Theatre News: Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s The Girls set to embark on nationwide tour

The critically acclaimed and award-winning production of The Girls will complete its six-month London season at the Phoenix Theatre on Saturday 15 July 2017 before embarking on a nationwide tour.

Producers David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers said, “We are so proud and thrilled with this production, and we want to take it to everyone who wants to see it in the country, and at prices they can afford.”

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical comedy, which played sold-out seasons in Leeds and Manchester prior to its West End run, is based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play by Tim Firth, Calendar Girls. The show will  return home to Yorkshire and open at the Leeds Grand Theatre on 15 August 2018 and visit 42 theatres across the United Kingdom.

Firth added, “We are delighted with the reception our musical has received in Leeds, Manchester and now London, and are thrilled that the show will be visiting towns and cities up and down the country, so that more people can get a chance to see it and, we hope, will also fall in love with The Girls.”

The Girls is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise. This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth grew up in the same village in the north of England and have been friends for 25 years. With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner. Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, will receive monies from this production.


Two legends set to appear at the Royal Albert Hall to mark special 50 year anniversary

Two musical legends will appear in conversation at the Royal Albert Hall for a unique one-off event to mark 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised homosexuality.

John Grant will chat to Cocteau Twins vocalist Elizabeth Fraser about her iconic indie group’s 1988 album, Blue Bell Knoll, with all proceeds from the show going to gay rights charity Stonewall.

Elizabeth Fraser and John Grant

The event on Sunday 23 July is a rare chance to hear Fraser talk about her distinctive, indelible music, which influenced an entire generation of performers, including Grant, with his exquisite electro-balladeering.

In typical John Grant style, he had this to say about the upcoming event in the Hall’s Elgar Room: “Blue Bell Knoll is one of the best albums of the eighties – and of all time. I get to talk to Liz Fraser about the creation of this masterpiece and you don’t, so there!”

Programmer Sara-Jane Power from the Royal Albert Hall added: “It’s quite an honour to be celebrating this important milestone in our cultural history – the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK – with these two very special artists in our intimate Elgar Room.

“We are extremely excited to welcome John Grant back to the Royal Albert Hall after his stunning performance here last year, and to unite him in conversation with one of his major influences. It’s sure to be a truly unforgettable experience.”

The pair will be joined by Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, from Classic Album Sundays and BBC 6 Music.

Both Grant and Fraser have headlined the Royal Albert Hall’s iconic auditorium – she with the Cocteau Twins in 1996, he making a spectacular debut last year – with Grant also memorably guesting alongside Kylie Minogue and Goldfrapp.

Spend an evening with Elizabeth Fraser and John Grant on 23 July

Homage to David Bowie comes to Underbelly Festival

Starman, the hit show from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival debuts in London next month for three dates at the London Wonderground’s Spiegel Tent. Starring Sven Ratzke, the international supernova of cabaret who mixes the beautiful universe of Bowie with his own unique style of storytelling and reinterpretations of the stars legendary music.

This brilliant bold homage to David Bowie combines many of the artist’s famous numbers such as “Space Oddity,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Heroes,” and “Rock and Roll Suicide” with classic album tracks plus inspired original songs by Ratzke and Rachelle Garniez. More than a mere tribute show, Starman is a one-man rock musical with unique characters and bold reinventions of glam rock classics. For this show Sven works closely with his brilliant band to stage this show.

After its world Premiere In Berlin in 2015 to rave reviews with the city’s biggest paper The Berliner Morgenpost, citing ‘Starman’ as “an exciting evening. Sparkling and grand, singer Ratzke takes you to other worlds and connects art with entertainment and fact with fantasy is a unique and beautiful way.” Starman went on to tour worldwide capturing audiences from New York to Edinburgh to Sydney.

Ratzke the transgressive European entertainer extraordinaire is internationally recognized for the title role in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell, the musical’s creator and the original star, declared “Sven is the best Hedwig I’ve ever seen.” He has also played the lead role in various productions of ‘Cabaret’ He crosses musical genres and traverses decades with panache and a unique style that blends high culture with elements of glam rock, classic Weimar cabaret with vaudeville.

