Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Critiquing a show you don’t like is a tough job

It’s always difficult to critique a show you know you don’t like. After I’ve seen a couple of versions of something and have been unimpressed by it, I then try my best to avoid future presentations.

For example, I’ve managed to completely sidestep the new West End production of Annie – starring Miranda Hart – and with the announcement this week that Craig Revel Horwood is to take over the role of Miss Hannigan; I will continue to actively avoid the Piccadilly Theatre until something more interesting comes along. It’s not that I don’t like Craig – he is a really lovely person – but having seen Annie six times within the last two years and previously witnessed his portrayal in the touring production, I know I can manage without another viewing.

There are lots of other shows too, which I would quite happily never see again like South Pacific (in my opinion, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s worse show), 42nd Street (rubbish story and a dull score) and The Sound of Music (or the Sound of Mucus as I call it). It’s not that it’s a bad musical, but I’ve just seen it far too many times and have started to hope that a curtain call is on Maria’s list of ‘favourite things’.

There are also highly acclaimed shows that I just don’t get, like Ragtime, Godspell and Into the Woods, and loads of plays, which – with my limited intellect – I struggle to understand. Some are just far too worthy for this working class girl and I therefore find them extremely difficult to write about.

There are occasionally things that surprise me however, like last year’s Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After being part of a detestable amateur production, I despised the classic rock opera, but Tim Sheader’s fab adaptation made me see it through fresh eyes.

I also had my mind changed by Evita last week. I have previously called the musical ‘excreta’ – such was my loathing of it – but after seeing Emma Hatton in the leading role at the Phoenix Theatre I found myself willing to give the story another go.

I am yet to watch any Gilbert and Sullivan operetta however without feeling the need to cry in desperation and don’t get me started on village pantomimes (I endure an average of 15 each season!).

Gosh, it sounds like I don’t like anything doesn’t it? There are lot and lots of shows I love – which is why I’m so lucky to do what I do – and I also get to discover new things, which I wouldn’t ordinarily choose.

Anyway, I had another fab evening at Alice’s Adventures Underground last week (a real recommendation); I finally watched Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (very good) and enjoyed Evita (a bit!). I also interviewed former Wicked star Idriss Kargbo, who is working on one of my real favourites, Five Guys Named Moe – which will open at the new popup theatre at Marble Arch next month – and I went to the launch of the new season at the New Wimbledon Theatre and had a chat with Kara Lily Hayworth, who will play Cilla Black in the new stage show about the singer’s life.

This week I’m off to interview Carley Stenson – who is currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables (love it!) – at the Queen’s Theatre and then I’m heading down to Underbelly Festival to see Velma Celli’s Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, with special guests Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace. I’m then talking to RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon, before chatting to Emma Hatton about her illustrious career and her sensational performance in Evita.

You can follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

Advertisements

Kara Lily Hayworth scoops the role of Cilla after a lorra, lorra of auditions

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Following weeks of open auditions at venues up and down the country – the producers of Cilla the Musical have found their star. Kara Lily Hayworth has fought off thousands of hopefuls to be named as the girl who will step into the Legend’s coveted shoes in the first ever musical about the star’s life.

Cilla – The Musical, is a spectacular and heart-warming musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed ITV mini-series based on the early life of Cilla Black, by BAFTA award winner, Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Philomena, From The Cradle To The Grave, Mrs Biggs). The new musical, opens in Cilla’s hometown at the Liverpool Empire from Thursday 7th – 16th September before embarking on a nationwide tour.

Kara queued for four hours at London’s Dominion Theatre to have her chance to audition in the first rounds. She made it through to the final 30 before being chosen to do her final audition at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

Robert Willis said, ‘We wanted somebody who wasn’t going to impersonate my mum but someone who could capture her spirit. Kara came in with her huge personality and amazing voice – when I saw the response of the audience at the Cavern, I knew we’d found her!”

Originally from Watford, Kara trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She recently performed in Secret Cinema’s Moulin Rouge and this will be her first leading role in a big new musical…and her first time on tour!

She said “When I was 11 I was shopping out with my mum and bumped into Cilla and asked her for an autograph. I told her I wanted to be an actress – she laughed and said ‘It’s a tough industry, but if you really work hard and go for it, you’ll be just fine.’ She was a huge inspiration to me as a child; I grew up watching her on Blind Date every Saturday night with my Nan. To be chosen to play her is such an honor and I’m so excited to take on the role. To open in her hometown of Liverpool is so special and a real privilege.”

The story follows the extraordinary life of the ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame. By the age of just 25 she was recognized as international singing star Cilla Black. By the age of 30 she had become Britain’s favorite television entertainer headlining series’ of Blind Date, Surprise Surprise and many more.

The musical score will be the ultimate soundtrack to the 60’s including Cilla’s greatest hits Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me, alongside a backdrop of the legendary “Liverpool Sound” including the Beatles’ Twist and Shout, and American influences like California Dreamin by The Mamas and The Papas and many more.

