Theatre Review: Hairspray at the Grand Opera House Belfast

You can’t stop the beat… or the fantastic cast of Hairspray the musical at Grand Opera House Belfast this week. Hairspray is infectious, it’s cheesy and it’s just one of those fabulous feel good musicals. You can’t help but sing and dance along. The tunes get stuck in your head for weeks and you are green with envy at the cast members as they strut their stuff on stage.

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If you don’t know the story of Tracy Turnblad where have you been?! Hairspray is the story of a big girl (curvy, plus size whatever label you want to use) with big hair in Baltimore in the 60’s. Tracy is inspirational she wants to achieve her dreams to dance on national TV, she wants to win equality and like most teenagers she wants prince charming to come and sweep her off her feet. I first encountered the tale through the movie adaption in 2007 and immediately fell in love with the charm, the show tunes and Zac Efron’s Link Larkin. Hairspray got a Live TV debut last year by NBC with a host of stars but regrettably this was the first time I got a chance to see the musical onstage.

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The stage show adds some much more depth to the characters and so many more elements of talent. The actors are all in their own right triple threats, they dance, they sing and they truly entertain. This latest touring production courtesy of Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers is sure to put a bounce in your step and I smile on your face.
The show is staged with moving red brick houses and projected scenery this means that the stage space is left somewhat clear for the real action; the dance. Choreographed by Drew McOnie the dancing is fast paced, practised and seems to come easily to the performers. I was in awe of the talented Lyton Williams’ energetic performance as Seaweed as well as the twists, tumbles and grooves coming from the ensemble.

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Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy is loveable, courageous and thankfully in tune throughout the production not an easy task when you throw in some rapid costume changes and a lot of choreography. Her parents Edna and Wilbur played by Matt Rixon and Norman Pace are hilarious and brought lots of comedy and heart to the piece. Tracy’s best friend Penny played by Annalise Liard-Bailey was perfectly dim but delightful and Edward Chittick’s heart throb Link captured a young talented Elvis wannabe. However for me the vocals which stole the show came from Brenda Edwards who played Motor mouth Maybelle. Her soulful tones sang right into my heart and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Hairspray it was colourful, comedic and popped right off the stage. The audience sang along and rewarded the company with a standing ovation and rounding applause which was deserved. I left humming the tunes and wanting to get my hands on a bedazzled 60s dress. Congratulations to all involved.
Emer D xx
Hairspray The Musical runs until Saturday 4th November at the Grand Opera House Belfast tickets are going fast but if you want to snap up the last few remaining pop over to http://www.goh.co.uk.

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Theatre Review: The diary of Adrian Mole 13 ¾ at The MAC Belfast

Adrian Mole has opened his diary once again at The MAC  Belfast, as Bruiser Theatre Company celebrate their 20th Anniversary. Sue Townsend’s adaptation with the company is a remount, as the company first performed this tale in 2005 . But Adrian Mole 2017 is fresh and bouncing off the stage full of vitality. Being an eighties child (I was born in 84) I was familiar with some of the book but have to admit I’ve never read the full text but I’m very intrigued to do so now.

The production begins with a fabulous ensemble piece, a song full of 80s flashbacks it’s quick in pace and full of iconic references from the Iron Lady to Meg and Mog. It comes in converbelt form almost like the generation game but minus the cuddly toy. The cast sing with such energy I struggle to see how they are still breathing. The song sets the mood of the tale which is to unfold before us, this is a young family in the 80s on the brink, there are strikes and cuts. Times are hard but people are still plodding on. Women want more than a part-time job and making their husbands tea. The storybook set opens and we are introduced to the main character Adrian who has taken refuge from a New Year’s Eve party in the safety of his bedroom.

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Adrian Mole is a teenager with big plans he is going to be an intellect. He doesn’t understand the fuss and commotion in life, he’s not a fan of school discos or punk but he is a big fan of Pandora. Adrian played by Adam Dougal is an annoying know-it-all, at the start of the production I felt little to no endearment for the character but as the production progressed I found he carved his way into my heart. Adam’s performance of the awkward teenager overcoming life’s challenges, spots and all captures a bit of everyone’s youth, that first school disco, that first kiss, the anticipation and want to be a grown up. He transforms on stage from a grown man to the teenager with ease and gives a heartfelt performance.

