REVIEW: ‘Packs a punch’ ★★★★ Hair, New Wimbledon Theatre


REVIEW: A “cheesy dance-fest” ★★ Dirty Dancing, The New Wimbledon Theatre

I must one of the few people who grew up in the 80s to have never watched Dirty Dancing all the way through. I’ve tried to a couple of times because when you say you haven’t a collective gasp rings around a room, but the action has never managed to engage me for more than about 10 minutes. The live stage show would be different though right? Sadly not. It turns out that the reason I’ve never been able to engage with this widely beloved story is because it’s really quite naff! The current touring production, which is running at the New Wimbledon Theatre this week blatantly highlights the huge gaps in the plot of this cheesy dance-fest, while bizarrely trying to replicate the movie’s most famed scenes.

It’s a strange one; electric dance routines expertly performed by an exuberant cast, but woven together with some of the most awful script, direction and acting I’ve seen on a professional stage. I can only assume that the huge cardboard set, which enables the strange inclusion of the log scene is just to tick a box for fans because it does nothing to help drive the dreary story.

There are some good performances and both lead singers (who I can’t name check, because they aren’t credited properly in the programme) show some real flair, while Jonny and Baby, AKA Michael O’Reilly and Kira Malou, gallop through their numbers with verve, until eventually you get to the bit the audience has all been waiting for, the “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” lifting part. It’s only then that the auditorium really comes alive having been in that unfortunate position for much the previous two hours of not knowing if they are meant to be laughing at or with the cast.

I guess this show is for fans of the film and those who are looking for their favourite bits recreated on stage will get them. But if you’re after high quality musical theatre, you need to look elsewhere.

Dirty Dancing is running at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 24 November. 

REVIEW: ‘An absolute masterwork of drama’ ★★★★★ Pressure, Ambassadors Theatre

Now look, I’m going to be honest and tell you that when I first heard the concept for David Haig’s new West End play Pressure, it didn’t immediately grasp me. An adaptation of a true story about a weatherman in world war two didn’t sound like the type of thing that would get my stagey juices flowing.

But I’m happy to admit I was wrong. Haig’s play is an absolute masterwork of drama, with lovable characters, humour, and a really heart-warming storyline running throughout.

Set just before the D-day landings, we are flung into the planning centre for the invasions, which it is hoped will end World War II. The only problem is that the British weather, as usual is so unpredictable, it could be the difference between success and failure and the lives of thousands of service personnel.

So, General Eisenhower (played with absolute aplomb by Malcolm Sinclair) enlists a weather expert in the shape of Group Captain James Stagg, played by Haig; an intense, somewhat gruff perfectionists, who is determined that his theories are correct. They are assisted by general dogs body, but all-round wonder woman Kay Summersby, played by Laura Rogers, who as well as being a dab hand as a mechanic, provides succour for Eisenhour in an electric relationship. Rogers is a bit of a scene-stealer at times, so good is her portrayal of this strong woman, who yearns for the affection of her superior.

The story really is absolutely fascinating and I found myself gripped from beginning to end. Couple that with some outstanding writing by Haig, which brings out every ounce of humour and some truly stunning performances from the lead cast and you’ve got a winner with this one. Highly recommended.

Pressure is running at the Ambassadors Theatre until 1 September. 

Broadway Star Adrienne Warren to portray Tina Turner in new musical

Adrienne Warren was announced by Tina Turner as the actor who will portray her in the world premiere of the new musical Tina. 

Adrienne Warren said: “Growing up watching Tina, I knew how to shake my hips before I could tie my shoes!  I am so grateful to our creative team and producers for entrusting me with this responsibility.  I say responsibility, because I am a Tina Turner fan first. I am elated, honoured and humbled.  Meeting and working with Tina is and will always be one of the great moments of my life.  Can’t wait to see you in London!”

Tina Turner said:  “It has been my joy to introduce Adrienne today.  From the moment I met her at our last workshop I saw her exceptional talent. Playing this role will require immense physical and emotional commitment, and bravery too. We are thrilled to have found Adrienne, and I very much look forward to spending more time together and developing a special friendship I know will grow even stronger as we prepare the production for the Aldwych Theatre. We can’t wait to welcome her to the show.”

