Natalie Anderson joins Freddie Flintoff, Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey in Fat Friends

Emmerdale and The Royal star Natalie Anderson will join the cast of Fat Friends – The Musical. Natalie has appeared in numerous other television programmes including Wire in the Blood and The Biz. She also appeared as Nessarose in Wicked in the West End as well as Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Tara in Exposure The Musical at St James’ Theatre. She will perform the role of Lauren in Fat Friends – The Musical, originated on-screen by Emmerdale co-star Gaynor Faye.

The award-winning TV drama has been adapted for the stage by its creator and one of the UK’s most prolific writers, Kay Mellor, whose extensive television credits include hit series of Band of Gold, The Chase, The Syndicate, In the Club and whose stage credits include A Passionate Woman. The award-winning Jodie Prenger will lead the company in the beloved role of Kelly Stevenson. She is joined by Sam Bailey, Elaine C Smith and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff with further casting still to be announced.

Natalie Anderson said “I’m so thrilled to be playing Lauren in Fat Friends the Musical. I was a huge fan of the original series and cannot wait to bring it to life on stage. I’m also equally excited to be working with the incredible Kay Mellor whom, from an early age, I have greatly admired and been inspired by.”

Kay Mellor said “I am absolutely delighted to be working with fellow northerner Natalie. I thought of her instantly for the role of Lauren and she brought me to tears at her audition with her acting and singing talent.” 

The ‘weight’ is over; Packed full of warmth, life and weight loss, his brand-new stage show reunites our favourite foodie friends in an original musical bulging with hopes, humour and heart. Join the infamous group of loveable characters as they are put through their Zumba paces at their local branch of Super Slimmer’s by the lovelorn Lauren whilst Kelly fantasises about fitting into the wedding dress of her dreams. Fat Friends offers a generous serving of hilarious fun with a sprinkle of romance on top!

Produced by Joshua Andrews and Adam Spiegel, Fat Friends – The Musical will open at Leeds Grand Theatre in November ahead of an extensive UK tour, visiting Bromley, Newcastle, Hull, Southampton, Sheffield, Southend, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Dartford, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Glasgow, Bradford, Aberdeen and Blackpool.

With original music and songs composed by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, designed by Bretta Gerecke, choreography by Karen Bruce, musical supervision, orchestrations and arrangements from Simon Lee, sound design by two time Olivier Award winning Gareth Owen and lighting design from Tony Award nominated Nick Richings, Fat Friends – The Musical, sees the nation’s favourite group of dieters reunited as this new show bursts on to the stage.

Fat Friends hit television screens in October 2000, following the lives of a group of overweight friends as they struggle with the absurdities of modern dieting. Running for five years on ITV, the show starred Alison Steadman, Gaynor Faye and Lisa Riley and launched the careers of James Corden and Ruth Jones. Written by Kay Mellor, the show was nominated for multiple awards including the BAFTA for Best Drama Series.

Dates and venues for the tour can be found online: www.fatfriendsthemusical.com

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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

Star of The Girls, Sophie-Louise Dann takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

After opening to a plethora of five-star reviews earlier this year, The Girls is continuing to thrill audiences at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s glittering West End. Led by a cast of six stage stalwarts, who were collectively nominated for an Olivier Award, the production boasts a soundtrack by Take That star Gary Barlow and his childhood friend and playwright extraordinaire Tim Firth.

Gary Barlow with Sophie-Louise Dann at the Olivier Awards

The musical is based on the much-loved real life story of a group of Yorkshire housewives who made a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

One of the sextet of wondrous women is played by West End favourite Sophie-Louise Dann. The celebrated actress has been previously Olivier nominated for her portrayal of Diana Divine in Lend Me a Tenor, but now brings her wealth of talent to the role of the voluptuous Celia in The Girls.

We met Sophie for an impromptu cuppa and challenged her to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

The Girls

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

Belief in yourself and knowing what you bring to the table

What is your favourite Book?

Oh gosh! There are so many but I’ll have to say Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

What are you currently watching on TV? 

I do a lot of Iplayer watching because I commute from the coast so I have just downloaded the ‘Babs’ documentary, about Barbara Windsor. I’m a big fan of Samantha Spiro, as we started our careers off together a long time ago. She’s fabulous.

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

Because I work in the theatre I’m going to go with a restaurant.

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I’m an old-fashioned girl. I like a rhubarb and custard or a lemon sherbet.

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

It was very clear what made me tick when I was six. I knew I wanted to be on the stage and I’ve fulfilled that dream I suppose.

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

I broke my mum’s fingers! I had a tantrum and broke my mum’s fingers because I wanted a pair of dungarees in a shop window. I was a hateful child. My mother always said I turned into a delightful adult.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Proud, that’s a weird word isn’t it? I guess for recognition in this industry, I’ve been nominated twice for an Olivier Award.

What’s next? 

I can’t really say. I want to fulfill my lovely time with The Girls and we’re going very nicely, but there are a few things buzzing around for next year.

The Girls is running at the Phoenix Theatre 

Musical inspired by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy comes to The Other Palace

Award-winning composer Ryan Scott Oliver’s musical inspired by renowned Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy’s images comes to The Other Palace Studio for a limited two week run this autumn.

35mm: A Musical Exhibition is directed by Adam Lenson with casting to be announced .

A picture is worth 1,000 words – what about a song?

In 35mm, each photo creates a unique song from a moment frozen in time.

Award-winning composer Ryan Scott Oliver’s music is inspired by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy’s images in this thrilling new alternative rock musical. Together, they weave a collection of remarkable stories told through song.

Featuring the hit-songs ” The Ballad of Sara Berry” and “Leave Luanne”, Director Adam Lenson ( Whisper House, Songs for a New World) reimagines this piece in a stunning new production this September.

