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Review: MIRACLE! at Sunderland Minster

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MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves
Sunderland Minster, High Street West, SR1 3ET
Until Sunday 29th November 2015

Jonathan Cooke & Miles Horner
with chorus
Photo: Mark Savage

Music in the Minster has commissioned Writer David Almond and Composer Marcos Fernandez to create an operatic piece about fans, passion and Sunderland AFC.

Triumphant chorus
Photo: Mark Savage
The use of the opera style for a contemporary story is much more in keeping with the original storytelling origins of opera than the high stakes productions that it tends to be associated with today.  It seems to be the perfect vehicle to explore the emotional rollercoaster ride for fans and players alike.

Adult chorus as SAFC
fans on the terraces
Photo: Mark Savage
The venue is a large historic old church opposite the Sunderland Empire. This brings about a number of challenges for the production but they had pulled it off.

Jonathan Cooke as Angelo
Photo: Mark Savage
Despite the weather outside, the room was nicely warm.  The stage comprising of some football terraces and a bit of green pitch was central to the show. The lighting design helped pick out the action. The show relied upon the natural acoustics of the church.  The musicians, and sometimes the backing vocalists, were tucked into the side but could be easily heard.

MIRACLE - An Opera of Two Halves
Photo: Mark Savage
The story follows Sunderland AFC who are facing the drop. Local striker Hughie Mann (Miles Homer) is having a nightmare. The Angels, comprising of local young people with very angelic voices, notice Sunderland’s plight and God (Ian Priestly) decides to send them an angel to help them out. 

Youth chorus as angels
Photo: Mark Savage
Angelo (Jonathan Cooke) is signed by the club and has an immediate impact both on and off the pitch. This includes falling in love with a lovely lass from Pennywell (Caroline Kennedy). Can the relationship survive? Will Angelo bring even more success in the following season? All is revealed!

Jonathan Cooke as Angelo
Photo: Mark Savage
The show is literally made up of two 45 minute halves, just like football. The action is not given the opportunity to drag.

The ensemble of volunteer performers stay in character throughout the show. Their collective voices filling the church. The youth chorus are exceptional and really lift the score. The cast seem to really enjoy performing.

Jonathan Cooke as Angelo
Photo: Mark Savage
Amongst the professional soloists the stand out performance was Jonathan Cooke, as Angelo.  His strong voice and personality totally suited the hero of the story.  Ian Priestly had gravitas as both God in the pulpit and manager Larry Trench. Caroline Kennedy was also great in her role as the footballer’s love interest.

Music Director Marco Romano
conducts the live orchestra
Photo: Mark Savage
Nine musicians accompany the show. Musical Director Marco Romano led a very tight opening night accompaniment. The new score was a joy to hear.

Director Annie Rigby has created a stunning musical piece of theatre. This was a very passionate production, very fitting of the region and its fanatical football fans.

Youth chorus Photo: Mark Savage
This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Centre left Miles Horner as
Hughie Mann & Fiona Tobin as his wife
Photo: Mark Savage

Soprano Caroline Kennedy plays a lovely lass from Pennywell
Photo: Mark Savage
MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves is at Sunderland Minster from 27-29 November 2015 at 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm matinee on Sun 29 November.
Tickets priced £10 / £8 concessions are now available online at   
0844 8700 887*

*No booking fees for e-tickets; Ticket Source fees apply for phone bookings or tickets delivered by post

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