Disney On Ice: Passport To Adventure
My friend and I are taking our children to Disneyland Paris in March next year and so when we saw that Disney on Ice was to be visiting Manchester in October this year we decided to book tickets as a nice treat but also as a build up to the excitement of Disneyland too. This is my review of the show Disney on Ice: Passport to Adventure ... which we saw on Friday the 19th October.
==Booking tickets and price==
We booked tickets for the show via the ticket master website as I trust them to deal with our needs professionally and I use them quite a lot. The booking process was quite simple and we simply typed in the event we wanted to see and then clicked on the date which we wanted to see it at our chosen venue. The ticket master website brought up a seating plan where we were able to choose our seats from those that were still available and we could also see the price per ticket too.
We booked seats in the lower tier of the MEN arena in Manchester in block 114 which was one of the side blocks but which had a good view of the space in which the show would be performed. I have been to the MEN arena for many gigs and so I was aware of which blocks I would prefer to sit in but I think the chart on the website does help if you are not too familiar with the arena.
The tickets cost around £20 each but there were some service charges and postage and packing charges on there too which bumped the price up a bit. I think it is a bit naughty when they add high service charges to tickets but it is just the way things have gone with purchasing tickets for events. I felt the price for the show tickets were reasonable for something I felt sure my son would enjoy. The tickets arrived just a few days after booking which I felt was good service.
The MEN arena is the largest arena in Manchester for shows and gigs. It is situated in the centre of Manchester and is very close to Victoria train station for those who may travel in by train.
We actually drove to the event and parked on the Boddingtons car park next to the arena which normally costs £3 for the day but as there was an event on there was a charge of £6 which whilst isn't too over the top I think it is disgusting that you have to pay more just because you are coming to an event and I do plan to contact the NCP about that as it seems ridiculous.
You can enter the MEN arena through Victoria train station and this is how I always enter the arena for any gig. When we got to the arena it was very busy with lots of people wanting to buy merchandise and things and the staff didn't move very quickly to get people in to the arena which was disappointing to be honest. There was a stand in the main part of the MEN arena selling merchandise and we did queue here to buy teddies for the children. A small one cost £12 which is ridiculously over priced really but my son had saved and wanted to buy one. A programme cost £9 and I didn't bother getting one of those but I did buy my son a popcorn bucket which was £8 and again a total rip off but he was happy with it and the plastic bucket is a kind of memento of the day out which can be used again. There were also stalls inside the arena once you got in the main doors and these seemed quieter than the one outside and so I would advise you have a look inside if you can really.
Inside the arena there are plenty of staff who can direct you to the area you need to be in but there are also lots of well placed signs telling you which door takes you to which blocks and so it is hard to get lost or confused in there. There are plenty of places to purchase drinks inside as well as toilets for both male and females.
The arena is a large two tiered area and whilst we were on the lower tier we were on row T which felt high enough for me as I don't like heights anymore really. The seats are comfortable enough for the show and as it was a family show we were all sat down for the duration of it. At concerts people are generally stood up and so it is a good idea that the rows are tiered as you have more chance of seeing over the person in front of you that way!
The ice covered the full area of what is normally the floor section in a concert and so it was a good size to be able to watch. There was also a larger staged area which was higher up off the floor for the cast to make use of and I think the whole thing was set up really well.
The passport to adventure show followed the popular Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy as they went on a bit of a holiday adventure to places around the world. What is nice is that the real voices of the characters are played as they skate around and so a child who is a fan of Mickey Mouse for example won't be disappointed when he talks as it is just the normal Mickey Mouse voice.
The show first follows the characters to the African Savannah where they encounter the Lion King characters. It was this that I wanted my son to see the show for because it is his favourite film and his face was an absolute picture which actually brought tears to my eyes as I watched him sing along with the classic songs and watch in wonderment as Timon and Pumbaa made their way around the ice. The whole section of this was really beautiful I thought and the skaters really were impressive! I was amazed at how Pumbaa was in a full body costume and looked just like he does on the film and so how the person or people skated inside that costume to be honest!
From the Lion King the show moved on to the under sea delights of the little mermaid and whilst this wasn't a film my son had seen he was taken by the action on the ice. Ariel stumbled a couple of times which my friends daughter found hilarious but the show went on and it was a beautiful display really with lots of lifts from the main two dancers but lots of other things going on from the other skaters dressed as crabs, starfish and fish. My son loved Flounder the fish and the large balloon Ursula and I really liked Sebastian the red crab as I thought it was really clever how they had made the costumes so well.
