Our regular up-to-date selection of recently published books as well as new or re-released plays and musicals, many of which are now available for amateur performance.
Listings are NOT proof that respective titles are available for amateur performance. Please make appropriate enquiries with respective licensors.
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BOBBY & AMY by Emily Jenkins
Full-Length Drama | F1, M1 | New Millennium / 21st Century | 978 0 573 11673 5 | £9.99
It’s the end of the 1990s: Take That, Tamagotchis and Pog swaps. When Bobby and Amy meet, hundreds of cows dot across the fields and the sun always shines.
But when the cows begin to burn, Bobby and Amy’s sleepy Cotswold town faces a catastrophe that will change their home forever.
Bobby & Amy explores friendship, heartache, and what happens when our way of life is threatened by those who don’t understand it.
A dark comedy about foot-and-mouth disease by Fringe First winner Emily Jenkins.
FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS by Richard Taylor & Rachel Wagstaff. Based on the novel by Paul Gallico
Full-Length Musical Drama | F6, M4 | 1940s / WWII | 978 0 573 13249 0 | £9.99
For Ada Harris, day-to-day life is spent cleaning houses. But when she happens upon something that takes her breath away, she sets off on a journey that will change her life… From the cobbled streets of post-war London to the magical avenues of Paris and beyond, Ada transforms the lives of everyone she meets along the way, but can she let go of her past and finally let her own life blossom?
THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM by Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton
Full-Length Drama | F4, M2 | Contemporary, Present Day | 978 0 573 13277 3 | £9.99
André and Madeleine have been in love for over fifty years. This weekend, as their daughters visit, something feels unusual. A bunch of flowers arrive, but who sent them? A woman from the past turns up, but who is she? And why does André feel like he isn’t there at all?
Christopher Hampton’s translation of Florian Zeller’s The Height of the Storm was first performed at Richmond Theatre, London, and opened in the West End at Wyndham’s Theatre in October 2018.
HOW TO BE BRAVE by Siân Owen
Monologues, Drama | F1 | Contemporary, Present Day | 978 0 573 11676 6 | £8.99
When Katie was little, she was brave: climbing trees and riding bikes too fast. Now Katie’s a mum, she must be brave in a new way. Determined her daughter will keep the fierce magic she arrived into the world with, Katie sets off on a mission around Newport with the help of a stolen BMX, a policewoman with bad hair, and a pigeon in a bag.
Siân Owen’s one-woman play, produced by the company behind fringe hit Sugar Baby, is about what we’re made of and learning to be brave when your world’s falling apart.
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman, Joel Horwood (This title is not yet available for performance.)
Monologues, Drama | Principals 8, plus ensemble | Fantasy, sci-fi, myth | 978 0 573 13279 7 | £9.99
Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. When he meets an old friend, he is reminded of a name he has not heard for many years: Lettie Hempstock. And is transported to his twelfth birthday, when Lettie claimed that this wasn’t a pond at all, but an ocean…
Plunged into 1983, our young protagonist struggles with the ripples of a disturbing event that makes him question his deepest assumptions about his fractured family. Striving to come to terms with his newly unknowable world, together with his new friend Lettie he must reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything and in turn learn to trust others to find his own feet.
A thrilling feat of storytelling in which fantasy, sci-fi, myth and imagination combine in an adventure that unfolds right here, in our world.
ONE GOOD TURN by Una McKevitt (This title is not yet available for performance.)
Full-Length Dramatic Comedy | F4, M2 | Present Day | 978 0 573 13270 4 | £9.99
Brenda wants Frank to do his exercises, Aoife wants to go to a wedding of all things, Fiona doesn’t know what she wants and Frank is looking for the gun.
One Good Turn brings us a family on the brink who are keeping the show on the road any which way they can. It is a wry and life-affirming exploration into the ups and downs of family bonds.
THE SON by Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton
Full-Length Drama | F3, M3 | Contemporary | 978 0 573 13276 6 | £9.99
Nicolas, just two years ago a smiling boy, is going through a difficult phase after his parents’ divorce. He’s listless, skipping classes, lying.
He believes moving in with his father and his new family may help. And a different school, a fresh start. When he doesn’t feel comfortable there, when he senses he isn’t wanted, he decides that going back to his mother’s may be the answer.
But at some point, options are going to dry up. And then what? “I’m telling you. I don’t understand what’s happening to me”.
Florian Zeller’s The Son forms the final part in a trilogy with The Mother and The Father, all of which are translated by Christopher Hampton. The Son premiered at the Kiln Theatre, London, in February 2019.
STITCHERS by Esther Freud
Full-Length Dramatic Comedy | F2, M5 | 1990s | 978 0 573 11556 1 | £9.99
“Nothing can go missing. No wool, no kits. Especially no needles”
Lady Anne Tree – one of the most aristocratic women in England – spent her life in prisons. As a visitor, she saw first-hand the aggression, low self-esteem, and high reoffending rates among the most hardened criminals. Lady Anne thought she had the answer. She would teach them needlecraft.
Based on a true story, this is an inspiring and heart-warming debut play by best-selling novelist Esther Freud, directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Gaby Dellal.
Esther Freud’s first novel Hideous Kinky was made into a film starring Kate Winslet. Granta named her one of the Best Young Novelists under forty. She has since written seven novels, including The Sea House, Love Falls, Lucky Break and most recently Mr Mac & Me.
“A superbly gifted writer” – The New York Times
“Fresh, witty, involving and touching” – The Independent
ZAMEEN by Satinder Kaur Chohan
Full-Length Play, Drama | F1, M4 | Contemporary | 978 0 573 13262 9 | £9.99
In dusty, time-warped Indian villages, the last camels plough the land, last charkhas spin and last handlooms weave. The global ‘outside’ pushes in via Western culture, technology, huge land and agro-chemical contracts and the desire for a ‘no.2 illegal route abroad.
Zameen (Land) is set in the cotton fields of Punjab, India. Baba, an ageing Sikh cotton farmer, toils away in his fields, struggling against the vagaries of nature and the modern world. His dutiful daughter Chandni dreams of escaping her fate. Her wastrel brother Dhani dreams of ‘Amrika’. When the moneylender Lal’s son Suraj returns from the outside world, Chandni and Dhani reflect on faded lives and aspirations and reach for ‘phoren’ dreams. A final reckoning on Baba’s land draws out truths, forcing the family to the brink of collapse, in a world changing fast and losing its values.
Rooted in Punjabi farming and folk culture, ancestral land and soil, Zameen was written before mass Indian farmer protests against the increasing corporatisation of agriculture, rising farmer suicides and decimation of small farmers. Facing a climate change catastrophe, Zameen captures a world in transition, as nature, tradition and globalisation violently collide around small village lives – lives steeped in a history of toil, struggle – and resilience.
MTI launches ‘digital rehearsal notebook’ for musicals
Music Theatre International (MTI) has announced that a new production resource – ‘Digital Scripts and Scores Powered by ProductionPro’ – is now available to MTI customers.
Designed to enhance the creative process, ProductionPro is an app that automatically organises production elements within a breakdown of an MTI musical. ProductionPro’s Digital Scripts and Scores fosters collaboration among members of a musical’s creative team by providing a digital breakdown of every scene in the show, so users can skim the entire show and all of its creative elements at-a-glance. The intuitive software automatically pulls together all research, designs, and reference videos into one place that enables and enhances communication and the decision-making process.
With over 50,000 theatres and schools across the United States having already utilised ProductionPro, MTI’s London office has partnered with ProductionPro Technologies Inc. to bring their innovative software to theatrical organisations in the UK and Europe. The resource has been custom-tailored to the specific needs of MTI’s customers.
ProductionPro has already been used effectively in notable Broadway productions including Disney’s Frozen, Groundhog Day, Kinky Boots and Miss Saigon.
ProductionPro is the FIRST and ONLY Learning Management System for musicals that allows theatres to:
- digitally distribute an MTI script and piano vocal score to cast and crew;
share script notes;
- link research and references directly to the appropriate characters and scenes;
- post and update recorded video footage of choreography, blocking, and music rehearsals;
- share rehearsal material online and in one place;
- interact with a visual breakdown of your script.
ProductionPro’s simple and intuitive interface enables every member of your cast or crew to easily access any bit of information they may be looking for from their smartphone, computer, or tablet.
“We designed ProductionPro to inspire and facilitate greater collaboration among a show’s creative team and members of the cast and crew,” says Alexander Libby, Founder and CEO of ProductionPro Technologies Inc. “Our users in the United States have used the technology with great success and we are very excited to be launching our first product for schools, amateur and regional theatres with MTI in the UK and Europe. Now everyone can put on a show using ProductionPro.”
Ryan Macaulay, Director of Operations, Education and Development at London’s MTI office commented, “MTI is committed to providing helpful resources to assist our customers throughout the process of putting on their own musical. ProductionPro’s unique features, which encourage collaboration and sharing ideas in a digital era, will make producing an MTI show easier and more rewarding.”
For more information about Digital Scripts and Scores by ProductionPro. please visit the MTI website HERE.
Nick Hern Books
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Belongings by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Full-length play | F2, M2 | Contemporary, 3 interiors, 1 exterior | 978 1 849 43225 2 | £11.99
A young female soldier returns to a home she no longer recognises. She has proved herself in combat – but her hardest battle is yet to come, as she navigates family politics and the memory of betrayal. From the writer of Olivier Award-winning West End hit Emilia, this explosive play delves into one woman’s quest for identity and a place she can call home.
