Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Snowman Tour at Chester Cathedral - A Review

Throughout my school years I developed a love for music and learnt to play the harp, clarinet and the piano, with my childhood dream to be part of an orchestra or band. Unfortunately that dream wasn't meant to be, but my love of live music remains and in terms of entertainment, nothing quite beats a live orchestra. However, when you combine the outstanding skills of an orchestra, with the timeless classic animation of The Snowman, you get something even more exceptional and a show that provides the most magical of experiences for audiences of all ages.

Yesterday, my family and I were invited along to see The Snowman Tour, in the beautiful surroundings of Chester Cathedral. The Snowman Tour from Carrot Productions has been visiting venues all around the country this December and will continue to do so right up until the 30th of this month.  The show brings the magic of the animation alive, as the iconic short film is accompanied by a live orchestra and a young soloist who performs the song Walking in the Air.


Chester Cathedral itself is a stunning venue for such a beautiful show and as we took our seats we couldn't help but look around and gaze at the amazing architecture within. There was a small stage at the front, with seats placed for the members of the orchestra, along with a large screen situated directly above.  Everyone seemed so excited for the show to begin and as we patiently waited for 2pm to arrive, various musicians began to fill the stage, dressed in festive attire that was most impressive.

As the show began, we were treated to a festive overture and my youngest son loved singing along to the music and guessing the names of the songs. With there being so many children in the audience, it was quite a relaxed atmosphere which made Riley feel very comfortable. This also meant that I didn't need to worry about him whispering to me every now and again, like you do at some shows. He was able to recognise all of the songs played and it was the perfect way to start the performance.

Following this, we were introduced to the various members of the orchestra in a fun and amusing way. I really liked this as it helps children to identify the numerous instruments involved and Riley found it to be really interesting. He particularly liked hearing the strings and woodwind sections.

We were then treated to a lovely orchestral performance of The Nutcracker Suite with a specially commissioned film by Tom Scott. This delightful animation was enchanting as the musicians performed the well known Tchaikovsky festive favourites, such as The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, The March of the Toy Soldiers and Waltz of the Flowers. Riley has recently been learning dance as part of his P.E lessons in school and they have been creating movements using this music, so he was very familiar with them all and excited to see them performed live.  It is important to note that not all venues will be showing The Nutcracker Suite as the animations do vary dependent on location, but you can check prior to booking which one will be shown. Other animations include The Bear and the Piano and A Donkey's Tale that are both heartwarming and beautiful stories to be entertained by.

Shortly afterwards, there was a wonderful atmosphere as a snowman character ran around the Cathedral giving high fives to the children. Riley loved this and enjoyed watching him as he made his way amongst the audience. This led to the moment that we had all been waiting for on the big screen......The Snowman!

Image credit: ©Tom Bangbala

Riley was captivated as it began and despite the fact that I have seen this animation a countless number of times, I became fascinated and transfixed on the stage.  I tried to choose moments to glance between both the screen and the orchestra, as I was keen to observe the talented musicians. They all seemed to be in their element whilst performing, which was so enchanting to watch.

When the moment arrived for 'Walking in the Air', a young soloist took to the stage and provided the most beautiful rendition of the song with their exceptional voice. Watching this song being sang live with the orchestra was incredible and certainly a highlight for us.

My favourite scene in the animation is the Dance of the Snowmen, so I was really looking forward to this part of the show and it did not disappoint. The orchestra were amazing and it enabled me to fully appreciate their abilities as the combination of music and dance was brought to life on the screen.

Overall I absolutely loved The Snowman Tour from start to finish and honestly cannot recommend it enough. We had such a fabulous time and it truly is the perfect show for the whole family to enjoy this December. With a running time of just over one hour, it was the ideal length of time to keep younger children's attention and we loved the additional performances that took place prior to the start of The Snowman animation. There was an enjoyable atmosphere and it was lovely to be able to watch the show in such beautiful surroundings. The orchestra were all extremely talented and we found it quite mesmerising watching them perform. Ultimately this is a wonderful experience for audiences of all ages, so don't miss out on your chance to book tickets for the remaining shows.

