Review: “When Clifton starts to dance and you can feel a ripple of excitement reverberate around the auditorium” ★★★★ Flashdance – The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

If you yearn for the days of sudden saxophone solos, double denim and leg warmers, you won’t go far wrong with the new production of Flashdance, which will well and truly yank you back to the joys of the 80s.

Flashdance – The Musical is based on the 1983 film, which gained cult status mostly due to its iconic soundtrack – including the academy award-winning song “Flashdance…What a Feeling” – and raunchy dance routines.

Get ready for an enormous dose of cheese, but performed with so much energy and passion that you can forgive the superficial nature of the story and just wallow in the joyful exuberance of a high energy and thoroughly entertaining night out.

And one of the main reasons for the show being so watchable is its leading lady Joanne Clifton, who plays the steel worker-come-nightclub performer Alex Owens.

The former world showdance champion and current Strictly Come Dancing winner, shows her mettle, with a really breathtaking performance. You can’t watch anything else when Clifton starts to dance and you can feel a ripple of excitement reverberate around the auditorium. Her singing’s not bad either and fits well with costar Ben Adams’ classic pop vocals.

The supporting cast is also pretty good and Matt Coles’ choreography keeps an 80s air, without it feeling outdated. There are also some good comedy turns from Sasha Latoya as the sarcastic care worker and Rikki Chamberlain as the hapless club owner Harry, while Hollie-Ann Lowe puts in a great performance as the tragic Gloria.

This isn’t a show for anyone looking for any theatrical depth, but if you’re after a fun and frivolous night immersed in the 80s, you’re on to a winner with Flashdance – The Musical.

Flashdance – The Musical is running at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 7 October and at the Orchard Theatre Dartford from 9 – 14 October

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Singer-songwriter Ben Adams takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

After gaining worldwide fame in the 1990s with boyband A1 and accruing numerous accolades including a Brit award, Ben Adams made the move to songwriting. As well as writing hits for other artists, Ben has written a new musical called Eugenius, which was showcased at the London Palladium and will open in the West End early next year.

His celebrity status has also meant he has courted the reality television circuit and came fifth in the 2009 series of Celebrity Big Brother and second in the Norwegian version of Strictly Come Dancing, an achievement which will stand him in good stead for his latest role, opposite Strictly champion Joanne Clifton in Flashdance the Musical.

The show opens in Glasgow this week before embarking on a nationwide tour and Ben 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? 

Music.

What is your favourite Book?

I haven’t read a book since I was 15!

What are you currently watching on TV? 

The Handmaid’s Tale

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

Theatre

What’s your favourite sweet? 

Fizzy Cola Bottles

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

Only ever a singer

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

I drew a smiley face for my mum on her new chocolate brown carpet with toothpaste.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Winning a Brit Award

What’s next? 

I have a solo album coming out in January and Eugenius is on in March next year.

Flashdance the Musical opens this week at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow and will visit the New Wimbledon Theatre from 2 – 7 October 

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

Casting News: Debra Stephenson will join the cast of new Dusty Springfield musical

Bad Girls and Coronation Street star Debra Stephenson will create the role of Alison in this heart-warming new musical, joining Diana Vickers in the 2017 tour.

Debra Stephenson

Featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man embarks on a national tour starting at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Monday 4 September 2017.

Three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out, and the only man who could ever help them…

Welcome to the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, The Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.

Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of The Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.

Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including “The Look Of Love”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, “Spooky” and of course, the classic “Son Of A Preacher Man”, this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical play by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.

Directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, who returns to Wimbledon with Son of a Preacher Man after last year’s successful Sister Act. You only want to be with us!

Choreographer Craig Revel Horwood said:  

‘I am delighted to bring to life for the very first time this wonderful story created by Warner Brown, with soulful songs from the legendary Dusty Springfield’s iconic music catalogue. I hope that audiences in Wimbledon will come to love this warm-hearted and uplifting new musical as much as I do.’

