A Christmas Carol at North West Theatre Arts Company

Winter’s not for me. Much rather stay in my cosy Grinch cave. Instead I’m at NWTAC’S theatre on Lightbowne Rd. Brrrrr. It’s an icy wind blowing up my pants so I slip inside, get straight to the bar, glug my wine, toss the glass over my shoulder and saunter to my seat.

Ebenezer Scrooge, my distant relative, is star of the show. Got to show willing. Bah!

Curtain goes up to reveal a truly miserable street housing his dark, dismal abode. It’s misty, spooky even – perfect. I manage to withhold my glee until the man himself appears on the stage. My heart wells up to find he’s as miserly an old geezer as a miserly old geezer could be. Wonderful! I nod, smugly, at my fellow audience.

Then, before you know it, singing and dancing. What’s up with these people? I tried to put my fingers in my ears. Tried to stop them. But they just kept doing it. Singing…and dancing? Utter ruination. Bah!

Then it happened. I started to chuckle. Once I start to chuckle that’s it. Game over.

The ghosts of Christmas Yet Come, of Christmas Past and Christmas Present were universally brilliant. So funny they blew my socks off. The supporting cast were superb and the whole show expertly put together.

Acting, singing and dancing aside it’s the attention to detail that never fails to impress. The costumes were perfect from the top hats and floppy bedtime caps, down to the buckled shoes and soft leather boots. Sound effects and special effects created the perfect atmosphere for each scene. Bright colourful lights danced with the razzmatazz, spot lights caressed the tender duets and soft shadows enhanced more sombre moments.

Make-up turned Gareth Maudsley’s face into an old Scrooge’s so well that you didn’t give his true age a second thought. His deliverance of the role was fabulous. Even I felt sorry for him. Briefly.

As usual, the NWTAC team put their own clever spin on this traditional Christmas play. The story telling was up-beat and perfect, sending a message that applies as much today as it did when Dickens first penned it.

Two or so hours passed in no time. I didn’t want it to end.

“Some people are just born with jazz hands, aren’t they?” someone said as I chuckled my way out into the night.

I admired my long green hairy sprouting fingers. Ah, they must mean me.

Details of this and upcoming productions at NWTAC are on their website here. You can sign up for their newsletter or follow them on Facebook.

Also, keep an eye out for them over the coming weeks. They’ll be performing at the Moston Community Annual Event at Moston Green (outside St Dunstans Church) on 30th November and leading carols at Failsworth Lower Memorial Park on 10th December.

Happy 10th birthday NWTAC

I’ve seen some excellent performances by North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) but ’10’ is special. It’s a compilation of hits, scenes and dance routines celebrating the decade since they were formed.The show kicked off with the full company belting out Reet Petite to an energetic dance routine. It’s a great way to start because it does two things. First, it grabs the audience. Second, it breaks the ice for the cast. That’s important for the newest members of NWTAC theatre school, especially if it’s their first time in front of a live audience.

Nerves dispelled, they slipped in and out of subsequent numbers as if they’d whipped the ruby slippers off Judy Garland when she wasn’t looking.

A further 47 numbers followed – 47! Blockbuster show stoppers, dances, romantic duets, rock songs, the lot. I was delighted to hear some from my favourites from shows like Phantom of the Opera and Joseph and the films Oliver Twist, Annie and Grease.

The cast delivered with confidence and commitment and when the Musical Director herself took to the stage you could see why. Beth Singh treated us to a medley of songs from ‘Little Voice’ with true quality.

It’s difficult to pick individuals out as they were all so good but ‘Summer Nights’ performed by Phoebe Sutherland and Owen Omoruyi-Garcia was awesome and deserves a special mention. Phoebe had Olivia Newton John down to perfection. Also Solomon Asante-Owusu and Elton Amoateng (and ‘the boys’) performed ‘Mysterious Girl’ cheekier than Peter Andre ever did. And Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ by Jonny Molyneux and Poppy Evans was amazing. I could go on.