For more information on The Snowman Tour or to check remaining availability, then you can visit the Carrot Productions website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://www.carrotproductions.com/snowman
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/carrotproductions
Twitter - @carrotprod
Instagram - @carrot_productions

*Disclaimer - We were provided with a complimentary family ticket, for the purpose of writing an honest review of the show and our experience. Thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. Details provided are believed to be correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the shows own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Novie the Interactive Robot - A Review

Christmas is fast approaching and if you are still looking for that perfect last minute gift or a little stocking filler, then we may have just the idea for you. Introducing.......Novie!

We have recently been sent Novie for review and have been really impressed by this super cool interactive robot that can fit easily in the palm of your hand. Novie has the ability to learn new tricks and can be cleverly taught by recognising various different hand gestures. With 12 different tricks to perform, along with a total of 75 actions, Novie provides plenty of entertainment as you watch how he reacts.


Novie comes neatly packaged in a clear box, so you can see exactly what you are getting for your money. It also comes complete with batteries, which definitely gives it bonus points from me. There is also a manual enclosed, along with numerous quick start guides that are in various languages.

Whilst I began to read the instructions, my children set Novie into free mode and just start waving their hands in front of him in any direction just to see what he could do. There was no method to their approach, but they had plenty of fun just experimenting and seeing how Novie would respond. Once I had read through the information, we switched Novie into the Beginner mode and started to work our way through the listed actions.

There are various hand gestures that you can use, which are then picked up using the sensors on the front of Novie. He will then respond according to the gesture you have made. This can involve moving your hand from side to side, round in circles, or forward and upwards. The latter was my children's favourite as this would make Novie do a wheelie and it was quite amusing watching him spin about on the table.

We haven't had the opportunity to discover all  of the tricks that Novie can perform yet, but we have been learning a few more each day, which the kids have really enjoyed. Tricks include the Spinout, a Wheelie and a Fartnado to name just a few. Once you get the hang of certain hand gestures, you can switch the training mode from beginner to either intermediate or advance. It is very simple to change modes and all you have to do is press the button on the top of Novie's head.


The more you train Novie, the more he does and he will make an exciting noise as he carries out his tricks. When he successfully learns a new command he will make a Ta-da sound, which also helps you to know when you have got the hand gesture just right.

This interactive robot may be small in size, but he certainly has a large personality and as well as being able to do over 75 actions, he has LED eyes that can change colour, sixy animations, three motor speeds and also has over 70 different sounds to enjoy too. Novie is recommended for children aged 4+ which I think is an accurate age guide, especially to be able to learn how to do each specific hand gesture and trick.

Overall we found Novie to be great fun and all of my children from age six to thirteen have enjoyed teaching it tricks. So far it has provided hours of entertainment and Riley has been looking forward to coming home from school each day to teach it some more moves. I think the RRP of £24.99 is really good value for money and it is available in a selection of different colours too which include red, purple and blue. I would definitely recommend Novie to others and also feel it would make the perfect last minute Christmas gift.

At the time of writing this review, Novie is currently on offer at Amazon for less than £20 and can be found here - Novie (Price subject to change).


*Disclaimer - We were gifted this product for the purpose of writing an honest review of the item. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Aladdin at St. Helens Theatre Royal - A Review

Regal Entertainments' pantomimes at St. Helens Theatre Royal are renowned for their fantastic productions and this years Christmas offering of Aladdin is certainly no exception. From start to finish the show is packed full of comedy, stunning vocals and plenty of dance moves that are strictly fabulous.

