Flashdance star Joanne Clifton Takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

After winning the 2016 series of Strictly Come Dancing with Ore Oduba, Joanne Clifton took on the title role in the touring production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The change to a career in musical theatre is something the performer has always wanted and following the success of the show, Joanne is once again taking to the stage to lead a new production of Flashdance the Musical.

Based on the classic 1980s film, the stage show follows a young welder who longs to be a dancer. Former World Ballroom Showdance Champion, Joanne will play the iconic role alongside Ben Adams when the musical tours the UK.

Joanne took some time off from rehearsals to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Flashdance The Musical

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

My parent’s advice

What is your favourite Book?

I haven’t got a favourite book but I’ve got a favourite writer, Michael Connelly.

What are you currently watching on TV? 

Love Island, but it’s just finished.

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

Theatre

What’s your favourite sweet? 

Iced Gems, but I don’t know if they do them anymore.

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

A lorry driver. I wanted to take mushrooms around in a lorry. I’d designed my own lorry; it was white with a blue mushroom saying Joanne’s Mushrooms.

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

I wasn’t that naughty, Kevin was the naughty one. I got told off because I got up, put the bath on and then went back to bed. It flooded the whole house.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Probably winning the World Championship but also becoming Strictly champion

What’s next? 

I have two shows lined up but I can’t say anything about them yet.

Flashdance the Musical begins a tour of the UK this week. You can find details of the venues and dates on the website http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk

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Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Water, Water everywhere

There has been an abundance of water everywhere this week and I’m not just talking about the typical August torrential rain.

After the water tank split in the loft at the beginning of the week and the living room suffered a slow seepage of yellowy liquid through the ceiling, we were without hot water for a couple of days. This meant my only way to have a shower was to go to the gym. Now, I have been trying to get fit again recently (having lost years of fitness after changing from a career as a fitness instructor to the life of a deskbound journalist), but having to visit everyday (twice on Monday) just to make sure I was clean enough to ingratiate myself with local dignitaries, was a bit much even for me.

Luckily my London digs had a fully functioning water supply, so I was able to maintain my exemplary personal hygiene once I’d made my weekly commute to the capital.

And it was a good job too, as I had a really busy week of networking to fit in, despite the sometimes monsoon like weather conditions.

My first stop was to have a tour of the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham. I last visited the lovely little venue in June for their production of Sand Castles and was thrilled to be invited along to see their structural improvements and to hear about the plans for further refurbishment over the summer. I was also allowed to drop in on a rehearsal for their next production – Monty Python’s Spamalot  – which sounded amazing and I can’t wait to see.

After a hectic morning in the London office, I then ventured out to Kensington to watch a rehearsal of Flashdance – a new touring production of the musical adaptation – which starts a national tour in Glasgow this week. The show stars former Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton and 90s pop star Ben Adams. I got a chance to chat with them both and they were lovely. In fact, I’m a little bit in love with Ben. From the scene I saw – which included the famous water drop sequence – the show looks good too.

 

I then popped into central London to see The Blues Brothers Summer Special at the Hippodrome Casino. I have to say, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but with lots of summer hits and beach vibes, it was nonetheless a good show.

I finished off the week in Lyme Regis at the Marine Theatre. I consider ‘The Little Theatre by the Sea’ to be my home venue, as it’s where I first performed as a teenager and it’s the place I credit with igniting my love of theatre. With it’s proximately to the sea, there’s nowhere quite like it and the homely ambience evokes such happy memories.

Next week I’m finally of to see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the Duke of York Theatre and I’m heading to the Phoenix Theatre to see Evita (starring fabulous former green witch Emma Hatton). I’m also really excited to go to the launch of the New Wimbledon Theatre’s autumn season, which promises to be starry.

I’m also preparing for a new challenge as the entertainment reporter for the Sunday Independent newspaper. I’ll be covering theatre across the Southwest, so if you have any shows coming up, do get in touch.

You can follow me on Twitter for all the latest news @NickySweetland

Kelsey Grammer to star in new London production of Big Fish

Kelsey Grammer will star as ‘Edward Bloom’ in a new production of John August and Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish The Musical. Based on the novel Big Fish by Daniel Wallace and the Columbia Pictures film screenplay by John August, this new production will be the London premiere of the musical and also marks Kelsey’s first time on the London stage.

Directed by Nigel Harman, Big Fish The Musical will play at The Other Palace from Wednesday 1 November 2017 – Sunday 31 December 2017.

