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Ian Cheeseman: Break-a-Leg

Little Shop of Horrors at Bolton Octagon

The Octagon Theatre, in Bolton, is one of the treasures of the North West Theatre scene.

It was built back in the 1960s at a cost of £95K, opened by Princess Margaret and funded by public donation. It’s a truly intimate space, with a capacity of up to 400.

Last Friday I went there to see Little Shop of Horrors, the first major musical written by eight-time Oscar winning music writer Alan Menken, with lyricist Howard Ashman. In my opinion the show is a work of genius, it’s funny, highly original and a great evening’s entertainment. Before we moved into the theatre space, we’d booked a table in their Octagon Kitchen & Bar.

It’s a beautiful little restaurant, perfect for a preshow meal and the food and service were excellent. The quality of the performance of Little Shop of Horrors was as good as anything you would see in the West End or on Broadway and considerably cheaper.

All the main characters were brilliantly acted. I was particularly impressed by the singing voice of “Audrey” played by Laura Jane Matthewson, Oliver Mawdsley as Seymour was perfect and Janna May, who played Chiffon, was faultless, but Matthew Ganley who played Orin, the dentist, was outstanding. Matthew trod the boards at the Oldham Coliseum in Our Gracie and also played a couple of other characters in Little Shop and he was hilarious throughout.

Little Shop of Horrors is on at the Octagon in Bolton until 18th May. If you fancy the preshow meal, make sure you book in advance and you’ll hear my interview with Matthew Ganley on my radio show this week.

Another of my favourite local theatres is the Romiley Forum. Not only are the brilliant NK Theatre Arts based there, who I’ve seen several times on stage, but there are many great events there. When I’ve been along to rehearsals of their shows I’ve felt the energy and joy in the building. The theatre itself can be configured for different performances, from small and intimate, to a concert venue.

Just recently they’ve had to relocate performances after the weak concrete RAAC was found in parts of the building. I’m sure it must have been anxious times for all involved but the good news is that the structure is now being repaired and next month the building will be back.

The plan is that Everybody’s Talking about Jamie: Teen Edition will be the opening performance. There are many great acts booked to appear after that, with West End superstar Kerry Ellis booked in for 3rd October. It’s great to have this magical venue back and you might have heard me chatting to Company Manager, Darren Stannage, about the issues they’ve had to deal with on my show last week, which is available on tamesideradio.com by finding my name on the list of presenters and clicking on last week’s show.

It’s been a busy week for me, with An Officer and a Gentleman at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday, Wizard of Oz on Wednesday and the brand new Musical 42 Balloons at the Lowry in Salford on Thursday. I’ll let you know what I thought of them next week.

Another exciting AM/Dram show, which is just around the corner, is Ashton Operatic’s final show West Side Story. It runs from 21st to 25th May at the George Lawton Hall in Mossley. It’s their last, as AOS, before they join with Dukinfield Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society as the new Theatre Arts of Dukinfield and Ashton (TADAA), so I’m sure it’ll be quite emotional.

What a show for Cameron Kennedy to make his Musical debut in and I’ve been chatting to Cameron for my show this week. You’ll also hear from Dame Arlene Phillips who started at Ashton Operatic and has sent a message of support.

That’s Break-a-Leg Sunday’s from 7pm & Wednesday’s from 9pm every week.

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