This pantomime tells the story of Aladdin, his quest for the magical lamp and his love for the beautiful Princess Jasmine. However, the evil Abanazar wants the lamp and its powers all to himself and sets up a cunning plan to become its owner. The Genie of the Lamp is on hand to grant three wishes to its bearer, whilst the Slave of the Ring is full of helpful wisdom and advice. Aladdins family Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee ensure that Aladdin gets all the help he needs and together this creates a fun re-telling of this age long story.

St. Helens is one of our favourite theatres and as we took our seats in the circle, we could feel the excitement throughout the building with a lovely atmosphere that continued throughout the show. There was plenty of audience participation and children (plus adults) loved joining in with the traditional 'It's Behind You' and 'Oh Yes He Did' scenes.

Image credit: David Munn Photography

Robin Windsor stars in the lead role of Aladdin and suits the role perfectly with his charm, wit and exceptional dancing ability. I thought his on stage partnership with Princess Jasmine (Olivia Sloyan) worked well and we really enjoyed her exceptional vocals, which really make her shine like the star she is, when performing on stage.

Resident Dame Si Foster plays the glamourous Widow Twankey and we loved his character and cheeky personality. His humour was complimented well by Scott Gallagher, who starred as Wishee Washee who delivered his scenes with perfect comical timing. We also thought that his interaction with the children in the second half of the show during the 'Floss Like a Boss' competition was brilliant. Friendly and hilarious, which was perfect!

One of our panto favourites Philip McGuinness gives an amusing portrayal of the wicked Abanazar. We have seen him in numerous pantomimes previously and he never disappoints. He is great at providing is own interpretation of a character which is very enjoyable to watch.

Image credit: David Munn Photography

Kai Jolley stars as the Genie of the Lamp and we thought that he was great, with a very clear and strong voice, along with the enthusiasm and warmth that you would expect from the genie. We really enjoyed his moments on stage, along with The Slave of the Ring played by Jenna O'Hara who suited the supporting role well. A special mention also has to go to both the senior and juvenile dancers who exhibited their wonderful skills superbly throughout the whole show.

The stand out character for us though, was the wonderful Timothy Lucas, starring as PC Noodle, who we found to be highly entertaining and we felt he was the perfect addition to a stellar cast. He delivers countless comical performances which provides families with plenty of laughter. His vocals are strong, which were evident during a particular scene with Abanazar, where a musical mash-up of well known songs is delivered flawlessly.

Image credit: David Munn Photography

The scenery was bright and eye-catching, whilst the costumes were glamorous and extravagant, ensuring that the cast most definitely looked the part. The clever and witty script was delivered with excellence and the comedy scenes were hilarious, especially a funny sketch that took place in the laundry, as well as the moment that the audience were soaked with water guns. We thought we may have been safe from this being seated upstairs, but the cast ensured that we didn't miss out on the fun, much to my children's delight.

The inclusion of a 3D scene was wonderful and the audience were taken on a magical carpet ride. I found the quality of this scene to be superb and despite knowing that it wasn't real, I will happily admit jumping a couple of times as creatures came flying towards me.

Overall we had an absolutely wonderful time watching Aladdin and feel that it truly offers something for the whole family to enjoy. With jokes for the kids, some cheeky innuendos for the adults, stunning vocals, creative choreography and plenty of fun for audiences of all ages. We would absolutely recommend this show to everyone, so don't miss your chance to see this fabulous pantomime and be sure to book your tickets very soon!

Listing Details

Show - Aladdin
Venue - St. Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1LQ
Dates - Saturday 7th December 2019 to Sunday 12th January 2020
Times - Times vary so please visit the St. Helens Theatre Royal website here to obtain this information.
Tickets - Prices start from £13*

*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat transaction fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

Bookings - Book in person at the Theatre Royal Box Office, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1LQ (Mon-Sat 10am to 5pm). Alternatively, call 01744 756000, or log on to www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com.

