North West Theatre Art Company – The Addams Family

They’ve only gone and done it again! Last month’s performance of ‘The Addams Family’ at NWTAC’s theatre on Lightbowne Road, Moston was yet another sell-out.

I went to the opening night with my family, we had a fantastic evening and were still laughing the next day.

Some of you may remember the original 1960’s TV series. Or, like my daughter and son-in-law, you’ve seen later movie or Netflix versions. If you are not familiar with the creepy, spooky and mysterious Addams family then you’re missing out and need to get a grip.

NWTAC’s cast were up there with the best of them and put on a hilarious version of the Broadway Musical.

The story-line centres on Wednesday Addams’ invitation to her boyfriend’s ‘normal’ American family to meet her distinctly ‘abnormal’ family for dinner. The Addams home is located deep in Central Park woods. It has a great banqueting hall, torture chamber and its own spooky graveyard full of Addams’ ancestors who have a knack of turning up all over the place.

Wednesday and her boyfriend, Lucas Beineke, are in love but she begs her father Gomez to keep it a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia, to ensure the evening goes smoothly. That’s quite a challenge for this household!

Poor, poor Gomez. He connects with the audience immediately, gains their sympathy for his situation and our toes curl when his wife Morticia gets suspicious. Plenty more secrets are thrown into the pot to be winkled out as the fateful evening unfolds.

It’s fair to say the Addams Family characters are iconic. This must have inspired the casting at NWTAC as each part was perfectly matched. Gomez and Morticia, played respectively by Anthony Horricks and Evie Lucas, were simply delicious and brilliant.

Rehearsals with Anthony Horricks and Evie Lucas in the centre

I couldn’t keep my eyes off ‘the eyes’ of Uncle Fester played by Olivia Hollamby. The expression on his, or rather her face, was astonishing and her comic timing gifted. I think I gasped when she first entered the stage. She looked amazing and I had to check my programme to make sure I’d read it right.

Poppy Evans, who took the part of Wednesday, delivered wile and sass in equal measure and was wonderfully wicked. She wrapped her parents around her little finger and oozed confidence. However, when the prim mother of Lucas, Alice Beineke (aka Paige Garth), went wild and passionate on the night of the dinner, on the table no less, Wednesday’s hopes for ‘normal’ flew out the door.

Entwined throughout the story are the Addams Ancestors. They complement the production with their own comedy input, sweeping dance moves and choral contributions. It was a brilliant show with a happy ending. Relationships get their ‘zing’ back while Gomez and Morticia celebrate success with a romantic weekend at the worst hotel in France. Perfection!

Gomez and Morticia (original 1960’s TV series)

Too many to mention individually, every single member of the cast gave it their all and shone.

The script was hilarious, the vocals and dance routines swept the audience along. Sitting quietly at their stations either backstage or in the tech area of the theatre are the production crew. They work their magic to create an experience and atmosphere that’s quite special. Do not under-estimate their skill. The sound, lighting, sets, costumes and make-up play an essential part while Front of House staff complete the package.

My utmost respect to the management team and directors, this has to be one of the best musical comedies I’ve ever seen.

NWTAC are committed to entertain you with a range of performances throughout the season and they’re working on 2023/2024 right now. Tickets are all reasonably priced so keep an eye on their website and social media so you don’t miss out.

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Street Life: Oh no it isn’t!

Pantomime has proved to be one of the most enduring forms of entertainment for all classes and every age group. There must be something innate about it, because within minutes of the curtain rising on their first theatre visit, the tiniest tot will be calling out “it’s behind you”, like a veteran.

Over the years, small innovations may have crept in, but woe betide companies who ignore sacred panto traditions. One is that the (good) fairy comes on stage from the right, while the (evil) villain always enters from the left. Other conventions are that cross-dressing is mandatory, the dame’s voluminous union jack bloomers must be exhibited at every possible opportunity, and topical or local jokes get the biggest laughs.

Even the wardrobe department has traditions to maintain. Costumes for the finale must be so outrageously fabulous they command rapturous applause when, two by two, the cast enters. Goodies take their bows, hand in hand with baddies, to show that all ill will has been put aside for another year.

Oldham Coliseum pantomime Cinderella 2018.

Panto has proved to be a money spinner, so companies are prepared to push the boat out with costumes, scenery and special effects.

Live animals and local dance troupes go down well, but perhaps the real favourite are the ‘skin roles’ which don’t really exist outside pantomime. An actor named George Conquest built a career around playing animals in panto. The most ambitious of his costumes was an octopus 28 foot wide. Skin roles didn’t seem to do an actor’s career any harm either. Henry Irving once played the wolf in Red Riding Hood, while Charlie Chaplin was the front of a pantomime horse in Stockport.

Panto has enriched the language with words and phrases everyone recognises. Cinderella is shorthand for a drudge, or something unvalued. And we are warned not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The name of an inferior brand of green tea called Widow Twankey would no doubt have disappeared unremarked if it hadn’t been immortalised by Pantomime.

