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.

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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 

Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth to return to London

“I count the Royal Albert Hall as one of the top three experiences of my lifetime.” Kristin Chenoweth told The Sweet London Life when we spoke to her last year, so it’s no surprise that the Broadway star is returning to London in October for an intimate concert at the London Palladium.

The EMMY ® AND TONY ® Award-winning singer and actress will bring her boundless talent and charisma to London’s Palladium in October for what is likely to be an unforgettable evening of song.

Chenoweth last performed in London in 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall, a concert which featured a very special duet with British stage star Kerry Ellis.

Kristin Chenoweth and Kerry Ellis

In a career that spans film, television and stage, Kristin Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Broadway’s smash hit “Wicked. Chenoweth brings her powerful voice to the Palladium for a performance of popular songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook accompanied by Michael Orland.

A Hollywood Walk of Fame Star recipient in 2015, she received in 2009 an EMMY® Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in “Pushing Daises.” Previously, she won a TONY®Award for “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and was also nominated for her role of Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked” in 2004.

Known to millions for her role on the worldwide TV hit Glee (for which Chenoweth was nominated for two EMMY® Awards and for a People’s Choice Award), in 2009, she wrote an upliftingly candid, comedic chronicle of her life so far, “A Little Bit Wicked,” which debuted on the New York Times Hardcover Non Fiction Best Seller List.

In 2015, Chenoweth earned a Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and Broadway.comAudience Choice Award for her lead role in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s “On the Twentieth Century.” She also earned nominations for a TONY® Award and a Drama League Award. Chenoweth has performed to sold-out audiences across the world, including performances at Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall. In 2014, she released a CD and DVD of her own live concert performance, “Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home.” Notable television roles include appearances in “The West Wing,” Disney’s “Descendants” and most recently “The Muppets.” In film, Chenoweth voiced the role of Gabi in the hit animated film “Rio 2” and Fifi, Snoopy’s beloved French poodle in “The Peanuts Movie.” She starred in the indie teen drama entitled “Hard Sell” and additional film credits have included “The Boy Next Door,” “Deck the Halls,” “Twelve Men of Christmas,” “Four Christmases,” “RV,” “Bewitched,” “The Pink Panther,” “Hit & Run” and “Family Weekend.”  Chenoweth recently starred in NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” as Velma Von Tussle. She is also lending her voices to some animated films such as Lionsgate/Hasbro’s “My Little Pony: The Movie,” set for a fall 2017 release and “The Star,” which is set to be released in November 2017.  This year, Chenoweth has reunited with executive producer Bryan Fuller to join his celebrated Starz series “American Gods,” in the role of Easter.

Chenoweth released “The Art of Elegance,” last year, her first album of American Songbook classics via Concord Records.  The album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Current Jazz and Traditional Jazz charts. Chenoweth also returned to The Great White Way in her limited engagement, one-woman concert event, MY LOVE LETTER TO BROADWAY, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York, receiving rave reviews.

An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth will be at the London Palladium on October 20th

Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: It’s been Show busy!

This column is a little later than usual, purely down to my busyness, or showbusyness as I like to call it. Over the last week I have seen seven shows, conducted five interviews and also met my first deadline for the Greenwich Weekender.

I’ve also done two restaurant reviews and hobnobbed with the stars at the Chelsea Flower Show as well as recording my weekly segment for BBC Radio Kent.

My feet have barely touched the ground and with three deadlines in Dorset looming my writing head has become a little frazzled.

It’s been fantastic but with a house move also getting ever closer, I have begun to panic about getting everything done.

Luckily there’s always a helpful person around to advise you on how best to manage your workload. I’ve had at least eight people ask if I’ve thought about writing a list and I’ve had to stifle my sarcasm about the wonderfully in-depth counsel!