 

Speaking of heart, love is a central theme to this production, from the innocent first love of Adrian and Pandora (hearts and all) to the illicit affair with the sex god next door neighbour, which included quite a few flashes of Orla Mullans ample bosom. The five cast members (Adam Dougal,Gerard McCabe,Orla Mullan,Keith Lynch and Collette Lennon) are pitch perfect throughout and full of energy. They play a number of roles to perfection but I was particularly entertained by there backing dancer performances.

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The background of some of the musical numbers contained some hilarious go go dancers, cupids and neighbours twitching at the net curtains to name a few. This is where Bruiser excels in there own form of physical humour no script needed just knowing looks and groovy moves.

Overall the cast are entertaining, enlightening and engaging. The audience lapped up the innuendos and even the substandard poetry and if you don’t fall in a little bit in love with Adrian Mole then you have a heart of stone .

Emer D xx

Ps Congratulations to Adam and Collette (Adrian and Pandora) who get married shortly after finishing the production.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 3/4) runs until 7th Oct 2017 get tickets at http://www.themaclive.com.

Then it will be touring across Ireland from the 10th-15th October visiting Ballina,Mullingar,Lisburn,Dublin,Armagh and Derry.

 

 

Q and A with Tim Delap

Last week I sent out a call on my social media channels for questions to be posed to Tim Delap. Tim will be visiting Belfast next week to reprise his role of Rochester in the National Theatres critically acclaimed production of Jane Eyre.

 Tim has a background in TV popping up in productions including Casanova, Poldark, Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror and has also a varied and vast experience of treading the boards including his performance in my all time favourite  The History Boys for the National. 

I love the questions you sent in I boiled them down to just six. So here are the answers, some made me smile but all have made me want to see this performer at work.

Enjoy….

Q1. What attracted you to the role of Rochester?

Troubled, complex characters are always the most fun to play. Also the chance to be involved in this particular production and to work with Sally Cookson (director) was hugely exciting.

Q2.Rochester is a brooding character with lots of hidden depth. What are you bringing to the character?

A well cultivated scruffiness.

Q3.Jane Eyre is a classic in many readers eyes, what is your favourite piece of literature and why?

I genuinely do think Jane Eyre is one of the greatest. It was so revolutionary and is still such a powerful rallying cry for equal rights. Not only is it a wonderful page turning piece of literature but it actually had a profound political effect…changing societies attitudes to gender. I’ve just finished a brilliant novel called The Power by Naomi Alderman. It’s the Jane Eyre of our times.

Q4. Describe yourself in three words?

Love to snooze.

Q5. What are your essentials to pack when you are on tour?

Good book, laptop, earplugs

 Q6. How would you describe the production to a potential audience member?

Energetic, unconventional and thrilling.

 

Jane Eyre opens in the Grand Opera House Belfast on Monday 21st August-Saturday 26th August. The classic story of the trailblazing Jane is as inspiring as ever. This bold and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfillment on her own terms.

For further information on the production and to book tickets visit http://www.goh.co.uk.

Theatre Review: Angela’s Ashes The Musical at Grand Opera House Belfast

Where do I begin..forget what you have read or seen in the movie. Angela’s Ashes The Musical is a new retelling of the story. It has heart,it is genuine and it is funny as well as moving.

Based on the memoir by Frank McCourt the musical depicts the highs and lows of living in the 1930s Limerick tenements, poverty stricken and dealing with alcoholism. However interspersed with the tragedy are moments of childhood bliss, memories of Irish dancing lessons, school lessons, the first holy communion and first love. The audience is enamoured from the very first song the hauntingly beautiful Angela’s Ashes title track.

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Frank played by Eoin Cannon narrates the struggle of family life with gusto and pride, he dashes behind his fathers tail throughout the first act as young Frank and develops into the strong willed man who wants more in Act Two. Cannon is the driving force of the production and his pace,powerful voice and physicality pull the audience deeper and deeper into the tale.