The Other Palace opened in February 2017 as a home for musical theatre. Discovering, developing and reimagining musicals is at the heart of what The Other Palace is about. The spaces are used to nurture the next generation of musicals, and the creatives behind them; celebrating the very best of the art form, from the established to the brand new.

Kelsey Grammer played the role of Dr. Frasier Crane in the NBC sitcoms “Cheers” and “Frasier” for which he has won five Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe awards. In 2010 Kelsey made his Broadway musical debut playing the lead role of ‘Georges’ in “La Cage Aux Folles”, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. He also originated the roles of ‘Charles Frohman’ and ‘Captain Hook’ in the Broadway premiere of the musical “Finding Neverland”.

Big Fish The Musical will be directed by Nigel Harman, director of the upcoming tour of “Shrek The Musical” and perhaps better known to audiences for his stage and TV work as an actor. Nigel first met with writers John and Andrew in 2016 and the vision and creativity they shared for this new version was evident.  Nigel said “When I first encountered the piece I was struck by its depth of humanity and it’s zest for life.  A story that celebrates life in all of its wonders and despairs. A simple tale told in the most extraordinary way. It has been wonderful to revisit the music, book and lyrics with John and Andrew”

Joining Kelsey Grammer will be Matt Seadon-Young (Les Misérables, Beautiful, Pride) as ‘Will Bloom’, Frances McNamee (Little Shop of Horrors) as ‘Josephine Bloom’, Forbes Masson (Travesties, Dr.Faustus) as ‘Amos/Don’, Jamie Muscato (Lazarus, Bend it Like Beckham)as ‘Edward’, Laura Baldwin (Shrek, Alice in Wonderland) as ‘Sandra’,  Landi Oshinowo (Shrek, Sister Act) as ‘Witch/Jenny Hill’, Dean Nolan (Fiddler on the Roof) as ‘Karl’, and George Ure (Sweeney Todd, Wicked) as ‘Zaki’. They are joined by Sophie Linder-Lee (The Rocky Horror Show, Wicked), Gemma McMeel (Titanic and Candide) and Jonathan Stewart (Guys and Dolls).

Meet Edward Bloom, an ordinary man, and an extraordinary father. He has always told his son tall tales filled with beauty, love and imagination but when his son confronts him about what is make believe, they both discover that the truth is more wonderful than fiction.

Big Fish the Musical is a love story that will take you on an exhilarating and heart-warming journey deep into the heart of what it means to be human. Blending fairy-tale, romance and adventure it celebrates the true meaning of life, and reminds us that the love for our family and friends will live on within them, long after we have gone.

Adapted from the much-loved book by Daniel Wallace and Tim Burton movie, Big Fish The Musical has a beautiful score by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and a new book by John August (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Big Fish The Muiscal will play at The Other Palace from Wednesday 1 November 2017 – Sunday 31 December 2017.

Abandoman’s Rob Broderick takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Rob Broderick is one half of the comedy Hip-hop duo Abandoman, who are well-known for their lightening quick improvised rap. Alongside his on-stage partner Sam Wilson, Rob is about to perform at Edinburgh and is writing a brand new show for the Soho Theatre in September. Rob took some time off from his preparations to take our Sugar Rush Quiz

What are you currently working on?

A new written Hip-hop musical that is going to be animated and, fingers crossed, a lot of fun.

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

Working with other people is the best thing. Comedy is very solo and I adore working with other people. It’s what makes the job fun and it’s what makes creativity easier.

What is your favourite Book?

Have Gun Will Travel: Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records by Ronin Ro

What are you currently watching on TV? 

A Stephen Colbert show about Trump. Since Trump became president I’ve become addicted to Colbert. I watch it and hope he’s going to be impeached every day. It’s fascinating because it’s a real voice of the resistance but it’s also tragic. I still find the whole Trump thing quite weird and so Colbert is like my release valve to that world.

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

It’s a toss-up between the cinema and the theatre, depending on how good the narrative sounds to me. I like theatre when it’s quite modern. I come from a family that likes Chekov plays that are set quite a long time ago. I feel like if a play has a modern feel to it, I’m the most excited.

What’s your favourite sweet? 

Maltesers

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

A baker or a clown. With a baker I really didn’t imagine there would be much selling. I thought I’d be doing a lot of baking and then consuming my produce. I wasn’t interested in making cash; it was just the cake access.

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

I shouted at a man cleaning a window once and I don’t why. I think I wanted to show off to someone and afterwards I never felt more guilty.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

I have moments at festivals as a performer where I go, “This is great, and this is what I wanted to do as a teenager.” So there are moments when I acknowledge that my job is to rap and I’m very proud of that.

What’s next? 