From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her transformation into the global Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner didn’t just break the rules, she rewrote them. This new stage musical, presented in association with Tina Turner herself, reveals the untold story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race.

Adrienne Warren will make her West End stage debut as Tina.  Her most recent theatre credit was in Shuffle Along at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, for which she received a Tony nomination.  Her other US theatre credits include Bring it On the Musical at St. James Theatre, Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater, which was followed by a National Tour, and The Wiz at Encores City Center.  She has toured and recorded with the multi-platinum selling Trans Siberian Orchestra in which she received her first Platinum and Gold records.  Her television credits include the Amazon Pilot Point of HonorOrange is the New BlackBlue BloodsRoyal PainsPeople in New JerseyIrreversible, and Black Box.  In March this year, she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops.

With a career that has spanned more than half a century, the legendary rock performer Tina Turner is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.  She first rose to fame in the 1960s partnering with her then-husband Ike Turner, achieving great acclaim for their live performances and catalogue of hits.  Later, Turner enjoyed an international solo career with her 1984 album Private Dancer earning her widespread recognition and numerous awards, including three Grammys.  She went on to deliver more chart-topping albums and hits,receiving a further eight Grammy Awards and reportedly selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history. The revered singer was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and has often been voted as one of the most successful female Rock ‘n’ Roll artists of all time.

Tina begins previews on 21 March at Aldwych Theatre

Ahead of her Cabaret at Tea Time at Lauderdale House, Shona White takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

West End favourite Shona White is set to thrill audiences with her dazzling vocals next weekend when she performs a very special cabaret at Lauderdale House. The songstress – who is perhaps best known for her portrayals of Elphaba in Wicked and Donna in MAMMA MIA! – will headline the Cabaret at Tea Time event and will be supported by London stage stars Stewart Briggs and Tim McArthur.

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Shona took some time off from her preparations to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

  1. What are you currently working on?

I have been enjoying exploring new work, most recently Page to Stage at The Other Palace and The Break at The Arts Theatre. There is a lot of exciting new writing out there at the moment. I’m also gearing up for my next Lauderdale House cabaret which is this Sunday 15th.

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

I think after 20 years in this crazy business it must be tenacity! This is not the easiest profession to work in but I’m still here!

  1. What is your favourite Book?

I always find these questions hard to answer as there are so many good books/songs/films!  My favourite book I have read fairly recently is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I have subsequently watched the movie but the book was far superior as is often the case. I have her new one ready to go! I don’t often find time to read but when I do I love a good autobiography.

  1. What are you currently watching on TV?

There is so much good British drama on at the moment. I have just finished Dr Foster. I watched the first season on catch up so I could watch season 2 with the nation. Fantastic acting! I hope there will be a 3rd as they left me wanting more…

I’m also enjoying Liar.

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

That’s hard as I love all 3! I guess if pushed I’d have to say restaurant. One of my favourite things to do is dine out. I’m a real foodie!

  1. What’s your favourite sweet?

Dessert or sweetie? Dessert anything salted caramel at the moment! Sweets I love a simple Dairy Milk bar or Haribo. I have a sweet tooth!

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

 An air hostess as I thought it was super glamorous!

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

I have always been attracted to shiny things and as a little girl on a trip to our village chemist with my mum, unbeknownst to her, I took glittery nail polishes from the shelf. My mum was mortified when she found them and marched me straight back to own up and apologise!

  1. What is your proudest achievement to date?

There are so many shows and parts I am proud of. I’ve been around a long time! My favourite role was probably Florence in Chess. Nothing makes me prouder than making my parents proud though! Not that I want to make people cry but when they are in the audience a few tears of pride give me a reason to keep doing what I’m doing.

  1. What’s next?

There are a few new shows coming up next year I’ve got my eye on!

For now I’m keeping busy with solo projects. I am also an Ambassador for Adoption UK, an Associate of The Royal Academy of Music and I may have another position to add to my list very soon! Watch this space…

In homage to Lauderdale House’s glorious past – after the House was restored in 1893 it served as the Waterlow Park tearoom for 70 years- they have introduced a Cabaret at Tea Time with a ticket offer that combines afternoon tea plus cabaret ticket.

You can join Shona White for Cabaret at Tea Time at Lauderdale on Sunday 15 October at 15:30. You can find more details on the website

West End leading lady Emma Hatton takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

From starring in We Will Rock You to Evita, with Wicked along the way, Emma Hatton has cemented her position as one of the most sought after West End leading ladies in recent years.

