North West Theatre Arts Company – Phantom Memories

The new season at North West Theatre Arts Company, Lightbowne Rd, Moston is under way and what a great start!

Phantom Memories is set in a disused theatre that four youngsters find their way into. Dusty props, odd items of costume and pieces of faded scenery present a creepy, haunted atmosphere. They’re caught red handed by the ageing caretaker, Bud Berger, superbly played by the young Harry Gardner. They run off leaving one young lady behind.

Finding herself alone she curiously starts to sort through the dusty objects. Each one she touches conjures us up ghostly images taking her, and the audience, back in time as they perform their memories from past musicals.

NWTAC’s theatre school term started just 4 weeks ago and the cast represents the full range of students including the newest members and the most experienced. A month is not a lot of rehearsal time so it was ‘in at the deep end’ for the newbies. They did so well. Early nerves soon dissipated and everyone grew in confidence as the show unfolded.

The musical numbers showcased a variety of West End productions, big box office films and the best of Hollywood hits such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Sound of Music, The King and I, Evita, South Pacific, The Wizard of Oz, Half a Sixpence and more. Something to suit everyone.

The full company kicked off with The Phantom of the Opera, closing the show two hours later with Born to Hand Jive and You’ll Never Walk Alone. In between we had solos, duets, comedy pieces and one or two cheeky numbers too.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow is one of my all-time favourites. It’s just ‘up there’ and Amelia Zatorska sang it so sweetly that I and the rest of the audience melted. Gareth Maudsley’s rendition of Flash! Bang! Wallop! was brilliantly energetic and I’m convinced he’s related to Tommy Steele. If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It by Maria Collins was soooo tongue in cheek it made us blush. James Llewellyn Burke nailed all of his numbers including Gethsemene and Madame Guillotine with real passion, matched by Solomon Asante-Owusu and Lois Ormerod’s ‘crime of passion’ with We Both Reached For the Gun.

All these numbers would have fallen flat without the brilliant staging and direction of the production team. It’s easy to overlook the skills involved. Some of dance routines were complex yet executed with precision and that’s a tricky challenge for such a large cast, so, well done to Choreographer Katie Gough. A total of 39 musical numbers must have left Bethany Singh, Musical Director, feeling very proud and rightly so.

This was the first of a season of 8 shows that NWTAC will perform over the coming months and the script was inspired: A lovely trip down memory lane. What can beat a live performance, close to home and it doesn’t break the bank to go and watch?

If you have never been to NWTAC’s theatre and don’t know what to expect this is a view of the interior with the show’s Director, Prab Singh in the foreground…

NWTAC are truly a talented group of people but don’t take my word for it. Go and see for yourself. Winter Wonderland, a variety concert to get you in the mood for Christmas, comes up next from the 18th to 20th November. See you there.

Details of all forthcoming shows, how to join the mailing list and book tickets etc., can be found on NWTAC’s website here, along with details of the North West Stage School.

You can also follow them on Facebook, just click here.

Related Stories

North West Theatre Arts Company – Hairspray

They couldn’t have timed it better. NWTAC’s production of Hairspray started on 20th July just one day after Covid restrictions were lifted and it was a sell-out. Moston’s very own theatre at maximum capacity for the first time in 18 months.

For those who haven’t seen the film, Hairspray is set in Baltimore during the early 60’s where schoolgirl Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins TV show. School doesn’t fit in with her plans so, along with her friend Penny Pingleton, she teams up with fellow African American students when they get put in detention. Together, they oust the reigning prima donna from the TV show along with her domineering mother and win the day.

Hairspray is a light-hearted, fun-filled musical with an underlying theme promoting tolerance and integration.

It also happens to be one of my daughter’s favourite films. She knows it inside out; every scene, every song, every dance move. So I was a bit nervous when I took her and the rest of my family to see the show.

Would NWTAC’s version measure up to the award winning film starring the likes of John Travolta, Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeifer?

Answer: they smashed it!

The casting was inspired. Annabelle Cooke bounced out of bed as Tracy with a bright and energetic ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. She was pitch perfect and I knew straight away we were in for a treat.

Eva Carty played Penny Pingleton perfectly while Jonny Molyneux had Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad down to a tee. Jonny mustn’t have been available when they cast the film so they settled for John Travolta instead! He and his stage husband Gareth Maudsley have comedy timing in their bones.

James Burke followed in the footsteps of Zac Efron playing Tracy’s heart throb. He has a voice that just oozes confidence and rose to the challenge. Meanwhile, Penny’s love interest, Owen Omoruyi-Garci as Seaweed Stubbs, danced his way into her heart while his sister Little Inez (aka Elim Ghebrehiwet) sang her way into ours.

