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Review: Back to the Future – The Musical

I can remember the first time I heard those ticking clocks.

It was a friend’s birthday party at her house and we all sat round as the video was put on.

The excitement was real as those clocks ticked and the camera panned across the Doc’s home and workshop in a garage in the fictional Hill Valley.

Some 30 odd years later and those tick-tocks were back as we took our seats in the circle of the Opera House, Manchester, a countdown taking place on stage, the atmosphere feeling as electric as the currents that crackled above our heads.

And so for years and years my brother and I have been quoting lines from the Back to the Future (BTTF) trilogy (mostly the first two actually – Soz cowboy BTTF.

Run for it Marty!

Good night Future boy!

Well you’re right, Biff, you’re right!

Not too early, I sleep in Sundays

Joey just looooves being in his playpen

You’re my m…you’re my m….

Ha a a a a a a a a a a a a he always says that…

And so it was with intrigue, fear and nerves that I approached the concept that is BTTF the musical.

Full disclosure – I’ve never been the biggest fan of musicals. I can cast an objective eye towards them and recognise talent and what is good about them (I hope), but as a genre of entertainment they’re not necessarily my favourite.

Would it be all…(a 5,6,7,8)

🎶 Gigawatts! 1.21 Gigawatts! They are Gigawatts! And there are 1.21 of them, that’s 1.21 of them…

No matter. If BTTF is involved and importantly the original creatives, co-creators and producers Bobs Gale and Zemekis are on board, you go, go, go.

Robert Zemekis in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And blimey – I am so glad I did (we did need roads).

Bob Gale in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and Roger Bart as The Doc, the show takes us through the first film and story in a way that is fully faithful, and abridged where necessary.

Olly Dobson and Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

The dialogue is there as the actors riff on the old favourites, with lines delivered to cheers, laughter and the pure joy of recognition.

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

This was never more the case than when loveable old George McFly (Hugh Coles) was on stage. The show didn’t necessarily demand carbon copy imitations of the characters, but boy did we all marvel with open-mouthed glee (picture what that looked like) as the loveable old and original ‘slacker’ manifested before our very eyes.

Olly Dobson and Rosanna Hyland (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And it was a very similar story with Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine, from the moment she poured out that vodka, through to pointing out her hope chest, to parking with a boy.

Olly Dobson took on the incredibly difficult task of asking us to imagine a Marty McFly who isn’t Michael J Fox (yes, I know, Eric Stolz for about 5 mins, fellow hardcore BTTF tribe members), and he smashed it.

(Pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Darting, skateboarding, jamming his way round the stage in his life preserver, Dobson was a joy to watch down to the smallest of inflections – don’t get me wrong though, he made future boy his own.

We need to talk about the Doc, played by Roger Bart. I was never about to make like a tree and get outta there but for the opening strains of a song and dance routine as he shimmied round the DeLorean with his back up dancers, I was in a small state of shock.

Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

But then, Great Scott, I got it. And it was everything.

Christopher Lloyd is the Doc, we all know this. But Roger Bart is musical Doc. A Doc that delivers the 1.21 gigawattsness with the same breathy, incredulity, but with a hammy quality and campness that is simply perfect.

If you’re gonna be musical Doc, go big, go extra, or go home (with the aid of a bolt of lightening, perhaps).

Glor.i.ous.

And so to our dear time machine, the DeLorean. There it was in all its glory. Forget Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this car is its own star which brings me to the special effects which were out of this world.

Believe me, this pic does not do the sfx justice (credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

How do you demonstrate time travel on a lovely old theatre in the middle of Manchester? I don’t know but thanks to the genius of the special effects, they did, and then some in a way that got the heart rate racing upto 88mph.

With a musical score that was the perfect balance of the original and the new (with a healthy dose of Huey and his veritable News thrown in (nice nod, naming a new character after his Lewisness), it even got Miss ‘musicals aren’t necessarily my thing’ on her feet.

If you put your mind to it, you can indeed achieve anything. And blimey o’reilly, has the world premier outing of this show achieved everything.

Hugh Coles and Aidan Cutler (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)
What a voice – Cedric Neal (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Go, introduce your kids and bask in the brilliance of this new show. Buttheads.

Showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until 17 May 2020.

