For theatre... online, non-professional, amateur


Heathers The Musical
Open now until 11 Sep 2021
Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT
and touring from 5 Aug – 11 Dec 2021
F: heathersthemusical / T & I: @HeathersMusical
Our latest coverstar, Jodie Steele, steals the show, deserving of its 5-star review (we attended on the third time of asking due to restrictions). The tour is produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills (also in this issue) and will be running while the West End production is still playing. The show is a cult hit and, true to form, has fans dressing up as the dastardly Heathers at each performance.

Jersey Boys
Open now until 2 Jan 2022
Trafalgar Theatre, London SW1A 2DY
F: JerseyBoysLondon / T & I: @JerseyBoysUK
The famous Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning smash hit musical is led by Ben Joyce as Frankie Valli, Adam Bailey as Bob Gaudio, Benjamin Yates as Tommy De Vito and Karl James Wilson as Nick Massi, at the new multi-million pound reinstated Trafalgar Theatre. There are way too many hit numbers to list here!

The Phantom of the Opera
Open now, booking until 13 February 2022
Her Majesty’s Theatre, London SW1Y 4QL
F: ThePhantomOfTheOpera / T & I: @PhantomOpera
If the rumours are to be believed, the Phantom orchestra size has been cut in half during its mysterious closure. During the pandemic, Cameron Mackintosh appeared to announce the show was definitely closing permanently. Then, after a huge public backlash Andrew Lloyd Webber seemed to backtrack saying it would be back.
The new Christine, Lucy St Louis, is the first black woman to play the phantom’s love interest. Killian Donelly returns as the phantom himself while Rhys Whitfield takes on Raoul.


Open now, booking until 12 Dec 2021
Savoy Theatre, London WC2R 0ET
F & T: @PrettyWomanUK / I: prettywomanmusicaluk
Aimie Atkinson plays ‘Vivian Ward’ and Danny Mac as ‘Edward Lewis’ – two roles that Julia Roberts and Richard Gere made famous.
The songs famously come from Grammy winners Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance while choreography comes from the egendary Jerry Mitchell.

Open now, booking until 26 June 2022
Aldwych Theatre, London WC2B 4DF
F, T & I: @TinaTheMusical
Another show that is back to 100% capacity and the stars are loving it just much as the audiences.
Aisha Jawando and Jammy Kasongo play Tina and Ike Turner respectively – the couple destined to part company. / This year the real Tina Turner was inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Previously in 1991 she was only inducted as part of a duo alongside Ike Turner. All the hits are in the show and it’s one you really don’t want to miss.


Open now until 5 Sep 2021
Charing Cross Theatre WC2N 6NL
F: Pippin-On-Stage / T: @OnPippin / I: pippinonstage
Grammy winner, three-time Oscar winner and musical theatre giant, Stephen Schwartz’s smash-hit musical has extended its ‘immersive’ stay at the Charing Cross Theatre until 5 September.
Set in the ‘Summer of Love’ of 1967, we follow Pippin, a young prince with extraordinary dreams and aspirations on his quest to find passion, fulfilment and meaning.

‘John & Jen’
Open now until 21 August 2022
Southwark Playhouse, London SE1 6BD
F: SouthwarkPlayhouse / T: @swkplay / I: @swkplayawood
This production is the world premiere of a brand-new, updated version of the show by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a musical that explores the dynamics of family relationships. 1985. John & Jen, brother and sister, born seven years apart, grow up together, totally inseparable. 2005. Jen, alone in Canada with her baby boy whom she has named John, a living memorial to the brother she failed to protect.

Open now until 4 September 2021
The Watermill Theatre, Newbury RG20 8AE
F: thewatermilltheatre / T: @WatermillTh / I: thewatermilltheatre

Garden Theatre Summer Festival
1 – 14 Aug 2021
St Gabriel’s Halls, London SW1V 3AA
A festival of exciting and eclectic work in a new pop-up theatre at St. Gabriel’s Halls in Pimlico. Headlining the season is a sexy all-male modern ballet based on Delibes’ classic Coppelia


& Juliet
Reopening on 24 Sep 2021 – Booking until 12 February 2022
Shaftesbury Theatre, London WC2H 8DP
F, T & I: @JulietMusical
Miriam-Teak Lee – who was awarded the Olivier Award for Best Actress in 2020 for her performance as Juliet – leads a cast including Cassidy Janson, who also won an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Anne Hathaway, Oliver Tompsett as William Shakespeare, David Bedella, who also won an Olivier Award for his performance in the show as Lance, Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo, Melanie La Barrie as Nurse, and Tim Mahendran as Francois. Alex Thomas-Smith will be joining the principal cast in the role of May.
The show is packed with pop anthems including: …Baby One More Time, Since U Been Gone, Roar, It’s My Life, I Want It That Way, and Can’t Stop the Feeling!


Touring now until 27 November 2021
F, T & I: @greaseuktour
Directed by Nikolai Foster and choreographed by Arlene Phillips the world’s best-known (and arguably best-loved if you’re of a certain age) musical is back. Starring Peter Andre at certain venues as Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine, the show that is a lot more ‘adult’ than you think promises to rock your socks off. Featuring a whole host of hits including Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin’, Sandy, Hopelessly Devoted to You , You’re The One That I Want and, of course, the title number, you’d be hard-pressed not to come out humming something from the show.


Opening on 15 November 2021 –
booking until 5 March 2022
Kit Kat Club, Playhouse Theatre, London WC2N 5DE
F, T & I: @kitkatclubLDN
Shrouded in mystery upon its launch, Cabaret, starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley, is going to be playing at a transformed Playhouse Theatre. The blurb says “In a time when the world is changing forever, there is one place where everyone can be free… welcome to the Kit Kat Club. This is Berlin. Relax. Loosen up. Be yourself.” Interesting…


Opening on 25 August 2021 –
booking until 13 February 2022
Gillian Lynne Theatre, London WC2B 5PW
F, T & I: @alwcinderella
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous rant was probably justified when, only days from its opening night, the entire cast and crew had to self-isolate because of a single postive Covid test result.
Anyway, it’s not easy to fight the government and the show has a new opening date – slbeit over four weeks later than planned. But they do say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and this show has had a lot of publicity… not to mention some lovely photos, such as this one of Carrie Hope Fletcher.


Opening on 25 August 2021 –
booking until 2 April 2022
Novello Theatre, London WC2B 4LD
F, T & I: @mammamiamusical
Now in its 23rd year in London, producer Judy Craymer is “delighted to be welcoming people back to once again dance, jive and have the time of their lives!” Returning to the cast will be Mazz Murray as Donna, Richard Trinder as Sam, Neil Moors as Harry, Stephen Beckett as Bill and Sophie Matthew as Lisa. Since premiering in London in 1999, the show has now been seen live on stage by 65 million people across the world and been turned into two record-breaking movies.


Opening on 19 August 2021 –
booking until 2 April 2022
Victoria Palace Theatre, London SW1E 5EA / F, T & I: @HamiltonWestEnd
Arguably still the hottest ticket in town, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and featuring a brand-new cast – although Karl Queensborough is returning to play the title role of Alexander Hamilton.

9 – 23 October 2021
Newcastle Theatre Royal then… opening 4 Nov 2021 (Booking until 26 March 2022)
Garrick Theatre, London WC2H 0HH
F & T: @thedriftersgirl / I: @thedriftersgirlmusical
Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud will play The Drifters in a brand new musical also starring Beverley Knight, which tells the remarkable story of one of the world’s greatest vocal groups and the woman who made them.


Opening 7 Aug 2021
Booking until 13 Feb 2022
Prince Edward Theatre, London W1D 4HS
F & T: @marypoppins / I: marypoppinsmusical
Cameron Mackintosh and Disney are relaunching their Olivier award-winning production. Zizi Strallen remains as Mary Poppins and Charlie Stemp as Bert. Petula The magical story of the world’s favourite Nanny arriving on Cherry Tree Lane has been brought alive with “dazzling choreography, incredible effects and unforgettable songs.” The stage version, adapted from the stories by PL Travers and the Disney film, continues to be a hit since its opening 17 years ago.

Opening 1 Oct 2021 / Booking until 3 Apr 2022
Lyric Theatre, London W1D 7ES / F, T & I: @GetUpStandUpLDN
Arinzé Kene will play Bob Marley with a book by award-winning Lee Hall. All of the back catalogue is there to take you to a reggae paradise.

17 Sep – 17 Oct 2021
Garrick Theatre, London WC2H 0HH
F, T & I: @L5YearsUK
Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk Award-winning musical is directed by Jonathan O’Boyle. Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson will reprise their roles as Cathy and Jamie, following a critically acclaimed run at Southwark Playhouse last year.

22 Oct – 27 Nov 2021 / Southwark Playhouse, London SE1 6BD
F & I: indecentproposalmusical / T: @indecentmusical
After two postponements, the company will be thrilled to get back to creating this ambitious and modern musical inspired by the Jack Engelhard novel (on which the iconic 1993 film was also based).

Opening 16 Sep 2021
Booking until 13 Feb 2022
Cambridge Theatre, London WC2H 9HU
T: @matildamusical / F & I: matildathemusical
Celebrating ten years since the multi award-winning show opened in London, this iconic British musical has won 99 international awards including 24 for Best Musical and has been seen by more than 10 million people across more than 90 cities worldwide.
The RSC show is written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and developed and directed by Matthew Warchus. Roald Dahl’s story is about an extraordinary little girl with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind.

Until 29 Aug 2021
Lyric Theatre, London W1D 7ES then…opening 29 Sep ’21
Booking until 1 May 2022
Vaudeville Theatre, London WC2R 0NH
F, T & I: @sixthemusical
The electrifying musical phenomenon by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss will move to it’s ‘forever home’ in the West End when it transfers to the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand

10 Dec 2021 – 8 Jan 2022
Southwark Playhouse, London SE1 6BD
T: @TheRhythmics_
This new show explores the crisis of masculinity via a collection of oddballs belting their way through a thrillingly catchy guitar-led score.
Hapless single-dad Grey is in a rut. Teenage daughter Silva packs him off to revive his rockstar dreams, successfully auditioning for ‘Nick & the Rhythmics’ only to realise… he’s actually signed up for an All-male Rhythmic Gymnastics troupe. Against the odds these burly blokes make it as far as the World Championships.

Touring from 24 August 2021
T: @9to5musicaluk / F & I: 9to5themusicaluk
Louise Redknapp will reprise her role as ‘Violet Newstead’ in the forthcoming UK tour of Dolly Parton’s musical hit.
The show tells the story of Doralee, Violet and Judy – three workmates pushed to boiling point by their sexist and egotistical boss. Concocting a plan to kidnap and turn the tables on their despicable supervisor, will the girls manage to reform their office – or will events unravel when the CEO pays an unexpected visit? Inspired by the cult film this hilarious new West End production is about teaming up, standing up and taking care of business!


Touring 11 Sep 2021 – 5 Nov 2022 / F, T & I: @BatTheMusical
Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf’s greatest hits (and the highest selling album of all time in Australia!). Songs include: ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’, ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ and ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’.

Touring 11 Sep 2021 – 30 Jul 2022
F: chicagothemusical / T & I: @ChicigoMusical
Darren Day will play ‘Billy Flynn’ in the forthcoming UK and Ireland tour of the international musical sensation. He joins the previously announced Faye Brookes as ‘Roxie Hart’, Sinitta as ‘Mama Morton’, Divina De Campo as ‘Mary Sunshine’, Djalenga Scott as ‘Velma Kelly’ and Joel Montague as ‘Amos Hart’.
Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, Chicago’s sexy, sassy score includes the show-stopping songs “Razzle Dazzle”, “Cell Block Tango”, and “All That Jazz”. Winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy, it is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history.


Touring 19 Aug 2021 – 18 Jun 2022
F: rockofagesthemusical
T: @rockofagesuk / I: rockofsgesmusicaluk
Kevin Clifton is best known known for being a professional dancer on BBC1’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. In seven years on the show he has reached the final a record five times, winning four glitter balls including the main Glitterball trophy in 2018 with Stacey Dooley before leaving in 2019. Since then, Kevin has gone on to appear in many other theatre productions including, ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.
He returns to the role of Stacee Jaxx at selected performances of this new tour. Luke Walsh, Rhiannon Chesterman, Joe Gash, Ross Dawes, Gabriella Williams and Jenny Fitzpatrick also star.


Touring from 26 Nov 2021 – 30 Jul 2022
including Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX
from 8 Dec 2021 – 22 Jan 2022
F, T & I: @bringitonuktour
Producers Selladoor Worldwide is delighted to cheer on Amber Davies as ‘Campbell’ and four-time Olympic medallist Louis Smith as ‘Cameron’.
Inspired by the 2000 film of the same name, the show features an original score by the multi-award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda and Pulitzer Prize winning Tom Kitt. The book is written by the Tony Award winning writer of ‘Avenue Q’, Jeff Whitty, and the lyrics are by both Lin-Manuel Miranda and writer of the stage adaptation of ‘High Fidelity’, Amanda Green.

Touring 19 Aug 2021 – 19 Mar 2022
F & I: TheAddamsFamilyUK / T: @AddamsFamilyUK

Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Touring 14 Aug 2021 – 1 May 2022 / F, T & I: @bedknobsonstage
Dianne Pilkington will star as Miss Eglantine Price, the mysterious lady that the three orphaned Rawlins children are evacuated from wartime London to live with. A Disney classic

6 Aug – 19 Sep 2021
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester M4 7JA
F & I: HopeMillTheatre / T: @hopemilltheatr1
Hope Mill Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of the classic rock musical RENT is to return with live performances at the Manchester venue.
Jonathan Larson’s book, written in 1996, is loosely based on Puccini’s opera ‘La Bohème’.


Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Filmed in June for streaming later in the year
Shaftesbury Theatre, London WC2H 8DP
Composer: John Robinson, book: Phil Willmott, direction: Sasha Regan, production design: Andrew Exeter, costume design: Jasmine Swan.

tick, tick…BOOM!
Globally launches on Netflix and in select cinemas this Autumn
Lin-Manuel Miranda directs and Andrew Garfield stars in TICK, TICK… BOOM!, a new film based on RENT creator Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical about one man’s race against time to create something extraordinary.

INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage
Royal & Derngate Theatres and Atlantic Screen Music have announced the release of a contemporary classical and electronic music album INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage featuring original compositions for theatre inspired by some of the most famous plays and novels in the English Language. The charity compilation album will contain original music from stage productions by composers such as White Lies, Anne Dudley, These New Puritans, Rachel Portman, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Renell Shaw alongside spoken performances from actors including Judi Dench, Amanda Seyfried, David Harewood, Felicity Jones, Giles Terera, Patricia Routledge, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Iain Glen, Lesley Sharp, Stephen Fry, Indira Varma, Maxine Peake, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser and Simon Russell Beale.


