Is The Royal really Haunted? (Backstage Tours)

Behind the Curtain at Royal & Derngate

Theatre enthusiasts can enjoy an informing and entertaining backstage tour experience, with a wonderful storyteller taking them to explore the unseen areas of the Royal and Derngate auditoria. The next Behind the Curtain tours are scheduled for Monday 4, Tuesday 5, Wednesday 6 and Friday 8 March.

Visitors will be taken back in time, starting from the opening night in 1884. Exploring this colourful history, they will hear the real life stories of people who created, performed in or were audience members at shows at the theatre throughout the decades, discovering where Doctor Who was filmed and where Errol Flynn learned his craft. There is also the chance to discover how Made in Northampton productions are created with a visit to Royal & Derngate’s workshop and paintshop. The theatre’s resident ghost may even make an appearance along the way!

Behind the Curtain is an engaging theatrical tour suitable for groups, schools and individuals and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Customers are advised to wear flat shoes.

In addition, exclusive tours can be arranged for groups, and there is also a special version of the tour for primary schools, including an option to visit the Derngate auditorium control room and have a go at operating the lights.

Unfortunately, the standard tour is not suitable for those with access requirements, but accessible tours suitable for those with access needs, hearing or visual impairment are available with prior booking. Please contact erica.martin@royalandderngate.co.uk for further information or to book a primary school, exclusive or accessible tour.

Call Royal & Derngate Box Office on 01604 624811.

The next tours are on

Monday 4 March at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm

Tuesday 5 March at 11.30am and 3.30pm,

Wednesday 6 March at 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4pm

Friday 8 March at 2pm and 4pm.

The Legend returns to Milton Keynes

MATTHEW BOURNE’S SWAN LAKE 

If ever a theatrical experience truly deserved the epithet ‘iconic’, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is it.

Credit: Johan Persson/

Returning to Milton Keynes Theatre with a fresh look for the 21st century – while still retaining all the breathtaking elements of the original production – Matthew Bourne and award-winning designers Lez Brotherston (Set & Costumes) and Paule Constable (Lighting) have created an exciting re-imagining of the classic New Adventures production.

Thrilling, audacious, witty and emotive, this Swan Lake is perhaps still best known for replacing the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble, which shattered conventions, turned tradition upside down and took the dance world by storm.

Collecting over thirty international accolades including an Olivier Award in the UK and three Tonys on Broadway, Matthew Bourne’s powerful interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is a passionate and contemporary Swan Lake for our times.

Matthew Bourne says: “When we first started to do it, we had audiences walking out when the Prince and the Swan started dancing together. We had little girls in tears that it wasn’t performed with the tutus and pointe shoes that they were expecting; some people refused to come and see it at all. But we’re a contemporary dance theatre company, so we had to tell a story through movement, in a different way, and it needed a big idea to make people see it in a different way as well.

For me ultimately it is about someone struggling with who they are. We can all relate to an individual who in the society that they are in can’t be who they really are. I think the piece moves people because it has a message about looking for acceptance; but it also moves people because it’s about loss as well, and it’s about people that you’ve lost.

I feel those themes are very universal and very much things that touch all of us. It’s a very human piece and global – both in its message and in the way that it brings us all together.”

If you haven’t seen the show that, 25 years ago, changed the shape of ballet as we know it, you have an unforgettable treat in store; if you’ve seen it before, the emotional truth, the beauty and the compelling drama of this refreshed production will certainly draw you back.

 Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 29th Jan – Sat 2nd Feb

Box Office: 0844 871 7652, online:  ATGTICKETS.COM/MiltonKeynes  Under 25s Offer – £15 per ticket Wed – Thu 7.30pm (Limited Availability)

If your idea of ballet is still ladies in tights and tutus and men in tights without them then you are at least 23 years out of date! It was in 1995 that Matthew Bourne changed the world of dance forever, winning over most of his critics before the interval of that opening night. These swans are aggressive, masculine and utterly believable!

On the opening night at Milton Keynes Theatre the show featured Max Westwell as The Swan, Liam Mower as The Prince, Katrina Lyndon as The Queen and Carrie Willis as The Girlfriend. The audience were treated to this spectacular evening of beautiful music, fabulous sets and a brilliantly talented cast with a dancing prowess matched by their first class acting from start to finish. Matthew Bourne has tweaked this latest production, just enough to freshen it a little but not to upset those that don’t like change of any sort! The long standing ovation at the end of the evening proved just why Matthew Bourne’s wonderful direction fully deserves all the awards this production of the most popular ballet has already received – and those it will undoubtedly receive in the years to come!