Anyway, the shows I’ve seen lately have been a mixed bag. I watched the tour of The Play That Goes Wrong (excellent), The Addams Family (sensational), Richard III (a bit slow), The Color Purple in concert (amazing), Samantha Barks Live, with special guest Kerry Ellis (great), Judy! (fantastic) and a show I’m not going to mention, because it was so bad, I had to leave at the interval for fear of a hysterical attack.

I watch a lot of amateur shows, so I’m used to things occasionally being rough around the edges, but this ‘professional’ production was so poor, I felt it best not to pass comment on it at all.

The Celebrity count has been very high this week too, because I went to Chelsea Flower Show on Press day.

Sadly, I was on my own so I couldn’t engage in the hilarious celebrity touching game and there were few famous faces I hadn’t seen before. I guess I’ve got so used to seeing celebs now, that it would take the likes of Madonna, Kylie or RuPaul to really get me excited.

Joan Collins looked amazing among the roses in the main Pavilion however and Kelly Brook seemed very friendly as she supped on bubbly. It was nice to see Peter Kay again wandering around in the sunshine and I was a bit in awe of Paralympic Gold Medalist Ellie Simmonds.

I always find it funny that if you walk with confidence, people assume you’re someone worth looking at and take a second glance to check whether you’re famous or not, so yes, I did pretend to be someone, with my head held high. It’s the simplest little games, which amuse me!

Next week, a work experience minion is joining me in the form of my teenage daughter, so my London trip will be filled with food and drink stops. I’m seeing Wicked again (well, 26 times just isn’t enough!) and Woyzeck at the Old Vic, starring John Boyega. I’m then off to see Miss Meena and the Masala Queens at Greenwich Theatre, which looks fabulous.

You can read all of reviews and interview on my website thesweetlondonlife.com and follow me on Twitter for all of the latest news @NickySweetland

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

Review: “Likely to become a cult classic” Wonderland, Bristol Hippodrome

Why do we go to the theatre? For most of us, it’s to take a break from the monotony of our existence and just, for a few hours enter a world of pure escapism. For musical theatre fans, it’s a place where people inexplicably erupt into song to express themselves and where fantastical stories become relevant through dreamy expectations.

Shows like Wicked and Into the Woods perfectly illustrate our love for fantasies set to music and Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland joins this acclaimed list as another musical, which evokes feelings of positivity, while promising happy endings in a world filled with negative media representations of life.

Kerry Ellis plays Alice in Wonderland

 

Wonderland has its roots in Lewis Carrolls’ tales about a magical world filled with colourful characters and in this contemporary adaptation we a meet a 40-year-old Alice (Kerry Ellis), who has come to a full stop in her unfulfilling life. Longing for a change, her teenage daughter (Naomi Morris) happens upon a mystical White Rabbit (Dave Willetts )and after following the hapless timekeeper down a disused lift shaft; the pair – along with their neighbour – embark on an adventure of self-fulfillment.

Along the way we are introduced to a community of ex ‘real-worlders’ who have taken the decision to live in an alternate universe rather than face the trials of life. They include The Mad Hatter (Natalie McQueen), the Cheshire Cat (Dominic Owen) and, of course, the devilish Queen of Hearts (Wendi Peters); a jam tart guzzling dictator, hell-bent on keeping Wonderland under her control.

The truly stellar cast leads us on a theatrical expedition of fun and playfulness, with an exceptional soundtrack adding some momentous musical interludes to the excursion.

Stephen Webb as Jack and Kerry Ellis as Alice

Kerry Ellis’ Alice is both relevant and endearing, with the acclaimed performer’s exquisite vocals seamlessly maneuvering between rock and musical theatre standards. She is well matched by Natalie McQueen’s Mad Hatter, filled with quirky mannerisms, while exhibiting an astonishing vocal prowess of her own. The pair’s act two duet, “This Is Who I Am”, is worth the ticket price alone.

Wendi Peters makes the most of her limited contribution as the Queen of Hearts, steeling the show with every entrance and Naomi Morris is a real star of the future, hilariously capturing an awkward sullen adolescent and displaying a stagecraft, which belies her years.