“35mm: A Musical Exhibition came from a desire to explore visual and aural stories in a variety of ways, and it’s vital that the show be ‘recreated’ for each version and space. I look forward to bringing this provocative piece to London audiences!” said composer Ryan Scott Oliver.

35mm: A Musical Exhibition will run at The Other Palace from 18 – 30 September 2017.

Casting News: Gary Trainor set to take on the role of Dewey Finn in School of Rock – The Musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Olivier award-winning production of School of Rock – The Musical today announces that Gary Trainor, having played the role of alternate Dewey since the show’s London premiere, will lead the cast as Dewey Finn from 17 May 2017, with Stephen Leask joining the cast as the alternate Dewey.

For a third time since its West End premiere School of Rock – The Musical recentlyannounced a further booking extension with tickets now available to 14 January 2018.  Acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, the record breaking West End production ofSchool of Rock – The Musical opened to rave reviews in November 2016, and last month the show’s ‘kids’ cast were the excited recipients of the Olivier Award forOutstanding Achievement in Music.  In New York, the Broadway production now in its second year, continues to play to packed houses at the Winter Garden Theater.

Gary Trainor’s (Dewey Finn) previous theatre credits include Donnie Kirshner in the West End production of Beautiful The Carole King Musical, I Can’t Sing at the London Palladium, Potted Potter at the Garrick Theatre and on tour in the US and Australia, The Shawshank Redemption at Wyndham’s Theatre, Prophecy for The Old Vic New Voices andat the Public Theatre, New York, Into The Woods at the Landor Theatre and Jago at the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh. He has also toured the UK in Buddy, Frankenstein: The Year Without a Summer, Stones in His Pockets and The Oxford Passion.

Stephen Leask’s (alternate Dewey) previous theatre credits include Robin Hood at The Egg Theatre, Bath, The Canterbury Tales at The Pantaloons, One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, A Little Hotel on the Side for Theatre Royal Bath, The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes at Hoxton Hall, Staunch for Theatre 503, Potted Panto at the Vaudeville Theatre, Newsrevue at the Edinburgh Festival, The Secret Garden for Birmingham Rep and Troilus and Cressida for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Leask is a member of the Merely Players, a theatre company dedicated to producing accessible productions of Shakespeare.  His television appearances include Nightmares, Our World War, The Intern and Eastenders.

The adult West End cast of School of Rock – The Musical comprises Gary Trainor as Dewey Finn with Florence Andrews as Rosalie Mullins, Oliver Jackson as Ned Schneebly and Preeya Kalidas as Patty Di Marco.  They are joined on stage at each performance by one of three teams of thirteen young performers who make up Dewey’s band.  The ‘grown up’ cast is completed by Stephen Leask as the alternate Dewey with ensemble members Jonathan Bourne, Nadeem Crowe, Michelle Francis, Rosanna Hyland, Cassandra McCowan, Joel Montague, Andy Rees, Cameron Sharp, Andrew Spillett, Alex Tomkins and Lucy Vandi and swings, Charlotte Bradford,Jason Denton, Cellen Chugg Jones, Alfie Parker and Tasha Sheridan.  They are joined by three teams of thirteen ‘kid’s who make up Dewey’s band.

Based on the iconic hit movie and with a rocking new score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, School of Rock – The Musical follows slacker and wannabe rock star Dewey Finn turn a class of straight-A 10 year old students into an ear popping, riff scorching, all conquering rock band!  Dewey poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school to make ends meet, and when he discovers his fifth graders’ musical talents, he enlists his class to form a rock group and conquer the Battle of the Bands. As Dewey falls for the beautiful headmistress, can he and his students keep this special assignment secret as they learn to fully embrace the power of rock?

Best seats for £10.00 are available every Wednesday evening an hour before curtain to purchase as part of the School of Rock – The Musical Student Rush scheme.  These tickets are only available in person from the New London Theatre Box Office.

Based on the smash hit 2003 film of the same title, School of Rock features music from the movie, as well as new music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes.  School of Rock – The Musical is directed byLaurence Connor with choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, set and costume designs by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Mick Potter, music supervision by John Rigby with Matt Smith as musical director.

School of Rock – The Musical

Photo by Tristram Kenton

West End star Tiffany Graves takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

When you see the name Tiffany Graves on a cast list, you know you’re in for a treat. As one of the most recognisable names on the West End musical scene, the acclaimed performer has starred in some of the biggest shows around including Sweet Charity, The Producers, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Cats and The Witches of Eastwick.

Most recently Tiffany was part of an all-star cast at the newly rebranded The Other Palace in the critically acclaimed musical The Wild Party.

No stranger to performing solo however, the acclaimed songstress is once again preparing to captivate audiences in a more intimate setting when she takes to the stage at The Peasantry in Chelsea next week. Her brand new cabaret show entitled Up All Night promises to be a night filled with song and comedy.

We challenged Tiffany to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

1. What are you currently working on?

My cabaret! Next Friday at The Pheasantry.

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

Loving what I do. And chocolate.

3. What is your favourite Book?

Of human bondage by Somerset Maugham

4. What are you currently watching on TV?

Right now? As I’m typing??! BBC Young Dancer 2017 Grand Final.

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

Would have to be theatre followed by dinner to discuss the show.

6. What’s your favourite sweet?

Curly wurly

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

Back row of the chorus… kidding! Doing exactly what I am doing.

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

 I couldn’t possibly say!

9. What is your proudest achievement to date?

Being chosen to be part of NT 50.

10. What’s next?

My cabaret!  https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/tiffany-graves-up-all-night