I’m going to be focusing on writing as well as freestyling. For 10 years I have run from writing. I find freestyling is something I’m naturally capable at and I’ve never really had the patience to sit down and write. I don’t think I’ve never really given it enough time to blossom, so the next thing is trying to create a fun written Hip-hop musical.

Abandoman will perform Life + Rhymes at the Soho Theatre from 14th-16th September

Review: ‘Perfect for fans’ ★★★ The Blues Brothers Summer Special, Hippodrome Casino

Since bursting onto the scene in 1978, the Blues Brothers have garnered a cult following and fans of the fictitious musical felons will get some much needed summer fun at the Hippodrome casino over the next few weeks with a new revue show celebrating the colourful couple.

The tribute to the characters – invented by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi for their Saturday Night Live sketch show – features some sunshiny songs alongside the classic melodies associated with the pair, which brings an added comedy element. Band members parade around in inflatable water toys dressed in neon Hawaiian outfits and songs like ‘Tequila’ and the Motown classic ‘Heatwave’ are given an upbeat rendering.

Leading the charge with an energetic portrayal of Elwood Blue is Joshua Mumby, who shows an exceptional aptitude on the harmonica and gallops around for the full two hours with gusto. His high-energy work helps him to not be too overshadowed by David Kristopher-Brown, as his brother Jake, whose straight-laced delivery coupled with outstanding vocals threaten to steal the show.

They are well matched by both Helen Hart and Hannah Kee as the Stax Sisters, who as well as providing backing vocals, also show their mettle with solo renditions of favourites including ‘Respect’ and ‘Proud Mary’, while Arnold Mabhena (in a very dodgy wig) performs with fervor as both an evangelical preacher and as the soul superstar Ray Charles.

I have to say, I didn’t get most of the references, but the majority of the audience were obviously Blues Brothers aficionados who sang and danced along throughout and so the production’s one misgiving – the lack of context and narrative – didn’t matter to most.

The Blues Brothers Summer Special is an entertaining evening of music, which is perfect for fans.

The Blues Brothers – Summer Special is at the Hippodrome Casino until 26 August 

Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: It’s been an unusual few months

I’ve got a bit out of the habit of writing these, so for fans of them, I apologise. It’s amazing how you focus on the necessities of work and life when you’re busy and extra things just fall by the wayside. Anyway, I’m going to make a concerted effort to write a diary every week from now on.

It’s been an unusual few months, which has involved me moving house at both ends of the country (in with my wonderful parents in Devon and my awesome best mates in London), a new job and a lot of new compromises in life.

My job in London is more demanding than ever before, with a fab new contract for the Weekender titles in south London giving me a great deal of pleasure. The publications are really good and the team I’m working with is absolutely brilliant. It’s also meant I’ve been able to enjoy Greenwich a lot more, with invites to some great shows and some lovely restaurants.

I’ve been very fortunate that a lot of the PR companies that I’ve built up good relationships with have stuck by me and I’ve still been able to watch some fab West End shows and chat to the stars for both my own website and for my slot on BBC Radio Kent.

A real highlight was seeing Andrew Scott in Hamlet. Now, I don’t pretend to be a fan of straight plays or Shakespeare (I generally prefer jazz hands and vibrato singing), but the production at the Harold Pinter Theatre is one of the best things I’ve seen this year. I also adored Bat Out of Hell (and the leading pair made for a delightful interview) and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with the fabulous Audra McDonald.

The Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium was good (and really didn’t deserve some of the harsh criticism it received, in my opinion) and Yank! at the Charing Cross theatre is a beautiful show.

I have become slightly obsessed with the soundtrack of Bonnie and Clyde after watching a workshop of the musical at The Other Palace and I’ve even started to listen to a bit of Little Mix (I know right! I think I’ve regressed) after seeing them perform as part of Greenwich Music Time.

I’ve interviewed my fave West End star, Kerry Ellis, the lovely Velma Celli and a whole host of friendly and not so friendly theatrical types (one playwright had prepared a statement and refused to actually answer any questions!).

Anyway, this week is also pretty packed. I’m having a tour of the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham – which is home to an extremely talented amdram group – before I attend a rehearsal for the new production of Flashdance The Musical, starring Strictly’s Joanne Clifton and A1’s Ben Adams, as well as popping along to the Hippodrome for a lively night of music from the Blues Brothers.

You can follow me on Twitter @NickySweetland for regular news.

MAMMA MIA! star Tyler Kennington takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Tyler Kennington first entered the world of show business at the tender age of two. The son of an acclaimed stunt coordinator the young star went on to work onstage with the likes of Jodie Prenger, Kerry Ellis and Griff Rhys Jones in the revival of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and in the television series Camelot alongside Joseph Fiennes.