Andrew Lloyd Webber has brought
together an 81-piece orchestra to record
new symphonic suites from three of his
best-loved musicals.


The Theatre Channel
Episode 7: Rodgers & Hammerstein
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London NW1 4NU
The Theatre Channel collaborates with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for Episode 7. The episode is brought to life by two-time Olivier Award-nominee Michael Xavier, Josefina Gabrielle and Caroline Sheen. Further casting includes Daniel Koek, Amara Okereke, Ethlinn Rose and Tavio Wright as well as The New Café Five.





Kay Mellor’s smash hit FAT FRIENDS THE MUSICAL will return to tour the UK and Ireland opening at Dartford Orchard Theatre on 14 January 2022. With original music by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, the show will star Lee Mead as ‘Paul’ with further casting to be announced soon. The tour will visit venues including Cardiff New, Leeds Grand, Edinburgh Festival, Dublin Bord Gais Energy Theatre, The Lowry, Salford, Southampton Mayflower, Wolverhampton Grand, Canterbury Marlowe and Newcastle, Norwich and Plymouth Theatre Royals.


Selladoor Productions confirm that the previously announced Darren Day will remain in the role of Reverend Moore in Footloose The Musical and will be joined on stage by newly cast Dancing on Ice Winner and Theatre star Jake Quickenden. Having been previously cast in the 2020 tour which was postponed due to Covid 19 Darren tells us: “I am so delighted to be able to stay with the tour of Footloose for the 2022 tour. I was a teenager in the 80s, which is such an impressionable age for movies and music. This is one of the most iconic films and soundtracks from my teenage years. I can remember hearing Footloose on the radio for the first time and thinking… what a tune! I’m really looking forward to seeing you there”



THE OSMONDS: A New Musical will receive its world premiere at Leicester’s Curve on 3 February 2022, as part of a UK & Ireland Tour, which will run through to 3 December 2022. The with story is by Jay Osmond who tells the true story of the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade.


There is going to be a brand-new UK tour of Jim Cartwright’s The Rise And Fall of Little Voice directed by Bronagh Lagan (Cruise, West End). Two-time Drama Desk nominee Christina Bianco, whose extraordinary diva videos have been viewed over 25million times on YouTube to great international acclaim, will play LV.
Shobna Gulati, whose work includes Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (West End/film), Cinderella (Lyric Hammersmith), Coronation Street and Dinner Ladies will play Mari Hoff.
While Ian Kelsey, much loved for his many leading roles in the West End and on TV including Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Doctors and Casualty will play Ray Say.

YOUR NEWS – Who? What? Where? The Ultimate Whodunnit… CLUEDO

YOUR NEWS – Who? What? Where? The Ultimate Whodunnit… CLUEDO

By Paul Johnson

In our previous edition we announced the new life-sized and interactive attraction Monopoly coming to London.
Hot on its heels is a new stage play based on the classic whodunnit board game preparing to tour the UK in 2022.
Was it Miss Scarlet, with the revolver in the dining room, or was it Professor Plum, with the lead pipe in the library…?
Producers Joshua Andrews and Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Theatricals, in collaboration with their US producing partners Work Light Productions, Lively McCabe Entertainment & The Araca Group, have announced that Cluedo, a new stage play based on the classic Hasbro detective board game loved by generations, is to tour the UK between January and July next year.
Based on Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 screenplay of the Paramount film Clue, the stage play is written by Sandy Rustin with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price and, for the UK production, Mark Bell, director of The Play That Goes Wrong and A Comedy About A Bank Robbery.
He will direct the UK premiere production and just like the game, it promises audiences of all ages a nostalgic, fun and thrilling evening of entertainment.
When Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs Peacock, Revered Green, Mrs. White and Colonel Mustard all arrive at a country house one dark and stormy evening, they find out that they have all received the same mysterious invitation from Lord Boddy.
What’s clear is that they all have something to hide and the mystery and hysteria grows, as the inhabitants and guests of Boddy Manor start being killed, with a variety of familiar weapons, leaving everyone to wonder, who will be next!
The spoof of a thriller, promises to keep you guessing right up to the finale as both audience and cast try to work out whodunnit, with what and where.

Twitter: @CluedoStagePlay
Instagram: @CluedoStagePlay
Facebook: /CluedoStagePlay

2022 Tour Dtaes:

  • w/c – 24 Jan – Bromley: Churchill Theatre
  • w/c – 7 Feb – Norwich: Theatre Royal
  • w/c – 14 Feb – Cambridge: Arts Theatre
  • w/c – 21 Feb – Woking: New Ambassadors
  • w/c – 28 Feb – Nottingham: Theatre Royal
  • w/c – 7 Mar – Richmond: Richmond Theatre
  • w/c – 14 Mar – Coventry: Belgrade Theatre
  • w/c – 21 Mar – Leeds: Grand Theatre
  • w/c – 4 Apr – Cardiff: New Theatre
  • w/c – 11 Apr – Shrewsbury: Severn Theatre
  • w/c – 25 Apr – Bath: Theatre Royal
  • w/c – 2 May – Birmingham: Alexandra Theatre
  • w/c – 9 May – Edinburgh: Kings Theatre
  • w/c – 16 May – Southampton: Mayflower
  • w/c – 30 May – Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Theatre
  • w/c – 6 Jun – Leicester: Curve Theatre
  • w/c – 13 Jun – Brighton: Theatre Royal
  • w/c – 20 Jun – Malvern: Festival Theatre
  • w/c – 26 Jun – Salford: Lowry Theatre
  • w/c – 4 Jul – Glasgow: Theatre Royal
  • w/c – 11 Jul – Wolverhampton: Grand Theatre
  • w/c – 25 Jul – Belfast: Grand Opera House
YOUR NEWS – £5million and counting…

YOUR NEWS – £5million and counting…

Ian McKellen On Stage. Photo: Frederic Aranda


Ian McKellen’s donations to British theatre tops £5 million…
Ian McKellen, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, and Sean Mathias donate profits from the National Theatre and Amazon Prime Video broadcast of his celebrated one-man show, Ian McKellen on Stage which will create a fund for emerging producers to cover actors’ salaries.
The extraordinary production was filmed by National Theatre Live in front of an audience at the Harold Pinter Theatre in January 2020. It launched exclusively on Prime Video in June, as part of a season of plays with the National Theatre.
Profits from licensing the televised show will combine with remaining profits from the West End run to create a new fund to support emerging producers and artists. Distributed via ATG Productions, multiple funding rounds will offer grants of up to £25,000 to pay actors’ wages for both new plays and revivals across UK Theatres, as long as they employ six actors or more and include a recent graduate from a theatre school.
Ian McKellen devised his solo show to celebrate his 80th Birthday year, earning £3 million for over 80 UK theatres. Through proceeds of its extended run at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre, which went to British theatre charities, further fundraising and the broadcast distribution of the show, the total money raised for the theatre industry is now over £5m.
The actor told us: “Performing Ian McKellen on Stage was a joy. As our theatres re-open, I’m very pleased to be able to support producers and artists who have really struggled over the last year.”
Directed by Sean Mathias, the critically acclaimed Ian McKellen on Stage is a brilliant intimate mixture of anecdote and acting including Tolkien, Shakespeare among others, which the Daily Telegraph positioned as “the Theatre event of the year” (2019). And quite right too!
McKellen received a special Olivier Award in recognition of his fundraising, and was named the #1 most influential person in British theatre as part of ‘The Stage 100’ in 2019.



Strike Up the Band! is our regular delve into selected productions from the professional musical theatre industry.
With all restrictions still on target for being eradicated from 21 June it would seem that the entire West End has announced its intention to reopen. So let’s hope nothing changes that!
This is a good thing for the amateur sector because wherever the pros tread, we amateurs are sure to follow.
We can’t physically fit the entire UK show-list into these pages so, instead, here are some highlights for you. But with the industry still in a delicate state of flux we urge you to check any relevant websites before purchasing tickets.

Reopening 19 August 2021 and booking until 13 February 2022
Victoria Palace Theatre, London SW1E 5EA / F, T & I: @HamiltonWestEnd
Arguably the biggest show in town, produced in the West End by Jeffrey Seller and Cameron Mackintosh, Lin Manuel Miranda has written everything; book, music and lyrics. It just makes our latest cover star, Giles Terera and his new book, ‘Hamilton and Me’ even more relevant.

Reopening 27 July 2021 booking to 13 Feb 2022
Her Majesty’s Theatre, London SW1Y 4QL
/ F, T & I
Andrew Lloyd Webber has bowed to public pressure and reversed Cameron Mackintosh’s decision to close the iconic, long-running show, thank goodness.

Reopening 15 September 2021
and booking until 22 November 2022
Apollo Victoria Theatre, London SW1V 1LG / F, T & I: @WickedUK
The show marks its 15th anniversary later in the year and will host a celebratory performance on 28 September 2021.
Music and lyrics are by legendary composer Stephen Schwartz with a book by Winnie Holzman, based on the novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, by Gregory Maguire. The show has played to over 10 million people in London alone and is the winner of over 100 major international awards.

Les Misérables – The Staged Concert
Reopened 20 May 2021, limited season until 5 September 2022
Sondheim Theatre, London W1D 6BA / F, T: @lesmisofficial & I: @lesmizofficial
The pre-curser to the opening of the new production includes Jon Robyns as Jean Valjean, Bradley Jaden as Javert, Lucie Jones as Fantine, Gerard Carey as Thénardier, Josefina Gabrielle as Madame Thénardier, Shan Ako as Éponine, Harry Apps as Marius, Jamie Muscato as Enjolras, Charlie Burn as Cosette and, on certain dates, Dean Chisnall will play the role of Jean Valjean.

Reopening 29 July 2021, booking until 3 Apr (individuals) / 22 October 2022 (groups)
Lyceum Theatre, London WC2E 7RQ / F: TheLionKingUK / T: @thelionking  / I: thelionkinguk
14 new members will be included in the cast of over 50 actors, singers and dancers when it reopens its doors at the end of July.
Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation first opened on Broadway in 1997 and has entertained more than 100 million theatregoers in 25 productions worldwide. The London production has played to over 16 million people alone over the last two decades.
When the pandemic hit it was the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

Mary Poppins
Reopening 7 August 2021 and booking until 13 February 2022
Prince Edward Theatre, London W1D 4HS / F, T: marypoppins & I: marypoppinsmusical
Cameron Mackintosh and Disney’s Olivier Award-winning production will see Zizi Strallen and Charlie Stemp reprise their roles as as ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Bert’ respectively. Timeless music and lyrics come from the Sherman brothers, with additional songs from Stiles and Drewe, and a Book by Julian

Reopening 16 September 2021
and booking until 13 February 2022
Cambridge Theatre, London WC2H 9HU / F, I: MatildaTheMusical & T: @MatildaMusical
Adapted from Roald Dahl’s much loved 1988 book, the RSC’s production premiered at the RSC’s Stratford-upon-Avon home in 2010, before transferring to the West End in October 2011.
The story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a super-sharp mind, who dares to take a stand and change her own destiny, has been written for the stage by Dennis Kelly, boasts music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and has been directed by the Old Vic’s artistic director, Matthew Warchus.

Only Fools and Horses The Musical
Reopening 1 October 2021 and booking until 26 February 2022
Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT / F: OFAHMUSICAL, T: @OFAHMusical & I: ofahmusical
Paul Whitehouse will return to star as Grandad, alongside Tom Bennett as Del Boy and Ryan Hutton as Rodney in this 5-star musical extravaganza. The re-opening of the show will form part of this year’s 40th anniversary celebrations of the legendary BBC sitcom – which first aired in 1981.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CINDERELLA
Previews 25 June 2021, Opens 14 July 2021
Gillian Lynne Theatre, London WC2B 5PW / F, T & I: @alwcinderella
Apart from music by Lloyd Webber, the show has a book by ‘Killing Eve’ co-writer and Academy Award winning Emerald Fennell (Best Original Screenplay Oscar) and lyrics from David Zippel.

Come From Away
Reopening 22 July 2021 and booking until February 2022
Phoenix Theatre, London WC2H 0JP / F, T & I: @ComeFromAwayUK
Winner of every major Best Musical award when it opened in the West End in March 2019, ‘Come From Away’ tells the remarkable and inspiring true story of 7,000 stranded air passengers during the wake of 9/11, and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but as uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Previews 1 July 2021. Opens 15 July 2021
The London Palladium, London W1F 7TF / F: JosephAndTheAmazingTechnicolorDreamcoat / T & I: @josephmusical
Alexandra Burke will play The Narrator in the celebrated musical, while Linzi Hateley – who was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance as the Narrator, starring alongside Jason Donovon in the original London Palladium production – will perform again in the role on special dates. Jason Donovan returns to the role of Pharaoh while Jac Yarrow returns to the title role which earned unanimous acclaim and an Olivier Award nomination.

Dear Evan Hansen
Reopening 26 October 2021 and booking until 13 February 2022
Noël Coward Theatre, London WC2N 4AP / F, T: @DEHWestEnd & I: dehwestend
The 2020 Olivier Award-winning show for Best Musical will hold a special night in its first weeks of performances to honour mental health care workers and volunteers, who will be invited to attend as guests.
The show opened at the Noël Coward Theatre in November 2019 and, apart from winning the Best New Musical gong, it also picked up two other Olivier Awards. The show’s now-iconic blue polo and arm cast are part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Hairspray the Musical
Previews 21 June 2021, Opens 29 June 2021
London Coliseum, London WC2N 4ES / F, T: @hairspraylondon / I: @HairsprayLondon
Les Dennis will now play the role of Wilbur Turnblad after Paul Merton was forced to withdraw from the pandemic-hit production due to other pre-agreed, long-term work commitments.
Still in the show, Michael Ball, returns to his Olivier Award-winning role of Edna Turnblad while Lizzie Bea stars as Tracy Turnblad, Marisha Wallace takes on Motormouth, ex-EastEnder, Rita Simons is Velma Von Tussle and Jonny Amies plays Link Larkin.

Reopening 28 July 2021 and booking until 26 June 2022
Aldwych Theatre, London WC2B 4DF / F, T: TinaTheMusical & I: @tinathemusical
The musical based on the life of legendary artist Tina Turner and produced in association with Tina herself. When the critically acclaimed production received its world premiere in April 2018 in London it subsequently broke all Box Office records at the Aldwych Theatre.
Aisha Jawando and Jammy Kasongo are set to return to their pre-Covid roles as Tina and Ike Turner respectively.