Sven Ratze: Starman is at Underbelly Festival from 7 – 9 June

Angel Comedy at The Bill Murray is the place to go for a night of laughter in June

Angel Comedy at The Bill Murray is fast becoming the place to go for a night of comedy.

The club in Islington, which won the 2017 Chortle Award for Best Small Venue, offers multiple comedy shows every night of the week, with many just £5 or even free to enjoy.

Next months highlight include Tony Law and Friends, who will provide a magical read through of something funny that will turn into a bigger and definitely more dangerous thing at a later date. The friends are to be confirmed but hairy comedian Adam Larter might be involved.

You can also join Andrew Maxwell for his Edinburgh preview. Renowned for his cutting edge comedy and intrepid social commentary, Andrew is also the recognisable voice of MTV’s hit show Ex On The Beach, which is now in its sixth series.

June’s programme also includes star of hit shows ‘What Would Beyonce Do?!’ and ‘Am I Right Ladies?!’ Luisa Omielan and “The King of Edinburgh” (the List) Richard Herring.

You can find full listings on the website 

Theatre News: Hampstead Theatre announce two world premiere productions as part of their Autumn season

Hampstead Theatre will host the world premieres of two plays as part of its Autumn season.

The first will be Prism, based on the life of legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff, written and directed by Terry Johnson and will star Robert Lindsay and Claire Skinner.

Robert Lindsay will star in Prism at Hampstead Theatre

This will be followed by the world premiere of Nicholas Wright’s The Slaves of Solitude, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick Hamilton and will be directed by Jonathan Kent.

The first production of Simon Gray’s Cell Mates since 1995 will also be staged and directed by Artistic Director Edward Hall who comments, “I’m extremely proud to announce such an exciting body of work at Hampstead Theatre this autumn. With two world premieres on the Main Stage, Terry Johnson’s Prism and Nicholas Wright’s adaptation of The Slaves of Solitude, and a long overdue revival of Simon Gray’s Cell Mates, our aim is to continue to provide endless nights of top quality and entertaining theatre for hundreds of thousands of theatregoers. I’m personally looking forward to Gray’s gripping espionage thriller and I hope to help it gain its rightful place in the repertoire as a serious, brilliant piece of British drama.

Prism 6 September – 14 October

Slaves of Solitude 20 October – 25 November

Cell Mates 30 November – 20 January

Theatre News: ‘Work in Progress series’ at The Other Palace will see Heathers the Musical and Bonnie & Clyde staged

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Taylor Mills have announced details for The Other Palace Development Programme and first Work in Progress series.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Taylor Mills have announced an exciting new development programme for The Other Palace

The Other Palace opened in February 2017 as a new home for musical theatre. The venue aims to discover, develop and reimagine musicals.

For audience members, The Other Palace’s Development Programme offers the opportunity to see new shows in their infancy and be part of the process, providing the creative team with invaluable feedback.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “I want The Other Palace to become the London space where writers and producers can try out and perfect new work, offering audiences the opportunity to see and contribute to musicals in development. My hopes for The Other Palace are based on my experience with “School of Rock” in America.  I presented “School of Rock” as a staged workshop at the Gramercy Theatre, a rock venue in New York. By not premiering the musical in a finished form with elaborate sets, it gave the creative team complete flexibility to refine the material. It was a liberating experience for all of us.”

The Other Palace Artistic Director, Paul Taylor Mills added: “We’re delighted to be hosting a series of initiatives that truly nurture artists and their work, and allow our audience to be an important part of the action. Our Development Programme is at the heart of our vision to advance the musicals of tomorrow whilst reimagining the classics.”

In our first Work in Progress series we’re developing two brand new British musicals and rediscovering two American musicals. This breadth of style and the varying stages of the pieces cements our commitment to ensuring that The Other Palace really is the home for all things musical theatre in the UK.”