Tyler has recently returned to the West End as part of the new cast of MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre and took some time off to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

MAMMA MIA!

Tyler Kennington (in purple) with the MAMMA MIA! London Cast 2017/2018. Photo by Brinkhoff & Mögenburg

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

Support from my family

What is your favourite Book?

Cell By Steven King

What are you currently watching on TV? 

I’ve just finished watching Riverdale on Netflix

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

Theatre

What’s your favourite sweet? 

Bubblegum bottles or fizzy laces

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

A stuntman like my dad

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

I sprayed fire extinguishers around the building when I was at Italia Conti. That was quite naughty!

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Getting the role in MAMMA MIA!

What’s next? 

I’m training to do stunt work. There are six skills that you have to be able to do semi-professionally, so I’ve set my goal to do that and I’m learning kung Fu. I’d also love to do another show. I’m not sure what, but maybe The Book of Mormon.

MAMMA MIA! is running at the Novello Theatre 

“A good suggestion is like a big wave; you just want to ride it and you don’t have to work that hard to make it fun.” We talk to Abandoman’s Rob Broderick

Known for creating hilarious songs and sketches at lightening speed, Abandoman have become one of the must see acts at Edinburgh this year, writes Nicky Sweetland.

In fact, the musical comedy duo performed to over 10,000 at lasts year’s festival and will return with a brand new show, which this year has been semi-written.

Winners of the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year, Musical Comedy Awards and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Abandoman is made up of musician Sam Wilson and comedy Hip-hop artist Rob Broderick, who told me, “I think it’s going to be very cool and a lot of fun. It’s a nice healthy mix of written and freestyle stuff with some animation and it’s a way of bringing quite a surreal world to life.”

Following their appearance in Edinburgh, the pair – who are currently the resident band for Alan Carr’s Happy Hour (Channel 4) – will take their new show Life + Rhymes to the Soho Theatre.

“It’s a fictional biopic, but it’s fully freestyled. We’ve been doing freestyled songs for a long time and we got really excited about the audience making up part of the story with their characters.”

Rob explained that the show spans twenty years of the duo’s attempt to “make it” as a band and that the audience will not only witness the highs, lows and scandals, but they will form the supporting cast every night. “It’s set in the 90s in Ireland and the idea is that everyone who’s in the room was there at a moment of our journey in Hip-hop. Irish Hip-hop is pitched as a very dangerous world and it’s very silly. I wanted to create an hour show in which the crowd gets to go on a journey, not just within each song, but an overall journey.”

The improv double act has an enviable reputation in the world of comedy, with Rob’s absolute commitment to the rap being of the highest competence. He studied Hip-hop and came upon the comedy side of the art by accident, when he realised that his improvised raps were always a bit more comical than other performers.

Rob told me, “Standup and Hip-hop are my two loves and so naturally my freestyling somehow had a sillier slant”

His onstage partner, Sam has the amazing ability to layer sounds and make the music appear as if it has been prerecorded, so when the two play together, the quality of the Hip-hop is beyond reproach, something, which is very important to both performers.

“Myself and Sam take the music and the rapping incredibly seriously. It’s not one of those things where a comedy act thought hip hop would be a good way to get success”

When mixed with suggestions from the on-looking audience, the result is an exciting and extremely amusing hour of entertainment.

“We ask people for bespoke moments or bespoke opinions of their lives, but every opinion has more weight because it’s actually happened. We’re asking them for a minor irk they went through or rule they broke and when those things are good or really interesting, the room really gets behind it and it makes freestyling much easier.”

Rob explains, “It’s like if you’re a surfer. A good suggestion is like a big wave; you just want to ride it and you don’t have to work that hard to make it fun.”

Abandoman will perform Life + Rhymes at the Soho Theatre from 14th-16th September

 

Lions and Tigers and Bares, Oh My!

The popular charity show West End Bares has ‘revealed’ this year’s theme for their night of fundraising frivolity.

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Now in its eighth year as the West End’s hottest annual fundraiser, fans are asked to join the cast of WEST END BARES as they strip off to see the Wizard in WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS at The Novello Theatre on Sunday 29 October with performances at 7.00pm and 9.30pm.

