Luke Butler_Streetz

REVIEW: StreetZ – Abraham Moss Theatre, Manchester

This evening, I was very kindly invited out to the Abraham Moss Theatre, in Crumpsall, Manchester, to see the North West Theatre Arts Company’s (NWTAC) production of their self-penned, brand new musical ‘StreetZ’.

Regular visitors to my site may have noticed that I’ve been helping to publicise this show to folk as best that I could all week, and also that attending a production of this nature is bold new territory for me, having previously only really attended shows in mainstream venues in Manchester and the West End, for various reasons.  What I can tell you right off the bat folks, is that StreetZ is not only good, but it’s actually FAR better than a fair percentage of stuff that I’ve seen in the more established Houses across the country! Seriously!

StreetZ is a musical written by the North West Youth Theatre School and the young people who are involved with the show, taking inspiration from real life situations and experiences faced by many people (including the actors and their peers), and exploring them further through the medium of art. Frankly, I can think of nothing more empowering!

Speaking to members of the production team during the interval, it was really inspiring to hear of some of the direct experiences of cast members being explored through the art form, and how the young people themselves had opened up and brought these experiences to the table – turning something that may have happened in their life that could be potentially a negative or destructive, into something so positive, and to great benefit.

Max and I were fortunate to be in the Green Room with the current Lord Mayor of Manchester, Harry Lyons, who put his finger on it instantly when he said (and, apologies, I may have to paraphrase) that this wasn’t just a musical for the current generation, but that the story resonated with him and his childhood experiences of growing up in the 30s and 40s. Technology may have changed, but the core societal issues remain exactly the same.

Watching the show, having grown up in various parts of Manchester in the 1980s, and not always in the most ‘cushy’ of circumstances, the story also touched the same nerve with me, and it was awesome to keep being transported back in time everytime one of the young people happened to say a certain phrase that I’d thought time had long since rendered uncool/obsolete, as I’d not heard it in decades!

I’ve come away from the production with an infectious sense of energy and desire to see this musical do well – I found all of the songs, written by composer Ross Johnson, and lyricists Prab Singh and Holly Younge, to be outstanding – there was not a single song that I didn’t like, or that didn’t add a new dimension to the show, and I found it very easy to get wrapped up in these songs and the music, especially some of the more ‘bouncy’ light-hearted tracks; the nice duet between Christopher Moakes’s character, Olly, and Grace Gill’s character, Samantha Thompson, in addition to those which made use of the full ensemble. I note from the NWTAC website that the cast album will be out in the summer, and I, for one, shall DEFINITELY be purchasing a copy!

In terms of the cast, I have not one single negative word to say about any of them! From the amazingly professional youngsters Carmen Douglas and Jamie Coyne, through to some of the more principal roles, excellently portrayed by Christopher Moakes, Grace Gill, Claire Bibby, Tempany Windsor, Jonny Molyneux and Leigh Manning, and the great swing characters played by Katie Nedderman, Rachel Redford, Tasha Bennett and Luke Butler, with Emylie O’Malley, Karolina Zarzycyny, Beth Mann, Katie Gough, Olivia Gill, Juliette Waterhouse, Adam Whitmore, Tom Simpson, Mary-May Moakes and Maddy Royle all being equally as fabulous – there really isn’t anyone else who was actually on stage who I’ve not mentioned as ‘outstanding’!

In terms of the tech side of the production, everything was incredibly smooth to those of us out front, and simple but effective scene changes really did win through – managing to keep a static set fresh and clean, which from experience of watching similar productions, I know can be hard to do!

The sound quality was excellent, and the theatre itself has a fantastically wide stage front, enabling you to see the action from any seat in the House. Leg room is especially roomy at the Abraham Moss Theatre, and the seats were amongst the comfiest that I’ve ever sat in for such a period!

The building/area surrounding the Theatre itself is currently undergoing some new building work, and I’ve been suitably assured that it’s going to be fantastic when it’s all done. One thing that I’ve yet to discover in Manchester is a Fringe Theatre circuit, as exists in London, though you can bet that with quality productions such as StreetZ appearing at the Abraham Moss Theatre (itself right next to the Metrolink, and a one stop / 5 minute tram ride away from Manchester Victoria) that one will soon enough pop up – I just wish that I had the capital to try to pull a ‘scene’ together myself right now!! :P

Speaking with NWTAC’s Director, Prab Singh, it is very clear that he has a lot of enthusiasm for this new musical, and so he should! The show was written and conceived by Mr Singh, and whilst I see that NWTAC have done productions of other established works in the past, it must be fantastic for him, as a fellow musical theatre enthusiast, to see his own show being re-staged in this manner. Hats off to him, I wish that I could write and conceive a new song, let alone an entire musical, and to be able to work with such a talented and passionate team of people! It really was a pleasure to be able to talk to him about his show.

The last time that I came away from a show as enthusiastic and excited as this, was when I saw Phantom of the Opera for the first time, in London. It’s rare that I get THIS excited about something, and I find myself wishing that I could do more to get involved or drag people to see this show! Unfortunately, it is only on this weekend. The Lord Mayor made a very good point when he said that he thought this would be fantastic as a piece for MiF (Manchester International Festival), and so hopefully this isn’t the last that Manchester will see of StreetZ in the coming months! It should also be noted that the musical would work really well in ANY UK city – just change up the accents, and some of the slang, and bang, you’ve got yourself a musical franchise, ha!

One thing that I do publically want to say, is that I was very kindly invited along this evening to the production as a guest of the NWTAC (who, it has to be noted, treated us like Kings – bless them, such amazingly kind and lovely people!!! Max should worry, I’m going to expect this all the time at home now, ha!).

However, and for the first time I’ve done this when attending as a guest – including in the West End – I will be contacting the NWTAC and insisting that they let me pay going-rate for the seats that Max and I had for the performance. IT WAS THAT GOOD!!

For most shows, as a reviewer, it balances out – it takes several hours to write these reviews, and I often stay up until late in the night, as my reviews are often sent directly to Producers the following day when they request them, so, to be honest, it’s not as if I don’t earn my seat. Many times, I attend the theatre as a regular paying patron, which when you have a habit like mine, gets very expensive, very quickly! :P

However, even with the time spent on the posts and this review, I still find myself feeling that I really want to give back, and support the NWTAC, and so I’ll happily offer up my card details to them in recognition of a fantastic evening of entertainment, a very talented cast of young people, and the great musical that they have in StreetZ!

This is very much a show suitable for all the family, and it was great to find people, young and old, in the audience who were enjoying the production – as I mentioned in my previous post, I believe that young people’s theatre is a great way to bring the arts to the younger people who don’t often get chance/have inclination to go and watch theatre, through watching their peers/family members appear on stage, and who will then hopefully then go on to develop a long-lasting interest/support of the Arts, and it’s great to see this happening in Manchester through the work of the NWTAC, and others that I’ve yet to discover – hurrah!

I very much look forward to flicking through their programme of forthcoming shows, and hopefully attending another in the future!

Streetz will be performed once more, on Saturday 5 May at 7.30pm.

The Abraham Moss Theatre, Crescent Road, Manchester M8 5UF.

Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 concessions, £32 family of four.

Booking line: 07866 378569 / 0161 908 2466
www.northwesttheatreartscompany.co.uk

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