I Love Manchester’s theatre writers pick their best productions of 2022

It's been a bumper year for Theatre in 2022 post Covid, and our writers got together to pick their best shows from the year
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2022 saw many of us returning to theatres for the first time to enjoy that live experience once again, following what felt like an eternity trapped in Miss Trunchbull’s chokey; as we had been in our  homes as a result of Covid.

NT Live via YouTube was great but it has been great to step back inside Manchester’s many theatres and look behind the curtain.

We have a great team of reviewers who go out and about all over Manchester to check out what’s on and what’s worth seeing. Here, they revisit 2022 in the Manchester stalls.

Glenn Meads

Girl from the North Country at The Lowry

I missed this in London and was keen to see whether it lived up to the hype. Unlike some jukebox musicals, there is an interesting plot, engaging characters and those beautiful Bob Dylan songs. The cast are all excellent and this haunting production had me leaping to my feet at the end. I am returning to this show in January in Sheffield, as it is stunning.

Things That Divide Us at 53 two

Manchester venue 53 two has a USP, it stages new plays and leaves other theatres to house the classics we have probably seen before. There is room for both of course but as soon as you hear Joshua Chandos’ first line of dialogue, you are in. He manages to mix pathos and comedy and what you are left with in Simon Naylor’s production of Things That Divide Us is a play which stays with you and could easily warrant a return visit.

The Things That Divide Us

Nobody at HOME

Work began on this dance piece by Motionhouse and then we entered lockdown. What emerged from those times is a  “breathtaking two act production which takes you on an exhilarating journey into the mind, body and soul.” This is hypnotic theatre and I would love to see it again at HOME.

Eric Riley

Shawshank Redemption at The Lowry

A tour de force of a show that breathes new life into a cinema classic as it brings Stephen King’s epic to the stage. The acting performances and set design in particular are superb.

Classic! at The Hope Mill Theatre

Hilarious comedy wrapped up in a tightly paced hour. The play may be short but it makes such a big impression with laughs from beginning to end, with excellent comedic performances all round from the cast.

We Will Rock You! at The Palace Theatre Manchester

I was delighted with Ben Elton’s amazing Rock ‘n’ Roll musical with grade A singing and dancing that manages to pay tribute to the songs of Queen whilst also telling a story which is out of this world.

We Will Rock You!

Lily Houston

Saturday Night Fever at The Palace Theatre 

Jam packed with songs you could sing along to and recognisable and iconic choreography from the film. It had an amazing stage set up and plenty of audience interaction at the end. An all-round fun and enjoyable show, with an easy to follow storyline and complex characters, if the show was to tour again I would absolutely recommend it to anyone!

Dreamgirls – at The Palace Theatre 

Following on from the success of the film, starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson; the UK tour of Dreamgirls stuns the audience with amazing vocals from the leading ladies. The diverse cast wowed the audience and took us on an emotional journey.

Dreamgirls

25 years of Lord of the Dance – at The Palace Theatre 

A timeless showcase of Irish dancing. The incredible footwork from the cast had the whole audience tapping their feet and clapping in their seats. The glitzy costumes and easy to follow storylines means that it reached a wide audience and would appeal to anyone.

Melissa Lander

Beryl at the Oldham Coliseum

Beryl was exactly what we all needed, as it introduced a lesser-known hero, determined to make her mark. The production was warm, funny, lighthearted, inspirational, and truly Yorkshire; it had me laughing, crying, and completely motivated, all in the space of 2 hours, and I only wish I could watch it again, and again, and again!

When Darkness Falls at the Oldham Coliseum

When Darkness Falls was an emotional masterpiece that sought to teach us that life offers some things that we do not want to believe, shouldn’t try to control, and cannot escape- all three are a part of the human condition that makes life difficult, but worth it. The Oldham Coliseum invites you in like a warm hug, and I am grateful to be able to have watched this fantastic production there.

When Darkness Falls

The Other Side at 53 two

‘The Other Side’ was full of terrifying, heartwarming, and emotional moments, but the scariest thing was facing up to the idea that sometimes your past is the biggest ghost, making the biggest bumps in the night.