As well as staging Heathers the Musical and Bonnie & Clyde the series will feature new musical Joybubbles and Dr Feelgood.

The venues will also host Open Mic nights, Pitch days, Creative Connect nights and Musical Bites, where four new musicals that are in the early stages of development will be showcased.

Photos by Paul Stuart and Craig Sugden

West End leading man Robert Meadmore takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Robert Meadmore has starred in some of the biggest shows in town. His varied career has seen him perform in concerts around the world including the Royal Variety Performance and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in The Mall, London leading a crowd of over fifty thousand, including the Royal Family.

A regular at the revered Pheasantry on the King’s Road in Chelsea, Robert will be returning to the venue next month with a new show alongside Elaine Delmar and Jamie Safir and will perform in the very special Sunday at the Musicals Concert at the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden next weekend.

Robert took some time off to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Concerts in London and a brand new cabaret show with two musical greats. Elaine Delmar and Jamie Safir. We are each bringing our own particular style of music … Elaine (Jazz), Jamie (Will Young’s MD) and my musical theatre side …. Hopefully we will all meet in the middle somewhere !!! It’ll definitely be fun. 26/27th June The Pheasantry, Chelsea.

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful?

My sense of humour.

What is your favourite Book?

The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu …. On my bedside table! If you have any ‘life’ questions you can open the book and find an answer and not always the one you want!

What are you currently watching on TV? 

Modern Family, Madam Secretary, Grace and Frankie.

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

Restaurant with my best friends and great food.

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I’m not really a sweet fan … possibly dark bitter chocolate.

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

An Actor.

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I ran away from School.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Leading a crowd of 50,000 people singing ‘You’ll never walk alone” accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra to The Queen and entire Royal Family at her Silver Jubilee.

What’s next? 

More concerts and I hope to go to LA to perform the one man show I did in New York last year ….. visa’s permitting!

An Evening with Elaine Delmar, Robert Meadmore and Jamie Safir, is at The Pheasantry, Chelsea on Monday & Tuesday, June 26th & 27th 2017, at 8:30pm.

Theatre News: Laurence Fox will star in The Real Thing at Rose Theatre Kingston

Theatre Royal Bath Productions, Cambridge Arts Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston have announced Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing will embark on a limited UK Tour from September, starring Laurence Fox and directed by Stephen Unwin. The production will open on Wednesday 6 September in Cambridge before touring to Bath and Kingston.

Laurence Fox will star in The Real Thing at Rose Theatre Kingston

The Real Thing was first staged in London’s West End in 1982 and subsequently transferred to Broadway where it went on to win multiple awards including the Tony Award for Best Play in 1994 and, 16 years later, the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Stoppard’s poignant classic offers an intellectual and entertaining examination of infidelity.

Henry is the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. When Henry’s affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love? Is it the real thing?

Laurence Fox is best known for his role as DS James Hathaway for seven series of Lewis. Other television roles include A Room With A View and Wired with film credits including Gosford Park and Becoming Jane. Fox’s theatre credits include Strangers on a Train (Gielgud Theatre) and Our Boys (Duchess Theatre).

Tom Stoppard is a multi-award winning playwright with many notable plays including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadArcadiaThe Coast of Utopia, The Hard Problem and The Invention of Love. Stoppard also co-wrote Shakespeare in Love which won the Academy Award for best screenplay.

Stephen Unwin founded English Touring Theatre (ETT) in 1993 prior to becoming Artistic Director of Rose Theatre Kingston for five years. Unwin’s credits for Theatre Royal Bath include Moon Tiger starring Jane Asher and Present Laughter starring Samuel West and Phyllis Logan.

The Real Thing will run at Rose Theatre Kingston from Monday 2 – Saturday 14 October

Interview: Olivier Award winner, Jon Brittain tells us about Rotterdam ahead of its West End Transfer

After first being staged at the 60-seat Theatre 503 in Battersea, Jon Brittain’s seminal work entitled Rotterdam has continued to gain enormous critical acclaim, much to its writer’s astonishment and he told us, “What’s happened to the show so far has taken me by surprise.”

