If there was ever a time to celebrate Neighbours, it’s right now.
The beloved Aussie soap, which was controversially axed by Channel 5 last year, has been revived by Amazon Freevee and is set to air new episodes in the coming months, a year on from its star-studded and critically acclaimed ‘finale’.
This time last year, the show was starting to wrap up, with little to no hope of a reprieve. Flash-forward 12 months, and we’re on the cusp of an exciting new Ramsay Street era, with many of the show’s most loved cast members set to reprise their roles.
It’s a tale of resilience for the history books, with Neighbours – which was also famously axed in the 80s before being picked by a rival channel – simply refusing to die.
Freevee execs have stated that their decision to resuscitate Neighbours was due to the fan reaction to the untimely cancellation, so it’s no secret that the loyal viewers saved the series.
In terms of placement in the show’s long-running history, The Celebration Tour, which kicked off in Belfast on Wednesday March 1, really couldn’t have come at a better time.
Formerly titled the Farewell tour, The live show was actually intended to be a parting gift from the soap’s cast to the fans, following news of Neighbours’ cancellation.
But after Amazon Freevee swooped in and righted one of TV’s greatest ever wrongs by reviving the popular soap, the tour was subsequently renamed, with the new moniker ultimately proving to be the correct choice.
The Celebration tour is exactly what it says on the tin in that its celebrates this not-so-little soap opera in all its glory.
It provides the cast with a way of saying thanks to its loyal viewers who are, in turn, rewarded for their efforts with a trip down memory lane, a discussion of an exciting new future and, ultimately, an experience that, much like the show itself, will live on forever.
An evening with Ramsay Street royalty wasn’t just everything you could imagine it to be, it was so much more
For a couple of hours, fans are taken behind the scenes and into the heart of Neighbours, with detailed discussions about how the serial’s most iconic moments came to be, and what the fan reaction – both over the years and more recently – meant to the cast, with a number of other little treats along the way that will delight the most fervent of attendees.
While TV viewing habits have changed considerably, with on-demand streaming and overnight viewing figures being less important, there’s no denying Neighbours’ popularity remains intact and, if anything, it’s stronger than ever, which was seen last year when the fans banded together to save the show.
Having been there during the tireless campaigns and covered many of the key developments of the #SaveNeighbours era, I thought I knew what to expect in attending The Celebration Tour.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Neighbours. It’s been a big part of my life for decades, long before I was a soaps reporter, and I have so many fond childhood memories of watching it with someone who was very dear to me.
I had high hopes for the evening, but the sheer sense of camaraderie and love that was in the air on opening night in Belfast, which was a sold out show, was truly something else.
The crowds – that previously queued around the corner in the cold only to queue once more at the merchandise stand instantly upon gaining entry – were passionate in the best possible way, delighted to have time with the actors behind their favourite characters.
It seemed that just about everyone was captivated by the tales told by tour cast Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy), Alan Fletcher (Karl Kennedy), Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson), Annie Jones (Jane Harris), Ryan Moloney (Toadie) and April Rose Pengilly (Chloe Brennan), who were all incredibly emotional at the welcomed response they received upon waking onto the stage, with a few tears shed along the way.
The trips down memory lane ranged from a wide variety of eras, making the live tour accessible to and enjoyable for Neighbours fans of all generations, no matter which Erinsborough era you consider to be your own.
Neighbours: The Celebration Tour is the ultimate fan experience, made with love by experts in all-things Ramsay Street, resulting a very special night that will live in fans’ hearts forever
In writing this review, I feel a bit like Susan Kennedy in the ‘final’ moments of Neighbours’ historic 37-year run, attempting to put into words something that is, quite simply, is beyond them.
An evening with Ramsay Street royalty wasn’t just everything you could imagine it to be, it was so much more, with the tour evoking all sorts of emotions from fans. Trust me, I had all the feels. Joy, however, ultimately reigns supreme, with an overwhelming sense of happiness at its core.
Joy at the memories it brought back. Joy at being in the same room as ‘good friends’. And, of course, joy over the fact that Neighbours is staging a comeback, with the show’s new alliance with Freevee being touched upon by cast members and host Leah Boleto, who expertly led the event in a way that only a true Neighbours fan could, with her love and knowledge of the serial drama shining through with every question.
Neighbours: The Celebration Tour is the ultimate fan experience, made with love by experts in all-things Ramsay Street, resulting a very special night that will live in fans’ hearts forever.
It is, to quote the iconic theme tune, the perfect blend of everything that a fan could ever want, and my heart couldn’t have been any fuller upon exiting the venue.
Tickets for Neighbours: The Celebration Tour are on sale now, with a number of venues already sold out. Find out more here. Neighbours returns to screens on Amazon Freevee later this year, with hundreds of classic episodes already available to stream.
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