Image credit: David Munn Photography

*Disclaimer - We were provided with press tickets for the purpose of writing an honest review of the production. All opinions are my own unless stated otherwise. Details provided are believed to be correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the venues own website, in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Making Magical Family Memories with An Elf for Christmas - A Review

Christmas is such a special time of year and like most families we have our own little traditions that we like to do each year in the run up to Christmas Day. We enjoy going to pantomimes, Christmas Carol Concerts, creating festive craft and giving Christmas Eve boxes to each other, which all help to create childhood memories that I hope my children will look back on as adults.

However, one of our favourite traditions is welcoming an elf into our home on the 1st December, to help encourage kindness and good behaviour, as well as bringing a little mischievous fun into the household too. We were therefore delighted to be sent some gorgeous Elf for Christmas products, that will be sure to help us create some magical moments in the coming weeks.


An Elf for Christmas brings creativity, imagination and magic into any home and also help to promote good behaviour. The products are suitable for both boys and girls and have a really good quality design, as well as a super cute face and festive outfit.

The Elf for Christmas Magical Reward Kit comes beautifully presented and contains everything you could need to help create some special family memories with your elf. The contents include: An Elf for Christmas, an Elf Living Here Sign, 2 x Letters to Santa, 1 x Reward Chart, 1 x Sticker Sheet, 2 x Arrival Letters, 2 x Nice List Awards, 8 x Elf Cards and a Thank You Postcard.



We received a Christmas Boy Elf in our set, which is approximately 28cm tall with a friendly face, rosy cheeks and long arms that can be velcroed together. Our elf brought an arrival letter from Santa with him which told our family why he had been sent to our home.

The whole set is really lovely and the reward kit contains enough items to be shared between two siblings. However, if you have a larger family, then extra refill packs can also be purchased on the Elf for Christmas website.


We also received a collection of 24 Advent Letters and we have made sure that our elf has delivered one to Riley each day throughout December. Riley loves having these read out to him whilst he eats his breakfast and they are a really fantastic idea for the countdown to Christmas Day.

Each envelope is individually numbered and inside there are beautifully written notes, which together create a lovely daily story about the North Pole and the magic and mayhem that occurs in Santa's Workshop. My son really enjoys having these read out to him and each day we have hidden them with his elf in a different place for him to find.

These are currently sold out on the website, however there are some alternative personalised options still available if you would like your elf to deliver some lovely advent letters. 


To bring even more magic into our home, Riley and I have been enjoying reading this delightful book called Elf's First Adventure, which has the most gorgeous illustrations throughout the story. It is lovely to enjoy this together in an evening and we have read it so many times now that Riley knows it word for word. This is available on the website for only £4.79 at the moment, which makes it a lovely affordable item to read as a family, or perhaps as a stocking filler gift for Christmas.


We also received a stunning North Pole Sticker Scenes Play Set which included 4 different scenes, 12 background sheets and 12 sticker sheets with over 750 stickers. Riley absolutely loved playing with his festive sticker set and producing some adorable Christmas designs.

I feel that this set encourages children to create their very own North Pole scenes just how they imagine it to be, so they can tell their very own story using the stickers and background sheets. It is currently available on the website for only £4.79 which is really good value for money.


Overall we absolutely love the whole Elf for Christmas range and I feel that it can make welcoming an elf into your home such a magical experience for children. Riley absolutely loves seeing what his elf has got up to each day and the he loves reading the advent letters together each morning.

I feel that all the products are beautifully designed and really appealing to both children and parents. I have particularly enjoyed reading the story book with Riley most evenings and he loves the illustrations.

It is great that there are a whole host of accessories available to buy for our elf and I look forward to building on our collection and seeing what mischief (and kindness) our elf gets up to over the next couple of weeks.

If you would like to find out more about An Elf for Christmas, then you can visit the website, or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.elfforchristmas.co.uk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/anelfforchristmas
Twitter - @elfforchristmas
Instagram - @elfforchristmas

* Disclaimer - We were gifted a selection of An Elf for Christmas products for the purpose of writing an honest review of the items. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.