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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

Do you do what I do? First thing I do after I wake up is reach for my phone and go through emails and social media.

Because I have a fascination with Musical Theatre, the algorithms have worked out what might spark my interest. This morning I was sent to YouTube to watch a montage of most of the entries to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. I used to be more of a fan, back in the days when there were a few decent songs each year, but there wasn’t one standout in this year’s collection of night club rave songs. Maybe I’m just getting old.

The next thing that popped up on my phone was a video from a new musical being performed at Bristol Old Vic, a venue I’ve never visited. The show is called Starter for Ten which is set in the 1980s and tells the story of an eighteen-year-old’s lifelong dream of appearing on University Challenge. The song that was featured was Touched by an Angel, which I immediately liked. Bearing in mind that I’d just watched the best songs all the countries could put forward for Eurovision, the most watched song contest on TV. I found the contrast amazing.

Here was a song that was immediately engaging, had fascinating lyrics and drew me in. I immediately wanted to know more. Isn’t that what great Musical Theatre does to you? I’m well aware that synopsis for the show sounds cliched, a bit like Great British Bake Off the musical, that ran in the West End last year, but sometimes even the most basic storyline produces a show that’s worth seeing. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I hope it succeeds and we get to see it up in the North West.

A few weeks ago I was at the launch of a new musical at the Lowry Theatre, in Salford, called 42 Balloons. It tells the story of how Larry and his partner Carol convinced their friends and family to help Larry achieve his dream of flying. The story, which is reality based, takes place in 1982 and sees Larry attempt to fly sixteen thousand feet in the air above Los Angeles, while sat in a lawn chair being lifted into the air by 42 helium filled weather balloons. The music is uplifting and is produced by the same people who brought us Six: the Musical.

This week I’ve been enjoying Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Stockport Plaza, a wonderful show performed brilliantly by Romiley Operatic Society. The story centres around three main characters, two drag queens and a trans woman, as they travel across Australia in an old bus. At first glance, that might not draw you in, but it’s a brilliant story, set against a wonderful soundtrack of songs you’ll probably know. It’s one of my favourite shows. I guess the moral to this column is never tell a book by it’s cover.

Later this month I’ll be making my annual trip to the West End with my wife and son to see several shows, many of which we’ve never seen before. I can’t wait and of course I’ll let you know how my theatre week goes in a future column.

This week, on my Tameside Radio show, dedicated to all things Theatrical and Musical Theatre, you’ll hear the second part of my fascinating interview with comedy actor George Kemp, who recently starred in The Time Machine at the Lowry and has also appeared in Mischief Theatre’s The Play that Goes Wrong. He’ll give an insight into the challenge of making people laugh. You’ll also meet Kayley Armstrong who’s playing one of the love interests of Jekyll & Hyde, which is at Hyde Festival Hall from 20-23rd March and Allie Foy, which currently rehearsing THREE Am/Dram shows at once. Sunday evening from 7pm on Tameside Radio 103.6FM, Break-a-Leg

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