Reopened 20 May 2021, limited season until 25 September 2021
The Criterion Theatre, London W1V 9LB
F, T & I: @ameliethemusicaluk


The Shaftesbury Theatre, London WC2H 8DP until 6 June 2021… and then touring until 30 October 2021
F: AbbaMania T: @realABBAMANIA I: abbamaniaofficial
Read our 5-star review from our visit to the Shaftesbury Theatre


Heathers the Musical
Opens 21 June 2021 for 12 weeks (Theatre Royal Haymarket SW1Y 4HT)
…then touring from 28 July 2021
F: heathersthemusical T: @HeathersMusical I: heathersmusical


Forever Plaid
1 – 27 June 2021
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London N6 4BD
F: UpstairsAtTheGatehouse / T: @GatehouseLondon
The socially distanced production comes back once more to The Gatehouse. The blurb says: “This ‘Heavenly Musical’ is one of our favourites with its ‘square’ songs from the Fifties.”

17 September – 13 October 2021
Vaudeville Theatre, London WC2R 0NH
F: L5YearsUK / T & I: @l5yearsuk
Following last year’s run at Southwark Playhouse and a successful stream with the award-winning musical will play a limited season in the West End.

30 July – 5 September 2021
Sadler’s Wells EC1R 4TN
F: SadlersWells T: @sadlers_wells


Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Previews 12 November Opens 8 December 2021
Piccadilly Theatre, London W1D 7DY
F & I: moulinmusicalUK / T: @moulinmusicaluk
The cast has yet to be announced and tickets are on sale (auditions on left). The show features a lavish, immersive set and follows aspiring writer Christian and dancer Satine as they fall in love.

Hot Gossip!
1 performance only on Monday, 7 June
Duchess Theatre, London WC2B 5LA
F: NimaxTheatresLondon / T: @NimaxTheatres


Opens in November 2021
The Kit Cat Club, London’s West End
Sign up for emails at
F: @kitkatclubLDN T: @kitkatclubLDN
Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Tony and Olivier winner Eddie Redmayne as ‘Emcee’ and Bafta Nominee & British Independent Film winner Jessie Buckley as ‘Sally Bowles’.

Beauty and the Beast
Touring from 25 August 2021
F: beautyandthebeastmusical / T: @BeautyMusical / I: beautymusical
A re-imagined and re-designed new production of the Disney show sees Courtney Stapleton and Emmanuel Kojo preparing to play the iconic lead roles (see right); spectacular new designs and state-of-the-art technology fuse with the classic story.

Express G&S
23 June – 2 July 2021 (Pleasance Theatre, London N7 9EF)
…and touring until 15 September 2021
Touring now until 30 August 2021 / F & I: charlescourtopera / T: charlescourt

6-track EP and film now on YouTube – Online and from Little Angel Theatre N1 2DN
F, T & I: @mettatheatre
Written and recorded in lockdown, an album has spun into a short film retelling Antoine De Saint Exupery’s much-loved story using shadow puppetry.


14 June & 5 July 2021
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7EZ / F: thespie, T: @Thespie & I: thespie_
The June concert of the series will be performed in front of a socially distanced audience and simultaneously livestreamed to viewers at home via Thespie. Shan Ako, Arthur Darvill, Sophie Evans, Sandra Marvin and Oliver Tompsett. The July line up is still to be confirmed.

Reopens on 1 July 2021, booking until 8 January 2022
Dominion Theatre, London W1T 7AQ / F & I: PrinceOfEgyptUK / T: @princeofegyptuk
Based on the classic DreamWorks Animation film, ‘Tracy Beaker’ star Clive Rowe will join the company as ‘Jethro’ for a limited engagement until 16 October 2021. The musical tells the story of how Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery.

Digital UK tour until 4 July 2021
The Turbine Theatre, London SW11 8AB / F: TurbineTheatre, T & I: @turbinetheatre
We had intended on running an interview we have done with Turbine Theatre’s Paul Taylor Mills but we’ve had to move it into the following issue due to lack of space.

2 – 6 June 2021
Palace Theatre, London W1D 5AY
F & I: thetheatresupportfund / T: @theatre_support
18 West End shows and an all-star musical cast come together, hosted by Bonnie Langford & Trevor Dion Nicholas.

7 – 19 June 2021
Curve Theatre, Leicester LE1 1SB
F: CURVEtheatreLeicester T: @CurveLeicester



The Addams Family A MUSICAL COMEDY
Touring 17 August 2021 – 5 March 2022
F: TheAddamsFamilyUK / T: @AddamsFamilyUK / I: theaddamfamilyuk
Samantha Womack and Cameron Blakely will revive their roles as Morticia and Gomez Addams, based on the characters originally created by Charles Addams.
Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and has a shocking secret that only Gomez knows; she’s fallen in love.

23 July 2021 – 17 October 2021
Barbican Theatre, London EC2Y 8DS
F & I: anythinggoesuk T: @AnythingGUK
Sutton Foster replaces Megan Mullally (injury) and reprises her Tony Award-winning role as she joins Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot.

Touring from 30 July – 27 November 2021
F: greaseUKTour / T & I: @greaseuktour
With Nikolai Foster directing & Arlene Phillips choreographing, Peter Andre stars as ‘Teen Angel’ and Vince Fontaine at certain venues. Both Patrick Swayze & John Travolta appeared in the stage show, with Richard Gere understudying before starring as Danny Zuko in London.

Touring from 24 June 2021 – 2 April 2022
F & T: @HairsprayUKTour / I: hairsprayuktour
Brenda Edwards will star as Motormouth Maybelle while Norman Pace takes on Wilbur Turnblad and Alex Bourne will pop a frock to play Edna Turnblad. Paul Kerryson directs with choreography from the multi-talented Drew McOnie.

Touring from 24 November 2021 –
14 January 2023
F & T: @lesmisofficial / I: lesmizofficial
Dean Chisnall plays ‘Jean Valjean’, Nic Greenshields, ‘Javert’ and Katie Hall takes on ‘Fantine’. If this giant of a show is coming to a town near you, make sure you see it.

Touring from 26 January – 30 July 2022
F: BringItOnUKTour / I & T: @bringitonuktour
The tour follows a Christmas season at London’s Southbank Centre. The cast is led by ‘Amber Davies as ‘Campbell’ and Louis Smith as ‘Cameron’. Lin-Manuel Miranda co-writes music & lyrics.

Touring 25 November 2021 – 12 November 2022
F: JerseyBoysLondon / T & I: @JerseyBoysUK
Famously remembering the music & inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.


Matthew Bourne’s THE MIDNIGHT BELL
Touring 9 September 2021 – 27 November 2021
F: MBNewAdventures / T: @new_adventures / I: mbnewadventures



Touring 23 June – 30 October 2021
F: PriscillaTourUK / T & I: @priscillatouruk
Mark Goucher and Jason Donovan produce the glittering hit musical full of fabulous feathers and a non-stop parade of dance-floor disco classics.


Touring 19 August 2021 – 18 June 2022
F: rockofagesthemusical / T: @rockofagesuk
The musical comedy lavished with over twenty-five classic rock anthems, including ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, ‘We Built This City’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Can’t Fight this Feeling’.

Touring 4 Sep 2021 – 20 Aug 2022
F, T & I: @waitressuk
Lucie Jones reprises her role as ‘Jenna’, Sandra Marvin plays ‘Becky’ and Evelyn Hoskins takes on ‘Dawn’ (right) while Matt Willis plays ‘Dr Pomatter’. Jones was previously in the West End production at the Adelphi Theatre.

Touring 7 September 2021 – 13 August 2022
F: schoolofrockmusical / T: @schoolofrockuk / I: Schoolofrockuk
Based on the movie starring Jack Black, children are currently being auditioned for the onstage band. While 14 new songs have been written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, original favourites such as ‘Stick It to the Man’ have stayed. Julian Fellowes has written the book.

Touring 7 June – 11 July 2021
F: somethingaboutsimonconcerts
T: @SimonAbout / I: SomethingAboutSimon
The life and music of legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon returns to the British stage this summer.

Dorian A Rock Musical
Streaming 4 – 26 June 2021
F: RubyInTheDustTheatre / T: @_RUBYINTHEDUST_ / I: ruby_in_the_dust_theatre
Following the success of Gatsby A Musical, filmed and streamed at Cadogan Hall, Ruby in the Dust now presents a rock adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic for you to stream at home.


Touring from 15 June – 16 November 2021 / F & I: tellmeontour / T: @Tellmeontour
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic musical will get the Jodie Prenger treatment this year.
It charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980s.


Touring 15 April 2022 – 18 March 2023
F & T: @TheCherShowUK / I: thechershowuk
A trio of female power sees Arlene Phillips direct the show due to open next year while choreography comes from Strictly chamion Oti Mabuse and the all-important costume design is by Gabriella Slade (see right).

New Theatre Peterborough has been working with writers Katie Lam and Alex Parker and director Tinuke Craig to host a workshop of a new musical adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel. There was of course also an Academy Award-winning 2015 film starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander – a fictionalised account based on the real life of Lili Elbe.



Concept Album – Summer 2021
F & I: fortonightmusical / T: @For_Tonight_
Music book and lyrics are by Shenelle Salcido & Spencer Williams, with additional book by Whitney Rhodes. The show is inspired by writer Spencer Williams’ three times great grandfather’s handwritten journal and blends traditional Welsh choral, indie-pop, folk and Romani-inspired melodies.

New musical production company Perfect Pitch and worldwide theatrical licensing house Broadway Licensing have announced a new partnership that will see the commission, development, production and licensing of four new British musicals. Perfect Pitch founders, Wendy & Andy Barnes are producers of ‘SIX’, Seven existing Perfect Pitch titles have joined the Broadway Licensing catalogue.



Released in cinemas 18 Jun 21
F: InTheHeightsMovieTH / T: @intheheights
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music and lyrics capture a world very much of its place but universal in its experience.


Previews 1 Oct, Opens 20 Oct 21
Lyric Theatre, London W1D 7ES
F & T: @GetUpStandUpLDN / I: getupstandupldn



Lady Chatterley’s Lover
18 – 19 June 2021
Shaftesbury Theatre, London WC2H 8DP / T: @LadyCMusical
The new musical adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s infamous literary classic.


Reopens 1 Oct 2021 …and currently booking until 3 Apr 2022
The O2, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX
F, T & I: @mammamiapartyuk


Strike Up the Band!

Strike Up the Band!

Now the Government has announced its roadmap to us all getting back to normal, the very relevant news is that theatres should theoretically be able to open with social distancing in place from 17 May, before continuing without any social distancing from 21 June.

The news has prompted productions up and down the country to announce their reopening dates. As a result, this edition of Strike Up the Band! is something of a bumper edition, containing news from a myriad of shows. And as long as nothing negative happens – Covid-wise – the dates should stand. Even this year’s pantomime season ought to go ahead… thank goodness.

Here are some of the details which we have received so far. However, with the pandemic’s ability to disrupt at the blink of an eye, please check with the relevant websites before booking tickets.

Friday, 23 July – Sunday, 17 October 2021
In addition to the star-studded cast, this new production promises “A full company of over fifty, including a full-sized orchestra and fourteen tap dancing sailors!” Porter & Wodehouse’s classic show features: I Get A Kick Out of You; Anything Goes; You’re the Top; Blow, Gabriel, Blow; It’s De-Lovely and Friendship.


Adelphi Theatre, London WC2R 0NS
From 20 August 2021
Social Media: @BTTFmusical
The musical’s opening in Manchester back in March 2020 received a positive reaction from both critics and the public alike.
Based on the Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment film, the musical has a book by Bob Gale and new music & lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, with additional songs, The Power of Love and Johnny B. Goode.


Lyceum Theatre, London WC2E 7RQ
Reopening on 29 July 2021
F: TheLionKingUK | T: @thelionking | Instagram: thelionkinguk
Seen by over 16 million people throughout its run of over twenty years, this musical is a successful powerhouse from the Disney stable.
Since the premiere of Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation on Broadway in 1997, it has entertained more than 100 million theatregoers in 25 productions worldwide. Elton John’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics are theatrical magic.

London Palladium on 13 June 2021
Southampton Mayflower on 27 June 2021
(2 shows each)
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @TurbineTheatre
Songs from the show include: Aquarius; Good Morning, Starshine; Hair; I Got Life; and Let The Sun Shine.


London Coliseum, London WC2N 4ES | 22 June – 29 September 2021
Facebook & Twitter: hairspraylondon | Instagram: HairsprayLondon
This production has put its opening date back around four times now, so there’s no doubting just how keen the producers are to raise the curtain on this one.
When it does eventually open West End superstar, Michael Ball, will return to the iconic role of Edna Turnblad – one that is obviously one of his all-time favourites.
Elsewhere, the news appears to be that all of the remaining starring roles are still in place. So Lizzie Bea will be playing Tracy Turnblad, Marisha Wallace will take on Motormouth Maybelle, Paul Merton will be Wilbur Turnblad and ex-EastEnder, Rita Simons, will play Velma von Tussle.

Trafalgar Theatre, London SW1A 2DY | Reopening on 28 July 2021
Facebook: JerseyBoysLondon | Twitter & Instagram: @JerseyBoysUK


F: OfficiallyLeeMead | T: @leemeadofficial
Instagram: leemead_official


The original winner of the BBC’s ‘Close Every Door’ Saturday night audition reality show, this show in London will see the star celebrate his forthcoming fortieth birthday with his fans with an evening of music spanning his twenty-year career.
Highlights will include numbers from Miss Saigon (Why, God, Why), Phantom of the Opera (Music of the Night); Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door). The show will also include some popular material from Wicked and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which Lee also starred in.




LES MISÉRABLES THE STAGED CONCERT (From 20 May – 5 September 2021) Sondheim Theatre, London W1D 6BA
&… FULL PRODUCTION (Opening on 25 September 2021) Sondheim Theatre, London W1D 6BA
&… Touring PRODUCTION (Recommencing on 24 November 2021) Theatre Royal, Glasgow WC2E 7RQ
Facebook & Twitter: lesmisofficial
Instagram: lesmizofficial

The London cast includes Jon Robyns (Jean Valjean), Bradley Jaden (Javert), Lucie Jones (Fantine), Shan Ako (Éponine), Harry Apps (Marius), Gerard Carey (Thénardier) and Josefina Gabrielle (Madame Thénardier).



