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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

We’ve very lucky living in Greater Manchester.

Not only do we have access to some great Amateur Dramatic Societies, who present some of the great Musicals of our lives, but in Manchester and Salford we have access to the greatest, most successful modern shows like Hamilton, Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Les Miserables and Book Of Mormon. You don’t have to travel down to London, the very best come right to our doorsteps.

Every now and again though, I do pop down to the West End, usually because my job has taken me there, so I always try to take advantage by going to see a couple of new shows that are yet to have been performed near us. Last weekend was one such opportunity. There are ticket agencies that offer deals, on the day of the performances, at discounted prices, so I took full advantage.

I sat on the front row for less than £50 to watch the Time Travellers Wife at the Apollo Theatre, just near Piccadilly Circus. I was attracted to this show because I’d really enjoyed the film which starred Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. The Musical has songs by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) and stars David Hunter and Joanna Woodward.

I love time travel stories. I’ve seen Back to the Future over twenty times now and so when I saw that Colin Ingram was the producer, as he was for Back to the Future and that the stage illusions were by Chris Fisher, who also worked on Back to the Future, I knew I was in safe hands.

The show did not disappoint. From the first time Henry disappeared, right in front of me, to the emotional songs, great acting and wonderful storyline it was perfect throughout. It even had the bonus of Tim Mahendran playing the supporting character of Gomez. I’d seen Tim play Francois in &Juliet (which will be back at Manchester’s Opera House in July next year – which I highly recommend). Tim was brilliant in &Juliet and now is again in the Time Travellers Wife.

Earlier the same day, I’d also got a late and great ticket to see Moulin Rouge at the Piccadilly Theatre. My son had recommended it and again it did not disappoint. I’ve previously written about how great Newsies: the Musical was at the Troubadour Wembley was. Not only did it have the great songs of Alan Menken, but it was staged in a fully immersive venue. Moulin Rouge was also incredibly immersive. I felt like I was really inside the infamous French night club, not just yards away from the parade and marches happening on the London streets just outside.

The show uses the Moulin Rouge as it’s risqué backdrop to a timeless love story, to a soundtrack of familiar songs. It’s officially a jukebox musical and it overwhelms the senses in the best possible way. I really enjoyed it. If it tours in the future it will be difficult to fully recreate the cabaret venue as it is in the West End. The lighting throughout the theatre was red, the front of the stage included a bespoke area of seating that enhanced the intimate feel of an authentic venue and wrapped around the sides were a bar and even the iconic windmill.

On a trip to Paris that I made a couple of years ago, I actually stayed in an Air B&B right next to the Moulin Rouge, though I never ventured inside. Even the outside gave off exactly the vibes of the show that I was lucky enough to see last weekend.

Please join me on Sunday from 7pm on Tameside Radio 103.6FM when I’ll play songs from those two great shows plus you’ll from my great guests Robin Ince, whose show “9 lessons and Carols for Curious People” will be at the Contact Theatre in Manchester on 1st and 2nd December, you’ll also meet some of the cast of School of Rock by Mossley AODS which is at the George Lowton Hall in Mossley from 28th November to 2nd December. Break-a-Leg!

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