Belongings was first staged at Hampstead Theatre in 2011 before transferring to the West End. It is published by Oberon Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, and available to license from Nick Hern Books.
‘Powerful, compelling and immersive’ British Theatre Guide
I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott
Full-length play | F4, M2 | Contemporary London, various interior and exterior settings | 978 1 848 42934 5 | £9.99 (£7.99 direct from publisher)
A delicate and uplifting play about fragility, resilience and our need for love and forgiveness. We all seek community and resolution, but sometimes the things that connect us are the very things we need to escape.
The play was commissioned by internationally renowned physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, co-producers of the massively popular Things I Know To Be True, as part of their twenty-fifth anniversary and premiered on a UK tour in 2020.
‘Impactful and meticulously written’ A Younger Theatre
Rust by Kenny Emson
Full-length play | F1, M1 | Contemporary, can be simply staged | 978 1 848 42861 4 | £9.99 (£7.99 direct from publisher)
An ultra-contemporary, sexy and funny play that pushes the boundaries of trust, love and lust to the limit. Nadia and Daniel have a secret. In fact they have quite a few. They’ve just signed on the dotted line for a studio flat under a pseudonym – Mr and Mrs White. After years of married life, this is their chance to wipe the slate clean, but the outside world is closing in.
Rust premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and HighTide Festival in 2019.
‘A sharp, swift, compelling two-hander… a smart and arrestingly stylish piece of new writing’ The Times
The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Full-length play | F2 | Contemporary, can be simply staged | 978 1 783 19860 3 | £11.99
A twisting psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of Emilia. Heather and Carla haven’t seen each other since school. Carla lives hand-to-mouth while Heather has a high-flying career, husband and a beautiful home. Yet here they are in a café making awkward conversation, until Heather presents Carla with a bag full of cash and an unexpected proposition…
The Wasp was first staged at Hampstead Theatre in 2015 before transferring to the West End. It is published by Oberon Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, and available to license from Nick Hern Books.
‘An enjoyably nasty thriller… revels in unexpected plot twists’ Guardian
Wild Swimming by Marek Horn
Full-length play | F1, M1, (or F2) | 1500s to present day, can be simply staged | 978 1 848 42912 3 | £9.99 (£7.99 direct from publisher)
A kaleidoscopic exploration of cultural progress, Wild Swimming is an interrogation of gender and privilege, and a wilfully ignorant history of English Literature. Nell and Oscar meet on a beach in Dorset. It’s 1595… or maybe 1610. Oscar has returned from university and Nell is doing nothing. They will meet here, again and again, on this beach for the next four hundred years. Stuff will change. They will try to keep up.
The play premiered at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before transferring to the Bristol Old Vic.
‘A confident comedic time-travelling exploration of gender rights, power and history… delivers laughs throughout’ The Stage
Yellowfin by Marek Horn
Full-length play | F1, M3 | Contemporary Washington D.C., USA, single interior | 978 1 839 04043 6 | £9.99 (£7.99 direct from publisher)
Politics and the planet collide in a fiercely original play about the limits of science, the power of myths, and the things we can’t control. Nobody knows where the fish went, and nobody knows why the fish went – but ever since they did, things just haven’t been the same. In a committee room on Capitol Hill, three senators have a job to do: they must question a man on charges of trading rare marine commodities, and they must find out what he knows.
First seen at Southwark Playhouse, London, Yellowfin was nominated for four Off-West End Awards including Best New Play.
‘Sharp new satire… manages to find the balance of being both urgent and genuinely entertaining’ WhatsOnStage
T: 01625 879508
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Angels AWOL by John Waterhouse
A modern comedy with an ephemeral slant
Full-Length Play | F3, M3 | Free perusal link on above website (published by Stagescripts)
Daphne and Rachel are two hard-working guardian angels whose respective charges seem close to the end of their mortal lives. Rachel has been looking after a young woman who is in a coma and not expected to survive more than six months. Daphne’s charge is an old man not expected to live more than a few months. Rachel sees an opportunity for the two of them to have a few months ‘holiday’ living as humans.
The angels first need to change their angelic garments for tasty, modern clothing. Rachel suggests simply raiding her charge’s flat where they get to get meeting Simon and Edward; two young men living in the same block. As the angels start to experience the pleasures and pressures of being human, they begin to realise there are emotional consequences of romance and simply being human.
T: 01538 703591
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Turn & Burn: The Scriptwriter’s Guide to Writing Better Screenplays Faster by C.J. Walley
Theatre Book | 978 1 910 51586 0 | £12.99
CJ Walley is a breakthrough feature film screenwriter, who has worked with Steve Guttenberg, Dawn Olivieri, Jo Lando, Matthew Lawrence, James Callis, Tasya Teles, Ivan Sergei, Danielle C. Ryan, and Diora Baird. He’s also rated as one of the top 25 most influential screenwriting bloggers, and the founder of Script Revolution – one of the world’s largest script-hosting platforms. In this new book, C.J. shares the real-world wisdom of someone writing screenplays and making films on the frontline of Hollywood.
Turn & Burn: The Scriptwriter’s Guide to Writing Better Screenplays Faster is the debut book from working scriptwriter and feature film producer C.J. Walley. Fed up with reading much of the toxic criticism and misinformation on scriptwriting forums and blogs across the world, and from people who have never actually sold a script, he decided to share his methodology and observations of the system; it’s particularly germane, as it’s the advice of someone who has only recently broken in, and who still properly appreciates how tough the movie-making business is.
In this honest and often humorous book, readers will learn a number of key skills, including: the power of concept, structure, and theme to create absorbing stories; how to nail down characters – heroes, villains, and everyone in-between; and how to develop a hero’s journey through the five-fold approach of: Yearn, Turn, Burn, Learn, and Earn.
Furthermore, C.J. shares the many mistakes he has made over the years, and details his personal battles with depression to help readers see the importance of self-care and self-compassion in what is – quite frankly – a business that chews most people up.
THEATRICAL RIGHTS WORLDWIDE
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Curtains – Book, Additional Lyrics: Rupert Holmes. Music, Additional Lyrics: John Kander. Lyrics: Fred Ebb. Original Book and Concept: Peter Stone
Full Length Musical | F5, M8 featured roles (Opportunities for flexible casting in the ensemble) | 1959 | Boston’s Colonial Theatre (onstage, backstage etc.)
It’s the brassy, bright, and promising year of 1959. Boston’s Colonial Theatre is host to the opening night performance of a new musical. When the leading lady mysteriously dies on stage the entire cast & crew are suspects. Enter a local detective, who just happens to be a musical theatre fan! Packed with glorious tunes and a witty, charming script filled with delightful characters, Curtains is a hilarious journey for both performers and the audience. The Broadway production garnered 8 nominations at the 2007 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.
ALL SHOOK UP – Inspired by and featuring the songs of Elvis Presley®. Book by Joe DiPietro
Full Length Musical | F5, M4 featured roles. (Opportunities for flexible casting in the expandable ensemble) | 1955 | Various simple settings
It’s 1955, and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing young man who changes everything and everyone he meets. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this hip-swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy will have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with such classics as ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’.
The Battle of Boat – Book & Lyrics by Jenna Donnelly and Ethan Lewis Maltby
Full Length Musical | F6, M8 featured roles (Ensemble is flexible and can be as large as you’d like) | 1916 | England – various simple settings
The Battle of Boat is a courageous tale of a group of children trying to find their place in a world at war in 1916. Frustrated by their inability to join the soldiers in battle, the children decide to do whatever it takes to help in the war effort. However, they soon have to tackle their own conflict in the form of a local gang of bullies who will stop at nothing to see every plan they form fail. Heartwarming, funny, emotional and exciting, this original new musical is a true celebration of the steadfast British spirit that shone through during WW1.
A cinematic musical from British duo Donnelly and Maltby (DrumChasers, The Sparkle Thief, The Masters of Mystery) with a sweeping, epic score and a timeless story of courage and hope. There are no adult characters in the show, all characters are aged from 8-18, the cast play their own ages.
GREASE – Young@Part® – Book, Music, and Lyrics: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Full Length Musical | F8, M9 featured roles (Large ensemble with featured solos and lines) | 1959 | Rydell High School. Various school settings
GREASE Young@Part® is an adaptation of the full-length musical GREASE, one of the world’s most popular and enduring musicals by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. TRW’s Young@Part® series is specifically crafted for students fifteen years and younger, adjusting the score for younger voices, simplifying harmonies, increasing the number of speaking roles, and creating a more manageable production for school students and youth theatres. These musicals, approximately 60 minutes in length, feature expandable casts and large group numbers so that everyone can shine. Whether you are a seasoned theatre director or a volunteer directing a musical for the first time, we have valuable tips and information for you not only in this Director’s Guide, but also sprinkled throughout the script.
Plus, great news! Broadway Media’s beloved projection package for Grease is now adapted for the 60-minute Young@Part® adaptation of this classic rock ‘n’ roll musical.
MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL (Europe)
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Hans Christian Andersen – Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by John Fearnley, Beverley Cross and Tommy Steele
Countless generations of children have been raised on the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen. From “The Ugly Duckling” to “The Little Mermaid.” Now with music by legendary composer Frank Loesser, Hans Christian Andersen is a musical storybook that brings the timeless tales (and the man who created them) to life onstage.