From the little mermaid they went to Hawaii to see Lilo and Stitch and although my son has never seen the film he had purchased a Stitch soft toy from the stall outside and so he was happy to sit and watch this section. Again there were a few stumbles but nothing too dramatic and there was plenty of action on the ice as aliens came to earth to try and take Stitch back. This section was probably my least favourite of the whole show but it was still enjoyable.
There was a short ten or fifteen minute interval after the Lilo and Stitch section but we didn't go to the toilet or anything because the queues are always ridiculous and the children were both fine.
After the interval was a visit to Neverland with Peter Pan and this was a really fun section as ropes were used to give the effect of the Darling children and Peter flying and there was the introduction of Captain Hook to fight with Peter Pan too. At the end of the section there was a huge inflated crocodile with an open mouth in which Peter Pan pushes Captain Hook at the end and my son just loved this bit. It was really clever and there was so much to look at through the whole show that the time just flew by.
The show was on for ninety minutes and this time literally flew by I have to say. The children were both so impressed with the show that they didn't act tired despite the fact the show started at 7pm and so by the time it finished was way past their bedtimes on a Friday night when they had been at school all day.
The effects used in the show were great I think and so there were small flashes of fireworks every so often which were really nice to look at but above that the costume design and variety of colours on the ice just grabbed your attention and made you believe in the Disney magic. The skaters were really professional and although there was the odd fall they got straight back up and on with the show and some of the moves they did were really breathtaking and I was thoroughly impressed!
We came out of the show saying that we must book to go again next year to whichever show they put on which I think is testament to how much we enjoyed it really and so I am sure you can tell I recommend it. I wouldn't even say the show is just for children because as an adult I really enjoyed it and I know my 21 year old cousin and her friend also went to see the show on their own as they love Disney too.
Thank you for reading my review!
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Starlight Express 2012 (UK Tour)
****THE FASTEST SHOW ON EARTH (Background)**** Starlight Express was created by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1975 as a children's story. Apparently Sir Andrew intended it to become an animated show but as this didn't happen, he went on to re-write it in 1983, as a story for his two children. The show opened in 1984 at London's ... Apollo Victoria theatre. Nine years later the music was devoted to another of his children, Alastair.
In the words of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber:
"Starlight was always meant to be fun, hopefully an entertaining piece of live theatre for a new audience...
We are all proud that Starlight not only became the second longest running musical in London theatre history in April 1992, but also has spawned a new generation of theatre-goers who perhaps never considered going to the theatre before and who may have gone on to other (perhaps more conventional!) things."
The shows lyrics are by Richard Stilgoe and I understand that additional lyrics for the tour have been written by David Yazbeck. Arlene Phillips choreographed for the West End show and is also a choreographer and director for this United Kingdome tour. The tour is presented by Bill Kenwright.
I was impressed to hear that Starlight Express has been seen by almost 20 million people and gross box office world-wide is estimated at over £270 million. It has been shown in Germany (and still is in a specially adapted stage in Bochum), the USA, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Japan and it was also shown on ice in 1997. I think it's shame that it isn't still running in London.
It's a simple story of a boy (unseen) playing with his train set. His mother tells him it's time to stop playing but he resists. The boy falls asleep and dreams of the all-important race as his trains come to life and he is the controller. His voice is heard throughout the show.
The trains are engines and carriages both male and female. The actors skate and dance through the show, imitating the movement of trains.
Starlight Express is about the preparations of the trains for the big race; a contest between steam, diesel and electric to see which really is the best. It's a tail of the underdog and of course, there's a love story in there too.
The story is simple but, in my opinion, works very well and is all that is needed as this show has so much action as well as imaginative, vibrant costumes, brilliant skating and lots of catchy tunes and much innuendo contained in the song lyrics.
**** I'VE SEEN THE STARLIGHT BUT ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH****
I never got to see Starlight Express when it was being shown in London's Apollo Victoria theatre in London, back in March 1984. I wanted to go although admittedly I wasn't as interested in musicals at the time as I am now, and also, with two young children under the age of two and a half, I had to watch the pennies. But I regret not seeing it while it was still showing in London's West End (especially as I was living in London) in its purpose built set.
As my youngest child entered her teens she became obsessed with musicals and started performing in amateur productions. I felt I had to start taking her to see some musicals. I was pleased to see in 2004 that Starlight Express was on tour and would be at Southend-on-Sea in Essex, not too far away from us. We did go to see it and were most impressed, so much so that I wanted to see this show again. This year, after a wait of several years, I was very pleased to discover that it was again on tour in the UK.