Debra Stephenson is known for her long running roles in Coronation Street and Bad Girls, whilst her entertainment credits include The Friday Night Project, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and Let’s Dance For Sports Relief. As a comedic impressionist she is best known as star of BBC One’s The Impressions Show, with her other credits including BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers as well ITV’s Newzoids.

 http://www.sonofapreachermanmusical.com

Theatre News: Diana Vickers to lead cast for new Dusty Springfield Musical

X-factor finalist Diana Vickers will create the role of Kat for the 2017 tour of the new musical Son of a Preacher Man. 

Featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man embarks on a national tour starting at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Monday 4 September 2017.

Three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out, and the only man who could ever help them…

Welcome to the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, the Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.

Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of the Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.

Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including “The Look Of Love”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, “Spooky” and of course, the classic “Son Of A Preacher Man”, this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.

Diana Vickers first came to public attention as a semi-finalist on the X Factor and has made her professional acting debut in the title role of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in 2009 (West End, Vaudeville Theatre). Since then her theatre credits have included The Duck House (West End, Vaudeville Theatre), Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched (Park Theatre), The Rocky Horror Show (UK Tour). Her film and television credits include The Perfect Wave, Awaiting, To Dream, Give Out Girls and Top Coppers.

Theatre News: Louise Redknapp and Will Young to star in national tour of Cabaret

Internationally renowned singer/songwriter, Will Young, reprises his Olivier Award-nominated performance as the enigmatic Emcee alongside musician and presenter Louise Redknapp, who makes her stage debut as Sally Bowles in Rufus Norris’ multi-award winning production of Cabaret.

Will Young as Emcee in Cabaret. Photograph by Keith Pattison

Cabaret will embark on a UK tour this autumn, opening at the New Wimbledon Theatre on Thursday 21stSeptember 2017 and playing theatres in Blackpool, Cardiff, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Salford, Edinburgh, Bromley and Brighton.

Ever since winning the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, Will Young has been one of the UK’s most popular and successful music artists. He holds the record for the fastest selling debut single in British chart history, and has enjoyed a phenomenal career in music with four No1 albums, as well as acting alongside Dame Judi Dench in the film Mrs Henderson Presents. Will made his West End debut in Cabaret and will be reprising his award winning performance.

Louise Redknapp rose to fame as a member of the girl group Eternal. She left the band to carve out a successful solo career achieving an impressive twelve Top 20 singles, including the hits Naked and Stuck in the Middle and selling over 5 million records with 5 albums. Since then she has rarely left our television screens and most recently wowed the nation with her dancing skills finishing ‘runner up’ in the 2016 series of BBC1’sStrictly Come Dancing.

Cabaret features show-stopping choreography, dazzling costumes and some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre including ‘Money Makes The World Go Round’, ‘Two Ladies’ ‘Maybe This Time’ and of course‘Cabaret’. The production turns Weimar Berlin of 1931 into a sassy, sizzling haven of decadence, and at its dark heart is the legendary and notorious Emcee, who performs nightly at the infamous Kit Kat Klub.

Since its Broadway premiere in 1966 and the famous movie version with Liza Minnelli and Oscar winner Joel Grey, Cabaret has won a staggering number of stage and screen awards including 8 Oscar’s, 7 BAFTA’s and 13 Tony’s. Norris’ production has enjoyed two smash hit West End runs and has picked up 2 Olivier Awards.

Cabaret will open at the New Theatre Wimbledon on 21 September

Review: “A spooky spectacular & one of the best shows of the year so far”★★★★★ The Addams Family, New Wimbledon Theatre

Ever since the very first cartoon strip was published in the New Yorker, the lovably ghoulish characters from The Addams Family have captured the world’s imagination.

The beloved 60s television series and then the 90s film franchise further established the fiendish family as household favourites, but I think it’s within Andrew Lippa’s musical adaptation where the charismatic comedy crew fully find their niche.

