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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Review: ‘A visual feast’ ★★★★ The Wind in the Willows, London Palladium

Us Brits are known throughout the world for our classic literature and particularly for the charm and simplicity of some of our children’s works, but it’s a challenge to bring the ever-so-twee tales up to date.

Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is quintessentially English, but with woodland characters rather than humans carrying the story, it makes the task of bringing the traditional riverside tale into the modern era slightly easier.

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And with the now well-established musical theatre team of Stiles and Drewe once again collaborating with Julian Fellowes – after their huge success with Half a Sixpence – audiences at the London Palladium are treated to a heartening family musical with humour at its core.

There is something for everyone in Rachel Kavanaugh’s production with enough slapstick for the little ones, teamed with an awe-inspiring set design from Peter McKintosh and an additional element of sarcasm (particularly from the excellent Simon Lipkin as Ratty) to entertain the more pessimistic theatregoers.

It’s not a show that caters particularly well for feminists however, with Denise Welch’s Mrs. Otter failing to add any girl power to the plot known for its boy’s club theme and a song in which Toad transforms into a women in order to escape prison is pretty cringe worthy.

There are however, some lovely little nods for musical theatre fans; you might recognise Toad’s Prisoner number, and the families of animals (especially the hedgehogs), are just so adorable, you can forgive the story for being a little pedestrian and staid.

Craig Mather’s Mole is wonderfully wholesome, while Rufus Hound plays the hatefully hapless Toad with a wealth of humour.

The naughty weasels, stoats and foxes – led by the rock star-like Neil McDermott – steal the show and it’s such a clever twist to have the foxes clad in huntsman attire.

This adds to what is the show’s real draw, as a spectacle, and together with an enormous steam train, which fills the stage to the meandering riverbank bedecked with reeds and rushes, this show is a visual feast.

The Wind in the Willows is at the London Palladium until 9 September

Photos by Darren Bell

RT & Follow for a chance to win The Wind in the Willows Original London Cast recording

Producer Jamie Hendry and Sony Masterworks Broadway are pleased to announce the release of the original cast recording of new musical The Wind in the Willows with book by Julian Fellowes, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe.

With music and lyrics by Olivier Award-winners George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the album features the original West End cast of The Wind in the Willows, accompanied by a fourteen-piece band. The album is produced by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe and co-produced by Simon Lee. Tris Penna is the executive producer.

The original London cast is led by actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound as the amazing ‘Mr Toad’ with West End stars Simon Lipkin as ‘Rat’ and Craig Mather as ‘Mole’; EastEnders actor Neil McDermott as ‘Chief Weasel’; Coronation Street and Boy Meets Girl star Denise Welch as ‘Mrs Otter’ and West End legend Gary Wilmot as ‘Badger.  Also included are Chris Aukett, Joel Baylis, Jenna Boyd, Abigail Brodie, Abigail Climer, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Nicole Deon, Emilie du Leslay, Joshua Gannon,James Gant, Evan James, Michael Larcombe, Bethany Linsdell, Ryan Pidgen, Adam Vaughan, Georgie Westall and Natalie Woods. The cast album also features Dylan Mason, Patrick Sullivan and Karli Vale who recently appeared in the show’s pre-London tour.

Based on Kenneth Grahame’s treasured novel which has captivated generations of readers for over a century, The Wind in the Willows has been adapted for the stage with a book by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.

Tickets are on-sale from £15, with reduced price preview performances. Kids go free on Monday to Friday performances – terms and conditions apply. No additional booking fees or charges are applied to tickets booked via www.WillowsMusical.com.

This riotous comedy follows the impulsive Mr Toad whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious trouble. With his beloved home under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Toad must attempt a daring escape leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall. Featuring eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a gloriously British score, The Wind in the Willows brings an explosion of anarchy, humour and heart to the world-famous London Palladium.

