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Burlesque The Musical theatre review: World premiere at Manchester Opera House starring Todrick Hall and Jackie Burns

Underneath the city lights, there is a world few know about… where Xtina doesn’t make a guest appearance, but there’s magic nonetheless.

We were all wondering whether Christina Aguilera – the show’s executive producer and star of the film Burlesque – would make a surprise appearance.

Unfortunately, she didn’t. But that didn’t stop the production being an absolute masterpiece. 

Burlesque The Musical, directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, had its world premiere at Manchester Opera House on June 13.

Inspired by the 2010 Steve Antin film Burlesque, the show follows main character Ali (Jess Folley) as she makes her way to New York City and stumbles upon a burlesque lounge.

Burlesque cast
Burlesque cast – credit: Johan Persson

For all you Burlesque fanatics out there (me being one of them, a big one), there are a few differences in the theatre production from the movie.

But don’t worry, I don’t plan on giving any spoilers.

The show incorporates many of the film’s hit songs including Bound to You, Show Me How You Burlesque and You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me as well as new songs written by the cast members themselves including Sugar Daddy Diet, Got It All From You and Ammo.

Jess Folley – who appeared on X-Factor in 2019 – immediately wows with her incredible vocals, taking direct inspiration from Xtina herself as well as making the role of Ali her own.

Jess Folley
Jess Folley as Ali – credit: Johan Persson

Iconic singer, performer and rapper Todrick Hall – known for featuring on American Idol and RuPaul’s Drag Race – brings energy and sassiness to the role of Sean, played by Stanley Tucci in the film. 

The Nails Hair Hips Heels singer really does steal the show with his exceptional dancing and hilarious one liners. You could feel the buzz in the audience every time he took to the stage.  

Todrick Hall as Sean - credit: Johan Persson
Todrick Hall as Sean – credit: Johan Persson

Jackie Burns – Broadway’s longest running Elphaba in Wicked – plays club owner Tess. With Cher-sized boots to fill I was sceptical as to whether she could live up to the Goddess of Pop.

But she manages it brilliantly. 

They wrote more depth into Tess’s storyline than in the film, which gave Burns more scope for character development. And we were even blessed with a stunning and emotional duet between Ali and Tess.

Jackie Burns and Jess Folley as Tess and Ali - credit: Johan Persson
Jackie Burns and Jess Folley as Tess and Ali – credit: Johan Persson

Burlesque is Big! 

The new song Big, written and performed by Todrick, gave a brief history of burlesque and played perfectly into his drag-style. 

This show was so incredibly feel-good and wholly immersive. I couldn’t help but grin from ear-to-ear the entire time.

The dancing was absolutely mesmerising, and the singing was captivating.

George Maguire plays the show’s reluctantly lovable antagonist Vince who blew the crowd away with his solo Ammo, written by Todrick. 

The choreo for Ammo was hypnotic as it incorporated tap dancing, break-dancing and incredibly powerful vocals from Maguire.

Director Nick Winston uses his trademark technology of projectors and screens to add an extra dimension to the show. He projects pictures, video footage and letters onto the set which added a futuristic element.

Costume designer Ryan Dawson Laight made sure that every single outfit absolutely dazzled, there was most definitely no expense spared.

Burlesque cast - credit: Johan Persson
Burlesque cast – credit: Johan Persson


Burlesque The Musical will be at the Opera House Manchester until 29 June before heading to Glasgow Theatre Royal from Wednesday 11 September till Saturday 28 September 2024.

Due to incredible demand the show will then return to Manchester from Thursday 3 October until Saturday 2 November 2024 prior to a West End run.

Tickets can be found here.

Featured image: Yohan Perrson

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