Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

News: Musical

The wonderful surprise about this year’s nominee list is its encapsulation of the excitement and innovation happening within this genre across all the city’s venues – both production and receiving houses. 

Manchester continues to attract the top national and international touring musicals – sometimes, in the case of the bright and beguiling Wind in the Willows at The Lowry, before they’re seen by West End audiences. It took a long time for Billy Elliot to tour the UK, but it finally arrived in Manchester this year and having seen it in the West End, I fell in love with it even more from the stalls of the Palace Theatre.

The sheer ambition of a new venue, like Hope Mill Theatre taking on the mammoth task of staging Parade is to be applauded. That they pulled it off with such style is even more impressive and has put the venue firmly on Manchester’s theatrical map. 

Singin’ in the Rain at Octagon Theatre, Bolton was a joint production with another regional theatre-in-the-round, the New Vic at Newcastle-under-Lyme. Again this was an ambitious project by anyone’s estimation. The energy, talent and innovation that went into it was an astonishing achievement all-round. This show was what this genre was made for – full of enjoyment and left the audience beaming. 

Our winning musical this year is another home-grown production, Sweet Charity. For its Christmas show, the Royal Exchange took this Broadway classic with all the glitz and razzle dazzle of the genre, added a good dose of ballsy drama, cast a shining star as the heroine and injected it with a strong shot of humour. It was a recipe for success and challenged perceptions of what was possible in such an intimate space.

Carmel Thomason
17 March 2017