The TV ensemble was led by Anthony Horricks who carried off Corny Collins with professional smoothness. He and the station manager Velma Von Tussle (played by Melissa Grimes) and her daughter Amber (Kate Bannister) were superb.

In the West End, Marisha Wallace as Motormouth Maybelle was described as a show-stopper when she sang ‘I know where I’ve been’. I can only say that NWTAC’s Toyin Lawal, with her wonderful voice and elegance, was equally mesmerising.

Dance routines and songs just kept coming. Not once did anyone’s American accent falter. The full cast of 37 young actors and actresses who train at the North West Stage School did themselves, Beth Singh (Musical Director) and Katie Gough (Choreographer), Prab and the rest of the production team proud. It is such an elaborate show, packed with entertainment, humour and joy.

The past year and a half have challenged everyone but for this company to come through it all and produce a show as good as this is awesome.

My daughter, the whole of my family, loved it!

For all things NWTAC including future shows, professional theatrical training, their fantastic theatre summer school for anyone age 4+, Gap year theatre course, venue/set/costume hire and much, much more just follow them on Facebook and/or on their website where you can sign up to join the mailing list.

North West Theatre Arts Company – Live, love, dream, believe

It seems an age ago but, on Thursday 12th March this year, I went to see Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at NWTAC’s theatre on Lightbowne Road. Not for the first time, they took me by surprise.

I was late, distracted by news of the spreading virus, so I grabbed a drink at the bar and went to find my seat; through the doors and stopped – the entire auditorium was completely different.

Gone were the tiered rows of seats. The ‘stage’ was positioned in the centre rather than at the far end of the building. Seating was arranged around the edges, creating a true ‘theatre-in-the-round’.

The usher led me to a ring-side spot that put me inches from the performers, who were taking their positions. When the lights went down I could pick out the faces of my fellow audience and catch their expressions.

From start to finish there were clever connections to Manchester. Reflecting on the similarity between our own Piccadilly Gardens and the court of Athens, where Shakespeare opens his play. Queen Titania’s ‘cohort of fairies’ were portrayed as our famous worker bees.

They buzzed through their performance and I was mesmerised.

As ever, the acting was superb. The young performers slipped into character with ease and professionalism; engaging the audience, drawing them in. And, as the play unfolded, the stage was transformed into flower-covered woodland in front of our eyes as if by magic.

Two hours flew by. Before we knew it, we were leaving the theatre into the chilly night air. We left the dreamy world created by Prab Singh’s team behind us. Lockdown began just days later and, against all expectation, dragged on for months.

NWTAC has 10 years’ experience of adapting to change. It’s made them resilient. Their doors were closed but not all the ‘lights’ went out. Almost straight away they launched a series of on-line activities; fitness sessions with choreographer Katie Gough called ‘Dance Along with NWTAC’. Musical Director, Beth Singh, began ‘Story Time with Beth’ reading out Roald Dahl books. And on Friday evenings she ‘wowed’ us with her ‘Lockdown Live’ concerts.Rehearsals continued remotely for the theatre’s students using the on-line meeting platform, Zoom. The empty theatre was re-painted and steam cleaned in readiness.

In August, term-time resumed in line with government guidelines and a month later NWTAC re-opened its doors to the public to perform Factory Fest, a show originally scheduled for May…and I had a ticket!

Once more I arrived to find a transformed auditorium, only this time to make it Covid secure. Socially distanced tables had replaced the tiered seating, with waiter service only taking orders from the bar. Temperatures were checked prior to entry and all the doors were open so you could go straight to your allotted table without touching a thing. Masks were mandatory. Even the performers kept within their peer groups to avoid mixing.

Factory Fest was a full on indoor festival concert, a dizzying compilation of hits and routines, all brilliantly performed. Harmonies, choreography, variety, comedy. New students performed for the first time alongside the more experienced and together they knocked our socks off. Lockdown and six grim months had gone by but it was worth the wait; for the second time this year all thoughts of Coronavirus were left behind.

So many industries have been hit hard in recent months, performing arts is just one of them. We need it though, now more than ever and it needs us.NWTAC are continuing to work on projects including ‘The Sound and Soul of Hitsville Mowtown’ to be staged in November and the pantomime ‘Puss in Boots’ throughout December. This weekend, for two nights only on 16th and 17th October, Beth Singh will perform live at the theatre.

Keep an eye on social media for updates and, if you missed them first time around, you can still access Dance Along, Story Time and Lockdown live through NTWAC’s Facebook page.

Tickets for this weekend and future shows can be booked by calling the box office on 0161 207 1617.

Related Stories