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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

While Musicals are my favourite form of theatre, I really enjoy comedies and plays just as much and I must say that Gary Barlow’s Calendar Girls combines Musical theatre and comedy beautifully.

I’ve seen the show a few times now and it never disappoints. The latest version was at the Lowry in Salford, last week with Maureen Nolan and Lyn Paul in the starring roles. Last year I saw an Am/Dram by Drama Dept at Stockport Plaza and I must say I enjoyed that version just as much as the professional one, if not more.

Pantomime is a combination of musical theatre and comedy and I went along to two very different, local shows last week. I was at Hyde Festival Theatre to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I took my 86-year-old friend Joan to the show and we both had a fabulous time. The Tameside Youth Drama Group were uplifting and we both left with a spring in our step.

I’ve seen the TYD Group before and there are some very talented young performers among them. Watching them in action not only makes me feel optimistic about the future of theatre but also about society. These young thespians spend their spare time being creative rather than destructive. They’re a great good news story in these days of constant doom and gloom on the news.

The day after my trip to Hyde I was at Denton West Community Centre watching the Princess and the Merry Crew, which is written by Janet Fagan and tells the story of life in Denton during the peak of the hat making industry. The Ensemble Theatre is a diverse group of young and old, with relatively little experience but their enthusiasm shines through. Rose Fagan, Davey Robson and Generva Coluccio are particularly talented and could easily find themselves on higher stages in the future. I left with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Further afield, I’m looking forward to a trip to the Bolton Octagon next month. I’ve been there before and it’s a wonderful theatre. They’re staging Animal Farm, the George Orwell classic. I think we all read the book in school didn’t we. It’s not a musical or a comedy, but I’m sure it will have it’s moments. I interviewed one of the stars of the show Ida Regan, who’d I’d seen in Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

She told me, “On a literal level it’s about a group of animals who are looked after by a tyrannical farmer and they overthrow him and see if they can run things better but of course it’s an analogy of the Russian Revolution. It shows how power corrupts.

“I play Napoleon the pig who represents Stalin in the story which I find really exciting, a part I never thought I would play but I’m really loving the challenge of it. Napoleon’s rise in the farm as the baddy is fascinating, especially for me to play as a 24-year-old young woman. It’s a character that’s underestimated. People would think it could never possibly be them.” Ida’s words immediately made me think of the Tv show the Traiters, which is such a hit right now. I can’t wait to see the show which is at the Octagon in Bolton from 1st to 24th February.

You can hear my interview with Ida Regan on Tameside Radio 103.6FM this week. You’ll also hear the second part of my interview with Joanna Woodward, the star of the brilliant Time Travellers Wife, which is on in London’s West End until 24th February.

Every Sunday from 7pm and again on Wednesday from 9pm for all things Theatrical & Musical Theatre, Break-a-Leg with me Ian Cheeseman.

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