There were lesser known songs (to me at least) too. ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ by Grace Donohue was one. Both the lyrics and Grace’s portrayal were hilarious. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see The Book of Mormon at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. ‘Hello’ (i.e. the doorbell song) was exactly as I remember it and had us all in stitches.

You may think that the varying range, different tempos and emotions would result in some awkward transitions. Not so. Our host for the evening Jonny Molyneux has great stage presence and that special gift ‘comedy timing’. Sticking mostly to script he facilitated the changes in mood with expertise, sharing with us the story of NWTAC over the past 10 years with an expression and wit you can only marvel at.

Two hours passed by in a flash and ’10’ ended with a stirring rendition of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables. The cast were emotional and awesome in equal measure. We swept to our feet to give them a wholly deserved standing ovation.

One year ago I stepped through the doors of NWTAC theatre, chatted for a couple of hours with Prab Singh (Director), was introduced to Mark Beaumont (Stage Manager) and given a guided tour of the building. They’d taken over what used to be the Tizer depot on Lightbowne Road 3 years earlier and transformed the space into a full on theatre.

I’ve been back many times since. Laughed, clapped, cheered and cried.

Happy 10th birthday to everyone at NWTAC. May you keep returning to the stage, singing, acting and dancing your hearts out for many years to come.

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Summer’s not over yet

So much going on this summer it’s been crazy. Back in July I went to see Dogfight at NWTAC (North West Theatre Arts Company) in Moston.Dogfight is set in 1963 against a backdrop that includes Beatlemania, the US civil rights movement, JF Kennedy and the Vietnam War. The story concentrates on 3 US marines and what they get up to on their last evening before being shipped across the world to Vietnam.

The characters are naïve, rough, inexperienced, young. They’re alive today and expect to stay that way. The night is all about having fun. They bet on who can ‘make it’ with the ugliest girl. They get tattoos, get drunk, get laid. Inevitably, not quite everything goes to plan but off they set the next day to meet their fate and broken hearts are left behind.

Music and lyrics were written by the same duo as The Greatest Showman but the similarities end there. This wasn’t a fluffy fancy but a story that reflects the reality of war and its impact on young lives.

I loved the production. The attention to detail was typical of all NTWAC’s performances. From the costumes, the lighting, the atmosphere, souvenir programmes to the fabulous vocals and dance routines. All excellent.

The American accents of the young performers were f…ing impressive (believe me, you had to be there). The musical numbers carried you through the emotions of the story and the dreadful sadness of the whole situation.

A few days later I learned that some of the cast would be leaving the company for various universities and performing arts establishments. All that talent going out into the big wide world. Damn! I want it to stay here in Moston. How dare they leave!

Prab Singh (MD along with Mark Beaumont) would laugh at me because that’s the point: they’re supposed move on to bigger things, it’s what the North West Stage School prepares them for. His dream is to see their dreams come true. So all I can say is “be like me”, make the most of it while they’re here.

It’s 10 years since NWTAC was formed and celebrations are in hand. Featuring hits from a decade of performances, the next concert in October promises to be more popular than ever so book early. In fact, sign up for the newsletter on the website so you never miss out.In addition to the stage school, the company delivers a range of professional productions and runs workshops and classes that go out to schools aka ‘Theatre in Education’. They also operate a hire service sending costumes and sets countrywide and support various activities across Manchester and beyond.

Located on Lightbowne Road in Moston the ‘hub’ includes a dance school (North West School of Dance) with classes for any age, from 3 years upwards, and on Saturdays a youth theatre (NWYT) for just a £1 a session.

I’m out of breath. There’s so much going on and summer’s not over yet.

 

Full details about North West Theatre Arts Company and all they have to offer can be found on their website here or follow them on Facebook. North West School 0f Dance have their own website, just click here for information.

 

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