A struggling cobbler in Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen is better at making stories than shoes. As he discovers his potential as a storyteller and writer, he ultimately gets the help he needs from the people who love him to make a future for himself.
A family-friendly show with generous ensemble roles for both adults and children, Hans Christian Andersen is a timeless treasure. It is based on the 1952 film starring Danny Kaye and features classic songs such as “I’m Hans Christian Andersen,” “Thumbelina,” “Anywhere I Wander,” and more!
A KILLER PARTY: A Murder Mystery Musical – Music by Jason Howland. Lyrics by Nathan Tysen. Book by Kait Kerrigan and Rachel Axler
A Killer Party: A Murder Mystery Musical is an online, performance-ready show based on the successful streaming musical. This hilarious and irreverent send-up of the classic Murder Mystery features an all-star creative team that includes music by Jason Howland (Little Women), lyrics by Nathan Tysen (The Burnt Part Boys), and a book by the illustrious Kait Kerrigan and Rachel Axler.
MTI’s licensable version of this online show is a 90-minute, single piece designed to be pre-recorded and edited together for a streaming production shown on the showtix4u.com platform.
When Varthur McArthur, the artistic director of a failing theater in Duluth, invites his troupe of disgruntled actors and collaborators to the first read of an “immersive murder mystery dinner party,” no one knew that he would be the victim. Or did they? Enter the eager, determined, and untested Detective Case. After sequestering the guests into separate rooms (because, you know, social-distancing), she gets down to finding out whodunnit, uncovering secret affairs, life-long grudges, backstage drama, and a lot of musical theater song and dance. Sifting through lies and red herrings and a truly baffling murder mystery script left by the deceased, Case vows to find the truth and secure her future as a great detective.
A-Wop Bop A-Loo Bop: A jukebox celebration of the early days of Rock & Roll! – Book by Mark Brymer and John Jacobson
A-Wop Bop A-Loo Bop takes us back to the late 1950’s as Rock & Roll is taking the airwaves by storm. Roberta “Ruby” Lester and her friends are spunky teenagers with dreams of making it big in the music business. But sometimes dreams don’t go as planned. When the local radio station announces that “Rock‘n’Roll has got to go”, the kids take a stand for the music they love.
A-Wop Bop A-Loo Bop offers plenty of roles, along with a flexible ensemble you can tailor to your casting needs. Featuring hit songs like ‘Rock Around The Clock’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Up On the Roof’, ‘The Loco-Motion’, ‘I’m Sorry’ and ‘Land of 1000 Dances’, this new jukebox musical will get a whole new generation of rockin’ around the clock!
Daisies by Graham Sessions
Short-Length Play | F1, M1 | Easy to stage | 978 1 006 51690 0 | Approximately £8.00 (varies… available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or direct – via email)
Robin is spending his holiday in a small village in Wiltshire. He meets a young girl, Emma, who is making daisy chains and, in spite of his reluctance, at first, to engage in conversation she seems to have a power over him. Their conversation seems strange as Emma talks about fairies and how they have a sort of power over life and death.
Emma falls in love with Robin in spite of their age difference but it took several years for this to become evident. Years later, Robin realises the truth of the fairies having power over life and death when Emma dies and he uses daisies to keep her memory alive.
HALL FOR CORNWALL
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Hall for Cornwall – A Montage of Memories by Chris Warner and Sarah Smith
Heartwarming and uplifting, the amazing story of getting a theatre built.
Written and compiled by Chris Warner and Sarah Smith, this is the story of how a small group of people who originally attempted to persuade the authorities to provide Cornwall with a decent theatre and concert hall were crazy enough to take on the job, themselves.
In a revealing behind the scenes and honest account of the ups and downs of the original Hall for Cornwall Campaign, authors Chris Warner and Sarah Smith bring together the memories of those involved in the ambitious project of transforming the semi-derelict City Hall in Truro into a multipurpose venue concert hall and theatre.
Light-hearted and inclusive, this book is a must-read for all those who were involved in the project, as well as arts organisations, other theatres and fundraisers.
With a foreword by Benjamin Luxon CBE, Hall for Cornwall not only chronicles a unique project, but is an inspiration to all those considering embarking on a venture of their own.
In 1997 a brand new £6.5m 1,000-seat theatre and concert hall, which was also home to flea markets and commercial events, opened in Truro.
The book tells the story of how a small group of people came together to overcome local authority apathy and rapacious developers and, who, against all the odds, successfully campaigned for a new hall in Truro, Cornwall. Responsible for the new design of the new hall, they obtained permission to demolish part of a Grade Two listed building, and then raise the £6.5m – about £10m in today’s money – to realise their dream of a fit-for-purpose replacement.
The story is told in a light-hearted way by the many people who, led by Chris Warner and Sarah Smith, helped to make it all happen. They have contributed their individual memories, be they kitchen staff or architects, structural engineers or fundraisers.
They tell how and why the building was designed at that time, how they fundraised, who they cajoled into getting involved, from development to delivery.
On sale at the Hall for Cornwall box office and online HERE
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A Proper Contentment – The lives of a mother and her gay son over a century son of change in British society by Ned Hopkins
Novel | Variable price (Available in hardback, paperback and kindle formats online through Amazon, Waterstones and other retailers – LINK)
The story of Sam’s growing up, his realisation of his sexuality, the story of his sometimes, difficult working life; the absorbing story of his mother’s experiences, his eventual finding a life partner, are all so vividly related and dramatised, that the book comes across as the story of a real 2Oth/21st Century life and not a fiction.
‘I very much enjoyed A Proper Contentment and recommend it heartily.’
‘A sweeping panorama of a novel.’
‘The story hugs you like a warm mug of steaming Ovaltine.’
‘A loving book, elegantly rendered.’
(Elden Buck – USA)
‘A compelling read.’
‘Having read and enjoyed this author’s first book, I very much looked forward to reading his next and it certainly didn’t disappoint … A real page-turner and I recommend it to you.’
NORFOLK & NORWICH FESTIVAL
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Festival for a Fine City by Rob Mitchell
Festival History Book | £19.95 (plus £3.00 delivery – or free collection)
NEW BOOK, FESTIVAL FOR A FINE CITY CHRONICALS THE RICH 250-YEAR HISTORY OF THE NORFOLK & NORWICH FESTIVAL…
Ahead of the iconic Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s 250th anniversary celebrations in May, a brand-new book has been launched uncovering it’s long and rich history. With its origins going as far back as 1772, Norfolk & Norwich Festival is considered to be the oldest single-city arts Festival in the UK. Festival for a Fine City by Rob Mitchell is available to buy online HERE
Taking place each May for seventeen days, this year’s festival is due to go ahead from 13 – 29 May.
Now recognised for transforming public spaces, city streets, performance venues, parks, forests and beaches the festival began as a cathedral service fundraiser for the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in 1772. It quickly blossomed into an internationally renowned triennial music festival, and the book’s author traces the story of Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s development towards the exciting mixed music and arts celebration that it is today.
Exploring the city’s links with world class virtuoso musicians and titans of the English music scene like Elgar, Britten and Vaughan Williams, Mitchell takes a whirlwind journey through 250 years that have shaped the city and the festival, uncovering the tales of the pieces, people and places behind its evolution.
In recent years the Festival has collaborated with, and presented extraordinary local and internationally renowned artists such as Branford Marsalis, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and Hugh Masekela, and is well known for its large-scale free, outdoor events.
Since Daniel Brine became Festival Director in 2018, the organisation has also made a move to working on more year-round programmes within the local community and environment.
Author, researcher and local historian Rob Mitchell told us: “…I look at some of the people that have made significant contributions as well as how the festival remit has broadened over the last two centuries – often against all odds but always coming back stronger – and how it successfully morphed from a triennial feast of culture to the cutting-edge annual programmes of today.”
What a difference a century makes!
Welcome to Strike Up the Band!, our regular section which looks at what the professional musical theatre sector has to offer us now and over the coming months.
As the professional pantomime season, which runs each year throughout December, comes to an end, theatres have gone back to normal. As long as you’re outside the West End, shows have now resumed their previously-planned runs and tours.
Some of the stars featured in these shows have even taken a recent break from their regular roles to ‘panto’ it up in December (such as Joanne Clifton who is starring as Morticia in The Addams Family, but took on the role of Fairy Sugarsnap in Jack and the Beanstalk at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury).
However as usual please check with any relevant websites for the very latest and up-to-date news.
Photo: Warren Saire
Booking until 24 September 2022
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Keala Settle, internationally renowned for her starring role in the global smash hit movie The Greatest Showman – is to make her West End debut in this award-winning show on Tuesday, 29 March.
She shot to worldwide fame performing the iconic song This is Me in the movie alongside Hugh Jackman, and is a Tony Award-nominated star on Broadway.
Keala will play the role of Nurse in the show which won three Olivier Awards and six Whatsonstage Awards.
She joins the award-winning Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson, Oliver Tomsett. Tim Mahendran, Alex Thomas-Smith, David Bedella and Jordan Luke Gage in the cast.
Photo: Marc Brenner
CABARET – AT THE KIT KAT CLUB
Booking until 1 October 2022
Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5DE
https://kitkat.club / Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: kitkatclubldn
Booking has recently been extended, with a new cast due to be announced on 21 March 2022.
