sun 15/12/2019

Street of Dreams, Manchester Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Street of Dreams, Manchester Arena

Street of Dreams, Manchester Arena

Well-intentioned celebration of Coronation Street is strictly for devotees

Coronation Street the musical: 'affectionate, though half-baked, tribute'

Street of dreams? The people who lived in the real-life inspiration and location for Coronation Street, Archie Street in Salford, hand-picked by the soap’s begetter Tony Warren, would be flummoxed and flabbergasted to hear it called that. I walked down Archie Street several times when the TV soap started. The two-up, two down, back-to-back terraced houses, separated by a three-foot alleyway, had no baths, no hot water, no inside lavatories and were dubbed “a disgrace to society”. But the people who lived in them when the TV version started on 9 December 1960 were genuine enough folk. One of them, Lizzie Colman, had a son called Eddie, who played for Manchester United and died in the Munich air crash. That was real life.

The Granada backlot set, three-quarter scale, was true to Archie Street, with its bay windows, pavements and cobbles. I’ve walked down that many times also. Even at the world premiere last night of this musical celebration, they had a carpet of mock cobble instead of a red one for the celebs.

It’s a distracting mish-mash. I didn’t know whether I was at the cinema or the theatre

The show is an unashamedly self-indulgent and well-intentioned tribute to the serial, with music (played by a 25-piece band) and lyrics by Trisha Ward, based on her album for the 50th anniversary, Rogues, Angels, Heroes and Fools. So, it isn’t a musical in the usual sense. For one thing, Paul O’Grady presents and links the show, for some reason aided by a plump pantomime-like fairy. Unfortunately, that sets the tone for the entertainment. O’Grady is self-referential, given to innuendo, coarseness and bad language.

The setting, on a wide stage, is the familiar façade of the street, with a wide three-panelled screen above. The format adopted by director John Stephenson is to have original footage of key episodes from 1960 to 2010 running on the central panel, while actors replicate the scene on stage, projected on the side screens. It’s a distracting mish-mash. I didn’t know whether I was at the cinema or the theatre.

We meet most of the leading characters again one way or another, helped along by song and dance. In the vastness of the arena the on-stage characters are Lilliputian, so at least the screen projection is helpful there. And since you have to fill the stage with something, Stephenson has a strong troupe of energetic dancers, although the perfunctory choreography seems largely irrelevant.

There are personal appearances by Julie Goodyear (pictured right) as Bet Lynch, Kevin Kennedy as Curly Watts and Brian Capron as serial killer Richard Hillman. And there are “guest star” appearances, understandably by William Roache, albeit only on film, the original cast member as Ken Barlow, and, less understandably, by the Salford-born tenor Russell Watson.

The music, splendidly played by the onstage band directed by Mike Dixon, is fairly catchy, but mostly forgettable. The best bit is the opening of Act Two, when the band plays Corrie’s signature tune quite beautifully while film of old Salford is projected.

However, Trisha Ward does turn out one or two appealing numbers. "I Know How It Feels" is effectively sung by Kym Marsh and Jodie Prenger as Elsie Tanner young and older. Andrew Derbyshire does a show-stopping turn in "Sweet Butterfly", where he is whisked high above the audience in a neat coup de theatre. And Kevin Kennedy sings "Your Star Shines So Bright" quite touchingly.

Coincidentally, a related show has just opened at Bolton’s Octagon theatre: Queen of the North, a new play by Ron Rose about Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner in the show for 21 years. This show is produced by Reckless Entertainment in association with ITV Studios and SMG Europe

Archie Street and many of its residents are long since gone. But, ironically, as long as the fiction of Coronation Street survives their memory will live on. As far as this affectionate, though half-baked, tribute goes, it is strictly for Corrie devotees.

  • Street of Dreams tours this month, playing in Dublin (May 18-19), Belfast (May 21-22) and Newcastle (May 29-30)
They had a carpet of mock cobble instead of a red one for the celebs

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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