The Wind in the Willows CD competition Terms and Conditions
1. The promoter is The Sweet London Life
2. Employees of The Sweet London Life or their family members or anyone else connected in any way with the competition or helping to set up the competition shall not be permitted to enter the competition.
3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
4. Route to entry for the competition is via social media but retweeting and following the Twitter page or liking and sharing the Facebook page
5. Closing date for entry will be Friday 30th June 2017 . After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
6. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
7. The rules of the competition and the prize for each winner are as follows: One The Wind in the Willows CD Album
8. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
9. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
10. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
11. Winners will be chosen by an independent adjudicator or panel of judges appointed by the Sweet London Life.
12. The winner will be notified by social media within 48 hours of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
13. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected.
14. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
15. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
16. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
17. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
18. The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the promotor  info@thesweetlondonlife.com
19. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
20. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to The Sweet London Life and not to any other party.

Chief Weasel Neil McDermott takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Neil McDermott is best known for playing Ryan Malloy in Eastenders, but is no stranger to the West End and previously appeared at the Palladium in the revival of The Sound Of Music. He also became a favourite with musical theatre fans when he played Lord Farquaad in the musical version of Shrek at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Neil McDermott and the company of the UK tour of The Wind in the Willows. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Next month, the versatile actor is taking on the role of the mischievous Chief Weasel in The Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium and we challenged him to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

The Wind in the Willows. We are just about to start recording the album and then we go into rehearsals in a couple of week’s time.

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

I was very lucky at school to have a teacher who helped to get me into drama. I was interested in sports and although I was quite popular, I was shy. He helped me by getting me into drama, which improved my confidence. He got me into theatre groups and then drama school, so I owe a lot to him.

What is your favourite Book?

The Wind in the Willows of course! By Kenneth Graham

What are you currently watching on TV? 

We’ve just finished Broadchurch and are now watching Line of Duty. I love all the British Dramas.

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

Can I go to the restaurant and then go to the theatre?

What’s your favourite sweet? 

Haribo tangtastic

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

A footballer

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

I used to mess around in business studies at school and one time I came across a really long joke, that was boring because of its length but then it became funny because it was so long. I asked to tell a joke to the class and I think it lasted 45 minutes. The teacher found it quite funny too.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

My children

What’s next? 

I don’t know what the future holds at the moment. We are doing Willows until September the 9th and so towards the end of the run I’ll start to audition again and see what’s about.

The Wind in the Willows begins previews at the London Palladium on 16th June. 

London Cast recording of The Wind in the Willows set for release

Producer Jamie Hendry and Sony Masterworks Broadway are pleased to announce the release of the original cast recording of new musical The Wind in the Willows with book by Julian Fellowes, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe. The cast of the new West End musical, which begins previews on 16 June prior to an official opening on 29 June at the London Palladium, headed to the studio earlier this month to record the 20-track album.

The album is available for pre-order today here and will be released by Sony Masterworks Broadway mid-June (catalogue number: 88985447482).

With music and lyrics by Olivier Award-winners George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the album features the original West End cast of The Wind in the Willows, accompanied by a fourteen-piece band. The album is produced by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe and co-produced by Simon Lee. Tris Penna is the executive producer.

The original London cast is led by actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound as the amazing ‘Mr Toad’ with West End stars Simon Lipkin as ‘Rat’ and Craig Mather as ‘Mole’; EastEnders actor Neil McDermott as ‘Chief Weasel’; Coronation Street and Boy Meets Girl star Denise Welch as ‘Mrs Otter’ and West End legend Gary Wilmot as ‘Badger.  Also included are Chris Aukett, Joel Baylis, Jenna Boyd, Abigail Brodie, Abigail Climer, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Nicole Deon, Emilie du Leslay, Joshua Gannon,James Gant, Evan James, Michael Larcombe, Bethany Linsdell, Ryan Pidgen, Adam Vaughan, Georgie Westall and Natalie Woods. The cast album also features Dylan Mason, Patrick Sullivan and Karli Vale who recently appeared in the show’s pre-London tour.

Based on Kenneth Grahame’s treasured novel which has captivated generations of readers for over a century, The Wind in the Willows has been adapted for the stage with a book by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.

Tickets are on-sale from £15, with reduced price preview performances. Kids go free on Monday to Friday performances – terms and conditions apply. No additional booking fees or charges are applied to tickets booked via www.WillowsMusical.com.

This riotous comedy follows the impulsive Mr Toad whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious trouble. With his beloved home under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Toad must attempt a daring escape leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall. Featuring eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a gloriously British score, The Wind in the Willows brings an explosion of anarchy, humour and heart to the world-famous London Palladium.