Blood Brothers, The Lowry, Until Saturday 7 September
Belonging among the true greats of British musical theatre alongside The Phantom, Oliver! and Billy Elliot, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers has been hoarding awards, critical acclaim and audience devotion for over a quarter of a century. Combining a great score, comedy, tragedy and an exploration of the British class system, no show has ever aroused such ardent adoration as Blood Brothers (how Hollywood hasn’t turned it into a God-awful flop I don’t know). If you’ve never seen it, it’s been performed over 10,000 times so come on, get a wobble on.
Tickets £24 - £36. Book here.
Also at the Lowry in September:
Formby, Vive le Cabaret, Sarah Millican, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, Sean Lock and Educating Rita. See here for tickets and listings at the Lowry.
An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, Bolton Octagon Theatre, Thursday 5 September - Saturday 5 October
Lies, deceit, affairs and the stiff upper lips of the higher echelons of Victorian life. Why, they go hand in hand like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and daft long names. J B Priestley’s most famous work, An Inspector Calls, has been produced on stage, radio, TV and in film multiple times since its first performance back in 1945. The Birlings are celebrating, their daughter is engaged, but their jovial gathering is interrupted by a mysterious inspector. A young woman has committed suicide and the Birlings each know more than they’re letting on.
Tickets £9 - £24. Book here.
Also at the Bolton Octagon in September:
Cabaret with Will Young, Opera House, Monday 9 September - Saturday 14 September
Will Young, Pop-Idol champion and Gareth Gates vanquisher has racked up over nine million record sales in a career spanning just over a decade (yes it’s been that long already), he’s also had critics fawning at his achingly tiny leather shorts. Young is reprising his Olivier-nominated role as Emcee in Rufus Norris’ production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, made famous through the renowned movie version with Liza Minnelli. Cabaret, in all its forms, has racked up eight Oscars, seven BAFTAs and thirteen Tonys. Minnelli also got the Oscar, as well as an ex-husband that looks as if Victor Frankstein melted together Dracula and Luciano Pavarotti.
Tickets £18 - 54. Book here.
Also at the Opera House this September:
Ha Ha Holmes, Three Phantoms, The Osmands, An Evening of Burlesque and The Rat Pack. See here for tickets and listings at the Opera House.
The Moscow State Circus, Heaton Park from Wednesday 11 September - Sunday 15 September, Tatton Park from Tuesday 17 September - Sunday 22 September.
Ok not technically theatre, or comedy for that matter, but a spectacle it certainly is. The Moscow State Theatre resides alongside the Chinese and Cirque du Soleil as the best circuses in the world. It would appear those who fall under the hammer and sickle make quite the accomplished circus performers (except the Soleil, they’re Canadian). Perhaps it’s the fear of the firing squad. With the largest and most grandiose performance to date, set in the mythical centre of Moscow’s cultural and artistic quarter, Park Gorkogo, there’ll be flying, back flipping, juggling, roller skating, pendulums and a clown or two guffawing about. Oh the larks.
£5 - £16. Follow @MoscowSTCircus here.
Bill Bailey: Qualmpeddler, The Lowry, Saturday 14 September - Sunday15 September
At first Bill Bailey had doubts about the modern world. But now they’re qualms, fully fledged qualms, and lots of them. The weirdy beardy wonderfully witty Klingon-look-a-likey comedian will be exploring these feelings of apprehension and all round unease with his usual mixture of musical mash-ups and surreal philosophising. Expect Religious Dubstep. The new pontiff loves wobble bass.
Tickets £27. Book here.
Wicked, The Palace Theatre, Thursday 12 September - Saturday 16 November
Having already sold over 85,000 tickets at the Palace, organisers have had to add two extra dates to the ten-week season to meet with demand. So it may be an idea to get in there sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment, that or mug someone outside for tickets but I’ve always found that to be ethically questionable. Still, availability for the Lion King was waning. Anyway, Wicked recounts the untold story of the Witches of Oz, which, from a revisionary perspective, starts with that horrible wartish green one from Oz, not actually being that horrible at all. That’s thrown the cat amongst the pigeons hasn’t it. Or Toto amongst the winged monkeys.
Tickets £20 - £75. Book here.
Honourable September mentions:
Former rapper turned comedian, Ricky Gervais collaborator and that guy that was in Derek and The Inbetweeners for a few minutes, Doc Brown, heads to the Dancehouse, Oxford Road, on Friday 27 September. While over at the Royal Exchange Theatre Michael Buffong returns to direct Arthur Miller’s landmark play, All My Sons.
20 Stories High: Melody Loses Her Mojo, Tuesday 1 October - Saturday 5 October
This bold and gritty story fuses hip hop theatre, dance, puppetry and street art to follow the amazing journeys of three remarkable young people, whose stories intertwine in a world full of magical and surreal moments. Melody is in the care system and is out of control... the only thing that is constant in Melody’s life is her toy monster - Mojo. Blessing has come from Nigeria to stay with an ‘Aunty’, but when the relationship breaks down, she is trapped in the care system and longs to be back with her Nana in Lagos. Rizla has just left the care system. He has been taken in by some older guys in the local hostel and has found his new ‘family’.