There is also an official daily mobile lottery in partnership with TodayTix for six exceptional £25 seats per performance. Visit: www.todaytix.com/london/shows/23939-cabaret
Photo: Helen Maybanks
The Choir of Man
Open now and booking until 3 April 2022
The Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB
Facebook: thechoirofman / Twitter, Instagram: choirofman
Photo: Matthew Murphy
DEAR EVAN HANSEN
Booking until until 26 October 2022
Noël Coward Theatre, London WC2N 4AU
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @dearevanhansen
The current cast includes Sam Tutty who has returned to the lead role of Evan Hansen that won him the 2020 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
The show is also the recipient of the 2020 Olivier Award for Best Musical and Best Score. It opened to great critical acclaim November 2019. Prior to lockdown, the show welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to a special performance for The Royal Foundation which funds the Heads Together and Heads Up initiatives and the mental-health support service, Shout. In 2021 the tracks Waving Through a Window and You Will Be Found were included in the top 50 of the BBC Radio 2 Greatest Songs from a Musical, voted for by the public.
The book is by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, the score is by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and direction by Michael Greif.
Photo: Johan Persson
THE DRIFTERS GIRL
Booking until 2 JULY 2022
Garrick Theatre, London WC2H 0HH
Facebook & Twitter: @thedriftersgirl / Instagram: @thedriftersgirlmusical
It’s the show that includes the hits: Stand By Me, Saturday Night at the Movies, Under The Boardwalk, Save The Last Dance For Me and Kissin in the Back Row of the Movies.
It also stars Beverley Knight as Faye Treadwell, legendary manager of The Drifters, and Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud as the iconic group. Knight plays Faye Treadwell, who, alongside her husband, fought for three decades to turn Atlantic Records’ hottest vocal group into a global phenomenon.
Photo: Matthew Murphy
Booking until 3 April 2022
Victoria Palace Theatre, London SW1E 5EA
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @HamiltonWestEnd
Giles Terera has recently returned to the West End production of Hamilton which ended on 30 January 2022. The performance he created in the original London cast as Aaron Burr won him the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
The opportunity arose when Simon-Anthony Rhoden, who is currently cast in the role sustained an injury, and a return date is still to be announced.
The Olivier, Tony and Grammy award-winning production opened at the newly re-built and restored Victoria Palace Theatre in Dec ’17 and continued to play there until the start of lockdown in March last year.
Photo: Pamela Raith
HEATHERS THE MUSICAL
Booking until 1 May 2022
The Other Palace, London SW1E 5JA
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: HeathersMusical
The show’s return to London has been extended by ten weeks.
The UK premiere enjoyed two record-breaking opening seasons, also launching at The Other Palace,and transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2018.
It won the WhatsOnStage award for Best New Musical 2019. It enjoyed a second season at Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2020, before embarking on a national tour until December 2021.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Booking until 10 July 2022
Prince Edward Theatre, London W1D 4HS
Facebook & Twitter: marypoppins / Instagram: marypoppinsmusical
Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the original Walt Disney film, the stage musical has been extended at the Prince Edward Theatre.
The cast comprises Zizi Strallen, Charlie Stemp, Charlie Anson, Amy Griffiths, Petula Clark, Liz Robertson, Claire Machin, Jack North and Paul F. Monaghan.
The multi-award-winning show has music and lyrics by the legendary Sherman brothers and its book by Downton Abbey writer, Julian Fellowes.
The original stage production opened in the West End in December 2004, running for over 1,250 performances.
Photo: Robin Sinha Photography
MIMMA – A NEW MUSICAL OF WAR & FRIENDSHIP
28 February 2022
Cadogan Hall, London SW1X 9DQ
Mimma the Musical
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: mimmathemusical
Sir David Suchet, Louise Dearman and Celinde Schoenmaker star in the charity production for The Prince’s Trust (expected to be £65,000). The new musical – with its ‘smoky jazz numbers’ – will also be featured as one of the main events in the forthcoming 2022 UK Australia Season program.
Photo: Helen Maybanks
PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL
Booking until 2 July 2022
Savoy Theatre, London, WC2R 0ET
Facebook & Twitter: @prettywomanUK / Instagram: prettywomanmusicalUK
Five new cast members, Patrick Barrett, Elly Jay, Annabelle Laing, Will Luckett and Cilla Silvia will be joining the production at the Savoy Theatre.
Featured in the musical is Roy Orbison and Bill Dee’s international smash hit song Oh, Pretty Woman which inspired one of the most beloved romantic comedy films of all time of the same name in 1990.
Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance have written the original score of the show that had its world premiere at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in March 2018 before transferring to Broadway where it
ran at the Nederlander Theatre. Aimie Atkinson and Danny Mac star in the roles made famous by Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in the musical with a list of producers as long as your arm.
Photo: Paul Coltas
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
Open between 5 February – 26 March 2022
Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT
Facebook & Instagram: bklproductions / Twitter: @BKL_Productions
Bill Kenwright’s production of Saturday Night Fever will have its West End Premiere for a strictly limited eight-week run at London’s Peacock Theatre.
Celebrated principal dancer of Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray, Edward Scissorhands, Play Without Words and Swan Lake, Richard Winsor, will once more lead the cast in John Travolta’s iconic role of Tony Manero.
The stage asaptation of the musical features the Bee Gees’ greatest hits including Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, Night Fever, Tragedy and More Than a Woman.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL
Open now and booking until 18 December 2022
Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DF
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: TinaTheMusical
This musical reveals a comeback story like no other, of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of racism, sexism and ageism to become the global Queen of Rock n’ Roll. This show is a celebration of resilience and an inspiration of triumph over adversity. Aisha Jawando and Chanel Haynes share the role of Tina while Jammy Kasongo plays Ike Turner.
The show’s 2018 world premiere in in London broke all box office records at the Aldwych Theatre.
Photo: Matt Crockett
Booking until 27 November 2022
Apollo Victoria Theatre, London SW1V 1LG
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: WickedUK
Lucie Jones, Ryan Reid, Sophie-Louise Dann and Gary Wilmot are to join Helen Woolf as ‘Glinda’ on the same day that this publication comes out on 1 February 2022.
Now seen by more than 10 million people in London alone (60 million worldwide), “the global sensation” (Independent) is the winner of over 100 major international awards, including three Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Grammy Award and ten theatregoer voted WhatsOnStage Awards (including ‘Best New Musical’ and three for ‘Best West End Show’).
The show is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Addams Family – A MUSICAL COMEDY
Touring now until 18 June 2022
Facebook, Instagram: theaddamsfamilyuk / Twitter: addamsfamilyuk
Strictly Come Dancing winner, Joanne Clifton, has replaced the previously announced Samantha Womack as Morticia Addams.
Photo: Matt Crockett
Touring from 7 February – 30 July 2022
Facebook: chicagothemusical / Twitter & Instagram: @chicagomusical
Soul sensation Sheila Ferguson (Three Degrees) will star as ‘Mama Morton’ in the acclaimed tour of Kander and Ebb’s international smash hit musical. Sheila joins Russell Watson as ‘Billy Flynn’, Faye Brookes as ‘Roxie Hart’, Djalenga Scott as ‘Velma Kelly’, Jamie Baughan as ‘Amos Hart’ and B.E. Wong as ‘Mary Sunshine’.
Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her lover after he threatens to walk out on her. To avoid conviction, she dupes the public, media and rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn.
Photo: Mark Senior
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage
Open from 2 Feb – 16 Apr 2022
Dominion Theatre, London W1T 7AQ
www.dirtydancingontour.com Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: ddonstage
This dazzlingly renewed version celebrates thirty-five years of 1987’s iconic hit film, which tells the classic story of two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives. Featuring the hit songs Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and the heart stopping (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, the production features the same much-loved characters and original dialogue from the iconic film, as well as exciting extra scenes.
Photo: Birgit + Ralf Brinklehoff
Touring now until 1 April 2023
UK & Ireland Tour
Facebook: JerseyBoysLondon / Twitter & Instagram: @JerseyBoysUK
Previous tour alumni Michael Pickering and Lewis Griffiths return as Frankie Valli and Nick Massi respectively, with Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio and Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito. Luke Suri plays Frankie Valli at certain performances.
The show is written by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.
It ran in the West End from 2008 to 2017 and, at the time, was the sixth longest musical running in the capital. In 2021, the show returned to the West End, opening the new Trafalgar Theatre on 10 Aug 2021.
THE OSMONDS: A New Musical
Touring from 3 February – 3 December 2022
THE OSMONDS: A New Musical
Facebook: theosmondsmusical / Twitter @OsmondsMusical
The story by Jay Osmond tells the true tale of the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade. From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969, to pop stars and ‘Osmondmania’ from 1971 to 1975, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, a popular variety TV show, from 1976 to 1979, The Osmonds lived a remarkable life recording chart-topping albums, selling out vast arena concerts and making record-breaking TV shows – until one bad decision cost them everything.
Photo: Darren Bell
ROCK OF AGES
Touring now until 9 July 2022
Facebook: rockofagesthemusical / Twitter: @rockofagesuk / Instagram: rockofagesmusicaluk
X Factor winner Matt Terry will take over as ‘Stacee Jaxx’ from Kevin Clifton on 25 January at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking until the end of the tour.