Ernie Almond

The Marlowe Society’s Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from 23-26 January.

Cambridge University’s The Marlowe Society, one of the university’s most acclaimed dramatic societies, returns to Cambridge Arts Theatre after a string of successful productions in recent years including Romeo and Juliet and Edward II.

This year will see The Marlowe Society perform Much Ado about Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. Marrying sharp witticism with edge, Much Ado about Nothing introduces us to two of Shakespeare’s most loquacious lovers: Benedick and Beatrice. A vivid and compelling tale, this romantic comedy explores the transcendent nature of love and its capacity to overcome the obstacles of family, society, honour and deception.

Richard Beecham, who will direct Much Ado About Nothing, has directed productions across Britain and on tour, including productions at The Old Vic, Theatre Royal Bath and the Watford Palace, where he was nominated for Best Director in the Off-West End Theatre Awards for Broken Glass, as well as receiving a nomination for UK Theatre Awards’ Best Production for Dancing at Lughnasa and a nomination for Manchester Theatre Awards’ Best Production for Rose.

The Marlowe Society has launched the careers of some of Britain’s greatest actors including Sir Ian McKellen, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Derek Jacobi, and continues its tradition of showcasing the best theatrical talent at the university.

Much Ado About Nothing is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until  26th January

Box Office: 01223 503333 or online: www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

Presenter Mike Moore (Black Cat 107) went along on opening night and gave his thoughts about the production:

This production by the very talented Marlowe Society is simply stunning! Avoiding the trappings of a complicated set, occasional props and lighting effects were used very successfully to depict the various scenes. They decided to bring the story right up to date – using, of course, the Bard’s original words. I was gripped from start to finish and it would be unfair to pick out any particular actor as the entire ensemble were as they should be, a close knit-team. The opening of act two with the not so bright members of The Watch was hilarious! Well done to all concerned – a production worth seeing – twice at least!

Black Cat 107 available on fm around St Neots, DAB+ across Cambridge and on TuneIn on the internet.

The Worst Witch at Cambridge Arts Theatre

THE WORST WITCH is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from Wednesday 6th to Sunday 10th February

Adapted from Jill Murphy’s original much loved children’s books The Worst Witch is an action-packed stage adaptation with songs, music and magic for children aged 7+.

‘Told with wit and ingenuity’ THE GUARDIAN

Mildred Hubble, the good-hearted but accident-prone ordinary girl, begins her first year at Miss Cackles Academy for Witches. As she struggles to fit in, Mildred’s inevitable mayhem upsets her nemesis, fellow student Ethel Hallow and Deputy Headmistress Miss Hardbroom, just as an old enemy returns with a plan for revenge that threatens the academy and the world.

The Worst Witch is adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves (Royal Television Society Award for Best Children’s TV Programme & 2017 British Screenwriters Award for Best Children’s Programme), who adapted the books for the CBBC series and directed by Theresa Heskin (2017 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People)

The Worst Witch is at Cambridge Arts Theatre 6-10 February

Box Office: 01223 503333, email: boxoffice@cambridgeartstheatre.com

Cilla is Back! (By popular demand)

I’m pleased to tell you that Cilla is back at Milton Keynes – by popular demand and I’m not surprised one little but!

 

CILLA – THE MUSICAL is the spectacular and heart-warming musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed hit ITV television series by Bafta-Award winner Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Philomena, From The Cradle To The Grave, Mrs Biggs and the acclaimed Little Boy Blue which had ITV audiences glued to their screens). It tells the extraordinary story of the ordinary girl from Liverpool whose teenage dreams of stardom lead her to becoming one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers of all time. Milton Keynes Theatre has done well to get Cilla – The Musical so soon after it’s world premiere at the Liverpool Empire on 7th September this year.

It’s an introduction by a young John Lennon to music mogul Brian Epstein that changes Priscilla White’s life forever. By the age of just 25 she would be known as singer and TV Star Cilla Black, Number One selling artist and at the fore-front of the Brit-Pop music scene. The musical score is the ultimate soundtrack to the 60’s including Cilla’s greatest hits Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me, Twist and Shout by the Beatles, California Dreamin by The Mamas and The Papas’ and many more.

Bill Kenwright’s new musical features: Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla, who beat thousands of hopefuls in nationwide open auditions for the coveted role. Andrew Lancel (Brian Epstein); Carl Au (Bobby);  Bill Caple (Ringo Starr); Joshua Gannon (Paul McCartney);  Michael Hawkins (John Lennon).