Apollo Theatre W1D 7EZ



Savoy Theatre, London WC2R 0ET | Reopening on 8 July 2021
Faceook & Twitter: prettywomanuk
Instagram: prettywomanmusicaluk

The show will star Aimie Atkinson as ‘Vivian Ward’ and Danny Mac as ‘Edward Lewis’. They are joined by Rachael Wooding as ‘Kit De Luca’, Bob Harms as ‘Happy Man/Mr Thompson’, Neil McDermott as ‘Philip Stuckey’ and Mark Holden as ‘James Morse’.
The show features original music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, a book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter J.F. Lawton, it is directed and choreographed by the two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell.

Lyric Theatre, London W1D 7ES | Opening on 21 May 2021 | Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: sixthemusical

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s musical started out as a student production in a 100-seat room during the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It has since become a global phenomenon.


Dominion Theatre, London W1T 7AQ
Reopening on 1 July 2021
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @princeofegyptuk
The show based on DreamWorks’ animated film retells the Biblical tale of how Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery, parting the Red Sea in the process.
Stephen Schwartz provides music and lyrics including the celebrated anthem, When You Believe, which has already been a chart-topping hit for Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Luke Brady (Moses), Liam Tamne (Ramses), Christine Allado (Tzipporah), Alexia Khadime (Miriam), Joe Dixon (Seti) and Debbie Kurup (Tuya) lead the cast.



Palace Theatre, London W1D 5AY | Rescheduled for 10 – 13 June 2021
Facebook & Instagram: westendmusicalbrunch
Originally scheduled to play in October 2020, the show will be a celebration of your favourite musicals and the return of live theatre featuring stars of the West End: Sophie Evans, Alice Fearn, Ben Forster, Rachel John, Jamie Muscato, Shanay Holmes, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Layton Williams.

Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall TR1 2LL | Dates & schedule TBA. | Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: FFonstage
The new show based on a group of Cornish fishermen who came together to sing the traditional working songs they’d sung for generations; they hoped to raise a few quid for charity. Nobody expected the story to end on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. The world premiere will reopen Hall for Cornwall after a multi-million-pound renovation.


Touring 24 June 2021 – 1 January 2022
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: HairsprayUKTour

Having previously been due to begin performances in August 2020 and following on from two extremely successful tours in 2015/16 and 2017/18, this smash hit production will visit nineteen venues in 2021, spending nearly all of December at the Blackpool Grand in its final leg.
Thanks to a loan from the Cultural Recovery Fund, Mark Goucher – the show’s producer – has been able to remount the production in a timely fashion. So, while its London counterpart is playing at the London Coliseum, one of the most feel-good musicals of all time will be entertaining audiences all over the country.
Casting is to be anounced, but what can be guaranteed at this stage are the toe-tapping numbers: Good Morning, Baltimore; Without Love; Welcome to the ’60s; Run and Tell That; I Can Hear the Bells and possibly the greatest finale in musical theatre… You Can’t Stop the Beat.


From 25 June 2021
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: awlcinderella
Polydor Records has announced the release of the third piece of music from the forthcoming album of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. ‘I Know I Have A Heart’ is sung by Carrie Hope Fletcher and is released across all DSPs.
Carrie Hope Fletcher will play Cinderella in the highly anticipated new production. She has starred in Heathers, The Addams Family, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins and most recently as Fantine in Les Miserables the Concert.
The new show will be a reinvention of the well-known classic fairy tale.





Touring 23 June – 9 October 2021 | Fb, Tw & Inst: @priscillatouruk


Touring from 12 July 2021 – 6 June 2022
Facebook: rockyhorrorshow | Twitter: @rockyhorroruk | Instagram: @rockyhorrorofficial
Actor, presenter and winner of Strictly Come Dancing Ore Oduba will star as Brad Majors in Richard O’Brien’s legendary musical. Stephen Webb, Philip Franks and Haley Flaherty also star alongside returning stalwart, Kristian Lavercombe, who has played Riff Raff over 1,350 times now.





Touring from 19 May – 26 June 2021
Facebook: JudyandLiza | Twitter: @Judylizatour
This extraordinary musical showcases the iconic careers of Garland and Minnelli and stars West End Stars Emma Dears and Helen Sheals.
The show features performances of iconic songs including Cabaret, Maybe This Time, Over The Rainbow, The Man That Got Away, The Trolley Song, and Together Wherever We Go.
Judy & Liza is produced by Bill Elms Productions and On Song Productions; created and written by West End Emma Dears (playing Liza Minnelli).



Released episodically
from 19 April 2021
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @mettatheatre
Written, developed and recorded entirely during lockdown by the award-winning writer/director P Burton-Morgan and composer Ben Glasstone and starring Metta’s recently announced patron, the Olivier award-winning Clive Rowe alongside rising star Lem Knights.
“A university science lab. A kebab shop at 2am. An online gaming forum. Two strangers’ lives become intertwined. Alan Bennett meets The Streets in this tender and uplifting new work, giving voice to the lives of two everyday blokes.”


30 April – 10 May 2021 | Stream.Theatre | Facebook: fwlive | Twitter & Instagram: @f_w_live
The loving send-up should delight any fan of Europe’s largest television event! A live stream of power ballads galore, outrageous dance routines, key-changes, drag queens, a sprinkle of politics and the drama of crowning a winner!

Touring from 26 April – 23 May 2021
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: AKillerPartyUK
Released as a series of nine episodes to watch on-demand, at home or on the go, the new show brings the very best of British stage and screen directly into your living room.
Casting includes Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Debbie Kurup, Jason Manford, Cedric Neal, Amara Okareke, Lucas Rush, Emma Salvo, Ashley Samuels, Harriet Thorpe and Rachel Tucker.
A Killer Party was a hit in the US last year, where it was written and developed in response to the closure of theatres. Filmed entirely in each artist’s home, viewers are invited to experience the joy of theatre in an entirely new way. This side-splitting new musical will be available to watch on


Facebook: fwlive | Twitter & Instagram: @f_w_live
The Live in London series of concerts produced by Fourth Wall Live at the Hippodrome Casino London in December will be available to stream on ‘Stream. Theatre’.
The series, including musical theatre stars, musicians and comedians, was recorded live from the casino’s theatre with live audiences. The twelve concerts feature: Aaron Sidwell, Anna-Jane Casey, Courtney Stapleton & Eloise Davies, Julie Atherton, Kim Ismay, Rock of Ages UK Tour Cast Reunion, Ryan Molloy, Sarah O’Connor, Shappi Khorsandi, Sooz Kempner & Richard Thomas, Vocal Xtr3me and Yury Revich.



Streaming until 5 April 2021 | Facebook & Twitter: @allmalepirates
Recorded live at the Palace Theatre London in December, just before Lockdown 2, Sasha Regan’s award-winning all-male take on W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan’s iconic operetta is now in its last few days of streaming.
Packed with comedy, romance, clumsy policemen, bonkers adventures and an abundance of men in petticoats, it will put a stop to lockdown gloom. Featuring a dazzling shipshape cast singing songs including: I Am A Pirate King; Oh, Happy Day, With Joyous Glee, and A Rollicking Band of Pirates We. They are sure to raise your living room roof!

Streaming until 17 April 2021
Social Media: @AljazSkorjanec, @JManrara, #RememberingTheOscars
Strictly Come Dancing duo Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara star in a new digital adaptation of their never-before-seen dance spectacular. The show celebrates the greatest award-winning songs, films, and dance routines from the Golden Age of Hollywood to Disney family favourites, the pair are rolling out the red carpet for a production, filmed especially for streaming. Featuring original musical arrangements from classic films such as Dirty Dancing, Mary Poppins, Flashdance, Cabaret, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion King, La La Land, Singin’in the Rain, Frozen… and many more.


Streaming until 11 April 2021 |
Facebook: SouthwarkPlayhouse | Twitter: @tsamusical / @swkplay | Instagram: swkplay
Filmed live with multiple cameras at Southwark Playhouse this February.


Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 8XX
8 December 2021 – 22 January 2022
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @bringitonuktour
Following eight performances at the New Theatre, Peterborough from 30 – 4 December 2021, Selladoor Worldwide can at last bring the show’s long-awaited London season.
As was originally announced, the production will be led by Amber Davies as ‘Campbell’ alongside Louis Smith as ‘Cameron’.
Inspired by the film of the same name, Bring it on the Musical features an original score by the multi-award-winning creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The show tackles friendship, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness wrapped up in explosive choreography and tricks.


In cinemas 25 June 2021
Facebook: InTheHeightsMovie | Twitter: @intheheights | Instagram: intheheightsmovie
The creator of Hamilton and the director of Crazy Rich Asians combine their talents where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big… In the Heights. Released nationwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.


Studio cast and music video
Facebook & Twitter: mettatheatre | Instagram: inthewillows
Produced remotely during October and November 2020, Clive Rowe – who starred in the 2019 touring production of the show as ‘Badger’ and has just been appointed as Metta Theatre’s new patron. Harry Jardine, Hiba Elchikhe, Sharon Rose and Tim Mahendran also feature.



Nanny McPhee actress, Emma Thompson, has landed the iconic role of Miss Trunchbull in Netflix’s planned adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, the 1996 film and the RSC’s celebrated musical, Matilda. The musical adaptation will be directed by Matthew Warchus – who so brilliantly brought Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics to the stage. Incidentally, it was Matthew Warchus who also directed the original production of the Madness musical, Our House, at the same theatre where Matilda now resides.


Curve, Leicester, LE1 1SB | 3 – 31 December 2021
THE WIZARD OF OZ – Postponed to Christmas 2022 due to 2023 National Tour | Facebook: CURVEtheatreleicester | Twitter: CurveLeicester | Instagram: curve_leicester
Curve is set to bring one singular sensation to Leicester this Christmas with a new Made at Curve production of the legendary Broadway musical. The iconic show will be directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster.
The news comes as Curve also announces its production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz has now been postponed until Christmas 2022, due to plans for a national tour of the musical in 2023 following its run at Curve. All ticket-holders for The Wizard of Oz will be contacted by Curve’s Box Office team in the coming weeks and full refunds and exchanges will be available.
A Chorus Line, which revolutionised the Broadway stage, with creator Michael Bennett using real-life testimonies from late-night recording sessions with chorus dancers, features iconic songs including ‘One’; ‘I Hope I Get It’; ‘Nothing’ and the hit ballad ‘What I Did For Love’.

The Drive In Troubadour Meridian Water, London, N18 3QQ
17 April – 29 May 2021
Social: @westendmusicalbrunch #WestEndMusicalDriveIn
The UK’s biggest musical theatre concert series returns for live performances – once again bringing top theatrical talent direct to people’s cars!
Kerry Ellis, Rachel Tucker, John Owen-Jones, Lucie Jones, Alice Fearn, Layton Williams, Jodie Steele among others all feature.
Contact-free delivery services will be available for food and drink.

Performed by Kerry Ellis
Leading lady of West End and Broadway musicals, Kerry Ellis has recorded a new version of the anthemic Memory from Cats. New lyrics by Jon Monie are both witty, emotive, and littered with theatre references from pantomime to Shakespeare, Dear Evan Hansen to Singin’ in the Rain.
The video features images of theatres taken by actor and photographer Bill Ward.



Digital Platform Dates: TBC
Facebook & Instagram: rumimusical | Twitter: @rumi_musical
Ramin Karimloo and co-composer Nadim Naaman head the cast of this new show based on a story about the 13th Century philosopher and poet Rumi by Evren Sharma.
Recorded in London and Doha throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be released on all major digital platforms later this Spring, with dates to be confirmed.



The Beatles hotly-anticipated “Get Back” film, delayed since last October due to Coronavirus, will now be premiered worldwide on 27 August 2021. The movie is a ‘re-imagining’ by Peter Jackson of the Let It Be film, the group’s final outing on celluloid originally released in May 1970, just one month after The Beatles had famously broken up.
But how did young London-born schoolboy fan David Stark, now a respected music industry veteran, come to be officially invited by The Beatles themselves to that prestigious premiere in May 1970? And how, two years earlier at the age of just 15, did he manage to gatecrash the group’s Yellow Submarine film premiere in July 1968 at the same cinema (London Pavilion), and end up sitting with a pal in seats directly behind John, Paul, George and Ringo?
These stories and many more are recalled in David Stark’s recently-published memoir It’s All Too Much – Adventures of a Teenage Beatles Fan in the ’60s and Beyond. | Paperback £14.99 | ISBN: 978 1 838 07081 6
Coronation Street’s Faye Brookes will play Roxie Hart in Chicago when it reopens on tour. Other celebrity casting includes Sinitta as Mama Morton and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Divina De Campo who will make her musical theatre debut as Mary Sunshine… fancy it? Good luck!
The Bob Marley story, Get Up, Stand Up has had its world premiere postponed with previews now starting on 1 October 2021 and the opening night on 20 October.
Sister Act the Musical has also postponed its run in London at the Eventim Apollo (Hammersmith Odeon to those of a certain age!) The new dates for the production in London are 19 July – 28 August 2022.
A new musical celebrating the life of Britain’s first female doctor is in development. Ladies First promises to shed new light on the challenges Elizabeth Garrett Anderson faced throughout her life. The musical is provisionally planned to launch in the 2023 – 2024 season.
Another new show in development is being adapted from the best-selling novel by Audrey Niffenegger and the New Line Cinema film screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin… The Time Traveller’s Wife. With a book by Lauren Gunderson, music and lyrics by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart and additional lyrics by Kait Kerrigan, the production will be directed by Bill Buckhurst.

Man for All Seasons

Man for All Seasons

Above: Sir Derek Jacobi CBE and Pat Jones have known each other for fifty-six years. Photo: Paul Johnson

You never quite know when being a super-fan will pay off do you? (That’s a 60s style super-fan, by the way, rather than one of today’s Twitter-crazed fanatics.)

For Pat Jones – whose contribution to amateur theatre sees her stage manage several shows a year for Bromley Little Theatre – it has just bagged her a cover-story with one of the world’s most famous and critically acclaimed actors.

In the fifty-six years that Pat and Sir Derek Jacobi CBE have known one another, their relationship has gone from fan – to acquaintance – to friend.

Just over a year ago Pat persuaded the publicity-shy actor to appear on BLT’s stage ‘in conversation’ for charity, much to the delight of Bromley Little Theatre’s members.
Well, Derek and Pat really must be good friends as he has now taken time out from his busy schedule at The Garrick, where he is appearing in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo & Juliet, to talk with Pat and Paul Johnson…

During the early sixties a friend and I used to see every show put on by The Birmingham Rep Theatre. One evening in 1960 a blonde young man walked onto the stage, and afterwards we decided to go and ask for his autograph! After the following show, we snuck backstage to his dressing room to ask for a photo. The next time, we went for a drink with him …and so it went on.
Three years later, my Mum writes to Derek at the Rep inviting him to my birthday party – to which he comes!