The musical has previously enjoyed a successful run on Broadway, but the touring version, which opened last night in Wimbledon, marks the show’s UK première.

And what a premiere it is. With an astonishingly good cast performing some magnificent music, this is musical comedy at it’s best; it really does have everything.

We meet the family in something of a quandary. Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love with a ‘normal’ boy (Oliver Ormson) and the revelation is something she knows will displease her mother Morticia (Samantha Womack). She confides in her father Gomez (Cameron Blakely), but the secret becomes a thorn their side and threatens to derail the family’s close knit culture.

Queue some dastardly dealings from ousted younger brother Pugsley and a large dose of mayhem at family dinner and the resulting cacophony hits all of the right notes.

What really makes this show however, is not just that the book by Rick Elice and lyrics by Andrew Lippa are hilarious, but that they contain some truly heart warming messages about love and being true to yourself.

The relationship between the Cameron Blakely’s magnetic Gomez and Samantha Womack’s statuesque Morticia is intoxicating and their act two tango is a real highlight.

Les Dennis provides some adorable comedy succour as crazy Uncle Fester and Grant McIntyre, Dickon Gough and Charlotte Page in turn take their chance to shine with class.

The real stars of the show however, are the young couple befuddled by the first flurries of love. Oliver Ormson captures some adolescent torment with a sensitive performance and Carrie Hope Fletcher completely owns the role of Wednesday. Fletcher not only boasts an exquisite voice, but also perfectly portrays the steely resolve – which is the trademark of the macabre juvenile – and then the crack in the armour, when she is torn between loyalty for her family and the love for her new beau.

With a magical set design by Diego Pitarch and an exuberant ensemble, the show is also visually stunning and there are some amusing tongue in cheek tricks mixed with impressive effects to create an elegant backdrop to the famed graveyard.

The Addams Family is a spooky spectacular and one of the best shows of the year so far.

The Addams Family is at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 20 May. 

New production of Spamalot set to gallop into Wimbledon

Following a critically acclaimed run in Colchester, Spamalot transfers to Blackpool Opera House before embarking on a UK tour, which includes a residency at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Lovingly ripped off from the hugely successful 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this spammier than ever production is a riotous comedy full of misfit knights, killer rabbits, dancing nuns and ferocious Frenchmen. Join King Arthur as he travels with his hapless Knights of the Round Table on a divine mission to locate the illusive Holy Grail – with uproarious consequences.

Spamalot was the winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, while it enjoyed a victorious West End run. This hilarious show is written by Python legend Eric Idle, who has been entertaining the British public for over 50 years. The funnyman also wrote the score alongside John DuPrez, famous for his work on Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life amongst a host of other big-name scores.

David Hutchinson, Executive Creative Producer for Selladoor Worldwide, said:

“We are delighted to be working with the Colchester Mercury to bring Spamalot on a comprehensive UK tour and exploring international touring opportunities, having secured Selladoor’s first production in Korea – hopefully to be followed by further international dates. Selladoor continue to strive to ensure high quality work made in producing regional houses meets the widest possible market, this nine month tour certainly shows the demand for this brilliant evening at the theatre”

With comic tunes including Brave Sir Robin, We’re Knights of the Round Table and perennial favourite Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Spamalot audiences are sure to be dancing in the aisles. Don’t be a knight who says ‘No’ …. Grab your coconuts and gallop down to a venue near you to book your tickets today!

Spamalot will run at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 21 – Sat 25 November

Welcome to Wonderland! Queen of Hearts, Wendi Peters takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

An all-star cast has descended upon the New Wimbledon Theatre this week for a fantastical new musical production.

Frank Wildhorn’s musical entitled Wonderland, which is based on Lewis Carroll’s tales of Alice has journeyed to South London as part of a celebrated UK tour and with a collection of West End legends playing some of the colourful characters from the beloved stories, it promises to be a theatrical event not to be missed.