The tour covered much of the United Kingdom and we considered seeing the show at Wimbledon, London, in May of 2012, but found that the dates weren't suitable so we settled instead on again going to the Cliffs Pavilion at Southend-on-Sea.
****MY OPINION ON THE SONGS AND MUSIC****
The songs in this show when heard but not seen in the context of the show aren't amongst my favourites from musicals but when watching the show then they seem so much better and really suit the action and story perfectly. The music is mainly upbeat, as is the show and the lyrics are very humorous. Most of the songs get the audience clapping and tapping their feet to the rhythm.
My favourites are I am the Starlight, Starlight Express and Make Up My Heart. All songs were sung well and received well by the audience. There was laughter as U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. (a parody of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. by Tammy Wynette) was sung by Dinah the dining car and when three worst for wear trains sang, One Rock and Roll too many.
****WELL TRAINED STAR(light) CAST****
I thought this an excellent cast. On the night that we saw the show Poppa was played by Gavin Ashbarry, instead of Lothair Eaton. When I last saw Starlight, I remember the actor playing Poppa had a very memorable gospel/blues type voice, more so than Gavin Ashbarry, BUT this was made up for by Ashbarry's excellent interaction with the audience and his obvious enjoyment of playing this part.
I thought that Amanda Coutts as Pearl had a beautiful voice.
I was very impressed with Kristofer Harding (Rusty) and Jamie Capewell (Greaseball) for their singing talents and their acting.
Introducing just a few of the cast:
Kristofer Harding Rusty
Mykal Rand Electra
Jamie Capewell Greaseball
Lothair Eaton/Gavin Ashbarry Poppa
Amanda Coutts Pearl
Ruthie Stephens Dinah
Camilla Hardy Buffy
Kelsie Cobban Duvay
On entering the auditorium one is handed cardboard 3D glasses; these are for the race scenes. My son and his fiancée looked a little puzzled but as I'd seen the show before I knew what to expect. Yet, even though I'd been here before I still really enjoyed the announcement/safety warnings of: Safety alert. Please put on your safety glasses. Glasses were put on and the tunnel scenes went ahead. A screen lowers onto the stage and the 3D effect can be seen. Trains (skaters) speed through the tunnels whilst objects fly through the air, seeming to head straight at the audience. When a bat flew in the tunnel everyone jumped, including me.
I understand that when the show was at the Apollo Victoria, the actors really did race on their skates, but on tour, without a custom built train track effect this wouldn't be possible with any feeling of realism. I felt the 3D effect worked very well and added something just a little bit different.
****LITTLE STARS (Children)****
I was surprised at the amount of children in the theatre for the show as it wasn't a matinée performance and there had been matinées shown. I think some parents may think this show is aimed at children but although it may initially have been, the humour is adult in content. No bad language but plenty of innuendo. True, the adult jokes would be over the heads of young children and I don't think anything is offensive, but I thought that some very young children in the audience were a little bored, confused and too tired to really enjoy the show. I think the show is suitable for adults and older children (of course this depends on the child but I would think from around seven or eight years old upwards) and teens.
****EXPRESS INTERVAL (A race to the loo!)****
The interval wasn't long enough or I suppose more to the point there are never enough ladies toilets in any theatre that I've been to when the theatre is full or almost full. We rushed to get to the toilets but were still in for a very long wait.
As is always the case, the queue for the gents toilets is much shorter and quicker moving than for the ladies, and so fortunately my son and husband were able to undertake our bar requirements. We took a drink into the theatre contained in plastic beakers. The show only lasted a little over two hours and so I do think the interval could have been longer.
I booked on-line using the seating plan. As I've been to this theatre before, and seen this show here, I had a good idea of where it would be best to sit. As the stage is high and there is no rake in the stalls I don't think sitting too close to the stage is a good idea as a lot of the action will be missed and one would more than likely develop a very stiff neck.
I think for this show in particular where there is lot of action and the actors throughout the show are on roller skates then probably the front rows of the balcony or the boxes would be best to get the most from the action but as I couldn't acquire four seats together in these preferred areas I thought that the next best choice would be in the centre aisle and a little way back (I obtained row F, seats 13 to 16). Although I do find it good when having seats in the stalls fairly close to the stage to be bale to see the actor's expressions; this draws you into the show.
****TOUR DATES/VENUES (Get Your Skates On)****
The Starlight Express tour began in May at The New Wimbledon Theatre, London. The tour is currently showing in Aberdeen. Further dates are to be announced but here are tour dates from now until 9th February 2013.