When Derek went to Chichester and Stratford (actually, wherever he was performing) I continued to meet up with him. To date he has appeared in more than fifty theatre productions (400 performances of Hamlet alone) more than fifty films and numerous television ventures. I’ve seen nearly all of them and, whenever possible, I’ll still try to meet him after a theatre performance. Even though ‘Sir’ Derek is now an internationally-acclaimed actor, loved and adored by millions, he is still the kind, gentle man he always has been.

Over the years I have collected a pile of letters and postcards from our correspondence, not quite tied up in pink ribbon, but I have saved them nonetheless. Nowadays, of course, it’s emails. Not quite the same as hand-written letters, but at least we can keep in touch. In one letter from the early 70s he says that his tour with the Prospect Company was so exhausting, he would never tour again! Today, some forty years later, the seventy-eight-year-old shows little sign of stopping.

Currently appearing at The Garrick eight times a week, surely the word ‘exhaustion’ has taken on a whole new meaning?

Oh, and isn’t it quite unusual for Mercutio to be of your… erm…

“…Of my advanced years? Yes it is,” says Derek, saving my blushes. “It was Ken’s idea and I did ask him, ‘Why? It’s a bit odd isn’t it?’ But he’s always been fascinated by a story he heard many years ago about George Orwell. He went to Paris one weekend with some friends, and they were in a bar and noticed an older gentleman in the corner. So they bought him a drink and he came over to join them. They had a few more drinks and he was a lot of fun, he was witty, and they all got on very well. Then the old guy left. And they asked the barman whether he was a regular, and the barman said, ‘Yes.’ So they said, ‘Do you know his name?’ to which the barman said, ‘Oh yes! That was Oscar Wilde.’ And that would have probably stayed with Ken who might have thought, ‘Yes, Mercutio could be the older man, a more experienced man, a man whose got a likely story to tell. And it works very well in the death because there’s no way he’s going to beat Tybalt. It’s perfectly obvious.”

As he speaks it’s obvious that Derek’s voice is feeling the strain a West End run demands. He takes a Vocalzone from his pocket and continues: “My heart has always favoured the theatre, although now at this stage in my life I am opting, I think, for the easier option of acting for the camera. The stress of theatre with which I have been able to cope for fifty-six years is beginning to be a little too stressful. Not that I’m forgetting my lines; I’m not doing a Gambon. But vocally it’s getting more stressful as you can probably hear; I had to even think twice about doing this interview because I need to save my voice. I’ve probably got five or six more years of active acting.”

Around the time Derek and I first met I worked in libraries and I’d personally renew his library books to save him from any fines (I still have his library ticket!). There’s also a very tenuous connection there with his first-ever experience on a stage. “I think a lot of actors are born as actors. It was certainly not nurture, it was nature. I was in the local library aged about six or seven taking part in the Christmas production, The Prince and the Swineherd – and I played both, ha, ha!” From such an early age he knew exactly where his strengths lay: “I had no talent for anything else, certainly no creative talents in any other way; I don’t write, I don’t paint, I don’t play an instrument. But I did have a lot of creative acting talent; it just seemed the natural thing to do. Nothing else attracted me. I got to university really because I wanted to act, not because I wanted to be an academic, and it was a hotbed of acting.”

A hotbed might be something of an understatement with the likes of Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn also at Cambridge around the same time. But it was Derek’s next move opting for Rep theatre rather than drama school which was to forge the beginning of an illustrious career. “Well yes, I was very young at the time, just nineteen,” recalls Derek. “So when I left I thought ‘do I go and spend three years at drama school or do I try and get into the business?’ I was very lucky and got into Birmingham Rep where I stayed for three years, and that was my drama school – in front of a live audience.”

With the huge swathe of acting talent that rose up in the sixties through Rep Theatre it’s hard to understand exactly how and why so many Rep companies have vanished over the years. With the highly competitive drama school industry now so prevalent, today’s young actors have a much more recognised path to follow into the profession.

So how would a nineteen-year-old Derek Jacobi fair today? “I don’t think… In the theatre, nearly so well as I did because I was very lucky; I’ve been dogged by good luck my entire career,” is the modest answer from the man whose autobiography is entitled As Luck Would Have It. “I think nowadays I would probably take the television route. When you’re performing eight times a week you have a whole other set of disciplines, and obstacles to overcome. It’s harder on stage, much harder. Much more stressful. Much more frightening. Much more rewarding!”

Derek has so much experience in comparing the benefits of theatre over those of television and film: “Also, in the theatre the actor’s in charge. Anything to do with the camera, the director, the editor, they’re in charge. In the theatre it is down to you and the choices you make, the artistic decisions, the creative decisions are yours. Of course you’ve rehearsed and have been directed but when you’re out there it’s you and them, and that is frightening and exhilarating all at the same time. That is a job satisfaction you cannot get in front of a camera because, as with anything to do with camerawork, you are reliant to somebody else responding. You can’t actually tell yourself how you’re doing because how you’re doing is ultimately irrelevant and is given to somebody else to fiddle with; the music goes on, they can change your voice if they want to. A moment you thought was maybe one of your best, maybe the camera wasn’t on, or it was on your left ear – it’s about pictures, it’s about photography. What the public eventually sees is somebody else’s version and not necessarily yours.”

Nowadays Derek can make the leap between genres look easy. “As long as you accept the parameters, but the biggest job satisfaction comes from theatre,” he reassures. “And it’s much easier to go from the theatre into television than the other way around. If you’re used to the intensity and the smallness of a camera space and you’re suddenly put in a 5,000-seat theatre then it’s much harder to fill that space when you’re used to filling such a smaller one. It’s much easier to play it down then for someone that is used to this tiny space to get it all out.”

And of course he’s worked with them all – something a lot of amateur actors might also boast although for different reasons; actors, directors… as amateurs we often have to play whatever hand we are dealt. I can’t resist asking Derek if he’s ever found it hard to take direction or if he’s ever disagreed with a director’s vision for a particular character. “I think it’s very dangerous for an actor to say ‘my character wouldn’t do that!’” he says – so I listen. “We spend our lives acting out of character and I think actors are lazy when they say, ‘Oh no, my character wouldn’t think that’ or ‘my character wouldn’t do that.’ Of course they would, in the right circumstances, in the right situation. We are all capable of anything. So to say you are so aware of who you are by playing a role you limit yourself enormously; you have to go down blind alleys to find out they are blind. ‘So let’s think of those circumstances and see what happens.’”

Faith in your director from the outset is a prerequisite then? “Oh yes! And directors do come in all shapes and sizes,” Derek enjoys telling us. “In my early career I came up against one of those directors – actually there were two in particular – who believed an actor’s creative juices would only flow if they were in a state of abject terror. They were the sort of directors who terrorised a show out of you. And there are remarkably a lot of them around, and they’re awful. You’re performing just for your director because you’re frightened of him.” We sense a story is about to be spilled. We are right.

“There was a frightful director called John Dexter in the early days of the National Theatre. It was the very first production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun and during the dress rehearsal he fired the boy who had one of the smallest parts, the role of the Head Man who I think is only in one scene, saying that he was bad. It wasn’t that he was bad. And it was a terrible moment for that actor. And then we fast forward years later and that boy is now a movie star, and is having tea in New York. And John Dexter walks in. So, there sits Michael York… who cuts John’s balls off! I wasn’t there but Michael told me all about it; I was his best man when he got married.”

Derek revels in storytelling so we ask him to explain further why he’s so convinced that his success is all down to luck. “It was 1963, it was the 50th anniversary of The Birmingham Rep and to celebrate they were going to do the three Shakespeare plays they have never done: Titus Andronicus, Cressida and Troilus, and Henry VIII. They offered me Aaron in Titus, Troilus and Henry VIII – for fifteen weeks in repertoire. And it was while I was doing that, that Laurence Olivier came talent scouting.” One of us suggests to Derek that surely you have to put yourself in the right place for good luck to happen, but he’s having none of it. He continues: “In Henry VIII I was sharing a dressing room with Cardinal Wolsey, and I used to get out very quickly after matinees and go for my tea. After this particular performance I had changed already. As Henry of course I’d have all this padding, the lot! There was a knock at the door and in HE came. Arthur, who was playing Cardinal Wolsey, was still in full drag, so Laurence Olivier came up to me and said ‘Well done, well done,’ and then went over to Arthur and raved about his performance, and then he left. About thirty seconds later he came back in and said ‘YOU… were Henry?’ I said ‘Yes, love.’ And then I got a bit of a rave – and a job!”

Just before I garner Derek’s opinion on ‘we amateurs’ I have to mention his recent television successes namely Last Tango in Halifax and Vicious, both of which signal a departure from his default image as a classical actor. We suspect he treats these shows as a breath of fresh air? “Oh, wonderful!” and his face instantly lights up! “When Tango came along I was over the moon because of this label of being classical and Shakespearean; BBC2 rather than BBC1. And somebody had the foresight to see an ordinary bloke in me. My background is ordinary – I’m from East London. So I jumped at it, it was wonderful. I love doing it. It’s coming to an end though, we are doing a ninety-minute Christmas special and that will be it. And then Vicious came along completely out of the blue. Of course Ian and I have known each other for fifty-odd years, we were at university together, and when my agent rang up and said ‘What do you think about doing a sitcom with Ian McKellen?’ I said ‘Fantastic!’ It was originally called Vicious Old Queens and I rang Ian and said, ‘Are you going to do Vicious Old Queens?’ And he said ‘Well we can’t have that title, it gives us nowhere to go.’ So we ended up with it just being called Vicious.”

After such a long friendship, Derek and Ian McKellen certainly know each other well although their personalities are quite different. “Vicious is actually from an American writer who also did things like Will and Grace, and Family Guy. Of course sitcom in America is a lot stronger. We were taken out to dinner by the writer who said ‘I’ve got these two characters, which one you want to play?’ And Ian immediately said ‘I’m the actor!’” Considering Derek is very quiet and private while Ian is loud and gregarious, they probably got Stuart and Freddie the right way round. “Yes, they did. We’ve filmed the final episode that they’ve hung on to and is also going to be shown this Christmas.”

Just to demonstrate his friendship with Sir Ian, Derek can’t resist one last swipe at his old university chum when I ask if there are any acting boxes he still would like to tick off: “I’d love to do Coronation Street, certainly. They have offered me a couple of parts in it but I was so miscast in both of them, it wouldn’t have worked. Ian had the perfect part, somebody who was not connected with The Street. He was just a visitor, a conman. Six weeks in. Perfect!

“What else can I tick off?… Oh, a big franchise movie, so I could earn a lot of money! Ian’s got money coming out of his ears!” Derek’s probably not wrong either – just Xmen, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit would fill a career in itself for most actors.

AMATEUR THEATRE (and the gossip)
No star-interview would be complete for Sardines without asking a member of acting royalty to share their opinion on the UK’s amateur theatre scene – probably because you never quite know what they’re going to say. Little did we know Derek had been keeping a bag of gossip gold up his sleeve for this very moment: “I love it! I think it’s great. People are so keen and immersed in drama,” enthuses our lunch guest. “At one time or another actors were considered bohemian and strange, and then when television came along acting was fed into people’s sitting rooms all over the place. People sat and they watched early sitcoms and comedies and stuff like that and they thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that, it looks easy.’ And actors became part of everybody’s life rather than a world apart, a magical world. It engendered the actor in everybody, and I think that’s very good because people who are immersed in amateur acting also support the professionals – and I think it feeds into each other. It’s marvellous. And the fact that there are so many amateur companies around the country means it’s vital and therapeutic for people.”

When I ask him – as a genuine fan of the film – how close he thinks the fictitious ‘Stratford Players’ got to a real village am-dram society, in the 2008 film A Bunch of Amateurs, Sir Derek Jacobi told us: “I loved making that film and we all had such fun. There were some great actors in the film, although we had problems with HIM [Burt Reynolds]. Because the rest of us, of course, were all company actors; some were pretty well known but company actors nonetheless. So we ‘loved him up’ and one day he turned on us all – and that was horrible!” Talk about life imitating art! If you know the film’s plot – a Hollywood superstar accidentally agreeing to do King Lear in Stratford, thinking it’s the RSC, only to realise too late that it’s with an am-dram society instead. So they bend over backwards to keep him happy, while he treats them like something he’s just stepped in.

Derek had plenty more to say on the subject: “He was typically American. I remember in Much Ado about Nothing the way Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington would come onto the set, and Burt was exactly the same. Apparently Keanu would stand facing the wall for half an hour getting into the part while Ken Branagh, who could be laughing and joking one minute, and the next, ‘All right everybody!’ …and turn round on a sixpence and do the shot. Americans need ‘space’ and ‘silence’, and one day we were all joking around and Burt screamed at us!

We didn’t pay too much attention to it because we had been giving him EVERYTHING. The man was a zombie. That film could have been marvellous, but his performance was… he was a total zombie! He was on pills, antidepressants, anti-pain, he was held together with pink string and sealing wax. He gained over forty injuries in the course of his career. He had a corset and it took them half an hour to get his costume on. He was almost a dead man walking. So we’d love him up and then he suddenly and spitefully turned on us because we were being a bit naughty. It was a shame.”
When I tell Derek how previously, I’d also heard a Burt Reynolds / Bunch of Amateurs story where his lines had to be stuck up all over the film set, he merely announced, “Darling, at one point I had one of his lines written across my chest!”

Speaking of words and lines, something all actors can suffer from is stage fright and the dreaded thought of drying up mid-scene. And just to show it can happen to absolutely anyone, Derek bravely tells us about the two-year break in his career when he was too petrified to walk out on to a stage. “It’s something I did to myself, I put a web of doubt in my head and it took me two years to get rid of,” he remembers rather reluctantly. “I questioned my ability and my desire to act; my enjoyment of acting. You often hear people ask, ‘How do you learn your lines?’ or, ‘How do you get up in front of 1,000 people?’ And I asked myself, ‘Yes, how do I?’ And the moment I asked that question I couldn’t do it. And it was only because of an offer I couldn’t refuse that I was able to get out of it.” Derek describes the exact moment things went terribly wrong: “In 1979 I was coming to the end of a world tour of Hamlet in the Theatre Royal in Sydney. It was the last day of the tour and our interval came just before the famous ‘To be or not to be’ speech. I was waiting in the wings thinking ‘this is the speech, these are the first few lines. Everyone in the world knows them. What would happen if the actor forgot them?’ So on I went, I started the speech, I got about four lines in and went totally blank. Fortunately I had played it so often that automatic pilot kicked in and I carried on, pouring with sweat, and I got to the end of the show, and I didn’t go on stage again for about 2 1/2 years. I was catatonic with fear that I would forget the whole thing.”