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Marty Maguires Malachy brought a tear to me eye at several points throughout the production. Malachy is the “Northern Man” who struggles to do the right thing. In the film this character is depicted as a despicable human being. In the musical through Maguires depictation we see him more as being an alcoholic who is struggling to get over the deaths of his children, being unemployed and being the outsider in Limerick.

Angela played by Jacinta Whyte is almost highlighted as the scarlet lady with the use of her red costume throughout the production. Her solos and ballads are big and full of emotion. I had my heart in my throat and had to try and hide a few tears while she sang of loss and farewells.( I actually completely lost myself when the talented Clare Barrett sang about a mothers love in her role as the McCourts grandmother, be prepared bring tissues.)

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This ensemble cast are constantly moving on the practical but dark and forboding set, they are the poverty stricken neighbours, the school chums, the family, friends and foes of the McCourt family. They bring comic relief and empathy to the tale. All excel but keep an eye out for Billy Heffernan (Shane McDaid), Uncle Pat (David O’Meara) and the fantastic Irish humour which comes out of the mouth of Theresa Carmody played by Brigid Shine.

Overall I cried, I laughed, I cried some more and I was on my feet whooping and cheering for more. Go see it now because next stop I’m sure will be the Westend if not Broadway.

Angelas Ashes runs until 5th August go to http://www.goh.co.uk to grab tickets now.

Emer D xx

 

 

 

Theatre Review: The Ladykillers at the The Lyric Theatre Belfast

An all female cast took to the stage of the Lyric Theatre Belfast this week to portray some very shady characters. The result a funny, energetic piece of farce which is sure to make even the most stern audience member laugh. Jimmy Fays direction plays homage to Linehan’s genius stage script but at the same time re-invents the play into something even more modern, entertaining and interesting. (I haven’t watched the film so can’t make reference to it but now I feel like I should.) Lines of the script are reinforced with comedic timing and repetition, meaning they are sure to be stuck in the heads of the audience forever. My personal favourite “he just fell against the dress….”

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The productions set by Stuart Marshall is in an absolutely fabulous creation with many levels and layers. Lots of space for some unique entrances and exits which just add to the drama and never disrupts the pace.

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The Ladykillers is a shining example of exactly what I love to see on the Northern Irish stage something which has wide appeal and which gets the audience to interact/communicate  with each other. Overheard at the interval lots of mutterings of isn’t this funny, I wonder if they can actually play. Basically a production that promotes a smile and giggle throughout gets a big thumbs up from me.

Although the production is a timely affair with a run time just shy of three hours I didn’t feel the minutes tick by. In fact I felt like I need to go back and watch it again, as at certain points I was concerned with the actions of characters in the background instead of the foreground and I feel like I may have missed out.

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Stella McCusker plays the polite, overly suspicious Mrs Wilberforce constantly fighting to keep her social status and to look after her beloved parakeet ; Abigail Gibbon is the crafty Professor Marcus between her physicality, her  exaggerated scarf and her natural charm she leads the rebel of unruly characters who tumble through Mrs Wilberforce’s front door.Julie Maxwell plays Harry, the OCD wide boy with the must amazing quiff but for me Jo Donnelly steals the show as the con-man Major Courtney, who seems to be a closet transvestite with no real grasp on reality but who would very quickly pull the wool of your eyes.Cheryl Fergison best known for her role in EastEnders comes across as the gentle giant One Round, an oaf who is very ignorant of the plot building around him but whom you would never want to wrong.

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With added cameos from well-known faces at the Lyric; Christina Nelson and Nuala McKeever, the tale is brought to its crescendo with somewhat of a bump in the dark.

The Ladykillers was an enjoyable night in the Lyric and it was a pleasure to see some many female characters on stage.

Emer D xx

Running until the 8th July check out further details at http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Theatre Review: Sinners at The Lyric Theatre Belfast

Marie Jones is a staple of Northern Irish theatre she delivers satire with a punch and usually a belly laugh. So when I saw Sinners advertised using images of  characters played by Alan McKee and Christina Nelson two superb comedy and character actors I was happy to take a seat in the Lyric Theatre.

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Sinners is a satire on religion and family. It tells the tale of Pastor O Hare who has come to save our souls for a small donation. Michael Condron takes on the role of the pastor. Suited and booted he delivers rousing monologues backed by some fabulous projected visuals and an amazing soundscape which sounds like something from an award winning well established gospel choir.