For further details and tickets, head to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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cinema film Manchester preview Preview/review The Arts

Film Preview: Military Wives

I will be honest, and I don’t mean this to be offensive to any film that is based on a true story about real people, with real life events and feelings, but I generally, and admittedly cynically, run a mile from anything that has a whiff of ‘feel-good’.

But I’ll happily (yes i can do happy) admit upfront that this film actually made me feel good. Very good.

Credit: Lionsgate UK

Starring the wonderful Sharon Horgan alongside the equally wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas, Military Wives is inspired by the true story of the world’s first military wives choir, and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Peter Cattaneo.

Credit: Lionsgate UK

Read my review of Military Wives on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/review-military-wives/

Now in cinemas across Greater Manchester, including:

Everyman Manchester

Vue Cinemas

Odeon Manchester

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Film Review: Greed

As a child i was terrified of the poem, The Lion and Albert, by Marriott Edgar.

Set at a ‘famous seaside place called Blackpool’, it was all literally a bit close to home for me (growing up in a small village about 3 miles out….)

It still haunts me. Anyway, I’ll just leave that here for now.

Michael Winterbottom’s Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire, Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), whose retail empire is in crisis.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

What better way to save his flailing reputation and dwindling finances than the 60th birthday party to end all parties on the island of Mykonos.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

Go big or indeed go home (that lion though…)

Read my review of Greed on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw – https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/review-greed/

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 21 February 2020 including:

https://homemcr.org/film/greed/

https://www.myvue.com/film/greed

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/greed

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cinema film Manchester preview Preview/review

Film Review: Queen & Slim

Queen and Slim is Crash, meets Bonnie and Clyde, meets True Romance.

But most of all it’s Queen & Slim.

Copyright: Universal Pictures

Read my view of Queen & Slim on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw –

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/01/30/review-queen-and-slim/

Copyright: Universal Pictures

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 31 January 2020 including

https://www.myvue.com/film/queen-and-slim

Home MCR

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/queen-slim

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Culture film Manchester Music Popular culture preview The Arts Theatre

Pics: Rehearsals in full flow for Back to the Future The Musical

If you haven’t yet heard that Back to the Future The Musical (no less) is coming to Manchester’s Opera House on 20 February 2020, great Scott, you’d better make like a leaf and get outta here!

Yes, I did that homage and I’m very proud of my little self…

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and and Roger Bart as ‘Doc’ , you’ll have 12 weeks to catch the show and from 17 March they even have Sunday matinees (before then, they sleep in on Sundays…)

Oh yes.

As these behind the scenes pictures show, the actors have hit rehearsals at a rate of 88mph (yes it works), with (and this surely stamps quality all over it) original creative team Co-creators and Producers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemekis.

Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Bob Gale in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Robert Zemeckis in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Hugh Coles and Cedric Neal in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)
For full details visit http://backtothefuturemusical.com/

Buy tickets here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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cinema film Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Dickens, eh?

Have you ever noticed the sheer amount of old English pubs which boast the accolade that Charles Dickens once drank there?

It’s a wonder he got anything done.

Well done he did and one of the things wot he done was David Copperfield. And now Armando Iannucci did done it too.

Read my review of The Personal History of David Copperfield on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw –

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/review-the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield/

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 24 January 2019 including

https://www.myvue.com/cinema/manchester-printworks/whats-on

https://www.myvue.com/cinema/manchester/whats-on

https://mobi.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/manchester_great_northern/225/

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/members-the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield

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News: HOME brings in 2020 with a retrospective of award-winning Mancunian screenwriter, Robert Bolt

I’m currently trying my hand at screenwriting (under the excellent tutorage of Scriptwriting North), love a regular visit to HOME and dip my toe in the world of film both here and over at What the Projectionist Saw

So battling my way through a frankly annoying barrage of emails in my inbox about Black Friday,  there was only one missive which caught my eye and promised me the ultimate gift (and not a BF reference in sight – a GOOD thing).

HOME are seeing in 2020 with their annual British Screenwriters season, 5-22 January, and there’s a mancunian cherry on the cake.

Manchester-born and educated Robert Bolt will be the subject of a celebrated season of works including the infamous and frankly quite epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr Zhivago (1965).

Happy new year to us!