But the ultra talented performer is also an acclaimed jazz singer and will be showcasing her sultry vocals at the Pizza Express Live in Birmingham and at the newly opened venue in Holborn later this year.

Emma is currently playing Eva Peron in Evita at the Phoenix Theatre and took some time off to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

My set list for my Pizza Express jazz gigs in October.

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

Support from my friends and family.

What is your favourite Book?

Little Women.

What are you currently watching on TV? 

The Affair.

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

Restaurant, I love food.

What’s your favourite sweet? 

The Strawbs from Candyking, but they’ve changed the ingredients so they’re not so nice anymore.

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

A window cleaner or a jockey.

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

I bit my sister.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

I would probably say being moved up from standby to fulltime Elphaba.

What’s next? 

I’ve got my gigs at the Pizza Express on October 21st and 22nd.

Emma Hatton will be performing at Pizza Express Live Birmingham on 21 October 8:30pm and Pizza Express Live Holborn on 22 October 8pm.

West End star, Helena Blackman takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Helena Blackman became a household name after her appearance on the BBC programme, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? The show led to a successful musical theatre career, which has included roles in The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, My Fair Lady and most recently Thom Southerland’s celebrated production of Titanic at the Charing Cross Theatre.

Next month Helena will be performing alongside fellow West End star Amanda Coutts in a special new cabaret show. Featuring songs from musicals, together with pop and diva classics, Musicals and Beyond will be staged at Above the Arts, part of the Arts Theatre in London’s West End, on Sunday 6 August 2017 and Sunday 27 August 2017.

Helena took some time off from her preparation for the show to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Amanda Coutts and I are doing a two-woman cabaret, called Musicals and Beyond, at Above the Arts, part of Arts Theatre West End, which features an array of songs from pop to rock to musical theatre and Disney!

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

I guess a commitment to fulfilling the needs of the people I work with and wanting to be as truthful and committed in my performance as I can. I don’t want to let myself down and am not half-hearted. I’m also a problem solver and if something isn’t easily achieved, I will look at different ways. I try not to be too hard on myself and give myself a good talking too and don’t get wrapped up in the business and to just revolve myself around it. I also try and focus on myself and my health mentally and physically – good things and positive outcomes come out of me being on top of my game!  Lastly, I roll with the punches and except how my ‘castability’ has evolved and try not to control that.

What is your favourite book?

I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It’s on my iphone so I read a little at a time because it’s extremely thought-provoking and I don’t want to miss a beat, so make sure I’m in a focussed place when I read it. Self-help in my game is so important, and I try and remind myself to stay in the present and not the past or the future.

Another book I loved was Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

What are you currently watching on TV?

I’m obsessed with TV drama, more than film or theatre. Particularly crime.  Standing out for me at present is Broken. Sean Bean is now one of my favourite male actors. This is due to his performance as a pain stricken priest.  However, I also love Suits – secretly I want to be a lawyer!

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

A restaurant. I love the intimacy and I can be anonymous and it’s not such busman’s holiday!  I switch off more.

What’s your favourite sweet?

American Twizzlers!

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

A pop singer and an actress…always!

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

Wet myself on purpose! I was a pretty good kid.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Lots of moments! Performing in front of millions of people, getting the job – any job! But mostly what makes me proud is that I still have a positive attitude in regards as to what I do and in life. I don’t blame anyone for my mistakes, I don’t pay attention to societal pressures and I take responsibility for my actions and my learning. Also, fundamentally, I am independent and reasonably objective and apply that to everything.

What’s next?

After Musicals and Beyond, who knows, that’s what’s exciting – anything can happen! I like to keep my options open and create and immerse myself in new experiences.

To book tickets to see Musicals and Beyond, please call the box office on 0207 836 8463. Or to book online, please visit:

West End Bakeoff’s Cuppy the Cupcake takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

The company of The Secret Garden receive the winner’s trophy at last year’s West End bakeoff from judges Christopher Biggins, Dame Barbara Windsor and Michael Ball. Photo by Mark Lomas

The West End bakeoff, London’s stagiest bake sale will return again this year and promises to be bigger and better than ever.