Performed on a stripped-back set by the talented Alyson Cummins the story moves from country family home to that of the tented tabernacle by the use of illuminated curtain. One of the biggest laughs of the night came from said curtain and the role of a member of stage management who tries to blend into the background but with comedic effect.

I will be honest the story disappointed me I didn’t get an big laughs as it poked fun and ridiculed elements of this evangelistic lifestyle. For me it didn’t go far enough, it made some interesting points and there where some fabulous lines mixed into the dialogue but it feel flat of stating anything or making us laugh. At one point Mckee grabs a cross and utters an almost  blasphemic line which should have made the audience gasp but it was lost in the mixture of characters and themes.

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Don’t get me wrong performances by Condron and the cast are good.In the honey trap scene Louise Matthews and Michael Condron sizzle with chemistry but I just didn’t see the point of using sexuality as a tool. I also didn’t see the point of so many characters great actors like Michael Johnston are lost in the background ( was his character just meant to be a hit at the modern day hippy? Or was it a jab at the educated?).

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In conclusion this production was a miss for me it didn’t entertain or inform. It wasn’t an example of good Northern Irish theatre that I expected but as I always say this is just my view go out and check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Emer D xx

Sinners runs until 3rd June. Check out details at http://www.lurictheatre.co.uk.

 

Emer Entertains: Top Picks for Easter Entertainment

As the kids are on school holidays and as we approach the Easter bank holiday weekend. I thought I would compile a list of ideas to keep all the family entertained (the buzz word of the moment a #listicle). Come rain or shine here are my suggestions:

A family Day out!

My Top suggestion for this weekend is St.Georges Market Belfast. It is a treat for all the senses; take in the aromas of fresh produce and coffee, stroll through the stalls of crafts and goodies. This weekend they are also introducing all patrons to a certain Alec the Goose. Pop in and see what he’s been up to I’ve heard  a whisper of him laying some golden eggs!

Films!!

A trip to the cinema is a treat for the family and this Easter bank holiday there seems to be a lot of fun films for all ages my top three.

  1. Smurfs The Lost Village: A little friend of mine dragged me out to see Smurfs the Lost Village during the week and I was entranced in the adventures of all these little blue characters as much as she was.
  2. How about taking a trip back down memory lane or introducing the youngest members of the family to the enchanting tale of Beauty and the Beast. Tale is old as time and one of my favourite musical love stories.
  3. Boss Baby the premise of this one looks a baby with a briefcase who turns out to be a spy but if you are a fan of Alec Baldwin and you just want to switch off for an hour this inoffensive film is sure to entertain.Snapchat-1261599556

Food!!

I love to eat out as you have seen from my food reviews recently but I also think it is a great way to get all the family together over the holidays. So if it’s an outing to restaurant or just gathering everyone around the table do like the Italians have a long leisurely long and reconnect with your family. Need some restaurant suggestions have a scroll through my reviews.

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Theatre!!

For a more grown up night out check out some of the best theatre production in town. My top three at the moment:

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest at the MAC Belfast. Thoroughly entertaining with laugh out loud moments but it also has some poignant touching moments. Check out my review for more Theatre Review: The Importance of Being Earnest.20170407_152829
  2. RED at the Lyric Theatre Belfast. Having just seen this it is still fresh in my mind and my review is yet to come but Red is educating, enlightening and most importantly inspiring. If you are looking to come out motivated and ready to take on the world this is the play for you (Theatre Review to come soon..)17862391_10154295988347064_8921710362250007149_n
  3. The Wedding Singer at the Grand Opera House Belfast; Step back in time and get ready for the biggest party in town! The show is  a fun night of rapping grannies, cheesy 80 dance moves and the cutest love story!  A fun night out but a little bit raunchy for little kid so be warned!A West-End musical set in the 80’s with a heap of well-known stars. It is sure to entertain!32087_full

If you would like more suggestions of what to do including easter egg runs, Game of Throne Tours, Heritage outings..check out my Facebook page Emerdblog which will be updated with the latest info throughout the week.

Emer D xx