 

Wendi Peters and Dave Willets in Wonderland

There’s great support from the ensemble too, with stand out performances from Kayi Ushe as the Caterpillar and Ben Kerr as the March Hare, while Andrew Riley’s set design provides a simplistic yet attractive backdrop.

Yes, it’s all a bit superficial and the introduction of a love story is not really needed, but it’s nice to see something without hidden meaning that is simply presented to entertain rather than to provoke reaction.

Wonderland is a fabulously fun musical, with great music performed with style by an ultra talented cast and it’s likely to become a cult classic.

Wonderland is at Bristol Hippodrome until 13 May, but continues to tour to other venues around the country.

Exclusive Video: Kerry Ellis invites you to Wonderland in Wimbledon

Hailed by critics as ‘nothing short of spine-tingling’ with ‘an outstandingly strong cast’, WONDERLAND is receiving huge critical acclaim and standing ovations throughout the UK.

This enchanting musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, has a huge heart, a medley of magic and a whole lot of wonder. It is a modern day timely and touching story of love and the power of everyday magic in our lives featuring Alice as a mother reaching a crossroads in her life. With her daughter, Ellie and adoring neighbour Jack, Alice is transported into the magical world of Wonderland where she encounters White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat and March Hare amongst many other colourful characters who are ruled by the imperious Queen of Hearts. Can Alice save the day and get her family back home to happily ever after?

Kerry Ellis is ‘outstanding’ in the title role of Alice. She is not only one of the West End and Broadway’s most notable stars, having appeared in Wicked, We Will Rock You, Cats, Oliver! and Miss Saigon, but she has also just released an album, Golden Days, with legendary Queen guitarist Brian May.

The stellar cast also includes West End and TV star Wendi Peters, who is much loved for her portrayal of Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street, as Queen of Hearts, and musical theatre legend Dave Willetts, who rose to fame playing title roles in Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables, as White Rabbit.

WONDERLAND is at New Wimbledon Theatre from Tuesday 2nd May until Saturday 6th May. This ‘totally bonkers, technicolour escape from the real world’ is absolutely ‘not to be missed’.

Russell Watson, Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard to star in new musical arena tour

Russell Watson, Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard will star in a new musical, which will tour arenas around the UK.

The musical journeys back to the very beginning of time. It is a classic re-telling of the well-known story of Adam and Eve, and their tragic fall from Paradise.  Heaven on Earth is an exhilarating story of love, loss, and redemption, and an exploration of the universal search for the meaning of life. This brand new musical, and its original emotive songs, will resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds, and stay with the audience long after they view this thrilling and visual treat of a production.

Celebrated tenor Russell Watson will feature as the voice of God, while Kerry Ellis (Wicked, Cats, Murder Ballad) plays Eve and Hugh Maynard (Miss Saigon, Sweeney Todd) portrays Adam.

Brought to you by Eden International Productions with writer Sara Jeffs; Director & Choreographer: Racky Plews – American Idiot (West End and Tour), Footloose (West End and Tour), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Tour); Set Designer: Jacqueline Pyle – Robbie Williams (Take The Crown Tour), Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremony (UK), Take That (Progress Live Tour); and Arranger: Geoff Alexander – Harry Potter, Notting Hill, Conductor for Gravity

The greatest story ever told comes spectacularly to life in this brand new musical.  Join us on an epic and inspirational journey and experience state of the art digital technology, innovative staging, stunning choreography with a cast of over 30 in this greatly anticipated event directed by one of the UK’s finest directors.

Heaven on Earth is written by Sara Jeffs and Directed by Racky Plews (American Idiot, Footloose) with musical arrangements by Geoff Alexander (Harry Potter, Notting Hill, Planet Earth).

Heaven on Earth opens in Birmingham in December before touring the UK, including a visit to London’s SSE Arena Wembley in May 2017. You can find more details and further venues on the website https://www.heavenonearththemusical.co.uk/about