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Review | Realms of Glory | 53two | 14/12/2022

It is always exciting to be first to see a new musical, particularly one locally produced. Fresh from a sell-out concert performance of new musical ‘Mallory On The Mountain’ at The Lowry, Ollie Mill’s brings his new musical ‘Realms of Glory’ to 53two. The story itself focuses around Lizzie Horton’s formative years in 1940’s Manchester. Built into the arches, 53two was the perfect setting for this new musical, with the audience feeling as if they themselves were in an underground bunker in the midst of the blitz.

With table seating in front of the stage and more traditional tiered seating behind, the audience are immediately brought in. Around the stage amongst the boxes of rations are trunks with ‘Withington’ stamped on them. This along with mentions of local places and jokes about the north/south divide, help make it that more relatable and natural. With Musical Director, Joe Clayton, playing era appropriate piano music in flickering candlelight as the audience enter the musty auditorium, we are immediately taken to 1940’s Manchester.

The five strong cast open the show with a song which asks; ‘how many more’ would have to die. The sublime harmony of voices confirmed what amazing local talent we have in the North West.

With Lizzie (Amelia Simpson) not wanting to open a letter sent from her since deceased husband Bob (Alex Cosgrif), she is consoled by Mavis (Rebecca McAuley). Unexpectedly and out of nowhere we hear sirens, everyone sat there knows what it means and it proves a stark reminder of the reality of 1940’s Britain.

This is by no means a one note show, and a large part of its heart comes from Mavis & Jim Snow (Ben Kawalec) who play the secondary couple. They provide comic relief and relatability, not least when they awkwardly first meet and at the birth of their child. Humour itself is cleverly intertwined in Ollie Mills & Rachel Mann’s book. This is successfully done from the get go, with Ida (Ella Heywood) saying ‘Adolf waits for no one’ whilst rallying people to seek immediate shelter. Although difficult to achieve, it perfect balance is struck between the horrendous period in time, and the Great British resolve which runs strongly throughout the entire show.

Playing our protagonist Lizzie, Amelia Simpson’s exquisite vocals shine in Ollie Mills’ delightful score. The music captures the sounds and feelings of the time. There is a lot of acting through song, which not only helps move the story along but does so in a way that captures (and breaks) the audiences’ hearts. Perhaps the most touching and emotive moment being when Lizzie finally reads Bob’s letter, sharing vocals they brought several members of the audience to tears. This was only made more powerful by the lighter moments in their love story which even included a fun tap dancing moment!

You cannot help but be captivated by this charming new musical. The characters, music and story are so well done, a testament to the great talent that we have in the North West. With tickets at just £14 at their highest, you can’t afford to miss this. Realms of Glory plays at 53two until Thursday 22 December 2022, booking info below.

Photo: Shay Rowan

Gifted: I was gifted my ticket for this show. All views are own and 100% free from influence.


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