This is the hilarious musical comedy lavished with over twenty-five classic rock anthems, including, We Built This City, The Final Countdown, Wanted Dead or Alive, Here I Go Again, Can’t Fight This Feeling and I Want to Know What Love Is, played loud and proud by a live band. Leave it all behind and lose yourself in a city and a time where the dreams are as big as the hair, and yes, they can come true!
Now a global smash with hit seasons on Broadway, London’s West End and Las Vegas and a star-studded Hollywood movie version this show promises you the best party night out around.
Photo: Courtesy of Story House PR
Disney’s Beauty and The Beast
Now touring until 17 Sep 2022 (plus Dublin rescheduled)
Facebook: beautyandthebeastmusical / Twitter & Instagram: @beautymusical
Disney’s beloved Olivier Award-winning stage musical has been re-imagined and re-designed in a completely new production staged by members of the original award-winning creative team. Spectacular new designs and state- of-the-art technology fuse with the classic story, plus all the classic Disney songs are included (of course).
BONNIE AND CLYDE IN CONCERT
Previews from 9 April 2022
The Arts Theatre, London WC2H 7JB
Facebook: fwlive / Twitter & Instagram: @f_w_live
Following the phenomenal response to Bonnie and Clyde In Concert at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, having sold out in just six mins (see our previous issue), a brand-new production will be coming to the West End for the first time in the spring.
Ivan Menchell (book), Frank Wildhorn (music) and Don Black (lyrics) provide the show.
Open from 16 March – 9 April 2022
Wilton’s Music Hall, London E1 8JB
Facebook & Instagram: wiltonsmusichall / Twitter: @wiltonmusichall
West End Musical Love Songs
14 February 2022
Lyric Theatre, London W1D 7ES
Whether you’re celebrating Valentine, Galentine or you’re just in love with musical theatre, this concert is for you!
“The biggest stars from London’s West End will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with the greatest love songs of musical theatre for one night only.” The line-up includes Jon Robyns, Shan Ako, Emma Hatton, Nikki Bentley, Natalie Paris, Jodie Steele and Shanay Holmes. Songs from Wicked, Phantom, Little Shop of Horrors, Heathers, &Juliet and Moulin Rouge all promise to feature during the evening.
BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
Touring from 28 February – 15 October 2022
Facebook: CurveTheatreLeiceater / Twitter: @CurveLeicester / Instagram: curve_leicester
Talented actor-musicians will perform this tour which opens in Lecester at Curve for an initial two-week run.
Molly-Grace Cutler will play Carole King, while Tom
Milner plays Gerry Goffin. Seren Sandham-Davies and Jos Slovick play Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, in the story of Carole King’s remarkable rise from singer/songwriter to chart-topping music legend.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Touring from 2 July – 3 September 2022
Theatre Royal Bath, Birmingham Rep, Southampton Mayflower
Theatre Royal Bath Productions, Birmingham Rep and Kenny Wax will revive Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s universally acclaimed, sell-out production which will open at Theatre Royal Bath before touring to Birmingham and then Southampton.
Based on the hit 1976 movie by Alan Parker who’s long catalogue of films have won nineteen BAFTAs, ten Golden Globes and six Oscars. Packed with instantly recognisable songs from Paul Williams including My Name is Tallulah, You Give a Little Love and Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, the show is a masterclass of musical comedy with one of the most joyously uplifting finales in musical theatre.
Alan Parker’s world-famous 1976 movie launched the careers of Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. The cast is played entirely by young paople and this is the first-ever perofessional tours of the show. Play by Alan Parker. Words and Music by Paul Williams. Director: Sean Holmes. Choreography by Drew McOnie.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World
Touring from 25 Mar – 17 Jul 2022
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: FantasticallyGW
This girl-power musical returns in 2022 for an extensive UK tour. This stage adaptation of suffragette descendent Kate Pankhurst’s award-winning book is brought to life by Rosa Parks, Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Mary Seacole, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen and Pankhurst’s own relative Emmeline. They’re all there!
Photo: Courtesy of Bill Elms Associates
BUDDY HOLLY LIVES – THE MUSIC NEVER DIED
Touring from 16 February – 2 July 2022
A fascinating celebration of the musical genius is taking to the stage to entertain audiences on tour to venues across England next month, charting the seventy-year anniversary of the legendary music.
The shoe embarks on a mini tour from February and with further dates to be announced later in the year, visits Coventry, Liverpool, St Helens, Ulverston and Blackpool.
Written by and starring Asa Murphy, this show celebrates seventy years of legendary music from the genius boy from Lubbock Texas, featuring visual and audio moments in the short but historical career of one Mr Buddy Holly.
Still to come, News and Gossip
Emmy, Grammy and six-time Tony Award winning Broadway sensation AUDRA MCDONALD will be performing live at the London Palladium with the forty-piece London Musical Theatre Orchestra on Sunday, 25 September 2022.
In 2015 she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Carousel, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill plus many, many more.
Leicester’s Curve theatre and Birmingham Hippodrome have revealed plans to tour their critically acclaimed, award-winning co-production of THE COLOR PURPLE this Autumn. The two organisations’ co-production was originally staged in 2019 and received an incredible response from critics and audiences alike. In Spring 2021, Curve – in association with Birmingham Hippodrome – reunited the company to share a special digital production of the show which was streamed by over 20,000 people in the UK and Ireland.
A brand new music video which has been created for the West End production of COME FROM AWAY, by Alice Fearn. Me and the Sky is available right now to watch on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI10agRXlo4 .
Fearn has just finished playing Elphaba in Wicked at Apollo Victoria Theatre, London. Plus this follows on the back of roles in The Woman in White (Palace); Les Misérables (Sondheim); Awaking Beauty (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough); Annie Get Your Gun (Young Vic); Into the Woods (Regent’s Park); Shrek The Musical (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy); Oliver! (Watermill Theatre, Newbury).
The National Theatre’s musical adaptation of Sleeping Beauty – which stars the talents of Tamsin Carroll as Queenie, Rosalie Craig as Fairy, Michael Elcock as Bert and Kat Ronney as Rose – will be broadcast to cinemas as a National Theatre Live from 17 March in the UK and 5 May internationally.
The non-spoiler plot of HEX (recommended for ages over-eights) is: “Deep in the wood, a lonely fairy longs for someone to bless. When she is summoned to the palace to help the princess sleep, her dream turns into a nightmare and her blessing becomes a curse. Soon, she is plunged into a frantic, hundred-year quest to somehow make everything right.”
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, the “lavish stage adaptation” (The Guardian) of the classic DreamWorks Animation film, has this week been filmed live at London’s Dominion Theatre by Universal Pictures Content Group. Plans for its broadcast will be released at a later date. The live capture of Scott Schwartz’s production is directed by Brett Sullivan and produced by Dione Orrom.
“One of the biggest musicals ever staged” (Metro), the epic production played its final performance on 8 January 2022.
The Prince of Egypt tells an inspiring story of resilience, hope and belief. With a cast and orchestra of more than sixty incredible artists, this “truly phenomenal production” (BBC London) features Sean Cheesman’s “astonishing choreography” (The Guardian) and Stephen Schwartz’s “miraculous music” (Time Out) – including his Academy Award-winning song When You Believe which was of course a huge hit for both Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey in the same year as the film, 1998.
“Whatever the occasion, rise to it with programming that will connect with your audience”
by Tamara von Werthern
As this is my first column of 2022, I want to start by wishing you all a Happy New Year! Here’s hoping we all have a successful, smoother and more straightforward year than we’ve had recently, one filled with love, laughter and brilliant theatre.
Speaking of love: as a glance at any TV, email inbox or high street will probably tell you, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. We’re straight out of one festive period into another – Christmas is only just behind us, Valentine’s Day is coming up, Easter is in April… and so on, all the way through to Christmas again.
Whatever your personal feelings about Valentine’s Day, there’s no denying it can be big business for those who manage to woo couples, would-be-couples, or really anyone looking for a bit of romance. Film studios and distributors always get in on the act, choosing to release rom-coms and dramas in early February for exactly this reason (sure enough, look out for Marry Me starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in cinemas 11 February). And if cinemas think this way, why not theatres? Why not deliberately arrange your programme to coincide with these dates in the calendar, to provide another option of a night out for those who want one? For professional theatres with runs lasting several weeks or months, this is more complicated; it makes less sense to have your Valentine’s Day play opening in early January, or still going in late March. But as amateur productions tend to be on for a shorter period, this could be an opportunity for you to consider.
Luckily there are loads of brilliant, romantic plays to choose from – from classics like Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and The Importance of Being Earnest, to more contemporary stories such as the tender Beginning by David Eldridge, the hilarious How to Date a Feminist by Samantha Ellis, the delightful Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells or Nick Payne’s mind-bending Constellations, to name just a few. For relationship stories with a bit more edge, you could look at the Harold Pinter classic, Betrayal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, Mydidae by Jack Thorne, or The One by Vicky Jones (who was involved in creating Fleabag). You could perhaps get creative with ticketing incentives like discounted ‘couples’ tickets or packages that include a glass of fizz at the interval, to attract theatre-lovers who might be tempted by a ‘date night’ experience!
Or you could go the other way, and offer a bit of counterprogramming instead, to provide an escape from the romance for those who want to steer clear of mushiness. The ever-popular The Thrill of Love by Amanda Whittington might have the word ‘love’ in its title, but in fact it’s a gripping drama about Ruth Ellis – the last woman to be hanged in Britain – and how her doomed relationship ended in murder. What better antidote to Valentine’s overload?