Full details of the tour including the venues it will visit can be found on the website cillathemusical.com

Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Keep Moving Forward

What is it with some people? You know the ones; those people (sadly usually women) who have to blow out your candle to try to make theirs burn brighter. Most of the time, toxic beings don’t get a look in with me, but every now and then, when things are already a bit tough; one manages to get under my armour.

I feel ashamed to say that at the start of the week a particularly venomous viper, spent what felt like an eternity, trying to convince me that I’m quite rubbish and for a while (about 24 hours) I believed her.

Being tough and learning the reasons behind people’s decisions to be unpleasant, are all very well, but sometimes it just plain hurts.

Anyway, I picked myself up, brushed myself off and ended up having an awesome week.

After accepting a bit of freelance work for another theatrical website (it is always so nice to be asked and really gives you a sense that you are heading in the right direction) I popped along to my first proper rehearsal of Spamalot. There’s nothing quite like belting out some cheery tunes to lift the spirits and this Monty Python inspired show is full of them.

With an added spring in my step I embarked on my working week with renewed vigor and after a fantastic trip to Bristol to see Kerry Ellis and co in Wonderland felt even better. The show, which is about a 40-year old single parent that is dealing with a catalogue of disasters (I know! Spooky right?), is a lovely positive way to spend an evening, with some great music and stunning performances. In fact, the Cheshire Cat even says, “Don’t look down. Stand up straight. Be decisive – never hesitate. If you’re lost, just keep moving forward”, which felt pertinent.

I then journeyed up to London and bumped into one of the cast members of The Girls, Sophie Louise Dann, who joined me for quick cuppa. I then interviewed Sheila Atim, who is currently leading the cast of Babbettes Feast at Print Room at the Coronet, before I popped into the Southwark News office to agree on an exciting new writing opportunity. I’m going to be working on the Greenwich Weekender and after meeting the team, I know it’s going to be a really enjoyable new venture.

I also went along to the open auditions of Cilla – The Musical and had a chat to some of the auditionees along with the writer Jeoff Pope and Cilla’s son Robert Willis.

I had a coffee with the lovely Siubhan Harrison who after starring alongside Rebel Wilson in Guys and Dolls is looking forward to getting back to the London stage and will be leading the cast at Southwark Playhouse in Steven Schwartz’s Working.

One thing I’ve learned from this week is that as long as I stay true to myself I can succeed. Yes, they’ll be plenty of rubbish people along the way who are determined to“Rain on my Parade” but nobody “Is ever gonna bring me down!” (I’m sorry for the shameless musical theatre quotes!).

Next week I’m doing a bit of a theatrical marathon and I’m starting off by going to see the Play That Goes Wrong at Exeter Northcott Theatre. I’m then really excited to be watching The Addams Family in Wimbledon, followed by Richard III at the Arcola Theatre, Ballroom at the Waterloo East Theatre and then Judy! at the Arts Theatre. I’m also popping over to Southampton to catch Samantha Barks’ solo concert before I trot along to Cadogan Hall to listen to a concert version of The Colour Purple.

Theatre cures all! Fact!

You can see all of my reviews and interviews on my website thesweetlondonlife.com listen to me every week on BBC Radio Kent or follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

The search for Cilla comes to London and we went along to check out the competition

The Search is on in London’s West End today for the next star of the stage. A brand new musical about Cilla Black held open auditions at the Dominion Theatre this morning and we popped along to check out the competition.

Thousands of hopefuls lined the streets around the theatre hoping to get their chance to shine, with a good mixture of both professional and non-professional performers all being given a level playing field. In fact, we spotted a few familiar faces from the London stage in the queue, who were trying to be incognito!

Cilla The Musical is an adaptation of the acclaimed ITV mini-series based on the early life of Cilla Black, by BAFTA award winner, Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Philomela, From The Cradle To The Grave, Mrs Biggs). The series starred Sheridan Smith and was greeted with plaudits from both critics and the television viewing public alike.

Sheridan Smith played Cilla Black in the critically acclaimed television drama

The Story follows the extraordinary life of the ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky yet incredible, rise to fame.

Cilla Black’s son Robert Willis is the Executive Producer of the show and said, “The turn out’s been fantastic, with so many girls turning up to hopefully land the role of Cilla. She would have been incredibly flattered.”

We asked Robert what he was looking for from the aspiring stars and he said, “We’re looking for that ability to be able to hold a tune, but we also have a chat with them to find out a bit about their character and so far we’ve had a whole range.”

Writer Jeff Pope added, “In the same way that Sheridan Smith created such an amazing performance, I think the way’s open for someone else to do the same.”

The musical score will be the ultimate soundtrack to the 60’s including Cilla’s greatest hits “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, “Alfie” and “Something Tells Me”.

Jeff Pope explained, “I wanted it to be a drama with music; to have lots of the great songs but also for the audience to be able to follow a strong story through both acts.”

We will all have to wait to find out who eventually lands the coveted leading role in the musical, with the open auditions around the country making up just part of the selection process.

Cilla – The Musical opens at the Liverpool Empire Theatre in September before embarking on a nationwide tour, which includes a visit to the New Wimbledon Theatre in November