I never went to a lavishly produced extravaganza at a large theatre. I regret not seeing Norman Evans, the ultimate dame in my opinion, when he appeared at the Palace theatre, Manchester in 1952. But that year, without being aware of it, I was taking a tiny part in local panto history.

Queen’s Park Hippodrome on Turkey Lane was our nearest theatre. By the time I was old enough to go, saucy French variety acts had become its normal bill of fare. However, in 1952, there was one last pantomime before the theatre closed altogether, and I was there.

Buttons had us singing along to ‘you push the damper in and pull the damper out and the smoke goes up the chimney just the same’, so I guess it was Cinderella. I was only 5, and my clearest memory is of the long, cold walk home up Church Lane afterwards.

With the exception of that one visit to the Hippodrome, all my childhood pantomime recollections are of amateur productions at St. John’s church hall. What we really loved about it was that, with the exception of the name, nothing ever seemed to change.

Year after year, the pianist’s ‘victory roll’ hair style stayed the same, the Sunday school superintendent played the dame, and the kids you went to school with, were the ‘village folk’.

Sunday school benches formed the front three rows, and they were exclusively for children. Adults were accommodated on chairs behind them.

Our move to New Moston meant I left St. John’s Sunday school when I was nine. That was the minimum age to audition, so 1956’s panto would have been my first.

As a painfully shy, ungainly child, any part I got would have been entirely due to regular Sunday attendance rather than talent.

Despite being devastated at missing my chance to participate, I still looked forward to going to the pantomime as usual. When the curtains opened on the ‘village square’, I was horrified to see that amongst the ‘villagers’, there was a girl from my class at Lily Lane.

She didn’t go to Sunday school in my time, so must have joined just before the audition. How was it that a part, that should rightfully have been mine, went to this interloper?

It might be over sixty years, VH, but don’t think I’ve forgiven you yet…

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North West Theatre Arts Company – Rent

I’m seated in the front row at NWTAC’s theatre on Lightbowne Road, Moston to see an award winning rock opera called Rent, set in the late 80’s. I have no preconceptions. I know only one song from the show, “525,600 minutes”.

The audience filter in from the bar, get comfy and settle down.

There’s a hush as the lights go down…

The opening scene is set in a cold, bleak attic apartment and the opening number places it in New York – there’s no missing that accent. Mark and Roger can’t afford food nor pay the rent. The storyline follows the two young men and their friends; musicians, dancers, film makers, etc., for one full year.

James Llewellyn Burke and Anthony Horricksset design by Mark Beaumont

Poverty, drug addiction, sexual orientation, new relationships, lost love and a deadly illness called AIDS all impact on their dreams and aspirations as the year unfolds. 525,600 minutes to be precise.

There’s no spoken dialogue…

It’s a musical! The story-telling ability of the cast is superb. Each song is not just recited it’s delivered with passion, you empathise automatically with each individual character. Whatever anguish or emotions they are experiencing leaves you as sad or happy or crushed or defiant or desperate as they are.

Owen Garcia, played the flamboyant and vivacious Angel Schunard beautifully. He owned the space when he took to the stage and won the heart of Tom Collins, played by Prab Singh. In fact, he won all our hearts.

The multi-talented Anthony Horricks played the mournful musician Roger Davis. He and James Llewellyn Burke, aka Mark Cohen, had a great rapport. They are both powerful singers who worked really well together, with a treat from Anthony’s guitar playing thrown in. Solomon Asante-Owusu conveyed a clean cut, controlled Benny Coffin III and looked every bit the part of a wealthy landlord.

There’s love in the air as well as despair…

Bring on the girls! Mimi is a dancer in a strip club, she’s seductive and sultry but yearns for real love. Maria Collins played her perfectly. Maureen, played by Halle Kerley, is also a performing artist; bi-sexual, risqué and self-assured. She’s rejected Mark to be with the affluent Joanne Jefferson, a lesbian activist, played by Annabelle Cook. Ladies, what would your mother’s say! You all looked and sounded AMAZING.

From left to right: Annabelle, James, Anthony, Owen, Prab, Maria, Halle, Solomon

The vocals were fabulous. The faces on the main line-up says it all. They love what they do.

The supporting cast played anything up to three roles each. They lightened the mood, brought a brighter tone to the dark subjects being portrayed and were really refreshing.

Hats off to Beth Singh, Musical Director. She stepped lightly onto the stage at the end to take a bow on behalf of all the Production Team. It doesn’t happen without them and they thoroughly deserved the applause too.

Next up for NWTAC is A Night at the Cavern Club starring Beth Singh as Cilla Black and featuring hits by The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and more. It runs on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th Feb. Tickets are on sale now but will sell fast so don’t hang about.

Follow NWTAC on Facebook for details of future performances, tickets, offers and updates or click here for NWTAC’s website. You can add your details to the mailing list and get updates straight to your inbox.

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