Wow! You’ve really got to know yourself to break out of such a self-induced condition. When you’re that famous, you might know yourself but can you ever see what the public sees? “I know who I am, but I don’t think I know the person the public think I am. A word I think describes me very well, I think is ‘timid’. I’m told a triple Libre, if you believe that sort of thing, which means I am very anti-confrontational, I’m very placid, I don’t get angry. In fact I’m rather lacking on the personality stakes and my public life is virtually restricted to my work. I don’t front campaigns, I don’t relish public speaking. I love my work, that’s what the public sees. The rest of me is mine, and I don’t share it publicly. On occasions you have to, like this interview, but I don’t relish interviews and don’t particularly like talking about myself… so you’re very lucky to have me, aha! I wouldn’t do a chat show. Some actors enjoy it; Ian is a master at it and he enjoys it, but that’s not me.”

What a great way to finish up, but just before we wave Sir Derek off, and by way of tradition, we tap our cover star for some invaluable parting advice exclusively for the amateur performers amongst us: “Well, I always say ‘If you want to be an actor, don’t! But if you need to be an actor, then do!’” he says, before elaborating. “Amateur actors who are successful… they obviously don’t need acting; they’ve got another life, a job. But you’ve got to think of life without acting, and if you can’t conceive of a life without acting then you’ve got to be an actor. You’ve got to do it.

“But it’s a vocation, you’ve got to have the fire in your belly, you’ve got to need it. It’s an extremely risky decision to take. It doesn’t earn you a living but it can make you a fortune. It’s a risk.”

Fifty-six years ago, way back in 1960, we realised Derek Jacobi was someone special, but who could have predicted the career he has had …so far, with more to come. Sir Kenneth Branagh is remaking Murder on the Orient Express next year for which he’s already invited Derek to step into the role Sir John Geildgud previously played. Before that, he’s recording a romantic CD with Last Tango co-star Anne Reid (another reason he was voice-conscious during our chat); 12 songs – Gershwin, Porter, Sondheim etc. So that’s another box ticked off too.
Signing off I really feel like that young girl all over again, fifty-six years ago. Good luck with all you do, Derek.

I am thrilled to have had the chance to interview you – twice! And I am so proud to be counted as your friend.

Hold-en to Your Taps

Hold-en to Your Taps

Above: Amanda Holden. Photo: Simon Turtle

Amanda Holden, together with her best buddies, is currently in the middle of a four-week whistle-stop tour with one of am-dram’s favourite shows, Stepping Out, ahead of opening the production in the West End next March.

Paul Johnson caught up with the super-busy TV personality at the Theatre Royal Bath in between rehearsals and emergency mugs of coffee to find out a little more about BGT’s most popular judge, and the story behind those tap shoes…

Amanda Holden’s status as a national treasure is strongly supported not only by her straight-talking honesty, but also of her image of that of an everyday (albeit glamorous) working mum. She is probably one of today’s best known and popular television personalities. However, the forty-five-year-old, who has been a judge on Britain’s Got Talent throughout its entire ten-year history, has plenty more strings to her bow than simply winning the hearts of the nation wearing designer dresses and sitting next to Simon Cowell.

Trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, and with television and West End credits to her name such as The Grimleys (ITV), Wild at Heart (ITV), Shrek the Musical and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Olivier-nominated), it may surprise many readers that Amanda is every bit a product of amateur theatre. With the amateur sector’s affinity to Stepping Out, she is passionate to talk about her early days: “That’s how I started, at Bishops Waltham Little Theatre, an amateur dramatics group set up by a lady called Angie Blackford. It was a godsend to my mother because I was doing plays in the back garden and, back in those days, we didn’t have any money and no-one knew about how to get your daughter on the stage; we just didn’t have the funds.”

It turns out the Holden family were similar to a myriad of other am-dram families around the country, immersing themselves into the art form, “So my dad started off as the set designer, he painted the backdrop; my mum ran the bar; my sister was in the chorus. And then my mum turned into the Wicked Witch and my dad turned into Buttons. I was Cinderella and my sister was still in the chorus because she likes to mess about. They used to call us the Von Trapps because our whole family was involved. So, amateur dramatics, for me, is everything because it fed what I knew I was going to do aged nine. I turned my hobby into my profession, and that’s a blessing. It’s massively important, for everyone.”

Anyone reading this who was a little dubious of Amanda’s ‘national treasure’ credentials prior to our interview can rest assured as she continues: “When you go to drama school you learn all about sound and lighting, but I always used to bugger everyone’s cues up. I think you learn more from amateur dramatics, you learn about people’s temperaments and what goes on, the kick bollocks scramble of backstage, the excitement. I can honestly say that putting the show on in the church hall with Bishops Waltham Little Theatre gave me the same feeling in my tummy as it did when I opened in Thoroughly Modern Millie or Shrek. It’s the same feeling of getting up onstage.”

Next month, in between touring Stepping Out and opening at the Vaudeville Theatre on 1 March, TV’s favourite personality will be appearing as panto’s favourite fairy godmother at the London Palladium. But right now Amanda’s (Mandy to her TV chums) head is living, breathing and dreaming ‘tap-dancing’. “I’m completely forgetting about the Palladium at the moment, right now I’m being Vera and, in a couple of months, I’ll turn into to a fairy godmother. But, yes, I have had a few tap-dancing dreams. I had a massage this morning and apparently my calves are in a really bad place, ha ha! But it’s fine, that’s just my age. We are all the same age in the show and we are all feeling the same aches and pains.”

The four-week tour, which started at Theatre Royal Bath has also just stopped in Amanda’s home town at Richmond Theatre before moving on to Cambridge Arts Theatre (31 Oct – 5 Nov) and then Chichester Festival Theatre (8 – 19 Nov). But be warned, if you’re hoping for tickets for the latter venues you might need to join the returns list. Amanda: “We’re previewing at the moment; it’s definitely a work-in-progress. But it’s going really, really well. We’re still plotting loads of things in and, obviously because each theatre has got different sightlines, for things we’ve already plotted, some people can’t see, so we’re sometimes having to change everything. Also relighting certain things so it’s clearer, but the first night we got a standing ovation and a massive reaction. I have to say we are sold-out for the tour; it’s doing really well. I’m just hoping the West End is going to reflect the same kind of response.”

Amanda goes on to tell me of how her involvement in this particular production came about, where I wasn’t surprised to hear she personally played a large part in bringing the revival to the stage. “I watched the movie with my children on TNT last Christmas and I’d just been to see the opening of Funny Girl at the [Menier] Chocolate Factory where my friend, Jason Maddocks, works. He was my flatmate while I was at drama school; we both went to Mountview together and lived with each other for about three years. He’s always been saying to me, ‘When are you going to come back on the stage?’ I told him it would have to be a really special thing because it’s such a huge commitment doing anything when you’ve got children, onstage especially. So then I watched the movie and rang him up, ‘What about Stepping Out?’

I knew it was also a great play, and he thought it was a really good idea. So I bought the play from Amazon, sent the script out to a few friends and asked them to choose a part if interested. We then took it to Danny at the Royal Bath who loved the idea. Then my management team, James Grant who also look after Ant and Dec and basically anyone else you see on the telly – turned around and said, ‘Why didn’t you come to us?’ So they are now co-producers. And that’s how it happened. and all my friends are in it!

How wonderful it must be, to be so famous that you’re able to cast your best mates! …At our amateur level, just the very hint of pre-casting friends would set off a peasant revolt and at least twelve months’ of gossip. As it turns out working with her friends (Angela Griffin, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicola Stephenson) was only part of Amanda’s journey: “It’s a dream come true, but the biggest dream I think was to get the right director. Jason knew Maria [Friedman], and I’d seen Merrily We Roll Along and loved it, I just think she’s amazing and I’ve seen her in several productions where I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ Anyway. she said yes and I couldn’t believe it.

“It’s just been ridiculous. I was in the bath last night and my husband said to me, ‘You must be happy because this is a dream come true?’ And I said, ‘Yes it is. I’m just a bit stressed out at the moment to actually appreciate it,’ because of Debbie and everything else I can’t really relish it all with so much going on. But I will sit down, probably at the weekend when my children arrive, and probably go, ‘Oh my bloody God! We’ve done it!’ ”

That’s often the way I guess, when you are engrossed in the middle of something; it’s hard to get an outside perspective, a bit like being a member of the Royal Family! “Exactly!” replies am-dram’s new best friend, as she takes a swig of coffee and a bite of her sandwich. “Yes, so it’s been a dream. It’s amazing because we all know each other, we’re all mothers, we’ve all had girls so we know each other’s children, and they are all coming up this weekend. We’ve got a huge dinner booked on Sunday. We’ve all got the same aches and pains. Some of the women are going through the menopause; the air-conditioning is on, it’s off, it’s on, it’s off. We’ve all got the same injuries. We’ve all got the same memory problems – so it’s all been brilliant!”

The ‘Debbie’ who Amanda mentions earlier is her younger sister. Just a week before our interview, Debbie was involved in a serious car accident in Cornwall which saw the forty-four-year-old put in intensive care. With Amanda leaving rehearsals to rush down to the West Country, for a few days, everything was up in the air and no-body knew whether the production would need to be postponed. Luckily, Debbie was out of danger fairly early on: “It’s going to be a long journey and it’s made everything… not as joyful as we wanted it to be. Of course I want to be with her, but my mum is there and she sent me off. Debbie’s going to be fine,” Amanda reassures.

The more Amanda describes the ailments and inevitable challenges running through the cast, the more the production feels like life imitating art. “It absolutely is!” Amanda agrees, accidentally banging her knee against a chair which makes her wince. “I mean none of us are brilliant tap-dancers – which we are not supposed to be. We’ve been told to keep eating and keep being rubbish at tap. It’s like a dream job really. The director doesn’t want us all to be skinny minnies onstage, except for me of course… my character has to be slim, ha ha!”

I point out that Amanda’s ‘working mum’ and ‘national treasure’ image sits nicely alongside, not only the characters in the play but also the thousands of women in amateur theatre – many of whom will inevitably have already been in Stepping Out. After all, the play features an everyday group of people meeting up in a village hall for their weekly tap class – it’s probably the perfect play for a busy mother of two to be in? “That’s very nice of you to suggest I could be a national treasure, but I don’t feel any of those things at the moment, except ‘working mum,” she tells me, counting down the days until her daughters arrive. “At the moment I just feel pure guilt; I’ve literally just got them both new Barbie dolls.”

Amanda wholeheartedly agrees about the characters in the play: “Even though I love Richard Harris’s screenplay, I think his stage play is much better. The play is raw and has more honesty – and isn’t stupidly set in America, which I never understood. I think it’s relatable, the women are so relatable, everyone’s got something going on in their life and by the end of the night you really care enough about them all to want them to succeed in that tap dance. And I think that’s the joy of it. I read the play and loved the part of Vera; she’s very outspoken and very funny. But probably my favourite parts are Maxine and Dorothy who are both very sweet and funny. I think you recognise somebody you know in every single one of the characters in it.”

There’s also a parallel to be drawn with her big ‘day job’. In Stepping Out surely Amanda also gets to feel a little of what all those Britain’s Got Talent hopefuls have to go through. “Ha ha. Yes, I’ve never forgotten what it feels like to audition, believe me,” she joyously reveals. “And Simon’s probably going to come and see it in the West End next spring. I said the same thing to him, I said, ‘I think if we came along to audition for you, you’d probably buzz us, but David would definitely put us through. Ha ha. That’s what it feels like. And I know Alesha would put us through too. But we really are like one of these groups of women who comes on BGT… We should probably turn up and audition, but they might wonder why I wasn’t in my seat.”

It’s ironic that around the same time Stepping Out will be competing for bums on seats with Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical The Girls also opens in the West End next spring? If you swap the tap shoes for naked photographs, the characters and village hall scenarios are, in fact very similar. “I know! It’s really funny because I’ve always said Stepping Out is Calendar Girls in tap-shoes,” exclaims Amanda. “But I’m sure there’s enough audiences to come and see both. We certainly wish each other well, the Calendar Girls musical will be brilliant. And I love Gary Barlow. But I’m going to make him come and see me first.”

Before next March, however, there’s a little matter of a major six-week run Amanda will be doing in the UK’s biggest panto production this year, Cinderella at the London Palladium. The epic show (and it really will be epic) features a truly star-studded cast including Paul O’Grady (Wicked Stepmother), Julian Clary (Dandini), Lee Mead (Prince Charming), Paul Zerdin (Buttons), Nigel Havers (Lord Chamberlain) and Count Arthur Strong (Baron Hardup) …as well as Amanda as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.

How on earth does her diary cope? “I just think of myself as any other working mother, except I’m in the public eye,” comes the cool reply. “I experience the same difficulties with childcare and feelings of guilt as I’m sure most working mothers in this country feel.” If we were in America I might have suggested she runs for president at this point.

Then again, unlike most families, at least Amanda’s daughters will get to see and maybe even believe their mum is Cinderella’s real Fairy Godmother! “Yes, my littlest one already thinks her aunty is a mermaid (Debbie teaches scuba diving), so it’s quite normal for her to believe her own mother could be a fairy godmother! Ha, ha.”

Somehow, even before Amanda picks up her fairy wand or goes near a pumpkin, and way before the aches, pains, massages and sore feet return in the New Year for the run up to March’s big West End opening, the other big love in her working life will already have kicked off its eleventh series. Being a judge on arguably TV’s biggest talent show obviously keeps her profile at the very top of the pile. So, presumably it’s not only important but essential to maintain the crazy schedule balancing both career areas – even if it does mean a trip to Birmingham’s ICC right in the middle of Stepping Out’s current ‘preview’ tour? “I love all genres of this business,” replies Amanda, and you’d be foolish to doubt her. “I think in order for me to continue being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent I have to continue to put myself forward and up for judgement!” Well that’s an annoyingly well-observed point and one that perhaps we might all dwell upon. When push comes to shove, weighing the whole work diary up, it is indeed the TV work which gets the Holden vote: “I love live television best of all, with theatre a close second!”

Stepping Out (Cambridge):
31 October – 5 November 2016

Stepping Out (Chichester):
8 November – 19 November 2016

Stepping Out (West End):
From 1 March (press night 14 March)

Cinderella (Palladium):
10 December 2016 – 15 January 2017

“I Am What I Am” …Behind the Make-Up

“I Am What I Am” …Behind the Make-Up

Above: John Partridge in make-up for Albin/Zaza. Photo: Courtesy of TargetLive

In March we were indeed fortunate to sit down with ex-EastEnders star and musical theatre king, John Partridge, as the first-ever UK tour of La Cage aux Folles swept through the leafy corner of south west London via New Wimbledon Theatre.