This deserves a place on my top 3 list as it was the perfect production for the Halloween season, and I’d watch it again in a heartbeat.

Craig McDonald

The Lion King at the Palace Theatre

The Lion King was a real privilege to see and then review. A spectacular show with top-tier acting, singing, and dancing. The special effects and costumes were exceptionally creative, and you did feel as though you had been whisked away from the frigid cold of a rainy Manchester evening onto the savannah. It really tugged on the heartstrings as it played with the nostalgia of being immersed in the world of such a universally beloved Disney classic.

The Lion King

Let the Right One In at the Royal Exchange Theatre 

I didn’t know what to expect when going to see an onstage interpretation of one of my favourite horror/love story movies… and was unsure how horror in general would translate to the stage. I certainly was not disappointed, however… and thought that the creative team, helmed by director, Bryony Shanahan, really did a wonderful job of balancing the complementary elements of this multi-faceted gem.

Carmen at The Lowry

I had never been to see an opera before and had always assumed it was the reserve of high society types. And that the musical set pieces were all delivered in their original language – in this case, French, and would therefore be largely incomprehensible. Thankfully, and I guess, obviously, it was subtitled, and in fact, proved to be a powerful and moving experience that stuck with me for a while after, making me something of an opera convert.

Mahak Khan

One Man, Two Guvnors at The Octagon, Bolton

The acting was great, the jokes hit every time. There was interaction with the audience. All in all, it was a great show and I wish I could see it again.

Blood Brothers at The Lowry

The show was so seamless. It was emotional because you see these brothers grow up and it feels like they are your children. It has humour, loss, drama, music, love, tension, mystery. It ticked all the boxes. One of the best shows I’ve seen in my whole life.

Blood Brothers

Unfortunate at The Lowry

It had such dirty humour, and the singing was amazing. The songs were greatly written. It was such a fun twist on a classic that so many people love including me. Just all around great!  

Annalise Bennett

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Palace Theatre 

This was like experiencing the magic for the first time all over again. The cast were wonderfully diverse and on a personal note I had first-hand experience in seeing how much it meant for young mixed race girls to see someone who looks like them being a Disney princess, which was really special. As with any Disney production you expect huge production value and it definitely delivers. The prologue was narrated by the (now late) Angela Lansbury which was perfect homage to the original 1991 adaption.

Les Misérables at The Lowry

The audience was a brilliant mix of ages ranging from tweens to elderly which just shows how accessible and appreciated the show is and that it remains as relevant as ever. I think people who are unfamiliar with Les Misérables deem it a bit grim and depressing, but themes of hope and redemption are ever present and are extremely impactful. The sets were grand, magnificently bringing to life this decades old story.

Les Mis – Photo: Danny Kaan

Brief Encounter at the Bolton Octagon

Covering Brief Encounter for ILoveMCR was great because it meant exploring a theatre that was brand new to me, and the Bolton Octagon is fantastic! The intimate, in the round (or octagon) setting was ideal for Brief Encounter, the cast were full of character and they brought the relatively small stage alive and filled it with everything from humour and dramatic tension, while very effectively transforming the space from an interior of a station cafe, to a boat on a lake, and back to the station where trains hurtle through it. I would highly recommend a visit to the Bolton Octagon!

Millan Dudson

School of Rock at the Palace Theatre

This was brilliant, just an excellent production. And the cast really nailed it. A must see for fans of the movie.

School of Rock

9 to 5 at the Palace Theatre

Another film adaptation, turned musical and it was brilliant too. I really enjoyed it. It is a tale of misogyny, revenge and female empowerment, to the tunes of Dolly Parton.

Beautiful at The Palace Theatre

You find out so much about the wonderful singer/songwriter Carole King and you get to hear many of the fantastic songs she has penned.

Connor Cooper 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch at HOME

This is just stunning theatre! It left a huge impact on me long afterwards and the representation is just perfection. It is a supernova of a show!

Vincent River at The Hope Mill Theatre

This was such a great production that I am still thinking about it. It was very raw and unflinching.

Outstageus at the Lowry

This fantastic production felt revolutionary and that’s because it was. LGBT+ stories are very rarely written and performed by LGBT+ people; let alone in such a variety of genres.

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