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By Alex Dop
A new entertainment by Michael Wynne, The Star, will mark Liverpool Playhouse’s 150th anniversary this Christmas in honour of its origins as a Music Hall venue. Directed by Philip Wilson, the cast for the production includes Michael Starke, Kevin Harvey, Eithne Browne, Danny O’brien and Michelle Butterly. Packed full of classic songs like The Old Bull and Bush, The Marrow Song and The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery, and with more than a few magic tricks up its sleeve, The Star is at the Playhouse until Saturday 14 January and we sent our Alex along to check it out for you.
I suppose one would expect this from the title, however, the title refers to The Playhouse itself, not those on stage. None the less, we are spoilt with TV personalities and amazing actors alike. Namely Michael Starke of Brookside who has also played along side Samuel Jackson in the Liverpool classic, 51st State, Eithne Brown, also of Brookside and Michelle Butterly whom you might recognise from Benidorm. Now, these are not names on the poster just to get you through the door, they deliver what the reputation suggests with a hilarious and well played show.
I’m writing this as a 23 year-old male, not originally from Liverpool, and, even I felt like the show took me back to my roots; roots that I did not know I even had. Therefore, I can only imagine that nostalgia felt by those born and bred in the city, of a certain age, or those wanting to learn more about the heritage of their great City. The Star refers back to what The Playhouse once was, and the struggles, relationships and triumphs of that era, on and off the stage.
It wouldn’t be pantomime season without a few laughs! Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t one of your clichéd, ordinary pantomimes, if it can be called one at all. Instead, the historic journey that was mentioned previously makes for engaging, yet light-hearted viewing. There was not a chair in the house that remained unmoved by a chuckle or chortle. A woman a few rows down almost rocked the entire row with her belly laughs!
Love For The City
Leading man, Michael Starke, has been quoted as saying “Liverpool audience are really open. They’re onside from the word go,” adding, “…in London, you get an audience who are like ‘come on then…(impress me).’ And, I can report that on Tuesday 13th December, when I was in attendance, you did yourselves proud, living up to Starke’s words and then some! There is a real atmosphere of togetherness, comfort and enjoyment throughout the performance, one that you are welcomed in to as soon as the show begins. Embrace it!
The play is based around the Music Hall Entertainment of the 19th Century, so I found myself scratching my head during the first couple of numbers, or at least just listening along politely. However, as the show goes on, through its 24 different, authentic Music Hall songs, I was shocked at how many I knew. Now, I’m not saying that I was singing along to every word, but they were familiar enough to pull me aboard. The pleasantly rowdy crowd occasionally get chance to join in, one way or another, adding to the atmosphere previously mentioned.
If a serious, art-house piece of theatre is what you’re after, then stay away from this one. BUT, and that is a big ‘but’, if you’re after some chest warming, cheesy laughs at this time of year, then look no further than The Star Music Hall!
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