£6 - £11. Book here.
Also at the Contact in October:
Comedy Playground, The Ugly Sisters, Mess and Zhe. See here for tickets and listings at the Contact theatre.
The Illusionists, O2 Apollo Manchester, Friday 4 October - Saturday 5 October
We got thoroughly illusioned by a mentalist recently. Philip ‘The Mentalist’ Escoffey to be precise. Perplexed doesn’t do it justice. Philip makes up one-seventh of The Illusionists, a rabble of seven world-renowned magicians banded together to bend the mind, drop jaws and thoroughly frustrate us cynics the world over. Launched in January 2012, The Illusionists: Witness The Impossible have performed sell-out shows across Australia and South America, seen by 73,000 people in Sydney and Mexico City alone. That Mentalist told us: "We’re trying to do for magic what Cirque du Soleil did for circus. It’s contemporary, it’s edgy and aesthetic. If you’re into magic then it’s as good as it gets.” Well, It turned me (see here), and I’m as cynical as Victor Meldrew, Malcolm Tucker and Ian Hislop sat around a Ouija board with Colin Fry.
Tickets £38 - £45.50. Book here.
Also at the Apollo this October:
Crow-haired serial Hollywood bonker Russell Brand. See here for tickets and listings at the Apollo.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show… Live!, Opera House, Tuesday 8 Tuesday - Wednesday 9 October
“The answer to the Great Question… of life, the Universe and everything… is 42.” Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide became an instant classic when it hit BBC Radio 4 in 1978. Exploring the absurdity of life, our purpose and more engaging philosophical questions than it’s usually given credit for, such as ‘what is normal?’ and ‘what are cows?’ Adams timeless creation comes back to life with this new stage-cum-radio show employing surround sound, really weird sound effects, depressive robots and drinks with really silly names, such as the delightfully sounding Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, ‘the best drink in existence’. Drinking one is akin to having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick. Not unlike Chartreuse then.
Tickets £22 - £32.50. Book here.
Also at the Opera House this October:
The Vagina Monologues, The Magic of Motown, Go Back for Murder and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. See here for tickets and listings at the Opera House.
Jesus Christ Superstar, Phones4U Arena, Friday 11 October
This Webber and Rice stage show has been tweaked and beefed for an arena format with the lead, Jesus (Ben Forster) cast from an ITV Talent show (that I’m pretty sure nobody has heard of – Superstar anybody?), former Spice Girl and the-one-that-could-sing Mel C as Mary Magdalene, Oz funnyman Tim Minchin as Judas and Chris Moyles in a leering turn as Herod (the one that was partial to infanticide), a game show host in red velvet demanding the audience declare Jesus either a fraud or not. This arena adaptation delivers heavy musical numbers, powering ballads and the obligatory acrobatics going-on all over the shop. Well, it is an arena tour, and nobody has produced an arena tour without a backflip since 1968 when the back flip was invented, along with the computer mouse.
Tickets £62 - £73 (how much?). Book here if you’re Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud.
Also at the Arena this October:
Ice-skating spectacular Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream. See here for tickets and listings at the Arena.
Animal Farm, Oldham Coliseum, Wednesday 16 October - Thursday 17 October
George Orwell’s abiding political satire and dystopian novel remains as applicable today as it did in 1945. A socialist at heart, Orwell became a critic of both communism and capitalism, with influences for the novel garnered primarily from the rule and iron fist of de facto Soviet Union leader, Joseph Stalin. It’s a damning account of the twisting of socialist ideology based around a farm, in which the chief revolutionaries begin to adopt the characteristics of the banished despot Farmer and prophetically declare: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ This fast-moving dramatisation of Orwell’s satire remains faithful to the spirit of the original.
Tickets £5. Book here.
Also at the Oldham Coliseum this October:
Chicago, Romeo & Juliet, No Fat Juliets and Betrayal. See here for tickets and listings at the Coliseum.
A Clockwork Orange, The Lowry, Monday 21 October - Saturday 26 October
Action To The Word’s critically lauded sweaty and vesty all-male version of A Clockwork Orange, banned for 27 years, is a muscle-bound, high-octane and testosterone-filled physical theatre ‘horrorshow’ that captures and transcends the spirit of Anthony Burgess’ original literary masterpiece. A Clockwork Orange lures its audience into the glorious glass-edged nastiness of Manchester’s underworld. A playtime of pornographic ultra-violence and sexuality, it is the story of Alex and his Droogs in their battle against the tedium of adolescence. Never did a codpiece carry such threatening connotations.
£16 - £20. Book here.
Also at The Lowry this October:
Fiddler on the Roof, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Tin Ring, People, After the Rainfall and The House that Stank of Death. See here for tickets and listings at the Lowry.