The event sees teams from all of the big London shows compete to win the coveted trophy, while raising thousands of pounds for the Theatrical charity, Acting For Others.

This year the West End shows will come together to compete at The Actor’s Church St Pauls, on Saturday 20th May with judges to be announced at a later date.

We caught up the adorable Cuppy the Cupcake, West End Bakoff’s mascot, who was thrilled to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been working on my whisking, beating and folding techniques for cake making! As the official West End Bake Off mascot I am not allowed to enter the competition but I like to keep my frosting hair light and fluffy which takes lots of practice!

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

The West End Bake Off of course gave this little old showbiz cupcake it’s legs (quite literally!) I’ve even been made into a trophy for the winners too, it’s quite odd seeing oneself in statue form. I’m sure Laurence Olivier would feel the same…

What is your favourite book?

Definitely ‘Quintessential Baking’ By GBBO’s Frances Quinn. It’s so fun for a plain old cupcake like me to dream of being such an inventive cake.

What are you currently watching on TV?

I only watch movie musicals and the Great British Bake Off. Though I am partial to a spot of Masterchef now and again. 

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

That’s a silly question…THEATRE, of course! I have Dreamgirls and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on my wishlist. Of course I have to take my booster seat so I can see over the people in front. It’s a tough life for a tiny cupcake. 

What’s your favourite sweet?

A retro classic, the fruit salad. SO jazzy and chewy.

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

I always dreamed of being four tired red velvet sponge with cream cheese frosting but as I’ve got older and more comfortable in my own skin, I’d prefer to be a naked cake.

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

Me, naughty? Never! 

I may or may not have replaced the sugar for salt in a birthday cake for my sister once… 

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Raising £6000 in two hours at last year’s bake off. All for the amazing theatrical charity Acting for Others. 

What’s next?

That would be telling! But we do have lots of ideas and projects in the pipeline at West End Bake Off as well as West End Bake Off 2018 of course! 

For those unable to attend the event, Acting for Others can still be supported by donating at its Just Giving page:

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

An American in Paris extends to January 2018

Christopher Wheeldon ’s stunning reinvention of the Oscar® winning film An American in Paris has been ecstatically received by audiences and critics since opening at the beautifully restored Dominion Theatre on 21 March 2017. The smash hit production has now extended booking, with tickets on sale until Saturday 27 January 2018.

The sumptuous new musical about following your heart and living your dreams is written by Craig Lucas and features the timeless music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, including I Got Rhythm, ‘S Wonderful, I’ll Build a Stairway To Paradise and They Can’t Take That Away from Me, together with George Gershwin’s sweeping compositions including ‘ Concerto in F’ and ‘ An American in Paris’.

Jerry Mulligan is an American GI pursuing his dream to make it as a painter in a city suddenly bursting with hope and possibility. Following a chance encounter with a beautiful young dancer named Lise, the streets of Paris become the backdrop to a sensuous, modern romance of art, friendship and love in the aftermath of war…

The cast is headed by the original, award-winning Broadway stars Robert Fairchild (as Jerry Mulligan ) and  Leanne Cope  (as Lise Dassin ), together with  Haydn Oakley  as Henri Baurel,  Zoë Rainey as Milo Davenport, David Seadon-Young as Adam Hochberg and Jane Asher as  Madame Baurel. Ashley Day is the alternate  Jerry Mulligan  (and he will assume the role from Monday 19 June 2017). The company also features Julian Forsyth and Ashley Andrews, Sophie Apollonia, Zoe Arshamian, Sarah Bakker, James Barton, Alicia Beck, Chrissy Brooke, James Butcher, Jonathan Caguioa, Jennifer Davison, Katie Deacon, Rebecca Fennelly, Sebastian Goffin, Alyn Hawke, Nicky Henshall, Genevieve Heron, Amy Hollins, Frankie Jenna, Justin-Lee Jones, Robin Kent, Kristen McGarrity, Julia J. Nagle, Daniela Norman, Pippa Raine, Aaron Smyth, Todd Talbot, Max Westwell, Jack Wilcox, Carrie Willis, Stuart Winter and Liam Wrate.

The new musical An American in Paris premiered in 2014  at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway, where it became the most awarded musical of the 2015/16 season, including four Tony® Awards. A major North American tour is currently playing.