It’s always exciting to see a new British musical take to the stage. All the more so when the writer and composer is a young man whom we at Mag North have championed in the past. And even better still when the show is set in Manchester and premiered in Manchester.
Realms of Glory opened this week at Theatre 53two, the work of multi-instrumentalist and composer Ollie Mills, who wrote the book and music, along with Rachel Mann. They are part of the young team at Imaginality Productions, a platform for original theatre with its heart in the North West, where Ollie is artistic director.
Mag North featured his work in progress, Mallory on the Mountain, which was recently staged in a concert version at Salford’s Lowry theatre. This is something very different, a wartime musical set at Christmas 1940 when the Blitz had come to Manchester. With a toe-tapping score inspired by the golden age of wartime music, it tells the story of the lively locals trying to navigate their broken world.
Trapped beneath the streets, Lizzie Horton takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her life in Manchester; her formative years, a whirlwind romance with her RAF pilot husband, Bob, and encounters with her pals Mavis, Jim and Ida. It’s a really heartwarming look at dealing with grief and fighting for second chances.
The five strong cast open the show with the poignant harmonic song which asks: ‘how many more’ would have to die? Lizzie (Amelia Simpson) is reluctant to open a letter sent from her husband Bob before he died (Alex Cosgrif), and while she’s being consoled by Mavis (Rebecca McAuley), we hear sirens: this really must have been how it felt for everyone in 1940’s Britain. Jim (Ben Kawalec) and Ida (Ella Heywood) complete the line-up, each providing some comic light relief in the shadows of the air raid shelter.
The venue adds to the impact of this production, a perfect location in this unusual theatre built into the historic arches off Deansgate, on the corner of Watson St and Great Bridgewater St, so that the audience and cast really did seem to be underground.
Ollie Mills and the team – co-writer Rachel Mann, MD Joe Clayton, and stage manager Emily Humphrys - have a passion for unearthing lesser-known historical stories and finding exciting, innovative and entertaining ways of bringing them to new audiences. Their versatility this year alone hints at a very successful future.
Realms Of Glory runs until Monday 19th December at Theatre 53two. Tickets and info HERE
Images: Imaginality Productions/Paul Cosgriff