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: ‘Stirring and affecting’ ★★★★ Yank! Charing Cross Theatre

The bravery of our military personnel will never fail to astound me, with the sacrifices made by so many during the two World Wars in an attempt to ensure the rest of us can live in freedom, something we will be eternally grateful for, writes Nicky Sweetland.

But there has always been echelons of society who have remained repressed and the bravery of the gay community is highlighted beautifully in James Baker’s production of the musical Yank!, which ran at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester prior to receiving a London transfer.

It tells a touching tale of forbidden love between two soldiers in World War II, a time when homosexuality was illegal.

We aren’t new to heartbreaking stories of prohibited love, but this is no Romeo and Juliet, with the untold story of gay military personnel (which is virtually untold) providing a stark reminder just how far gay rights have come over the last 50 years, but how much further as a society we still need to go.

In fact, in this country, despite the decriminalisation of homosexuality over 50 years ago, gay military personnel and merchant seamen could actually still be jailed until 1994.

It’s a somber subject matter, but David Zellnik’s gentle rendering of the story, in making it feel like a classic musical of yesteryear, means we are treated to a touching tale, whilst being left in no doubt about the seriousness of the themes.

And with Joseph Zellnik writing some glorious sweeping melodies for his brother’s lyrics to nestle in, musically it’s a real pleasure.

There are also some really poignant performances from both Scott Hunter and Andy Coxon, supported by an excellent ensemble – which includes the magnificent Sarah-Louise Young expertly portraying all of the female roles – making this is a show, which exudes charm.

It’s just the technical side, which lets it down a bit. The set is ropey – with flimsy flats framing the stage – and some of the lighting cues need to be tightened up to ensure the actors can get on with the job of telling the story without suddenly finding themselves in shadow.

That’s one of the joys of live theatre however, and with a show as exquisite as this, it’s really a minor misdemeanor.

This is a stirring and affecting musical, which is performed beautifully and is a real recommendation.

Yank! is at the Charing Cross Theatre until 19 August

Photo by Clair Bilyard