vocals and high energy drive the show forward.  The live band create the sound of the 60’s under the Musical Direction by Patrick Hurley

While many audience members recall the songs from the days when they were still hits, everyone can enjoy Beautiful. The songs are timeless.  And King’s struggle to enjoy life and her realisation that she too can sing her own songs leading her to become a true musical phenomenon.  Catch the show in Leeds until Saturday and on tour around the UK, then you too like me can sit and have the startling realisation of just how prolific and talented Carole King really is 

Full casting confirmed for End Of The Pier at Park Theatre

Park Theatre presents the World Premiere of

11 July – 11 August 2018| Park Theatre

Les Dennis, Nitin GanatraTala Gouveia and Blake Harrison are to star in powerful new black comedy End Of The Piercoming to Park Theatre from 11 July. As a former national treasure begins to reflect on his fading career and embrace his dimming stardom, his life is upended by the surprise arrival of the nation’s favourite young comedian.


Bobby (Les Dennis) was once a household name with 20 million TV viewers – but now the laughter has faded. Resigned to a life of solitude and second-rate panto performances, his glory days are behind him. When Michael (Blake Harrison), the nation’s favourite comedian, arrives at his door asking desperately for help to save his career, Bobby is unwillingly thrown into the limelight once again. A dark question lurks behind the laughs: What if, inside, you’re not the person everyone thinks you are?


‘I used to dream of people remembering my jokes. Now I just wish they’d forget.’


End of the Pier is penned by acclaimed writer Danny Robins (Rudy’s Rare Records, starring Lenny Henry at Hackney Empire and on Radio 4, and Radio 4’s The Cold Swedish Winter). The production is directed by Hannah Price, Co-Artistic Director and Founder of Theatre Uncut, whose directing credits include Again(Trafalgar Studios), Call to Prayer (Southwark Playhouse) and The Rise of the Right (The Young Vic).


Les Dennis is one of the UK’s best-known entertainers. Born in Liverpool, he came to prominence as a comedian in the 1970s after honing his craft on the northern Working Men’s Club circuit and turning pro after a winning set on Opportunity Knocks. He became a stalwart of Saturday Night TV in the 80s and 90s, starring in TV comedies including The Russ Abbot Show and The Les Dennis Laughter Show performing sketches and impressions, and most famously as the host of Family Fortunes between 1987 and 2002 on ITV. His stage credits include The Addams Family (UK Tour), She Loves Me (Menier Chocolate Factory) and Spamalot (West End).


Blake Harrison starred in three series and two subsequent films of the multi-award-winning comedy The Inbetweeners. His other film credits include the 2016 remake of Dad’s Army (in which he played Private Pike), Keeping Rosy and Madness in the Method. Harrison’s TV work includes three series of US comedy The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, as well as A Very English Scandal, Prime Suspect: 1973, Trust Me, Way to Go and Him & Her. His stage credits include Step 9 of 12 (Trafalgar Studios). He recently made his directorial debut with the short film Hooves of Clay.


In addition to his popular role as Masood Ahmed in EastEnders (BBC One), Nitin Ganatra’s stage roles have included Animal Farm (Belgrade Theatre), As I Lay Dying (Young Vic), D’Yer Eat With Your Fingers? (Stratford East Theatre) and Haroun and the Sea of Stories (National Theatre).  


Tala Gouveia is best known for her roles in Scream Street (CBBC), Fit (CBBC), Tracey Ullman’s Show (BBC One) and Love Sick (Channel 4). Her stage credits include The Here and This and Now (Southwark Playhouse), Husbands and Sons (National Theatre), The Mountaintop (New Vic Theatre) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Globe).

The Rink Review

Southwark Playhouse – until 23 June

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


It’s lucky that Southwark Playhouse is relocating, because this magnificent production of the Rink is guaranteed to blow the roof of this building at every performance. Last seen in London nearly 20 years ago, Kander and Ebb’s boardwalk musical is a must see.

Set in a dilapidated roller skating rink in a failing boardwalk community, Anna has sold up and is planning to leave town. As the demolition crew set to work, Anna’s estranged daughter Angel reappears after 7 years and cannot accept the fate of her childhood home. Seemingly lost and rootless, Angel clings to her past and the rink, full of happy but idealised memories of her father. Anna’s memories are more realistic and bittersweet, and she just wants to start afresh. Flashbacks slowly reveal the truth and pain of the women’s lives as they struggle to find common ground. Yes, it’s not exactly action-packed, and every word is designed to emotionally manipulate you, but when it’s Terrence McNally’s gritty and witty book that’s putting you through the ringer, you are more than happy to go along for the ride. Throw in some of Fred Ebb’s bitchiest lyrics, and you’re in musical heaven. Joe Bunker’s band make every note count, but the final minutes are accompanied, not by music, but by the snuffles and sniffles of the audience as the emotional tsunami finally overwhelms.

The show relies on casting two strong leading ladies, and Adam Lenson has hit the double jackpot with Caroline O’Connor and Gemma Sutton as the warring women. Their chemistry is phenomenal, and both give powerhouse performances full of fire and passion but always revealing the underlying sense of loss. The six-strong male ensemble, multi-roling as the demolition team and people from the women’s past, are brilliant. As Dino, Angel’s long-lost father, broken by the Korean War, Stewart Clarke is unforgettable. Seamlessly slipping between playing nuns, teenage thugs or middle-aged women (Ross Dawes and Ben Redfern in the fantastic What Happened To The Old Days?), the ensemble showcases Fabian Aloise’s fantastic choreography, especially in a showstopping performance of The Rink (on roller skates of course) that will make you want to leap from your seat with joy.

This production of The Rink is sheer perfection. This is one of the best shows and best casts I’ve ever seen – grab your ticket, and tissues, NOW.