Kerry Ellis (Wicked, Cats, Murder Ballad) leads the cast as Alice, with Dave Willets (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables) playing the White Rabbit. They are joined by former Coronation Street star Wendi Peters as the Queen of Hearts, who took some time off from her busy tour schedule to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?
Wonderland

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

What is your favourite Book?
Can I go for one from my childhood? It’s Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree

What are you currently watching on TV?
I’m catching up on Netflix with Grace and Frankie

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

What’s your favourite sweet?
It’s a northern thing called sarsaparilla tablets.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
From the age of about eleven, an actress

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child?
I so wasn’t naughty! My sister once kicked a hole in my bedroom door because I told her that the bike she got for Christmas was just my old one resprayed

What is your proudest achievement to date?
My daughter. After seven IVF attempts, my daughter.

What’s next?
Hetty Feathers is coming out on CBBC in May for 10 episodes and then I’ve got a couple of baking and book interview things once I finish Wonderland in August. Then I’ve got panto, but I can’t tell you where yet because it hasn’t been announced.

WONDERLAND is at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 6th May and will be at the Bristol Hippodrome next week. http://www.wonderlandthemusical.com

New Wimbledon Theatre works in conjunction with Merton Schools to deliver “Changing Minds in Merton” project

Most local people know about the high quality performances on the main stage and in the studio at New Wimbledon Theatre throughout the year but rather less well known is the year-round programme of educational work the theatre undertakes with its local community.

NWT Creative Learning Manager Andy Alty says about the “Changing Minds in Merton” project:

“This is a huge project which we’re running in seven Merton schools, supported by local arts charity WCTT, for National Mental Health Awareness week 11-18th May.  The idea is to use the arts- theatre, dance, photography and film- to get young people talking more openly and honestly about teenage mental health. It’s one of those “silent” issues which affects many young people in our borough- examination pressure, bullying, problems with relationships, eating disorders. All these things affects their school lives and result in depression, isolation and in extreme cases, self-harm and suicide.”

Since January of this year, Andrew and his team have been working with over 120 young people along with a Mental Health specialist to create plays, poetry and photographic work about the topic, which will then get the rest of their schoolmates talking. Andrew says, “We piloted the project last year at Ricards Lodge High school and it was seen by over 600 students. It had a profound effect on both the girls performing and their audience and it has brought about a huge change in the way mental health is seen and talked about across the whole school.”

Now other Merton schools have invested in the project and it is hoped that Changing Minds will reach as many as 5000 Merton teens. Andrew and his team are delighted at the way schools have responded. “I think many of us know someone who has been affected by mental illness. This is just too important a topic for us to let it hide in the shadows. We’re excited to see Princes William and Harry have been opening up about this taboo issue and we want to play our part in that conversation. Young people are suffering. We want to help find a solution.”

The project will culminate in an Open Day at New Wimbledon Theatre on July 4th where all the young participants will come together to share their performances and have a borough-wide conversation about how young people can work together to end the stigma of mental illness.

Changing Minds is just one of many projects, courses and workshops run by Creative Learning at NWT.

In January 2017, the Creative Learning department and the Ambassador Theatre Group opened with a brand new range of courses for adults and pre-school children. This included 22 men and women joining the first ever official New Wimbledon Theatre choir, a Musical Theatre course for adults and Verona’s Musical Balloon Band for 6 months to 6 year olds. Their new season sees these courses return and welcomes brand new courses for both onstage and back of the theatre, including their first ever Playwriting for Adults course, as well as a huge opportunity for sixty young people (aged 11-18) to perform Bugsy Malone on New Wimbledon Theatre’s main stage. Creative Learning are currently welcoming applicants to audition for this, which take place on 28 May.

For further information about Creative Learning you can visit the website http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/theatre-choir/other-events-wimbledon/

Changing Minds In Merton is supported financially by Wimbledon Foundation, The Steel Charitable Trust and local arts Charity, WCTT.