Phantom Memories at NWTAC Theatre

 Phantom Memories at NWTAC Theatre

I’d never heard of North West Theatre Arts Company before being invited along to the opening night of Phantom Memories, ‘a haunting musicals concert’. But it’s safe to say that now NWTAC is on my radar, I’ll be visiting them again at the earliest opportunity.

The Front of House staff are all friendly and welcoming; the young performers are eager and vibrant; and the management / production team are ever-present and approachable. (I was even able to have a brief but nice chat with NWTAC managing director and Phantom Memories director Prab Singh, about how I watched his nephew Gurjeet Singh – a graduate of NWTAC’s Stage School – perform superbly in Hobson’s Choice at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2019.) The place has an overall feeling of being at home with friends – something that larger, more renowned theatres often lack (except perhaps the Royal Exchange, which for many reasons has felt like a home to me for the last couple of years).

The theatre itself is in a small, one-storey building in Moston. You’d likely not even realise it’s there if it wasn’t for the mural of the NWTAC logo beside Manchester’s mascot, a worker bee, on the building’s shutters. Inside is an intimate space that seats 84, with an end-on, stageless performance area.

Phantom Memories at NWTAC Theatre

For Phantom Memories – which was essentially a two-hour (including intermission) medley of the ghosts of musical numbers past – the performance space was completely opened up at the back, revealing a large area full of props and equipment – quite literally the behind-the-scenes of NWTAC Theatre. This set-up worked perfectly for the performance, which required enough space for the cast of 21 to perform the choreography (which I was particularly impressed by), while also having an intimate feel for the solo and duet numbers – the latter being helped by simple yet effective lighting changes.

Although resembling a ‘Greatest Musical Hits’ show, there was a basic throughline to the piece that helped link each song together. Basically, Julie (played by Shannon Ryan) and her friends find themselves in a rundown magical theatre, guided by an old caretaker who has spent his life (and death) looking after the place while countless classic musicals were performed within. Hence the abundance of props. And luckily for the teenagers who happened to stumble upon the place, touching any of the props brings the ghosts of the performers to life, to perform the musical numbers associated with them. So Julie and Co. go around the theatre touching all of the props – I mean, who wouldn’t?! – and they (like us) are treated to a huge variety of musical performances.

There were around 40 songs performed throughout the course of the evening. They were exclusively classics of musical history – so no recent musicals like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen. There was a mix of really famous songs that anyone would recognise – such as ‘When You Got It, Flaunt It’ (The Producers) and ‘Memory’ (Cats) – as well as ones I’d never heard before but still thoroughly enjoyed. There were too many great songs to mention them all by name, but my personal highlights include ‘Summertime’ (Porgy & Bess) and ‘Madame Guillotine’ (The Scarlet Pimpernel); while my absolute favourite of the night was ‘Over the Rainbow’ (The Wizard of Oz). Six-year-old Amelia Zatorska was adorable as she performed it! I couldn’t choose any standout performers, as they all did a great job, so instead I’ll list the entire cast at the bottom of this review.

Phantom Memories at NWTAC Theatre

Overall, Phantom Memories at NWTAC Theatre was a genuinely enjoyable evening of musical theatre. As a frequenter of some of the more well-known venues in Manchester (the Royal Exchange being my favourite and most visited), I was pleasantly surprised by the fun and charm of a community theatre company. Sometimes a little less polish makes things feel more real, more alive, more fresh.

I’d seriously recommend to any theatre lover that you check NWTAC out for yourself. Their next show is Winter Wonderland, a Christmas variety concert scheduled for November 18th-20th. You can find more info on their website.

Speaking of the Royal Exchange, you might enjoy reading Andrew Campbell’s reviews of Bloody Elle: A Gig Musical and The Survivors’ Guide to Living, or Bobbie Diesel’s Glee & Me review.

And finally, as promised, the Phantom Memories cast list:

PJ Amoateng

Georgia Anderson

Olivia Anderson

Solomon Asante-Owusu

James Llewellyn Burke

Stephanie Cannavan

Isabelle Collins

Maria Collins

Poppy Evans

Harry Gardner

Lily Ife

Halle Kerley

Gareth Maudsley

Lacey McDermott

Tallulah McDermott

Lois Ormerod

Shannon Ryan

Lisa Saruzi

Paulina Sztendel

Lilly Taylor

Amelia Zatorska

Luke Spiby

MancMuse co-founder, content writer and editor specialising in arts and events reviews. Luke writes screenplays, stage plays and novels between trips to the local; and he dabbles in copywriting and marketing to pay the bills. He also has experience directing and producing short films and theatre pieces, some of which have been in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre.

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1 Comment

  • Hi,
    I’m really pleased to have read your review. I was also there on the first night of Phantom Memories and everything you have said is spot on. I’ve been following North West Theatre Arts Company since I saw ‘Trench’ back in November 2018, a moving production that went way beyond my expectations, and they never disappoint. As well as having a warm, friendly atmosphere, the auditorium is versatile too so you never know quite what to expect when you enter. It’s a real gem of a place and Moston are so lucky to have such accessible talent right on their doorstep. Young stars in the making!

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