(Information of dates and venues taken from http://www.reallyuseful.com)
Tuesday 2 - Saturday 13 October
His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen
Box Office: 01224 641122
Tuesday 16 - Saturday 27 October
Hull New Theatre
Box Office: 01482 300 300
Tuesday 29 January - Saturday 9 February 2013
Millennium Forum, Londonderry
Box Office: 028 7126 4455
**FURTHER DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED (See: http://www.reallyuseful.com)
For the tour ticket prices will vary according to which theatre you choose to see the show at. It will work out considerably cheaper in most, if not all, theatres than seeing a West End production. I paid £43 for each of my tickets (four in all) and these were top price. If I had watched a West End show then the top price would usually be over £60, often quite a bit more.
I think the price I paid was probably a little high for this theatre, but then again, for the enjoyment we all got from watching Starlight Express, I suppose it was money well spent.
I think this is a great uplifting show. I wanted to watch something that was upbeat and amusing. It isn't my favourite musical, that, I'm sure. Will always be, 'Les Miserables' which, in my opinion is an incredibly hard musical to equal, let alone beat. But, this show has a well-deserved place as a musical supplying fun from start to finish. It's very well worth watching, in my opinion.
The encore was fantastic. After everyone took their bows and encores were shouted from all corners of the audience, the cast, , sang a medley of songs from the show and Poppa (Gavin Ashbarry) standing at front centre stage, invited the audience to get up and join in. Most did! We had a great fifteen minutes or so swaying and clapping to the songs. The cast really appeared to be appreciative of their audience and seemed to enjoy performing this brilliant encore.
I was surprised the first time that I saw Starlight Express by how much I enjoyed it, as did my husband. But both my husband and myself thought it was even better the second time around. It had been updated a little with some minor changes to characters and songs. But the encore was definitely better on this tour.
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Up until a few months ago, I had never even heard of the Minack Theatre. When we decided to spend a few days in Cornwall and had booked accommodation in Penzance, we started to research places of interest nearby. My son told me that a work colleague had recommended we visit the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno Beach. I initially presumed ... that this was an ancient amphitheatre, even though I knew that the Romans hadn't got as far as Cornwall. I was astounded to discover that it was in fact planned and built by one inspirational woman, Rowena Cade, in the twentieth century.
The Minack is only about eight miles from Penzance, and it has its own free car park. We, however, did things the hard way, unaware that the car park was free. We wanted to have a look at Porthcurno Beach as well, so we parked in the pay-and-display car park near the beach and headed down to the golden sands. Although it was a cloudy day, the hordes were there and we didn't stay long. We knew that there were two ways we could get to the Minack from the beach: either via the steps up the cliff face, or back to the car park and then up a steep hill. The hill was the longer way round, but I wasn't sure if my knees would enjoy climbing the steep steps. In the end I decided I would give the steps a go but take my time. It wasn't quite as difficult as I had feared, although there isn't a huge amount of space when you have to pass people coming down. You can stop every so often to get your breath, and the view of Porthcurno Bay below is a sight to feast your eyes on, with Logan Rock and the Lizard beyond. When we finally got to the top, we found a gate to the Minack Theatre, but it was locked and we had to walk round through the car park to join the queue.
Fortunately most of the visitors in front of us were members of a group and we were assured that the queue would therefore move very quickly, which it did. I requested our three tickets and was asked if I would like to gift aid the price, so I did. I was given a receipt and told to keep it very carefully as it entitles the holder and family to readmission as many times as they wish over the coming year. I don't think it's very likely that any of us will be going back soon, but I have kept my receipt just in case. I was also given a survey to complete, along with a prepaid envelope. There is a letterbox to post this in on site, but I filled mine in after I had left and posted it.
When you enter the site your are initially faced with the exhibition area. This tells the story of Rowena Cade's life, how she had the concept of building the theatre on the headland beside Minack House and actually carried it through, doing a great deal of the physical work herself. There is plenty to read and plenty to look at, as you see how Rowena loved taking part in theatrical productions as a child and how her love of the theatre led to her devoting most of her adult life to this amazing project. Photographs and costume designs are included here, as well as information about her gardener Billy Rawlings and his mate Tom Angove who assisted with the building work. As well as helping with the building work herself, Rowena financed the construction and running of the theatre on her own. When she died just before her ninetieth birthday in 1983, she left behind plans for covering the theatre in wet weather, but unfortunately these have not been carried out.