There are plenty of other opportunities over the course of the year for this kind of clever, tie-in programming. Panto is obviously already an enormous fixture in the theatrical calendar, taking the opportunity to bring families together around Christmas – and there are lots of festive alternatives to the traditional panto, such as one of the many popular adaptations of A Christmas Carol that spring up in professional and amateur venues without fail every December. A few months ago in this column I wrote about the spooky potential of horror plays, which would be perfect for the Halloween season. Or maybe you could latch onto a specific day? A celebration of Scottish history such as Rona Munro’s epic The James Plays to mark St Andrew’s Day on 30 November; a climate-change play like Lungs by Duncan Macmillan on Earth Day on 22 April; a tribute to trailblazing women in history like poet Emilia Bassano, the subject of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Olivier Award-winning play Emilia, programmed for International Women’s Day on 8 March; Kevin Elyot’s hilarious, heartbreaking My Night with Reg to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December… there are so many possibilities. If you have a look online, there are very useful websites that list all these days and their dates, which could help you spot opportunities.
Landmark anniversaries of historical events could also be something to consider. The centenaries of the beginning and end of World War I, in 2014 and 2018 respectively, saw a swell of productions of plays set in that era, in the same way that we licensed many productions of David Haig’s tense World War II drama Pressure around the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019. Looking ahead, Summer 2022 will see Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, marking seventy years since she came to the throne. Why not join in with the national celebration and bring in audiences with plays featuring the Queen such as Handbagged by Moira Buffini or Peter Morgan’s The Audience?
I’m not suggesting that your seasons should be completely dominated by this kind of seasonal programming. After all, you’re making theatre, not a page-a-day calendar! But as I’ve hopefully shown here, there are so many fantastic plays that, with a bit of forethought and imaginative thinking, can be connected to what’ll currently be happening in the world in rich and resonant ways. Factoring specific dates into your planning decisions doesn’t need to mean compromising on the quality of what you want to put on. From a strictly commercial point of view, this approach could boost audience numbers (again, if cinemas do it, why shouldn’t theatres?) by giving potential ticket-buyers another option to celebrate a particular occasion.
But there’s also an artistic reason behind this kind of thinking. One of the incredible things about amateur theatre is how it’s an extension and reflection of the communities in which it’s based, a place where local people can gather to share an experience together. Tapping into things that people will be thinking about – the cultural zeitgeist at that specific time, what might be in the news or being discussed amongst friends and family – can make that connection with your current production even more powerful. Connection is what makes us human, and it’s also what theatre is all about. It’s a place for fictional stories and characters, but it’s made and watched by people living in the real world. Personally, I’m usually a bit cynical about Valentine’s Day. But this year I find myself thinking more about the importance of relationships, loyalty and kindness, particularly after everything we’ve all endured during the pandemic. I guess what I’m saying is that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – perhaps including on our stages, too. So pick out some days or occasions that mean something to you, your company, your audience or your community, and see if you can find shows that resonate.
From a rightsholder perspective, my practical advice is that if you’re looking to do this sort of tie-in programming with specific productions planned to coincide with specific dates or times of the year, get your applications in early to avoid any complications down the road. If you think a Valentine’s ‘date night’-type show might work for your amateur company next February, get your application in nice and early to lock the show in. As always, if you have any questions, need any advice or just want to bounce around some programming ideas, then please do get in touch.
Tamara von Werthern has been Performing Rights Manager at Nick Hern Books since 2005. She is also a playwright, screenwriter and theatre-maker. www.nickhernbooks.co.uk
Noises Off – German Style
Phil Lowe discovers that Nottingham’s Lace Market Theatre’s German theatre twin is producing Michael Frayn’s classic farce that lent it’s name to none other than this very magazine.
Sam Marlowe chats with Judy Craymer about how the smash hit ABBA musical Mamma Mia! first came to life and turned into the global sensation that it is today.
Brighton Christmas Festival
Chris Abbott talks with Jack Pallister and discover what it takes to put on the recent Brighton Christmas Festival – the biggest event of its kind in the south of England.
I’ll Be in My Trailer! – Mark Watson
Stand-up comedian, Mark Watson, speaks about all kinds of things including Brexit, the pandemic and his new upcoming tour in our regular series of 10-minute interviews.
Our section of classified style boxed adverts is growing. Just email email@example.com for more information. It’s the most cost-effective way of advertising in Sardines.
News stories relevant to amateur theatre-makers around the UK. Some amateur theatre, some professional, some youth/student theatre, some professional.
Michelle Collins, Call Me ‘Red’
Michelle Collins (or Cindy Beale to the older Albert Square fans) is about to tour the country as Miss Scarlett in the new touring stage adaptation of the classic whodunnit game, Cluedo.
It’s been years sonce the Mitchell sisters came to a watery end in EastEnders. Sam W. has since swapped Morticia Addams for the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the wardrobe.
Tamara von Werthern
The Performing Rights Manager at Nick Hern Books features her regular advice column and looks this week at getting our doors reopened with lots of play suggestions.
The Sardines Panto Special 2022
Our yearly dive into all-things pantomime is still not an easy one. As amateur theatre’s audiences creep back, we faithfully bring you our regular batch of panto advice, interviews, info and fun.
Where Were We?
Panto Repair Shop
Some of the Pro Pics
Ugly Sisters Behaving Bardly
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Stand-in
Your Panto Pics
Strike Up the Band!
Our attempt at bringing you up to date with what the professional musical theatre industry has in store for us. Indeed audiences of professional shows appear to be the most confident.
Plays, Books and Musicals
New and re-released titles, many of which are now available for amateur performance. From big companies to small, starting with Concord Theatricals, Nick Hern Books, MTI, TRW… etc.
Index of Advertisers
Shane Richie as Dick Whittington and Peter Piper as Captain Cockles at the launch of New Wimbledon Theatre’s 2021 pantomime, Dick Whittington. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Craig Sugden
Welcome to the 2022 Panto Special from Sardines!
Every year we bring you help, advice, information and a few laughs from both the amateur and professional panto sectors with one goal – to aid you in putting on the best pantomime ever.
The Coronavirus may be doing all it can to hold us back but for those who stand tall and defiant (and jabbed), we salute you, and dedicate this issue to each and every one of you out there.
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Image – Bonnie Langford, Lee Mead and Claudillea st the launch of Churchill Theatre Bromley’s 2021 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Kate Darkins
In our previous issue we published some relevant quotes, help and pantomime advice from some of the top performers in the country.
They didn’t hold back. In fact we received so much information that we’ve had to continue these interviews* in this issue.
So, without delay here is some vital information – to help you in your own performances – from the casts of Dick Whittington at New Wimbledon Theatre, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, Beauty and the Beast at Fairfield Halls Croydon and Sleeping Beauty at Churchill Theatre Bromley…
* All interviews were conducted prior to each respective opening night.
BONNIE LANGFORD (The Good Fairy) – Bromley:
As somebody who can turn their hand to any genre of performance, what are you looking forward to the most?
“Probably just being in a room – in a live environment. But not only with the magic of it all happening and being there with people, some of whom are there in the audience for the first time, families altogether, different generations and the audience being an extra character that often you don’t get in other shows. The audience will always show their appreciation, of course, with applause in any show, but with panto there are always the extra things where you really want them to participate. Also I think this year is going to feel like life might be a little bit more normal again as it should be, and having that escapism which is not the telly or a film. It really is the wonder of live theatre. It’s lovely being here today with Lee and Claudillea because it really does start to feel a little bit more real. Plus, they are good people who can do it; we’ve got a really good team. You can tell already that you’re working with people who know how to work an audience, and tell a story. And that is so important. We get to break the fourth wall as well.”
Will the theatre industry probably be judging this year’s panto return as a real signal that ‘theatre’ has properly returned?
“It is important because it’s when live theatre is a huge introduction. This year is being seen definitely is a bit of a test because even though event West End theatres open and close, open and close, this is the big budget, big-scale productions going on around the whole country.
“Also with local theatres, panto can be their make or break production. If they can make some surplus from the panto then they can afford to do other shows – that might otherwise have been seen as a bit more of a risk – during the year. Panto really can benefit the whole year when it comes to the life of a local theatre. It also brings great community spirit. It really does bring the whole community together, so fingers crossed.”
Long gone are the days of actors looking down on the genre then?
“Oh don’t worry, they still do. That’s because they don’t understand it and they can’t do it properly. It takes a lot to do it properly, but it can be done. Some people just think that everybody just goes out onstage just to have a laugh and almost make it up as you go along. You do want to achieve the spontaneity of it; I mean you often do a performance where exclusive bits of business take place. At the end someone will come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I was there the night such and such happened.’ And you say, ‘really?’ – in reality that probably happens every single night. But that’s the whole point; you always look how you can make it appear fresh. That’s our job.”
Lloyd Hollett and Lee Mead in the Churchill Theatre Bromley’s 2021 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes. Photo: Christy / Craig Sugden Photography
LEE MEAD (The Prince) – Bromley:
Will Bromley be different from the glamour of The Palladium?
“It will but you know what, I was in Clacton on Friday opening with my band on the first night of our mini-concert tour and to be honest whether it’s Bromley, Clacton or the London Palladium I’ve always felt the same amount of buzz and energy from any venue. I always want to make sure the audience is happy and so I do my very best to give them a good show. Performers can sometimes forget that and slip into that eight-times-a-week routine but I’m always very conscious before I go on of giving 100% in everything I do. In other words you’ve got to be completely present in the moment and not get distracted. So avoiding autopilot is very important.”