Curated by Andy Willis, HOME’s Senior Visiting Curator: Film and Professor of Film Studies at the University of Salford, the season will screen three of Bolt’s award-winning collaborations with Lean: Lawrence of Arabia, recipient of seven Oscars in 1963 including Best Film and Best Director, with a Best Screenplay nomination for Bolt; Doctor Zhivago, which won Bolt his first Oscar and Golden Globe; and Ryan’s Daughter (1970), a double Oscar-winning epic romance set against a backdrop of war and political turmoil.

Also screening is the 1966 screen adaptation of Bolt’s internationally successful stage play of the same name, A Man for All Seasons, with Paul Scofield reprising his West End and Broadway role as Sir Thomas More – for which he was awarded an Oscar – alongside a cast including Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Vanessa Redgrave and John Hurt and directed by Hollywood veteran Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity). Rounding off the season is Bolt’s final film, The Mission – the haunting, epic tale of a missionary in 18th-century South America starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons and directed by Roland Joffé – winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival as well as a final Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for Bolt.

Curator Andy Willis heads up proceedings with a special One Hour Intro about Bolt and his career, commenting…

Bolt is a true Manchester success story – born in Sale and educated in Manchester, he studied at Manchester University before and after serving in World War II. We’re excited to be celebrating this brilliant writer who enjoyed critical and commercial success across such a vast range of theatre and film writing, and possessed a true knack for making history contemporary and tackling moral issues dramatically.

For more details including the full programme list and to buy tickets, head to the HOME website at https://homemcr.org/event/british-screenwriters-robert-bolt/

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FilmFear at HOME Mcr – the reviews…

7.11.19 – Updated!

Review: The Lighthouse

Review: The Dead Center

Last week I left home for HOME to throw myself royally into their annual FilmFear festival, hosted in conjuction with Film4.

image

You can read more in my round up at FilmFear and chills…Film Festival returns to HOME Mcr this Hallowe’en

Here, after surviving three spine-tingling thrills, chills and spills (and that was just in the bar before lights down), I’ll let you know how I got on from my little ‘bit on the side’ film blog, What The Projectionist Saw. Look out for further updates this week.

First up is Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse

Steptoe and Son meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets The Ring. Oh yes.

180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2019/11/03/review-the-lighthouse-2019/

7.11.19 – Second review in – Billy Senese’s The Dead Center…

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2019/11/07/review-the-dead-center-2018/

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FilmFear and chills…Film Festival returns to HOME Mcr this Hallowe’en

October is about Hallowe’en and Hallowe’en is basically about films.

Keep your costumes and candy (yes I know we’re British but the whole trick or treating is increasingly of the USA and essentially it was good alliteration.

Last year’s FilmFear brought us many cinematic sensations but most of all Nicolas Cage being more Nicolas Cage than Nicolas Cage has ever or will be, in – ‘Mandy’ at HOME Mcr – review here.

It also brought indie Swedish gem Videoman. – read review here

Credit: HOME Mcr

This year, HOME and Film4, brings us the biggest programme yet, comprising six days of horror, extreme cinema, cult favourites and specialist guests visiting our fine city, kicking off from Tuesday 29 October.

Highlights include:

  • a special preview of The Lighthouse, director Robert Eggers’ much-anticipated follow-up to his folk-horror debut The Witch (2015). Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers battling the elements, isolation, inner demons and more on a remote and mysterious Maine island in the 1890s. Excitingly, the film won’t be on general release until January 2020, giving us Mancunians, honorary Mancunians and visitors to HOME amongst the first to view;

The Lighthouse

  • from the producers of the aforementioned and quite wonderful MandyDaniel Isn’t Real, is a creepy imaginary-friend horror (are there any other kind?), starring Patrick Schwarzenegger;

Daniel Isn’t Real

  • a Hallowe’en night preview of Doctor Sleep, based on the Stephen King novel and starring Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance, set 40 years after his terrifying stay at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining;

Dr Sleep

  • Billy Senese’s The Dead Center, starring Shane Carruth as a troubled doctor who becomes obsessed with the resurrected corpse of a suicide victim (that scary enough for you?).

