LAST NIGHT AT THE LOWRY
I have to admit that I wasn't sure whether I would like the Corrie! stage play or not. The more I read about it in advance the more I was put off. It just sounded like a send-up to me. So I hold my hands up - I was wrong, it's a triumph!
How the actors must have been dreading last night - five of them play a long list of Corrie favourites - from Hilda and Ena to Mike, Roy, Hayley, Alec, Annie and more. Not only did they have a full house to entertain last night - along with the reviewers of course - but they also had many of the actors they were portraying sat out in the dark too!
It became a little surreal actually. I had Johnny Briggs (Mike) sat right behind me watching an actor playing Mike on stage. We went through the Deidre/Ken/Mike triangle and then, they acted out Mike's death in Ken's arms. Johnny laughed away and afterwards told me that he thought the show was wonderful - adding that he wished he'd invested in it! The audience included the actors who play/played Fiz, Sean, Alec, Molly, Amy, Simon, Mike, Richard Hillman, Roy, Rita, Sunita, Candice, Sally, Leanne and Julie Carp. Fiz was right in front of me and laughed like a drain - and Sean, who was two along from me, was certainly loving it. In fact, at the end, the audience gave the production a much deserved standing ovation.
So, how does it work? Blanche arrives at the pearly gates to be met by Jim McDonald/Charles Lawson/St Peter (the show's only weak point for me. It requires a narrator with a bit more life in him/her). St Peter isn't sure that Blanche should enter heaven so whilst she goes off to find God to complain, St Peter takes a look at her life and where she's from. We then set off on a hilarious romp through 50 years of stories. Some are played very much for laughs - Steve McDonald is played bug-eyed and gurning, Jason is a complete plank and Brian Tilsley is a gormless womaniser. Some of it is touching - Hilda returning with Stan's things after he's died, Hayley telling Roy that she's a transsexual. Some of it works because we're in on the joke - every time Gail meets a fella she pronounces him ideal husband material, Deidre straining her neck with ever twist of bad news. It's not a send up, it's an affectionate romp.
The five actors who play all the parts work their socks off and change costumes and wigs hundreds of times, the set is highly ingenious and even gets laughs when it becomes Gail Force (Gail and Joe's boat) for example, or when Deidre is locked up in the slammer. Alan Bradley's death on the front of the Blackpool tram is very well done (Barbara Knox told me that she cried with laughter watching that) and the Tony Gordon storyline told as a ballet works very well.
After the show I had a chat with Tony Warren who pronounced it a hit and I also told the producer, Phil McIntyre, how well it would work in Canada and that he should consider a national tour. Let's hope so.
A fine birthday gift for Corrie!