How different is panto to filming Holby & Casualty?
“Completely different. I’ve done Holby and Casualty for the last five years and I can tell you that you don’t get the applause for starters. They’re on such a tight schedule where they have to film a whole episode in 2½ weeks. Theatre is of course totally different; the curtain goes up and you become immersed in what you’re doing. It’s funny, you don’t do TV for the accolade or the applause, but it does reach more people. The other thing with TV is you really mustn’t overplay it because the camera picks up every single little twitch or flick you might do, which is why I guess you film each scene about seven or eight times. I’ll always remember my very first scene was with Derek Thompson who plays Charlie in Casualty, in fact I think he holds the record now has been the longest serving actor on a show. I was so nervous and I got a knock on the door from the runner to go on set and I think Derek sensed it becaue he made a fake trump sound as I walked on set, ha, ha!”
Lastly, I’ve got to ask… how many ‘Josephs…’ have you seen over the years?
“I was actually in Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Joseph… when I was nineteen. It’s another one that needs to be performed with the heart of the show exactly in the right place. I played the Pharaoh in that production. I think I was the youngest ever guy to take on that role, which was quite funny because the guy playing Joseph at the time was about forty-two. Ha, ha! Joseph… was also the first musical I ever saw in Southend as a kid.
Is it in your panto contract to sing that song?
“Ha, ha! I think so. Ha, ha! I worked out the other day that I think I’ve sung Any Dream Will Do over 2,000 times now.”
Bonnie Langford, Claudillea and ensemble in the Churchill Theatre Bromley’s 2021 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes. Photo: Craig Sugden
Claudillea (Sleeping Beauty) – Bromley:
Will panto fit a classical style or is this all part of a cunning plan to phase in some OF the genres that your singing talents encapsulate?
“Ha ha! Well it got me through The Voice. I coined the phrase ‘Op-Pop’ which is indeed a kind of fusion between the more classical style and modern pop music; a modern version of Opera. So I’ll pick an aria and I’ll flip it to make it more accessible for the Twenty-First Century. It’ll be interesting seeing which sides of my voice I get to use in Sleeping Beauty. I certainly haven’t been privy to any cunning plans concerning the style of singing they’re going to be looking for, Ha, ha! Perhaps seeing and hearing Sleeping Beauty crack out some soprano might inspire the audience to listen to a little bit more.”
Will you be the butt of a load of gags or is this a feisty Beauty who gives as good as she gets?
“I am ready but I’m also hoping I get the chance to fight back a little bit. I’m actually very excited to get into the rehearsal room with the funny people such as the dame and just have some banter back-and-forth but they’ll be trying to make me laugh on stage, I do realise that.”
Gok Wan as The Man in the Mirror in New Victoria Theatre, Woking’s 2021 pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Ian Olsson
GOK WAN (The Man in the Mirror) – Woking:
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PANTOMIME?
“I’ve dreamt of being on stage forever. I first began to think about panto some years back. I was fascinated. Then one evening, maybe 2012 or 2013, I was with Lionel Blair and the very naughty Louie Spence. They said I really should give it a try. I spoke with my agent and Channel Four also got involved. I first met Snow White then. There have been other pantos since then but it’s really great to be back with Snow White.”
What is the Man in the Mirror like to play?
“Man in the mirror? It sounds like a piece of furniture! I’m not… and it isn’t! The script is amazing. I finished re-reading it again this morning – the tradition has again been tweaked for the 2020s and I’m excited. The mirror has messages. The mirror motivates. The mirror is magic.”
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A GREAT PANTOMIME?
“There are three ‘secrets’: the first is definitely the audience; the second is likely to be the audience and the third, in my experience, is probably the audience. I like to open the show, to greet and welcome everyone and I can predict within twenty seconds just what sort of evening it will be. People have probably had tensions at work, frustrations with traffic, delays or hold-ups – it’s important to me that everyone feels wanted.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART ABOUT PANTOMIME?
“I’m still learning about pantomime but I knew from the start my favourite part is the audience. They are the headline act – no-one is bigger than tonight’s audience.”
Who’s youR favourite person to work with in PANTO?
“So far… Brian Conley – who’s also one of my best friends. We met in panto, we’ve got this incredible love affair and just adore each other. I’m really close with his wife, really close with his children – they’re all lovely – and he’s become a really close friend. He taught me how to do panto, without question, and one day we’ll be back together again.
Aaron James as Muddles in New Victoria Theatre, Woking’s 2021 pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Ian Olsson
AARON JAMES (Muddles) – Woking:
ARE YOU READY FOR ANYTHING?
“If things go wrong or if I get a random heckle then I’m prepared because I have a catalogue of gags in my brain so I can pull out just the right response for whatever is thrown at me.”
Rebekah Lowings as Snow White in New Victoria Theatre, Woking’s 2021 pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Ian Olsson
REBEKAH LOWINGS (Snow White) – Woking:
WHAT DOES PANTO MEAN TO YOU?
“I don’t think it matters where you are in your career, pantomime is so poignant; it’s incredible to do and be a part of. The people you meet and get to perform with, the areas you perform in. It’s just such a joyous occasion for both audience and performers. And that goes for whether or not you’re a seasoned pro, an amateur or a fresh graduate.
“They’re going to try and make me laugh, I know they are. I’m a very giggly person and I love surrounding myself with funny people with big personalities. But the main reason why I love panto so much is because not only do I get to listen to all the jokes and gags, I also get to drive the story for the open-mouthed children who have come out to see us. For them to be looking up to me, just as I was at that age, constantly makes me realise what an important role it is for me to play, for young people to be inspired by.”
Shane Richie as Dick Whittington in New Wimbledon Theatre’s 2021 pantomime,
Dick Whittington. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Craig Sugden
SHANE RICHIE (Dick Whittington) – Wimbledon:
How many pantomimes have you been in now?
“Loads! I think every single panto I’ve done over the last two decades has been with Peter [Piper]. We have a shorthand on stage, he’s like the Kat to my Alfie. And the audience get it.
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO PANTO?
“The hard part is making it look easy. When you make it look easy everyone thinks they can do it. We work with all sorts; people from reality shows, some soap actors… They come and see us and say, ‘oh yeah, that’s easy we can do that.’ But then they try and it and screw it up! You’ve got to know where the audience is and where the beats are, and drive it along. It’s an art form in itself.
“Panto enables you to put on Chekhov or Shakespeare at other times of the year. It enables original work to be seen, smaller productions to be seen… and it’s all subsidised by the success of the pantomime run.”
Your cheeky-chappie persona suggests you’re a natural choice when it comes to panto
“Yes. Here I am playing a young kid there’s me in my mid-50s. So especially in panto you do need to suspend your imagination sometimes when you come and see me. But then again in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie I’m playing a drag queen.”
Which panto star DO you remember working with the most?
“My very first panto was with Terry Scott… Back in 1980 something. I remember standing in the wings and watching him thinking, ‘Oh, wow!’ There’s no taking away from the fact that he really was a master of his craft – it was Jack and the Beanstalk. I remember watching him and how he worked the audience; you learn a lot from watching these people, the trouble is you don’t realise that at the time and it’s only now, in my mid-fifties, that I understand it.”
Shane Richie as Dick Whittington in New Wimbledon Theatre’s 2021 pantomime,
Dick Whittington. Produced by Crossroads Pantomimes.
Photo: Craig Sugden
HIBA ELCHIKHE (Alice) – Wimbledon:
Are you prepared to be the butt of lots of jokes & gags?
“I’m ready for it… I’ve got to keep it together. And I definitely know they are going to try and make me laugh. They’ll probably be keeping a tally backstage.”
PETER PIPER (Capt. Cockles) – Wimbbledon
How many pantoS is this now?
“I’ve lost count! It’s funny, we never thought we were going to be old pros. Was it Lloyd George who said. ‘I stand tall by standing on the shoulders of giants.’”
Have you worked with any of the cast before?
“It’s because we are pals [Shane Richie] offstage that the chemistry is there on stage. We’ve been told countless times after we’ve gone offstage, ‘Is that absolutely necessary?’ Because everything is timed, and when we should have come off after about one minute, thirty and we eventually get off after six or seven minutes… Because if he throws something down and goes off on one, I’m gonna pick it up, I’m not gonna leave it. So when the stage manager says to us, ‘what are you doing?’ I’ll point to him [Richie] and say, ‘don’t blame me, he took the lead, I’m not going to bottle out.”
IAIN STUART ROBERTSON (Sarah the Cook – Dame) – Wimbledon:
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
“If you’re honest with the children in the audience you’ll be ok, but they’re the first people to know if you start lying. If you’re honest they’ll follow you anywhere. I remember talking to one of the young girls who was playing Princess for the first time, and she said to me, ‘No one’s looking at me!’ And I said to her, ‘don’t you worry, every one of those kids is following you with their eyes around the stage, where ever you go – and it’s because you’re the Princess.”
DICK & DOM (Dick & Dom) – Croydon:
Is your schoolboy humour one big image?