Honourable October mentions:
Crow-haired serial Hollywood bonker, modern day dandy and annoyingly funny Russell Brand brings his Messiah Complex World Tour to the O2 Apollo on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 October, while Alan Bennett’s acclaimed new comedy, People, arrives at The Lowry from Tuesday 15 to Saturday 19 October. If you fancy a bit of blue head to 51 Shades of Maggie at the Stockport Plaza from Monday 7 to Wednesday 9 October.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Royal Exchange, Friday 1 November - Monday 30 November
The Exchange welcomes a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical theatre classic, packed with Sondheim’s characteristic dark witticism. Torn away from his family on a miscarriage of justice and exiled for 15 years, Sweeney Todd returns to London, a city as corrupt and rotten as when he left. He soon discovers the agonising truth about his wife and daughter. Hell-bent on revenge Todd takes up his razors and becomes the most infamous barber of all time. Dishing up his brutal recipe for justice with the help of enterprising pie-maker Mrs Lovett, Sweeney Todd begins to clean up London the only way he knows how. The throat-slitty way.
Tickets £10 - £36. Book here.
Also at the Exchange this November:
Flesh and Firearms and Fingertips. See here for tickets and listings at the Exchange.
Singin’ in the Rain, Opera House, Saturday 9 November-Saturday 30 November
Bit of a wet one this. Based on the 1952 MGM musical comedy film directed and starring Gene Kelly, Jonathan Church’s production of Singin’ in the Rain uses over 12,000 litres of water. Three questions then really: 1. Do British Water know? 2. Where does twelve tonnes of water go? 3. How big is that meter? Telling the story of the first Hollywood musical, when the silver screen found its voice and for a very brief moment in time, made tap dancing enjoyable. Packed full of nostalgia, romance, charm, laughs and a touch of tinsel town, the production features stage hits Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh and wettest of them all, Singin’ in the Rain.
Tickets £15 - £50. Book here.
Here’s a snippet of Gene to get you in the mood:
War Horse, The Lowry, Wednesday 20 November - Saturday 18 January
Regularly celebrated as a masterpiece and the best theatrical event of the decade, Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse at its peak was earning up to £3m a year in the West End, won five Tony awards and inspired a $66 million Hollywood blockbuster adaption directed and produced by Stephen Spielberg. It also boasts the best bit of puppeteering since Rod Hull stuck his fist up Emu’s backside. War Horse recalls the powerful and harrowing tale of young farm hand Albert and his beloved horse Joey, torn from him in the throes of the Great War. Essentially Black Beauty but in the trenches, it’s the puppet mastery of South Africa’s award-winning Handspring Puppet Company that steals the show.
Tickets £23 - £90. Book here.
Also at The Lowry this November:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alistair McGowan, Toro! Toro! See here for tickets and listings at The Lowry.
Mickey Flanagan, Phones4u Arena, Thursday 21 November - Friday 22 November
Beginning his working life in a furniture factory, moving on to Billingsgate fish market then washing pots in New York, Mickey didn’t grasp the stage mic until his mid-30s whilst working as a painter and decorator, when he realised that he was actually pretty funny. Maintaining the now fundamental initiatory path through TV comedy quiz shows such as Never Mind Mocking the QI of 8 out of 10 Cats in a League of Their Own as I’ve Got News For You, Flanagan is now one of the most bankable comedians in the country. He also possesses the most laughable articulation since Joe Pasquale… but he wasn’t that funny. Mickey is. Quite an important trait as a comedian.
Tickets £30. Book here.
Honourable November mentions:
The one-night twentieth anniversary production of Rent at the Palace Theatre on Friday 29 November, whilst from the author of War Horse comes Toro! Toro!, a boy/bull love story set in amongst the shadow of the Spanish civil (so just swap the horse for a bull-calf and the Great War for the Spanish civil war) at The Lowry from Thursday 21 to Friday 22 November. Over in Sale at the Waterside Arts Centre, Wrong: The Musical is, well, doing musicals all wrong.
That Day We Sang, Royal Exchange, Saturday 7 December - Saturday 18 January
Comedian, Prestwichian and for want of a better expression, ‘national treasure’ (sigh), Victoria Wood’s play is a love story told against the background of The Wimpy, The Golden Egg and Piccadilly Gardens. In the summer of '69, insurance clerk Tubby and secretary Enid are back on stage at the Free Trade Hall. Granada Television are recording a documentary celebrating the forty years since they first stood there as children, singing their hearts out with fellow school pupils and accompanied by the Hallé Orchestra. This is the humorous, warm and uplifting story of two people who are trying to reconnect with who they were then and who they could be now.
Tickets £16 - £36. Book here.
West Side Story, The Palace Theatre, Tuesday 10 December - Saturday 4 January
Arguably one of the most significant and best-loved musicals ever created, West Side Story transports Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet back to 1950s New York City, as two young idealistic lovers find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. With choreography by the renowned Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Joey McKneely’s production of West Side Story is sure to be cool, real cool Daddy-O.
Tickets £18 - £60. Book here.
And then I’m afraid we descend into the cultural no man's land that is the Panto period.
Peter Pan, Jingle Bells, Dick Whittington and a dancing dog.
‘He’s behind you,’
Follow David on Twitter @david8blake