The musical reunites Tom Dunlea, Michael Hawkins and Gemma Brodrick-Bower, all of whom starred in Jeff Pope’s original ITV mini-series Cilla, on which the musical is based. It also reunites Andrew Lancel with the role of Epstein, which he played on stage to great critical acclaim in Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles. Andrew is best known to TV audiences as super-villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street and as DI Neil Manson in the long-running ITV television series The Bill.

The legendary Merseybeat sound is authentically performed live on stage by the cast who are completed by: Alan Howell; Jay Osbourne; Alex Harford; Will Kinnon; Jenny Murphy; Tom Sowinski; and Christopher Weeks.

Cilla – The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd November for just 8 performances including 3 matinees

Box Office: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or Call:0844 871 7652

I was fortunate enough to be at the opening night in Milton Keynes – and it was an amazing experience! Previously after seeing very many Bill Kenwright productions I thought he’d hit a high with Joe McElderry as Joseph, but Cilla – The Musical is without doubt Mr Kenwright’s finest so far!

The lavish sets, the music as close to the original as it is possible to be all served to create the perfect atmosphere for our visit back to those days when pop music was changing, in fact young people in general were beginning to realise that new music was theirs and not meant for the middle aged who were still worshipping the crooners of the previous decade!

Kara Lily Hayworth is stunning as a performer and absolutely perfect in the role of Prescilla White who very soon became Cilla Black. Kara most certainly held her own alongside seasoned performers such as Andrew Lancel (a moving performance as Brian Epstein), Pauline Fleming as Big Cilla and Neil Macdonald as Cilla’s father John White (“I know about these things, I was in the Merchant Navy!”) – and the night was hers!

The rest of the cast, actors and musicians all were wonderful and the sounds they re-created took those of us of a certain age straight back – it was real, there’s no doubt!

I’m sure this will sell out this week and it should move into London if all’s fair, but if you can manage to get a ticket you’re in for a theatrical treat!

Cilla – The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th September

Box Office: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or Call:0844 871 7652

Benidorm hits the spot in Milton Keynes.

Benidorm at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20th October.

Age guidance: 12+

Starring Jake Canuso (Mateo), Janine Duvitski (Jacqueline), Adam Gillen (Liam), Sherrie Hewson (Joyce Temple-Savage), Shelley Longworth (Sam), Tony Maudsley (Kenneth) and featuring Neptune’s very own Asa Elliott, the official world premiere of Derren Litten’s smash-hit ITV comedy Benidorm is set to bring sunshine and smiles to the UK and Ireland in the stage debut production of the hugely popular TV show.

ITV’s award-winning comedy celebrates over a decade of all-inclusive hilarity, having followed the ensemble cast of holiday makers and staff for ten series since it first broadcast in 2007. Litten has now written an all new set of Alicante escapades for the much-loved cast members as they swap sangria for the stage – after a quick spruce up at the Blow ‘n’ Go!

A dose of Benidorm sunshine with your favourite stars from the Solana live on stage for the very first time.

Age guidance: 12+

Benidorm is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20th October.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online  www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes 

I hadn’t a clue how the popular television series would transform onto the stage, but I needn’t have doubted it. With a packed theatre bursting with Benidorm fans, a set that worked well as the reception, poolside, bar and function room of the Solana Hotel! This with the added attraction of the same stars that appear in the TV series recreating their roles, the show was great fun from beginning to end. Good idea to have a 12+ rating as some of the material is not offensive, but certainly adult.

Ibsen this aint, but if you like Benidorm the series then you’ll love this! You’ll be lucky to get a seat though!

Benidorm is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20th October.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online  www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes 

Vulcan 7 at The Cambridge Arts Theatre “is Hilarious”!

Vulcan 7 is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 6th October

This new comedy is written by and co-stars Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer.

Gary Savage (Adrian Edmondson) and Hugh Delavois (Nigel Planer) were students at RADA together. Now in their sixties, they meet in an Icelandic wasteland, on the set of a fantasy movie “Vulcan 7”.

Hugh has had a plodding career but has landed the role of Vulcan’s butler – a small but regular role – and he’s making his seventh film for the franchise.

Gary is a has been Hollywood A-lister who has fallen on lean times and is playing a guest monster with four hours in make-up and one word in the script.

Sparks fly inside the trailer as old wounds are opened and outside the trailer things are not going to plan either: the director’s gone AWOL, the catering trucks on the wrong side of a ravine, and the volcanic activity is growing more lively by the minute…

The cast is complete when Lois Chimimba appears as the movie runner who referees the constant tension between the two actors.

