The search for the best Christmas show in Manchester is over. Forget the panto and Dirty Dancing, as this wild and wonderfully funny Broadway classic has arrived and like brandy and mince pies, it'll take some beating.
This time of year - the festivities are centred around 'family' and whether that strikes you with joy or fear, You Can't Take It With You presents you with an unusual but highly lovable collection of characters known as the Vanderhofs. Imagine the Addams Family meets the Munsters and a dash of The In Laws and this gives you some idea of what's in store.
I say 'some' because the innovative Told By An Idiot and The Royal Exchange have produced a terrific show which ticks all of the boxes but also surprises the audience with some incredible set pieces, wonderfully wacky scenes, perfectly played poignancy and most of all - more laughs per minute than any other show in town.
The plot is farcical and the less you know the better the piece becomes. Suffice to say - unexpected visitors arrive at the Vanderhofs, and like a classier Meet The Fockers - we laugh like drains as two very different families are introduced to each other and this crazy comedy begins to take hold on the audience and does not let up for two hours.
Each performer is outstanding as these guys operate like athletes - passing the comedy baton to the next gifted member of the team, and Paul Hunter's spirited and frenetic direction allows them all to shine equally. I particularly liked Christopher Benjamin's dry tax dodging grandfather, Joanne Howarth's doting yet dotty mom, Sophie Russell's high kicking dancer and the marvelous Miltos Yerolemou as her dance teacher - Boris Kolenhov.
The entire cast though give flawless turns in a production which treats the audience to an awesome night out which involves you at every turn. The comedy within the narrative is balanced by many moving scenes which see the family struggling to be accepted. So convincing are they all that the audience view them as completely reasonable and everyone else as eccentric rulebreakers.
Laura Hopkins' set pieces have plenty of shocks in store for visitors to the Vanderhof home and for members of the audience, particularly if you are in the stalls. This totally suits George S.Kaufman's timeless writing which recalls his Marx Brothers past as it's very Vaudeville.
You Can't Take It With You is one of those rare comedies that moves you one minute and leaves you convulsing with laughter the next. Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, but he made a film version of this too. How apt, as this is a fantastic and exciting piece of heaven-sent theatre with a heart the size of Salford.