Alongside the shiny and new, FilmFear also features three classics:

The Wicker Man

  • Masters of horror, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee (it wouldn’t be Hallowe’en without them), star in classics The Tingler (1959) and The Wicker Man (1973), respectively; and
  • Werner Herzog’s 1979 take on the infamous tale of Nosferatu the Vampyre, which brings the season to a finale on 3 November.

Accompanying the screening programme there is a ‘Bring the Family’ screening of Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches on Sunday 27 October, which has been selected by HOME’s Young Programmers.

The Witches

HOME’s Film Programme Producer, Jennifer Hall, said,

We’re looking forward to serving up another Halloween treat for horror-hungry fans and welcoming audiences of all ages to our first FilmFear “Bring the Family” screening of The Witches, a fitting contribution to the season from HOME’s Young Programmers who have also programmed The Wicker Man.”

For in between your trips to HOME, Film4 will be screening a week of chilling titles including Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! and The Midnight Man, starring Robert Englund.

So head HOME Mcr for hallowe’en this year for FilmFear and chills…

For full details of the programme, visit https://homemcr.org/event/filmfear/

Reviews of my favourites to follow…

 

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cinema Culture film Manchester preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Film Review: Mrs Lowry & Son

One of my favourite sketches, amongst thousands (which, incidentally, does not include the bloody parrot one), is Monty  Python’s irreverent (could it be anything else) look at working class life:

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2q1ojy

Turning matters on their head, whilst t’father in ‘is rolled up sleeves, braces and britches, sweats over his work as an award-winning playwright in ‘ampstead, his well spoken son who previously has gone ‘poncing off to Barnsley’ to be a coal miner, returns home. Concerned about his mum, he exclaims

Look at what you’ve done to mother! She’s worn out with meeting film stars, attending premieres and giving gala luncheons…

Well there’s nowt wrong with gala luncheons, as Graham Chapman furiously retorts, and to that end, nowt wrong with gala premieres.

And so (somewhat tenuously), we come to the Gala Premiere showing of Mrs Lowry & Son, at, where else, Salford’s very own Lowry Theatre.

Starring the wonderful (and no introduction-warranting) actors Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall in the title roles, the Adrian Noble directed film takes us to Pendlebury and almost exclusively to an elderly Elizabeth Lowry’s bedroom where, from a bed, she relies on  (how much this is actually required is unclear and a point which Redgrave refused to speculate on during the Q&A following the screening), berates and manipulates her ever-patient but very much grown up bachelor son.

Exuding regality (and extreme fragility when, perhaps suited), Redgrave’s Mrs Lowry is quick to criticise her son’s ‘hobby’ and any artistic aspirations (which, would always be quiet and humble) he may dare to have. Indeed any praise or commendation is reserved for the buying of sausages from the ‘correct’ butchers (although did he buy them from the father or the son in the shop because this is important…).

As we see Mrs Lowry bemoan the fact that her previous middle class standing had given way to what she sees as a low class existence in 1930s Pendlebury,

I haven’t been cheerful since 1898

the irony is, of course, there in spades, given the reverence, value and respect in the history of art which was to come to one L.S….

Occasionally venturing outside the terraced house and into the streets as our Laurie goes about his day job collecting debt, the film is careful not to litter the screen with obvious and clichéd nods. We’re not bombarded with matchstick men, cats and dogs in the frame, but we do see landscapes and scenes of inspiration for paintings which were to become.

As Timothy Spall so beautifully put it in the Q&A, Lowry saw the ‘gorgeous decreptitude’ in his surroundings.

That can only sound like an oxymoron if you’ve never seen one of his paintings. Then it makes perfect sense.

One direct and glorious reference we are treated to in the film, deals us a live version of  one of my favourite Lowrys…

Lowry was to turn down a knighthood, later in life, reasoning that as his then late mother wasn’t there to see it, there wasn’t a point. One wonders what Mrs Lowry would have thought (perhaps even if it was secretly, dressed up in critique), were she to witness her son’s legacy – right up to last night’s Gala Premiere.

Whilst we’ll never know for sure, with writer Martyn Hesford’s screenplay, we’re probably as close as dammit to guessing.

Mrs Lowry & Son is released in cinemas nationwide from  Friday 30 August.

The permanent and rather wonderful exhibition L.S. Lowry The Art & The Artist at, where else, The Lowry, is open daily and free to visit. See thelowry.com for details.