Vulcan 7 is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 6th October

Box Office: 01223 503333 or go to www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

Mike Moore of Black Cat 107 in St Neots went along to see the opening night at Cambridge and these were his thoughts:

The show is hilarious and fans of Ade and Nigel will not be disappointed, the characters are totally believable and once the tension and history between them is established that takes the background as the drama of what is to become of them stranded in this caravan perched on the side of a ravine – the opposite side to the catering trucks – takes over.

This is a must see, if you enjoy the work of either of its stars you will have a brilliant night of theatre. But please note there is an age guidance of 14+ which could also apply to maiden aunts as the language does get a bit colourful at times! .

Vulcan 7 is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 6th October

Box Office: 01223 503333 or go to www.cambridgeartstheatre.com



Rain Man at The Arts Theatre – a triumph!

RAIN MAN

BY DAN GORDON

Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle

Rain Man is at The Cambridge Arts Theatre from 8th – 13th October.

Based on the MGM motion picture · Story by Barry Morrow · Screenplay by Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow · Produced by special arrangement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Bill Kenwright presents the inaugural Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company production of Rain Man. Mathew Horne (Gavin & Stacey, The Catherine Tate Show) stars as Raymond Babbit opposite Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall) as Charlie Babbit.

TWO BROTHERS. ONE DESTINY.

When self-centered salesman Charlie Babbitt discovers that his long-lost brother Raymond, an autistic savant with a genius for numbers, has inherited the family fortune; he sets out to get ‘his half’.

Charlie ‘borrows’ Raymond from the institution where he has spent most of his life and the two brothers embark on a trip across America where Charlie soon discovers that Raymond is worth more than he could have ever imagined…

Inspired by the heart-warming Oscar-winning film, which famously starred Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman and won Oscar’s for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor, Rain Man follows previous acclaimed Bill Kenwright productions of films to the stage such as A Few Good Men, The Shawshank Redemption and Twelve Angry Men.

The production was directed by Jonathan O’Boyle whose credits include Rasheeda Speaking (Trafalgar Studios), This House (UK Tour); Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/Southwark Playhouse); and Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults) winner of the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Off West End Production.

Rain Man is at Cambridge Arts Theatre from 8th – 13th October.

 Box Office: 01223 503333or online: www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

I was lucky enough to see this production a little earlier in this tour, these were my thoughts….

When I saw the Bill Kenwright production of Cilla I thought it was his finest work so far – Rain Man is most certainly its equal. It is a beautifully told story, thanks to the book by Dan Gordon and Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction. A fairly basic set which transforms seamlessly from office to bedroom to casino never detracts from the actors.

The very strong cast lead by Mathew Horne and Ed Speleers keep the audience entranced and completely immersed in the story. Although he’s done plenty of acting for the screen I was very surprised to learn that this is Ed Speleers’ stage debut! He gave such a strong performance – the perfect foil and complete contrast to Mathew Horne’s wonderful portrayal of Raymond, the adult autistic brother that has spent most of his life in an institution. I took with me a friend who teaches young adults with various forms of autism and he assured me that Mathew had obviously done his research as his performance was completely accurate.

I urge you to get to see this amazing piece of work, try as I might I couldn’t pick fault with the tiniest thing. Congratulations to a superb effort from The Classic Stage to Screen Theatre Company and this particular cast and crew.

Rain Man is at Cambridge Arts Theatre from 8th – 13th October.

 Box Office: 01223 503333or online: www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

 

Shrek The Musical is back at Milton Keynes!

Shrek The Musical returns to Milton Keynes 

shrek the musical,mcdermott,chisall,blackwood,walsh,photo: Helen Maybanks

Based on the award-winning DreamWorks animation film, Shrek The Musical is this year’s must-see show for all the family – and when we say ‘must-see’ you really MUST see it!

Let’s face it, Shrek is an unlikely looking hero but with his loyal (if hugely irritating) steed Donkey, he embarks on a quest to rescue the beautiful (if a little temperamental) Princess Fiona from a fire-breathing, love-sick dragon.

shrek the musical,mcdermott,chisall,blackwood,walsh,photo: Helen Maybanks
Add the diminutive Lord Farquaad and a gang of fairytale misfits, and you’ve got an all-singing, all-dancing, all-gloriously funny spectacular GIANT of a hit show!