We didn't stop to watch the film in the exhibition area but decided to go and have a look at the theatre itself. It is built into the cliff face, right beside the headland, with a series of curved concrete seats. When there is no performance you can walk around and sit for a while wherever you like. The steps are quite steep, but there are handrails for support. You can stand in the light and sound control room and go right down onto the stage. Rowena Cade engraved the concrete slabs with Celtic designs, and some of the backs of the seats bear engravings of the names of plays that have been performed in the theatre. The seats are of course hard, but you can hire cushions if you are attending a performance.
Just beyond the stage are the Minack Rock and the Compass Rock; the word "minack" actually means rocky place. You can go just beyond the stage and get a wonderful view of the rocks, the sea, and Porthcurno Bay over to the east. Just beyond the Minack Rock are some smaller rocks out at sea, and we were able to spot seals bobbing up and down beside them.
On our way out we strolled through the little sub-tropical garden that is near the entrance. The theatre claims that something should be in flower there every month of the year. There clearly had been plenty in flower during the summer, but we visited towards the end of August and it was perhaps a little past its best. Even so, there were some beautiful blooms worthy of a photograph. Some of the plants that are grown there are agaves, poppies, aeonium, puya and silver trees.
As of September 2012, admission prices (purely for visiting without attending a performance) are £4 adult, £3 over 60s, children aged 12-15 £2. Up to three children under twelve can enter free with a paying adult, and there are discounts for groups and students. Children under the age of sixteen have to be supervised at all times. Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the site.
From October through to March, the theatre is open from 10am until 4pm, with last entry at 3pm. From April to September on days when there are no performances, opening hours are from 9.30am until 5.30pm, with last entry at 4.30pm. If there is an afternoon performance, you can visit between 9.30am and noon, last entry being at 11.30am. During the school holidays there are family shows at 10.30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the theatre can get very busy. There is access for wheelchairs, but buggies cannot be accommodated. The only dogs allowed are guide dogs.
The theatre has its own coffee shop that serves light meals, Cornish cream teas and drinks. It is only open to daytime visitors who have paid the entry fee. If you attend a performance at the theatre, there are apparently takeaway meals and drinks. There is also a gift shop that sells souvenirs, clothing, jewellery and a selection of the plants that grow in the sub-tropical garden.
Performances at the Minack Theatre are usually held from early April until late September. Tickets can be bought online, by post, by telephone or in person. The booking office is open from 10am to 5pm on weekdays, and also on Sundays from mid May. Ticket prices for 2012 were either £9.50 or £8 for adults, and £5 or £4 for children under 16. The more expensive seats are in the main auditorium and the cheaper ones are in the upper terraces, but seats are not numbered. Ushers begin showing people to seats ninety minutes before the performance starts. If you book tickets by phone there is a ten percent discount for ten tickets or more. Shows in the 2012 season ranged from Shakespeare and "Die Fledermaus" to Roald Dahl's "The Twits," so there would appear to be something for everyone.
There are bus services from Penzance to the theatre. The 504 stops in the Minack car park, but the 300 and the 1A only go as far as Porthcurno Valley, from where you have to walk 400m up the steep hill.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone visiting Cornwall to make the trip to the Minack Theatre. It is an astounding achievement, and Rowena Cade is a truly inspirational figure. There were quite a few families there, and children were enjoying having the run of the place and seeing the stage and lighting rigs. As well as the theatre itself, the surrounding coast is superb, and a visit to the theatre could easily be combined with an afternoon at the beach. Land's End is only about a ten-minute drive away, and we continued there for a coastal walk afterwards. The Minack Theatre is short listed in 2012 for the Best Heritage Attraction and Best Leisure Attraction in the British Travel Awards, and it is easy to see why.
The Minack Theatre
Tel: 01736 810181/810471
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Theatre / Musical National
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Type: Theatrical performance / Theatre / Musical National / Story: Gina Gionfriddo’s play is a biting American comedy that enjoyed massive success Off-Broadway in 2009
Theme: Wizard of Oz the new musical with new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber / Theatre / Musical National / Location: The London Palladium / Touring musical
Theme: West End musical show depicting the last days of Judy Garland / Theatre / Musical National / Location: Trafalgar Studios / Opened: 22 Nov 2010
Location: Kings Theatre, Glasgow / Theatre / Musical National / Type: Musicals
Performers: Diversity dance troupe / Theatre / Musical National / Location: United Kingdom tour
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Address: Princess Theatre, Torbay Road, Torquay, TQ2 5EZ / Theatre / Musical National / Tel: 01803 290 288
Show: The Gruffalo / Theatre / Musical National / Location: The Garrick Theatre
Theatre / Musical National / Musical and theatrical production
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