You can join the much-loved characters of Oz for an extraordinary night at WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS, which will see over 100 of the hottest performers from the West End stage and beyond, along with an array of celebrity hosts as they take to the stage to combine the naughtiness of burlesque with the magic of the West End. All monies raised will go to The Make A Difference Trust to fund HIV and AIDS projects that raise awareness, educate and provide care and support in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Directed by David Grewcock with choreography from Racky Plews (American Idiot; Footloose; Heaven on Earth),Ashley Nottingham (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Dance Mums; Disaster!), Will Lucas (Cats; Wicked), Joanna Goodwin (Barnum; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Sunset Boulevard), Aaron Renfree (X Factor; The Saturdays), Simone Mistry-Palmer (Motown; Dirty Dancing), Jaye Elster (Singin’ In The Rain; Half A Sixpence), Ashley Jordan-Packer(Cats; Thriller Live), Fletcher Dobinson (Cats; West Side Story), Chris Whittaker (Blondel; Judy!), and James Wilson(Strictly Come Dancing; The Voice)

Opening the show in style, WEST END BARES: RUBY STRIPPERS is delighted to welcome Olivier Award winner Rebecca Trehearn (Showboat, City of Angels, Ghost), who will perform a brand-new track written for the occasion by Mark Anderson (The Book Of Mormon, Legally Blonde) and Luke di Somma (That Bloody Woman [composer], 21 Chump Street).

Award winning director and choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, creator of the original concept ‘Broadway Bares’, the inspiration behind West End Bares, said: “Lions and tigers and BARES, oh my! I can’t wait to see the eighth edition of West End Bares in London and what a perfect theme to go full out and celebrate LIFE.  We need to keep up the fight against HIV and AIDS and by doing what we love or by buying a ticket and supporting this incredible night, you can be part of something HUGE that will change people’s lives – and you get to watch the hottest dancers in London strip, so it’s a no brainer!

Melanie Tranter, Co-Founder, Chair and Trustee of The Make A Difference Trust said: “Who can resist an amazing night of witches, lions and scarecrows combined with the magic that is West End Bares? I can’t believe that this is the eighth year of this amazing show. Sparkly shoes take over from the legends of Camelot, as David Grewcock and the amazing team behind last year’s EXCALIBARE, bring you Ruby Strippers. Every single ticket sold means that the Make A Difference Trust can continue our work towards a world free of HIV and AIDS. Together we can make a difference. So buy your tickets, get your MAD money, and enjoy one of the sexiest, most fun evenings you can have in a theatre!  I can’t wait to see you there!”

The Make A Difference Trust is a UK based charity with a vision of a world free from HIV and AIDS. Building on the legacy of 25 years of fundraising by the Theatre industry, they continue to make the vision a reality having distributed over £1.6million in grants to support individuals experiencing hardship across the UK as well as over £1million to support projects with their UK and international partners. For further information about the Make A Difference Trust please visit  www.madtrust.org.uk

Tickets for WEST END BARES are now on sale and are priced at £15 – £100.

Tickets are available from www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

Photos by Darren Bell

The Cunning Little Vixen comes to the Arcola Theatre

Director Guido Martin-Brandis will bring an innovative new production of Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen to the Arcola Theatre as part of the Grimeborn Festival 2017.

Guido Martin-Brandis will be joined by veteran theatre maker Alexander McPherson, who was head of design at the Bristol Old Vic, and Theatre Royal and has designed shows for the Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Scottish Opera. The pair join forces again after the success of their 2016 collaboration for BBC Young Musician of the Year winner, Grace Evangeline Mason’s debut opera The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Cunning Little Vixen is the story of a young Vixen growing up in the parallel worlds of animals and humans, after having been brought home by a forester. Featuring dance, masks and puppetry and video projections to depict the animal world, this show will mix art forms to reach new opera audiences, young and old.

Sung in English with a brand new chamber arrangement, the cast features some of the UK’s most promising young artists, including Alison Rose, who in June 2017 made her Garsington debut and will debut at the ENO next season, having sung as a soloist in the Last Night of the Proms 2016 and recently sponsored by the Glyndebourne New Generation Programme at the National Opera Studio.

Guido Martin-Brandis, director, said:

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be launching our new Opera company, aptly named The Opera Company, with which we plan to produce shows at the very highest level of what fringe opera can achieve.The Cunning Little Vixen is not only a delightful opera with strong storytelling elements and stunning music, it’s also given the entire cast plenty of scope to explore working with the Meisner technique, physical theatre, choreographers, dancers and puppets. It’s been a thrill to work with Alexander McPherson who brings so much experience to the project. On a personal note, I’m also eager to join the Grimeborn festival as a director, having worked as an assistant the previous two seasons and have always admired the high quality of work they produce.”

The Cunning Little Vixen will be at the Arcola Theatre on 31st July, 1st, 3rd, 4th August 2017