If ever actor and role were in perfect harmony then this is it! In a show-stealing performance as Albin (and alter-ego, Zaza), Partridge undeniably owns the entire La Cage stage as well as making the show’s big number I Am What I Am his own.

Beneath all the satin, sequins and feathers, Paul Johnson found the performer in a philosophical and reflective mood…

You’re just over two months into the first ever UK tour of La Cage Aux Folles – is it living up to expectations?
“I would say, ‘Yes!’ but you would probably have to ask the audience, ha, ha! I can say that with every single performance we’ve had a standing ovation. Now I’ve been doing this for a very long time – over thirty years – and that is quite rare. I think having the opportunity to tour a show like La Cage aux Folles at this time during the current political climate with the rise of Trump and possibly Marie Le Pen in France there seems to be, as far as the LGBT community goes, a kind of squashing, condensing and compressing of our rights and our freedoms. After all, La Cage is a musical that deals with a hard-won freedom in the face of conservatism, therefore, to be able to tour the show at this time of our political history is incredibly important.

“It feels, for somebody like me, who is openly gay and has lived life like that really without any conscience for the last thirty years, to sing I Am What I Am and share that moment with the audience, is very empowering for somebody like me – and also quite life-affirming. But to come back to my original point, I think the fact that we have this standing ovation every night – and it is every night without question no matter where we’ve been in the country, from Edinburgh to Wimbledon – shows that people stand up for the heart of the show and for the essence of what the show means. We are all different. We must celebrate our differences. Acknowledge our differences. But ultimately, it’s about what we can do together, achieve together, if we allow each other to be the person they want to be.”

It must be so satisfying to connect with, and get that affirmation from, the audience?
“Yes, but we have to remember that this show is not just for an LGBT community. A song like I Am What I Am is universal; it is not reserved. We cannot as a community claim that for ourselves. There are women’s marches around the globe where, at the majority, I Am What I Am is played, so a song like that has a huge resonance with a lot of people – from political events for equality and diversity, or sporting events. It means so many things for so many people. I wonder, when Jerry Herman wrote that iconic song, if he realised what a life that would go on to have outside of this. Also, the essence of the show really is: what does it mean to be a normal family? What does it mean to be a mother? So I also think that I Am What I Am resonates as much with the female population as it does with the LGBT community. It contains a huge message for a wide range of issues, and I think that’s what the show deals with. It’s not just about a gay couple, it’s about any family, any individual, any person who feels that for some reason he or she is persecuted for being the person they wish to be. That reaches out and touches so many people in so many different ways. That’s why it’s exciting to take this show out on the road, right now, at this time.”

Have you seen hundreds of productions of La cage over the years?
“I saw the show originally in 1987 at the London Palladium, then the Jerry Mitchell production in 2005 in the States, here in 2010, and I’ve also seen it in Australia. So I’ve seen many productions of La Cage aux Folles, with many different actors and many different directors, and I had quite a large knowledge of the show going into it. That’s obviously all been very helpful for me in a way – and not in other ways. As with any iconic role, any role that has been played by legends, before you, when you take on a role you have to leave all that aside in some way in order to find your own part. As much as I have appreciated all of those performances, I’m afraid you have to discard a lot of that to be able to walk on the stage yourself and bring your own truth, your own essence to a role like this.

“That’s what I’ve tried to do. I think my Albin, my Zaza, are probably different from anybody else in that way, but also I am quite different to others who have played this role. You have to approach it with fresh eyes in a way, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

You really get to work the full triple threat (acting, singing and dancing) in the show, with a lot more acting than in many musicals – so is This your dream role?
“The book for this piece is exceptional and probably quite unique; there isn’t a word out of place. The score is also a gift of a role. I don’t want to say ‘no acting required’ – or I’ll probably be putting myself down in some way – but the text, the lyrics and the melody are absolutely world class, which is why this is a multi-award-winning show. With that, though, comes a great responsibility and it is a great honour to go on the stage and deliver those songs and really become part of the La Cage family. We’ve had a lot of the original cast members coming to see the show and have had a lot of love and support from them. In some ways we’re just caretakers.

“When we decided to take this show on the road we made the conscious decision to make it ‘our’ particular take on it so we, as a company, have gelled very well. We’re still trying to be as respectful as we can to both the text and the score.”

‘No acting required’, is a disservice indeed, especially when this show requires mastering MANY comedic elements and then balancing them with the more touching and dramatic scenes?
“I think sometimes you need to remember that it’s all there on the page and the choices that I make are not difficult due to the fact that it’s so beautifully crafted, even if I do bounce from one to the other. I’m not having to make some huge emotional u-turn because it is like a perfect melody. It rises and falls in exactly the places it needs to. I don’t need to make those decisions, I don’t have to decide when to put my foot on the pedal and go, or pull it back, because it’s all written down for me. That’s what I mean by ‘no acting required.’ All I have to do is fully step into the character and be genuine as soon as I walk out on to that stage; the journey is there before me, it’s like cruising down the river – the sun comes out, you’re going to hit those rapids, and all you’ve got to do is ride it. That’s how I feel; I just have to ride the show. As long as I can navigate through that and don’t veer off course I’ll be fine. It really is the Hamlet of musical theatre, for a man.

“It’s exciting one minute to be able to experience your soul being ripped out and, in the next, flip that and feel so uplifted. But really that’s a sort of metaphor for our own lives isn’t it; that’s what you have to do in your own life. In the most devastating situations, you sometimes have to find the beauty in everything, even when it is so incredibly painful. That’s a lesson for us all and, as I get older, life tends to throw more of these curved balls the longer we live.

“These things happen to us eventually anyway. It’s a wonderful experience really, having a show at this point in my life. Normally your professional life might be great only for your personal life not to be so good, or the other way around. But I seem to be in a place right now where we all seem to be swimming in the same direction. That’s not to say that everything is rosy in the garden and I don’t have some difficulties but, right now, my professional life, my political life and my personal life are all heading in the same direction. It feels like all these elements have really led me to this moment; it’s a very rare time for me and one that I’m extremely grateful for, and humbled by all at the same time.”

You’re obviously passionate in everything you’re involved in. Is it possible to compare theatre with shows like EastEnders?
“It’s all about growth. I am not an artistic snob, and I’m very easily pleased. I think you can learn as much from a reality television show as you can from a season at the National. It’s about your own personal growth, your own personal development, and like I say, sometimes that comes from your life, sometimes from your art, sometimes from making wrong decisions and choices – it’s about how you apply those. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some astoundingly terrible decisions, both professionally and personally, but I am forty-six right now and when I went into Cats I was only sixteen. And I’m still here, still working, still lucky enough to do a bit of television, a bit of reality, and of course theatre. I’m a jobbing actor and I try to learn from all of it.

“This is an amazing experience I’m having right now in this show, and all I can say is that I’m ready for where I am right now. A lot of the time we’re not. I’ve had jobs before when I didn’t have a clue at what I was doing and had to learn really rapidly on the gig. Sometimes that’s been good, and at others, not so good. But theatre is about objection isn’t it; what is going to please you is not going to please other people. But you can’t live your life by other people’s opinions; you have to do what feels right to you, and this is what I try to do. I make choices about my career, my life and about what I need, what my family may need at that time. Sometimes they’re great choices for me and sometimes they’re not. But the point is I’m able to make them. And I’m very proud of the fact that I came into this business at sixteen, and right now I’m sat on the front waiting to go out and do my sound check, talking to you about being in this incredible show thirty-one years later. That’s what it’s all about, growth, development and learning.

“It’s so easy to be inspired by other things – a piece of music, a show, a drama on television or a book. To self-inspire is so difficult. In this business, in the industry, when you’ve been to endless auditions and been told ‘no’, or you get horrendous reviews when people don’t like what you’re doing, that’s when you really have to self-inspire. The only way you can do that is by learning and continuing to develop your craft, your art, whatever it may be, from wherever you can. It’s moving and growing and dealing with the situation that you’re in. That’s the hard bit, and the bit that gets even more difficult the longer you stay – or try to stay – in this business. You’ve just got to find that self-belief somewhere. Luckily for me right now, I’m in a job where it’s made it all a little bit easier. That for me is what it’s all about and it’s why I’m most grateful right now.

“To deliver these amazing songs and beautiful lyrics is lucky for me if it touches you but it really does touch me, and that’s what’s so exciting for me. I do have to take things very carefully with this show, especially when there are two performances a day – so I’m living like a nun, which isn’t very Zaza is it, ha ha! – but I’m certainly appreciating every moment.”

La Cage aux Folles is currently touring the UK until Aug. For more information and tickets visit:

What’s It All About?

What’s It All About?

Above: Kara Lily Hayworth in Cilla The Musical at the Liverpool Empire. Photo: Matt Martin

Following a series of open auditions up and down the country, Sardines was fortunate to grab a chat with Kara Lily Hayworth to find out a little more about the actress who beat thousands of hopefuls for the right to play the coveted title role in Jeff Pope’s new stage adaptation of his original ITV mini-series, Cilla the Musical.

Kara dropped into New Wimbledon Theatre in August to talk about the brand-new show at the tour’s only London stop.

On a level playing field queuing with thousands of amateurs and professionals alike, Kara originally attended the London leg of the audition process at the Dominion Theatre. There, producer and co-director, Bill Kenwright, alongside Cilla’s eldest son and Executive Producer, Robert Willis, whittled down a nationwide list of thousands to just thirty.

A professional actress since 2010, Kara is still buzzing as she remembers her biggest audition to date: “I left drama school in 2010 so I’ve been out in the big bad world for a little while, but I must admit the thought of going to an open call was a huge risk. To start off with, even though I felt right for it, I thought they were going to find someone from Liverpool. I knew I looked right with the same sort of gangly body shape, and I knew I could sing the numbers… plus my acting agent thought I stood a good chance. So it was definitely worth going for. But there was a hell of a queue when I got out of the Tube at Tottenham Court Road that day. And we all had to line up together; as far as I know there were no short cuts or preferential treatment shown to anyone professional.”

Once shortlisted, the final thirty were taken to perform back to where it all began for Cilla (and several other pretty famous people), Liverpool’s world-famous Cavern Club. Kara explains how a completely untrained Priscilla White, with the help of some well-chosen friends, started off on the road to fame and fortune: “She got lucky. She sang in The Cavern and just happened to be friends with Ringo and the other Beatles when they were just starting out,” she tells me. “There’s a brilliant line in the play where Ringo says, ‘Oh, John wanted you to come up and sing,’ to which Cilla replies, ‘Well, I suppose if I’m gonna sing somewhere I might as well sing with me mates.’ …and you think, ‘Oh my God. That’s The Beatles!’ So that’s where it all started. It’s funny to think how all that actually happened; The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers… I was reading Cilla’s autobiography and the way she talks about ‘Beatlemania’ and she just says, ‘It was just my mates from back home.’ Extraordinary.”

A packed Cavern for a performer from Buckinghamshire is probably intimidating enough, but any fears Kara had were soon dispelled. “The Cavern is an amazing place, it was completely packed, and that was in the middle of the day,” confirms the redhead. “Not being from Liverpool I wondered if they’d like me, but everyone was so lovely – although I didn’t dare do the Scouse accent that day!”
The chosen thirty eventually became a quartet, one of which was Kara. “At the end of the auditions and recalls there were just four of us left, and I had absolutely no idea,” she excitedly tells me. And then came the news: “I’ve just got shivers thinking about it again. Just that feeling of being told I’d got the part was so extraordinary, which sounds really cheesy, but it’s kind of a life-changing moment. Not only is this my life for the next year but hopefully things might change for me after this.”

I’m pleased to hear that upon receiving the good news from Mr Kenwright this was one young lady who definitely did not keep her cool. “No! …ha, ha! I started crying, very embarrassing. I think I was so shocked because I didn’t even realise I was being told on that day. Bill knew the week before, and I think he wanted to see that moment.”

While rightly celebrating such a momentous achievement, at the same time Kara is very philosophical about the way the industry works. “Of course the other three girls had to hear another NO, but that’s the way it goes. I don’t know what’s worse; not to even get a first recall, or to get all the way to the end and then not get the part. They’re both heartbreaking in different ways. It’s a very tough industry with a hell of a lot of heartbreak. This is definitely my big break even though I’ve worked a lot and done some lovely things in my career to date. There have been a lot more nos than yeses, and I’ve been working on it for seven years.”

Not wanting to put too much of a dampener on the mood, I ask Kara, who trained at Central School of Speech and Drama, if she’s willing to elaborate a little more on how tough it is to continuously receive so many knock-backs. Can three years of drama school prepare you for that amount of rejection? “Nothing prepares you for that!” is the immediate response. “You can be prepared for jobs and how to operate in a working scenario, but the reality of leaving drama school is a bit like, ‘Oh my God. What do I do now?’ You go to an audition thinking that you’ve really nailed it – and then you don’t get a recall. And sometimes you’ll go up for things that you think you’re really right for – and you don’t get a recall. You can easily over-think everything and drive yourself mad trying to figure out what you did wrong. There were a couple of auditions that I went to just before Cilla that I didn’t get recalled for and I just wondered what was going wrong… and then this happened. Quite often there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to any of it.”

The twenty-nine-year-old is surprisingly grounded and mature in her approach to the industry. “I’ve always been quite tricky to cast. I’m not a typical looking girl next door, so I don’t slot into every show very easily. But then, when something is really right then… well, that’s why you should never turn your nose up to open auditions, especially if you feel that you are right for it – just go! Getting a no for something doesn’t mean you’re not any good, it just means you’re not right, or rather not what they want in at …that particular moment. It’ll come down to the silliest things; someone might walk into the room and look exactly the same as the director has envisaged a role to be. So even if you’ve been in before and absolutely nailed it, done everything right and to the best of your ability, then they’re probably still going to give it to the other person.”

In our previous issue you may recall actor, Zoe Cunningham, disclosing how only a miniscule percentage of the profession manage to earn upwards of £20k per year. Once again Kara is open to discussing the truth behind such an over-subscribed industry: “I haven’t earned anything like that since leaving drama school,” she says honestly. “It’s a bit heartbreaking when you have to get a ‘normal’ job outside of acting to pay the bills, but you do what you need to do. I’ve handed out flyers on the streets and other stuff like that. Luckily, for the last five years I’ve been either singing or acting in some capacity full time – which in no way means I’ve been earning a good living, because I haven’t – but I have been working in the profession, such as singing gigs where I pretend to be a waitress and suddenly pop up singing opera, which can be great fun. I’ve done all sorts of random things. To be in one job now until next year really provides a bit more clarity when, usually, it’s been one day to the next.”

