Theatre round-up: On the yellow brick road

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Young performers will be dancing along the yellow brick road to North Pier Theatre from this Easter weekend.

A brand new professional production of The Wizard Of Oz is heading to Blackpool’s pier-end venue and dancers from Nicky Figgins Centre Stage Academy will be living up to their centre stage description in this family-friendly, all-singing, all-dancing panto-musical.

Along with a professional cast including Big Brother’s Grace Adams-Short the show offers the local youngsters the chance to perform in the show. Producer Kevin Brown from Trio Entertainment Ltd says: “I am really pleased to be working with Nicky Figgins and Centre Stage Academy this Easter. It is great to have local children and young people involved in our productions and I am sure they will all have a great time taking part. I visited a rehearsal and it is looking great. I am really looking forward to spending time on North Pier this year. The Wizard of Oz is definitely getting a lot of public interest.”

Many of the dance routines are choreographed by Nicky herself. An experienced dancer, she toured for many years in dance productions throughout the world, including eight years with Spirit of the Dance, five as the show’s lead dancer. The Wizard of Oz has afternoon performances tomorrow and Sunday; then Wednesday Sunday; and the following Wednesday to Saturday.

Box office: 01253 623304 or www.NorthPierBlackpool.co.uk

Pub culture meets pulp fiction in the latest event promoting Lancaster Arts City next Friday.

Lancaster’s Lord Ashton pub is the venue for an evening of live music, visual arts and ‘happenings’. For more details, visit www.talkwithleap.com. Just up the road The Dukes stage a one-off screening of Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction (18) at 8pm. Dress to impress and come early for music and dance in The Dukes bar. Tickets for the film will be at 1994 prices! For more information, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500.

Earlier in the evening, from 6-7pm, The Dukes is also hosting chilled out tunes for free in the gallery which will be transformed with soft seating, bean bags and gentle lighting. Watch, listen, join in and help two musicians create new songs from scratch.

And that still leaves time to enjoy a lively mix of music and projected film in Lancaster’s new venue – the Priory Hall. This free event, organised by local arts collective Totally Wired, will feature acoustic sets by The Kilcawley Family, Ben Hall, Olly Williamson and Rat Bit Kit from 7-10pm. For more information, visit www.totallywired.org.uk. All the events have been organised as part of the First Fridays project launched last autumn to promote Lancaster Arts City. Every First Friday of the month, Lancaster Arts Partners aim to offer a range of mainly free events encouraging people to see the area afresh and try out something new. Details: www.artscity.co.uk

One of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, Cats, returns to the Opera House in Manchester next week.

Including one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most memorable musical scores, spectacular set design, extraordinary costumes and stunning choreography, it remains a uniquely magical musical.

Based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the original adaptation was directed by Trevor Nunn, with choreography by Gillian Lynne and set and costume design by John Napier. Re-creating the direction and choreography for the tour is Chrissie Cartwright.

The cast features Joanna Ampil (Miss Saigon) as Grizabella, Oliver Savile (Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Monkee Business) as Rum Tum Tugger, Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy, Ben Palmer as Munkustrap, Melissa James as Bombalurina and Joseph Poulton as Mistoffelees. Cats opened at the New London Theatre in 1981 and played almost 9,000 performances. It closed in 2002 having celebrated 21 record-breaking years and winning an Olivier Award for Best Musical. In New York it was the winner of seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical and Best Director) and ran for 18 years making it second only to The Phantom of the Opera as Broadway’s longest running musical.

Box office: 0844 871 3018 or www.atgtickets.com/manchester

The international ice dance sensation that is The Imperial Ice Stars returns to the Lowry in Salford next week for a performance of The Sleeping Beauty ballet quite unlike any you have seen before. Direct from a worldwide tour, they last performed in Salford Quays in October 2006, when their dazzling production of Swan Lake on Ice, featuring 10 soloists from Manchester Symphony Orchestra, took Best Special Entertainment Award at the MEN Theatre Awards. Artistic director Tony Mercer, recognised as the world’s leading creator of theatre-on-ice, has teamed up with Russian Olympic coach Tatiana Tarasova to take contemporary ice dance to a new level, inspiring a 26-strong cast of Olympic, World, European and National championship skaters to feats so daring and complex they haven’t yet been named!

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Sleeping Beauty on Ice sticks to the classic fairytale love story but with high speed lifts and throws, aerial gymnastics, stilt skating and fire effects – in the intimacy of a theatre stage. There are two shows a day, most days, from Wednesday to Sunday. Box Office: 0843 2086005 or www.thelowry.com

Another young director, Michael Longhurst, heads Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s world premiere of Rory Mullarkey’s bold new play Cannibals which runs from Wednesday to April 27.

The play tackles big themes of love, death and consumerism in the 21st century and sees its central character Lizaveta carried on a nightmare journey from a war-torn ex-Soviet state to the streets of Manchester.

Director Michael Longhurst has recent credits which include Jake Gyllenhaal’s American stage debut in New York and the award-winning Constellations at the Royal Court and in the West End.

Appearing alongside a cast that includes several familiar faces from TV, is a 24-strong team comprising local drama students and members of the theatre’s Friends organisation.

Box Office: 0161 833 9833 or www.royalexchange.co.uk

Star of Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week, Last Leg with Adam Hills and BBC1’s Live At The Apollo, Josh Widdicombe continues his critically acclaimed tour in Lancaster next week. Further Adventures of… deals with Josh’s inability to embrace adventure in his life, and his continued frustration with everything he comes into contact with.

Since his first gig in January 2008 Josh has had a remarkable impact on the comedy circuit, winning or being nominated for several awards and is now regarded as one of the best up-and-coming acts on the UK circuit.

Catch him at Lancaster Grand next Thursday, with support from Suzi Ruffell. Box office: 01524 64695 or www.lancastergrand.co.uk

Or failing that The Atkinson in Southport on May 2 in a double bill with Sean Walsh. Box office: 01704 533333 or www.theatkinson.co.uk