The company stars Steffan Harri as the swamp-dwelling Shrek, the role he previously played in the West End. Laura Main is damsel in distress Princess Fiona. Bedfordshire’s Marcus Ayton is Shrek’s wisecracking sidekick Donkey and Samuel Holmes is pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad.

Nigel Harman (well-known, well-loved and consistently well out of order playing a series of bad boys in Eastenders, Downton Abbey and the Sky Living series, Mount Pleasant) has directed the tour. Having played Lord Farquaad in the West End, Nigel came to the role of director knowing exactly how entertaining the show is for both adults and children and determined to make it even more of a monster of a hit. And when you’ve got a full line-up of fairy-tale characters at your disposal, how can you not have fun?
So, would you please give a big welcome to the Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Three Blind Mice (in stockings and carrying white sticks) some tap dancing rats, a large, low flying dragon, a tortured gingerbread man and, of course, a cross-dressing wolf!

Featuring a great score of all new songs as well as cult Shrek anthem I’m a Believer, Shrek The Musical is making Milton Keynes Theatre the biggest, brightest, most beautiful place to be this summer!

Shrek the Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 5th August

Box Office: 0844 8717652 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Shrek poster

Even if the cast hadn’t been 1st class (They are, they’re great!) I would tell you to get to see Shrek the Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre purely for the design and production values alone! From the utterly brilliant costumes to the sets, the special effects (including a wonderful singing dragon) to the direction by Nigel Harman. Those things alone would make a fabulous night out for all the family. Don’t run away with the idea that this is just a show for children, I guarantee the adults of the family will laugh a lot, have sympathy for Shrek and enjoy the excellent 7 piece orchestra lead by Colm O’Regan.

I probably shouldn’t single out anyone from this talented cast, they were all just perfect, but from the moment Steffan Harri (Shrek) opens the show he’s got the audience in the palm of his hand, he’s no mean singer either. Marcus Ayton (Donkey) and Laura main (Princess Fiona) both prove that in addition to fine singing talents they both have a flair for comedy. Speaking of comedy, Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad absolutely tears the house down with some brilliantly funny scenes! I’m now a devoted fan of his horse “Fibreglass” – the only horse I’ve seen with a reverse gear!

You might not leave the theatre singing any of the tunes – apart from I’m A Believer the Monkey’s old hit, which like in the film is used for the end credits, but you will most certainly come out with a smile on your face having had a truly magnificent theatrical experience!

Ernie Almond.

Shrek the Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 5th August

Box Office: 0844 8717652 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Matilda the Musical is at Milton Keynes!

Winner of over 85 international awards, including 16 for Best Musical, Matilda The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 30 June.

The title role is being shared by Annalise Bradbury, Lara Cohen, Poppy Jones and Nicola Turner.

Craige Els is reprising the role of Miss Trunchbull, having played her in the West End for three years between 2014 and 2017. He is joined by Carly Thoms as Miss Honey and Sebastien Torkia as Mr Wormwood as well as former West End cast-mate Rebecca Thornhill as Mrs Wormwood.

 Matilda The Musical is written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and direction by Matthew Warchus. The production is designed by Rob Howell, with choreography by Peter Darling, orchestrations, additional music and musical supervision by Christopher Nightingale, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, sound by Simon Baker and the special effects and illusions are by Paul Kieve.

The production will be accompanied by Change My Story, a new RSC education programme inspired by Matilda The Musical and devised in collaboration with each touring theatre partner to help build long term partnerships between school communities and theatres. 

  • Matilda The Musical has now been seen by more than 7.7 million people worldwide. Having swept the board at the 2012 Olivier Awards, with a record-breaking seven awards, and winning four Tony Awards and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater for the four girls sharing the title role on Broadway, Matilda The Musical has now played in over 60 cities and has played more than 5500 performances worldwide.

 

Matilda The Musical is produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company with André Ptaszynski and Denise Wood as Executive Producers. The production was developed with the support of Jeanie O’Hare and the RSC Literary Department.

Matilda The Musical is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until June 30th.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online:  www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

The sets, the music and all of the production methods used are spectacular! The mother & father and of course Miss Trunchbull are beautifully crafted characterisations of the Dahl books and an absolute joy to watch. My only problems were that much of the dialogue was missed due to the usual poor sound quality and I found it difficult to have any sympathy for Matilda herself! I’m sure she got all the words in the right order and the Matilda on duty on the night I was there, enunciated perfectly (possibly too perfect?) but for all that I got the feeling this was a recitation with nothing behind the eyes.

Fans of musicals with children in the cast will love this although don’t expect a Wow moment like in Oliver or Billy Elliot.

Ernie Almond.