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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

During the last twelve months I’ve sat in theatres watching Musicals on Broadway, in the West End and at Manchester’s finest venues.

I’ve seen amazing shows, full of passion, creativity, great music and wonderful story telling through brilliant drama. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen, but last week, even by those high standards, was something really special.

I went to the Stockport Plaza on three evenings to watch one of my favourite shows, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I was more excited than normal because my son, Steven, was playing one of the three leading parts. As anyone with children will know, watching your offspring on stage is extra special. I’d seen him play the part of Adam/Felicia before, so I thought I knew what to expect, but the show I witnessed was much better that I could ever have imagined.

The production was an Am/Dram, so the whole operation was by amateurs, but I swear that if you’d gone along to the Plaza simply because you loved the show, you wouldn’t have realised it was by Romiley Operatic Society. I think you’d have assumed it was a professional tour (apart from the way the Bus was manhandled on stage!).

The three main characters were perfectly performed by Gary Jones as Tick/Mitzi, Paul Allison as Bernadette and my son Steven as Adam/Felicia. The show is full of gloriously camp songs but there’s also a lovely touching story threaded through, which is told with subtlety and tenderness. The combination of heart, humour and friendship was brilliantly portrayed by the three leads, but the show was much more than just them.

The Divas, played by Dawn Leigh, Aimee Clare, Sarah Thewliss were often suspended by high wire, something you don’t often see in Am/Drams. Dawn led the trio with vocals that would blow the cobwebs out of the deepest corners of Frankenstein’s castle.

The ensemble included the multi-talented Daniel Eccles, who popped up in a variety of roles, never dropping his standards, Amy Mason as Tick’s wife Marion, and Jordanne Woodward as Cynthia. I could go through the whole cast because even during the big ensemble song and dance numbers, I couldn’t spot one performer who wasn’t at the top of their game.

The show was directed by Michael McCaw. His attention to detail was flawless. It can’t have been easy to put on a show like that so well. The choreography by Tracy Harper felt dynamic and original and Musical Director Paul Lawton oversaw a talented orchestra.

This was a top professional display in all but name. It wouldn’t surprise me if any of the three leading men were headhunted by the professionals. If that show doesn’t pick up multiple awards I don’t know what would.

I also went along to say an emotional farewell to Dukinfield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, as they ended their time on stage after 117 years treading the boards, having been founded in 1907. Their last show was Open All Hours, the Roy Clarke classic, based on the sitcom starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason, who sent them a touching letter of support ahead of the production.

This was an old fashioned, gentle comedy and seemed the perfect way for them to bow out before DAODS and Ashton Operatic Society join together to make Theatre Arts of Dukinfield and Ashton, or TADAA for short. Congratulations to Paul Whitworth as Arkwright and Andrew Cochrane as Granville. What a challenge to take on such iconic roles. I’m full of admiration.

The guests on my radio show this week include actors from Come From Away, the musical set in Gander, Newfoundland where many planes landed during the dramatic events that grounded flights in 2001. It’ll be at the Lowry, in Salford this festive season. Join me from 7pm on Tameside Radio, 103.6FM for Break-a-Leg!

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