“Were all big kids at heart. We just like to perform that out for everybody to know that you are allowed to do that … But we’re not really like that in real life. In real life we do what everyone else our age does, which is wonder around being a parent, getting tired, you know… grumbling, moaning.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
“The first panto I was ever in was an am-dram production; it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I was one of the dwarfs – for some reason. It was a very good production, there’s nothing wrong with am-dram. I used to belong to a lot of am-dram societies; I did lots of different musicals and stuff. So keep working at that, gain experience and one day you could be playing in the West End like we were, in Spamalot.”
Derek Griffiths (Professor Pottage the father of Belle) – Croydon:
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘THEATRE’ & PANTO?
“What’s lovely about pantomime is that if a kid shouts something out I can go back and talk to him, whereas how many times I’ve been in theatre when someone’s phone has gone off and I always want to say, ‘is it the wife?’ Of course you can’t do that, but you can in pantomime. And that’s like a birthday present.”
Do you enjoy theatre more than filming then?
“Yes, because you’re in control. In a television studio you’re not in control; you’ve got a an editor, a director, a vision mixer who can punch between different angles, so you’re not quite sure, all the time exactly where it’s going. Whereas on stage you’re fully in control. It’s your bag. You’ve got your postage stamp in which to work. Everybody, in a team, works together.”
How did you make the leap into the profession?
“I went from school productions into amateur theatre and really I was invited into different companies. I worked a lot at the Tower Theatre in Canonbury which is in Islington, and the transition happened really by invitation. It wasn’t me going knocking on doors. Somebody said to me, ‘would you like to come and join this group?’ That’s how it just happened; it was literally by invitation.”
Did you bypass drama school altogether?
“I did two years at the Greenwich Theatre in Rep it was four-weekly Rep. That was my training ground, on top of what I’d learned before. All the old black-and-white films that I love to this day, like on Talking Pictures TV which I avidly watch – all those actors were Rep boys, and they learnt their craft. Michael Caine was no thank you write this get this finished never get finished, he how at Rep, all the stars were. A few went to drama school. Alec Guinness was told he wasn’t up to the mark for drama school. So that just shows you it’s a rocky sort of area; get your education where you can.”
Since conducting these interviews we were invited to review a number of other panto productions – one of which takes top spot out of all the professional shows we’ve been to this season. It was the Marlowe Theatre’s Jack and the Beanstalk starring Duncan James from Blue and Strictly winner, Joanne Clifton (although the real stars may have been elsewhere). You can see some of the pics from The Marlowe on pages 56-57 together with various other pantos which we didn’t have room for here.
Read all our reviews at: www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk
The Marlowe Theatre panto in Canterbury was produced by Evolution Productions and was written and directed by Paul Hendy himself.
By Cheryl Barrett
“It is with deepest regret…”
“We are very sorry to advise that…”
“We have made the difficult decision…”
“Every effort has been made to continue the show…”
“Sadly, a couple of key cast members have succumbed to Covid…” …
Not words that theatre producers want to tell their audiences. The past eighteen months have represented a period of extraordinary challenges for theatres across the country. With audiences starved of the live interaction and magic of pantomime for over a year, they were looking forward to the magic and sparkle of pantomime to lift their spirits. Yet, in these Covid times and with the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, so many cast members were testing positive. Theatres duly followed Government protocol as cast members were told to isolate. One can imagine the eleventh-hour meetings and behind-the-scenes discussions as creative teams worked out what to do for the best.
Professional and Amateur pantomime productions faced an uphill struggle to ensure the show went on. Alas, despite every effort to continue, not all made it to the end of their run. Over the Christmas period my Twitter feed was filled with notifications of pantomime cancellations and change of key cast members for those that did manage to struggle on. In most cases, thanks to the resilience of the cast, performers and backstage creatives stepping up, the show was saved.
I know first-hand the exhilaration of being asked to step up from the chorus into a principal role, however, when it comes at the expense of a fellow performer’s illness or misfortune, it is bittersweet. My first production with Cheshunt Dramatic Society many years ago was a pantomime. If someone missed a rehearsal, I’d read in. I threw myself into each role, learning their moves as well as my own. That stood me in good stead. When the comic lead had to step down due to a slipped disc, one of the comedy duo was moved into the comic lead role. I was then asked to play the sillier one of the comedy duo. I played many lead roles after that. But I digress…
For both professional and amateur theatre, these are challenging times. Overcoming difficulties and still putting on a show as normal, has proved a huge undertaking this year. I’ve heard of dancers, directors, musical directors take the part of principal characters. Actors have finished one panto run only to be asked to step straight into another show at only a few hours rehearsal. Hats off to them for what must have been quite a hectic schedule. At the Royal & Derngate Theatre, writer Paul Hendy, complete with script in hand stepped up to take the role of Dame Dolly.
TAKING UP THE SLACK
On Tuesday, 29 December performer, Matt Slack, was another who tested positive for Covid. He was obviously unable to continue in his role in Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Birmingham Hippodrome until completing a period of isolation. The part of Ringo the Ringmaster was played by comedian and actor, Johnny Mac. After only just finishing a critically acclaimed pantomime season at the King’s Head Theatre in Glasgow, and with only twenty-four hours’ notice to learn a new part, the show went on.
On 30 December a photo of Bobby Crush in stage make-up accompanied his @thebobbycrush tweet; “Well, I did everything I possibly could. 2 jabs plus the booster and the flu jab. I masked up, social distanced and yet, somehow, I tested positive earlier today and have had to depart from my panto Aladdin. Sad Widow Twankey has left the building.” His dejected expression at not being able to finish the panto run at the New Theatre, Peterborough, said it all. I felt for him. Audiences that did manage to see Bobby as Widow Twankey had a real treat – I saw him in panto a few years ago, he was brilliant.
“We have some amazing understudies stepping in…”
“Congratulations on a fine performance to the understudy who went on as…”
“We want to give a shout out to our amazing understudies who have had to step in…”
SINGING THE PRAISES
Call them what you will – understudies, covers, stand-ins… They have rallied and enabled shows to go ahead. Theatre companies have taken to social media to show their appreciation.
Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northants, thanked the whole company for their extraordinary efforts during rehearsals for ensuring that the opening weekend of Evolution’s Dick Whittington could go ahead.
Harlow Playhouse thanked the amazing understudies for stepping in for ‘an intense rehearsal schedule’, so that its production of Robin Hood, The Greatest Panto Adventure, could go on as planned.
This from The Marlowe Theatre on 28 December: ‘We just want to give a huge shout out to all our amazing understudies and covers who had to step in over the last few days of our shows and have helped keep bringing the magic at the Marlowe.”
AB Productions Ltd. thanked their ‘unsung heroes’, Stacey Coleman, Ben Sherlock, Lottie Henshall and Tom Shaw, for stepping in and understudying to make sure all Oldham Theatre shows could go ahead. Tom Shaw stepped in at just one-hour’s notice.
The stage manager stepped up to tread the boards at the Regal Theatre in Tenbury Wells. At one point, four out of eight of the cast had last-minute stand-ins.
At Polka Dot pantomimes production of Cinderella at Grays Theatre, Essex, Dylan Snowden covered the role of Dandini, which wasn’t even one of his understudy roles. Dancer Elisha Eden Smith also stepped up to cover a principal role. Maddie Smith got her wings to play Fairy Flustered in Cinderella – or should I say, Fairy Unflustered.
For many groups the frustration of having to cancel performances, or the entire panto run, must be so frustrating. However, I’ve no doubt that audiences will maintain that enthusiasm until the next panto season.
IT WAS CURTAINS FOR SOME
At the Theatre Royal, Margate, the decision was taken to bring the curtain down early on their Robin Hood panto. As with many productions, a number of cast members had tested positive for Covid.
In some cases, despite every effort to continue the show using understudies, it was no longer sustainable. Core Theatre and Little Wolf Entertainment took the decision to cancel their remaining shows. With so many of their cast and crew getting positive Covid test results, the decision was taken to halt the spread of infection completely to all those involved with the production.
Amateur pantomime productions have been affected even more, with many taking the sad decision to postpone or reschedule the panto to a later date. One group, The Wight Strollers, determined their show will go on, have got ‘provisional’ understudies for each of the characters. The 400-seater Medina Theatre on the Isle of Wight, plays host to the Wight Strollers. The large stage is ideal for the thirty-plus society that stages an annual panto to packed houses every year. Profits from the pantomimes are ploughed back into the island’s local charities and good causes. However, Covid restrictions put a stop to that last year. Members are keen to get back on stage and are currently in rehearsal for their February pantomime, Dick Whittington. Wight Strollers performer, Emily Scotcher, who co-wrote the show, commented: “Fingers crossed all goes to plan. With every week that passes that we can still be rehearsing we feel a little more optimistic it will all go ahead.” All ensemble and dancers are learning all routines, even if they aren’t in them. “It’s a lot more work than usual,” Emily added, “but we’re determined the show will go on if it possibly can.”
STAND UP AND TAKE A BOW
This year’s panto season must be seen as the year of the stand-in. It has certainly showcased up-and-coming talent of the future.
Producers can breathe a sigh of relief that after sleepless nights, endless cups of coffee, frantic phone calls and intense rehearsal schedules they were able to open the doors, invite the audiences in and raise the curtain. With much laughter, hissing and booing, thigh slapping, wand waving and last-minute changes of cast, pantomime came back and delighted audiences once more. OH, YES IT DID!
“Congratulations on a fine performance to the understudy that went on as Rapunzel…”
“A triumph through so much adversity…”
“Congratulations to all…”