The play transferred to the Trafalgar Studios and gained the playwright an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. It also featured last month in New York at the Brits Off Broadway festival and will open at the Arts Theatre in June for a strictly limited West End run.

Jon Brittain at the Olivier Awards, where he won the gong for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

With a central plot, which tackles the issues of coming out and of transitioning, as well as the general complexities of human relationships, Rotterdam has struck a chord with London theatregoers. Jon explains, “It’s kind of a romcom in a way.”

The honest and yet comedic portrayal finds Alice, who is about to proclaim her sexuality to her parents just as her girlfriend Fiona, decides to express her desire to live as a man called Adrian.

“It’s about how Alice’s sense of her sexual identity is thrown into question by Adrian asserting his sense of his gender identity and how their relationship changes.”

It’s a real departure for Jon, who is best known for collaborating with Matt Tedford on the hit satirical comedy Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho.

The Rotterdam project was something he never believed would come to fruition, but a story he was nevertheless passionate about telling.

“When I was 18/19 a couple of my friends transitioned.” Jon explains, “There were just no trans narratives in film, TV and theatre and I just thought they should have their experiences reflected on stage as well.”

Since writing the play, the climate in theatre has changed, but there are still few works, which depict the struggle trans people go through in a comedic manner and Jon said of Rotterdam, “It tells an important story and I think everyone can get something out of it.”

The celebrated comedy writer hasn’t left his political satire behind however and his new show Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows premiered at Underbelly Festival earlier this month and will continue to entertain audiences on the South Bank over the summer season.

Rotterdam is playing at the Arts Theatre from Wednesday 21st June until Saturday 15th July 2017. 

Catch Margaret Thatcher Queen of Games Shows at the Underbelly Festival Southbank from 28 June – 2 July. 


Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: The fabulous freedom of freelance

It’s been another fun-filled week, but I have to say the heat and humidity in London has played a part in how I have scheduled it.

The beauty of being freelance is that I don’t have to be chained to a desk in an office for most of the week. It takes discipline, but for me, it’s the best way to work.

I’m a bit of a free spirit and if I’m in the right mood, I can write reams and reams of entertaining and eloquent copy. If my brain is having one of its flighty days however (which is usually when I’m overtired or stressed) writing even the most simple sentence feels like I’m giving birth.

This means I have to allow myself breaks and as a lover of the outdoors, I often move my ‘office’ around, depending on how I feel.

After a near fainting on the train into central London on one of the hottest days this week (I had to do the whole head between my legs thing and it was very embarrassing), I decided to take my office to Greenwich Park. I had some appointments in Greenwich later in the day and so spent five hours mooching around in the sun in between writing.

It’s a great bit of London and offers the city, some greenery and the waterside, which, as someone who has lived by the sea for many years, always makes me feel calm.

Anyway, I watched a couple of show’s this week. The first was Woyzeck at the Old Vic Theatre, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega. A strange play, that was, like lots of the stuff at the Old Vic, a bit too worthy. I had hoped after interviewing writer Jack Thorne that it would be a bit more insightful to the plight of vulnerable working class people who join the forces, but it was very much written from a middle class perspective.

I also watched a new play called Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, a show about a drag club in Birmingham. This too was bitterly disappointing and had none of the glamour of the real world of drag.

I wasn’t disappointed by the third show I watched however, when I popped along to see Wicked for the 27th time, with standby Elphaba Alice Fearn on gloriously good form. Alice is being given the role fulltime from July and I think she has the potential to be the best ‘Green Girl’ the West End has ever seen.

With deadlines in Dorset and my sister visiting from Australia, I will have fewer theatrical exploits next week, but I am journeying down to the Exeter Northcott Theatre to see Death of a Salesman for the first time and I’ve got a couple of interviews on the cards.

I’m also back to rehearsals for Spamalot after a couple of weeks off and I’m looking forward to setting the first few scenes.