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

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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.

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

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’.

Watch Take That Live at Vue Fulham

Take That are back with an incredible live concert from London’s iconic O2 arena, promising to be their most spectacular yet.

For the first time ever, Take That will perform their tour in the round putting Vue audiences in the best seat in the house.

Combining the legendary production values of their live shows with the state of the art sound and vision from Vue, this exclusive event promises to be a must see for fans of all ages.

Take That are inviting customers to experience their highly anticipated 2017 concert LIVE at Vue Fulham on Friday 9th of June.