Kara’s attitude to the amateur sector is also a strong one especially as it’s here that she caught the performing bug. “Training-wise, early on I went to Jackie Palmer’s on a Saturday which was a dance and drama school but, other than that, I just went to normal school. I did a show with the Chesham Light Opera Company [now Chesham Musical Theatre Company] at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham which was where I grew up in Buckinghamshire. I played the Artful Dodger in Oliver! [2002] and, for Wycombe [Swan] Youth Theatre I did The Hot Mikado and West Side Story. That definitely gave me the buzz for performing.”

And of course without that initial experience, who knows what might, or might not, have happened. “It’s funny, without those productions I probably wouldn’t be sat here playing Cilla,” admits Kara. “To see how you’ve got somewhere in life, you can trace everything back to a line of tiny little moments, and without them that path would fall apart. Even being devastated at something you didn’t get always ends up being the right thing. You’ve got to believe that everything happens for the right reasons – otherwise you’ll never be content.”

One such ‘blip’ for Kara was appearing on television’s biggest talent show. “My career’s gone in a very wobbly line. I was in a four-piece girl band that got to the live semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent last year. We were signed to a record label for a little while which actually took me away from acting, and musical theatre, for a couple of years. Then we got dropped by the label – which is another example of how the industry gives and then takes away – and that’s when we went in for BGT but, as I said, it’s all led to the right place in the end.”

Kara offers more wisdom: “What’s also important is that you mustn’t hold onto something that’s not working. If you get an opportunity you have to be ready to say ‘yes’ every time; ‘Yep, I’ll do that!’ Obviously you have to use your common sense and judge whether or not it’s going to serve you well, but if it looks like a good idea, it’s going to be fun and you could potentially get something from it, career-wise, then you have to experience it all.”

The new tour, which Jeff Pope himself has adapted from his own TV screenplay, started life in early September in Cilla’s home town of Liverpool and tours until 24 March 2018 when it finishes its run at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre. After that, with Wimbledon being its only London stop (7-11 November), you can bet that plans are already being drawn up for a West End run.

“I’m sure that must be in their minds, and that would be a dream come true,” says Kara. “I did The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the Arts Theatre which counts as off-West End so Cilla would be my proper West End debut. Hopefully the tour will go down well. It’s a beautiful script by Jeff Pope and obviously has wonderful songs. It’s really a play with music about Cilla’s story rather than a musical so the way the songs happen in the story is the way they actually happened in situ whether she’s in the studio or performing on a TV show. If you were going to compare it to anything it would probably have to be Beautiful the Carol King Musical.”

Playing opposite Kara are Carl Au as Cilla’s life-long partner, Bobby, and Andrew Lancel who interestingly returns to the role of Brian Epstein. It’s an introduction by a young John Lennon to the music mogul that changes Priscilla White’s life forever. I remember sitting directly behind Bill Kenwright three years ago when Lancel gave an acclaimed performance in the title role of Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles – so it’s nice to see that Mr Kenwright also agrees with our review.

When it comes to the songs, Kara Lily Hayworth knows all too well how difficult they are to perform. “They’re all very hard songs,” she tells me. “I don’t think anyone realised at the time how much of a range Cilla had; a lot of the songs go from very low and do an octave leap halfway through. They’re tough numbers so I’ve been working on them a lot while also getting a bit of her personality through – without making it a pure copycat version. They don’t want an impersonation as such, but you obviously need to capture her spirit.”

Lastly, I can’t help asking about the incredible performance from Sheridan Smith who, of course, portrayed Cilla so well in the original ITV mini-serial. Has our new star received a message from the Funny Girl yet? “Not yet, but I’d love to. She was so wonderful in the TV serial,” gushes Kara, obviously a genuine fan. “I had a very small part in the film called The Huntsman that Sheridan was in, and she’s such a lovely person. So I’ve met her before and I hope she remembers… I’m sure she knows.”

After opening to rave reviews, let’s hope that by the time you’re reading this, a message from Ms Smith along with dozens of other well-wishers, are stuck to Kara Lily Hayworth’s dressing-room mirror.

For performance dates, tour info and tickets please visit:

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

Above: Ian Kelsey as Andy Dufresne in Bill Kenwright’s production of The Shawshank Redemption. Photo: Mark Yeoman

Born and bred in York but now based on the south coast, Ian Kelsey is one of those instantly recognisable actors who, you could say, has pretty much done it all. Originally a musical theatre graduate from Surrey’s GSA, Ian has performed in both plays and musicals in the West End and around the country, most recently as Andy Dufresne in the 2015 stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption.

The recognition factor, though, comes from his many TV appearances in a myriad of dramas and soaps. Most recently as Vinny Ashford, he came to a sticky end in Corrie at the hands of the show’s current villain, Pat Phelan. However, over the years you may have also seen Ian in Emmerdale, Casualty, Blue Murder, Where the Heart Is and Doctors.

Now 51, Ian Kelsey has recently added a rather surprising string to his bow in the form of portrait and headshot photography. I sat down with Ian in the New Year to find out more, not only about Ian’s career, but also the new venture and how it could benefit amateur societies and drama schools.

The first thing you notice about him, as we sit down inside the National Theatre, is how refreshingly down-to-earth and straight-talking he is; what is it they say about Yorkshiremen? The second thing I quickly find out is how Ian is a genuine 100% product of amateur theatre – without which he almost certainly wouldn’t be sitting on the South Bank talking to me about his acting career. As for the photography – we’ll get to that.

First I want to hear all about someone who never considered acting until a chance event changed the course of his life. “I was building trains! Came out of school and got one of the five main factory jobs in Yorkshire that everybody went for,” he tells me without any airs or graces. “At school I used to get sweaty palms in English when we’d go round the classroom reading out loud. I’d always count ahead and work out which chapter I would have to read. I wasn’t listening to Kes, I’d be going over my chapter again and again so I wouldn’t stumble; I’ve never been tested but I think I’m probably dyslexic. Our English teacher used to call me Cretin.” Charming, wouldn’t get away with that today!

“They were just happy to get us out and into the factory,” continues Ian. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for those six years building trains. There were 75 apprentices, so all of a sudden you’ve got 75 new mates in York all earning £56 a week.” Until this point I’ve not seen any signs of much acting ambition. However, a lucky glance through the local paper changed everything: “Because of the monotony of the work there was an advert in the Yorkshire Evening Press saying, ‘Lads Needed for Half a Sixpence.’ So me and my mate, Saggy, joined up to meet girls.” Well, that is one reason why some people join their local society. “We walked through the door and were outnumbered 5:1 easily; we had a right laugh, so much fun. Thursday night and Sunday afternoon rehearsals; it was just a new life.”

Ian recalls some of those early shows he did with Joseph Rowntree Theatre: “I did Pearce in Half a Sixpence, the musical version of Some Like It Hot which is called Sugar, Jesus Christ Superstar, I played Rooster in Annie… When we did Sugar I completely mimicked Tony Curtis’ Cary Grant rip-off from the film. It’s what you do isn’t it. Later on I’d also rip off John Travolta’s walk in Grease. I’ve often wondered why Sugar hasn’t done that well. Tommy Steele brought it into the Prince Edward and even got the rights to call it Some Like It Hot; it has some brilliant songs. There’s a really good number Jack Lemmon’s character has with Marilyn Monroe – or rather Sugar – and Tommy Steele nicked it for his character to sing with her instead.

“I had some school mates working in other jobs and they came to see me in Jesus Christ Superstar – I got them really good seats – and when I looked in the second half every seat was empty. I said to them, ‘Where did you go?’ ‘To the pub!’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well… it’s all songs innit!’ – actually they were right. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice didn’t put one word of dialogue into that show. ‘Fair enough.’ You know what they say: ‘It’s for anybody, but not for everyone.’ ”

The more Ian reminisces, the more he starts to smile. “Do you know what, I’ve never enjoyed a show as much as when I’ve done an amateur show; I’ve never ever got that same buzz in a professional production.” He smiles again: “One thing that always used to make me laugh is the competition; swapping groups. Where I grew up is York Light and Rowntree Youth. If Rowntree members found out York Light was doing a certain show you’d always get a couple of defectors. They’ll always be given the cold shoulder when they came back to do the next Rowntree show, which is good because I think it’s all wrong. The audience that go to see Rowntree, for instance, get to know the company and recognise the performers; it’s a bit like old-school rep.”

So, from joining the local musical society – to meet girls – Ian tells me of his next step. “I remember one of the lads from amateur theatre applied to get into drama school, and that really shocked me. As stupid as it sounds, I thought that only people living in London could go to drama school… not from York! So I thought, ‘You know what, if he can do it, I can do it.’ As luck would have it, we’d done Kiss Me Kate and in it there’s a Shakespeare speech called ‘Tis charity to show’. I knew it just from being in the wings, so when I auditioned with my song and a Shakespeare – which was the requirement – I nailed the speech all because I’d done Kiss Me Kate rather than a proper Shakespeare play. And I got in! They were also still doing grants at that time so I was pretty lucky.”

So far Ian hasn’t convinced me of any burning desire or passion within – but who cares; he’s very entertaining. “Originally when I went to drama school it was to have a career in musical theatre which is what I’d always done with amateur shows,” he says. “I came out of Guildford [GSA] in 1992 when it had a good reputation for churning out lots of jack-of-all-trades. Most people came out not necessarily amazingly brilliant at one thing but you could definitely blag a job – ha, ha!”

And so it was that Ian Kelsey was unleashed into the professional acting industry. “One of my earlier jobs was a musical version of The Secret Garden which I did at the ‘lunchtime theatre’ in The Kings Head pub theatre in London. It was hilarious as I was playing Dickon – aged nearly thirty – and had to have an entrance through the audience. The only way at The Kings Head to get around the side is to go up a pair of step-ladders, out of a window, tip-toe across the roof of the theatre then tap on the window for the kitchen staff to open and let you through. If it had been raining I’d enter through the audience soaking wet!”

Ian certainly sounded like his feet were still planted firmly on the ground and he wasn’t taking himself too seriously, but maybe when you’re that good looking things tend to fall into place…
“Then I went over to Dublin to do the original version of Grease – which didn’t include the Bee Gees songs. I was playing Teenangel so I had to be lowered down from a cloud then walk down these heavenly stairs that lit up; not a bad entrance for my first proper gig! I got moved up to play Danny for the final two weeks when our lead off to another job.”

The young Ian Kelsey was certainly making the most of his new career: “That show was a real laugh. We were all wearing leathers because I was also one of the T-Bird dancers and we used to sweat into the mic-packs, so the sound guy gave us all condoms to put over them – which worked. However, the cleaning ladies refused to go into our dressing room as they thought we were having a party with the chorus girls every night.”

Ah, those early days. “I can’t remember eating anything in Dublin for the whole of that gig, we just drank the black stuff,” Ian sips his coffee. “After that I somehow found myself doing a lot of commercials which is how I started to get into television more. I’d done a stint of profit-share, a few musicals and some commercials. I’d also done Black Beauty …and then Emmerdale came in.”
For an actor, a role in a serial drama (soap) can send their career into orbit. “I had the audition on the Wednesday then, on the Thursday, I had to say that if I was offered it on Friday, would I take it? They obviously needed someone fast, it was a crazy time. So I said ‘yes’ on the Thursday, was given the job on Friday and found myself on-set Monday morning. I literally packed my life in a bag and drove to Leeds with a big grin on my face thinking, “I’m in Emmerdale!”

This wasn’t the Emmerdale we know today though, and it had only dropped the ‘Farm’ from its name at the end of the 80s. “Back then it was only on for two episodes a week. It was me and Noah Huntley who were drafted in to kind of…” wait for it! “I don’t really want these words to come out of my mouth but… sex it up.”

And so begins the era of the modern soap! I bet the lads back in York had a field day. “We had Tube posters in London which said: ‘Worth Getting Home Early For!’ and as there were no mobile phones I’d only find out about any banter when going back home on the weekend. Finchley Central was our Tube station and there were eight of us living next door to each other in two houses. Justin Fletcher – Mr Tumble on CBeebies – was one of the four lads living next door.” Sorry, have I started dreaming!!

“You’ve seen those sketches where people hide when the landlord comes round? Well, that was us!” It’s starting to feel like an episode of The Young Ones. “Anyway, the Tube poster …There was me at one and of a sofa and Noah Huntley. Oh my God! I never heard the last of it. I did a photo-shoot at Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire for Smash Hits and someone had the bright idea of putting a black leather choker on my neck and having me lay on this rock. I was so uncomfortable but I’d never done photo-shoots before so I didn’t know I could say, ‘Can I not do this please?’ So there was me on the back cover of Smash Hits looking like I’d just fallen out of an aeroplane; of course the lads bought loads of copies and stuck them up all over the outside of the house. I was the first one to get a high-profile gig which was good because the new lifestyle opened up lots of doors for everyone.”

“Nowadays casting people in musicals who’ve been on reality shows is the norm, but I was part of that initial movement because I then got the part of Danny in Grease, but ironically I’d kind of earned my stripes.” Ian’s training was about to pay dividends. “All the Dannys before me hadn’t come from the same background as I had, so I was able to turn up with a TV-soap CV, but I’d also been to drama school and graduated in musical theatre. It was nice for me to be able to go back on what I’d learnt – out of a TV show and screw my jazz hands on again! That happened with Chicago as well. They could put back pieces of choreography that a lot of the other Billy Flynns weren’t able to do; I guess that was quite refreshing for them too.”

Ian’s laid-back manner is probably to blame for the false take-it-or-leave-it impression I’ve been forming in my mind. But it’s also obvious that this actor has a wicked sense of humour. I move our man on and quiz him on his latest – fairly surprising – venture into photography. What on earth is this all about?

“It’s still morphing. Recently I’ve found myself not wanting to leave home as much,” says the fifty-one-year-old. “I’ve done a couple of tours and I don’t enjoy being away from home as much as I did in my earlier days. Back then it was more about getting over a hangover, meeting up for a cup of tea and then going to do a show. Nowadays it’s not about getting trollied every night; you’re just stuck in Leicester for ten weeks or a strange town that you have no interest in at all.”

Being in Leicester for ten weeks would be a reference to Curve’s production of Legally Blonde Ian did playing Callahan in 2016 with Lucie Jones (who is reprising her role as Elle Woods in the current UK tour). “It’s quite a lonely existence to be honest, and you’ve got to watch your spending; you could keep yourself entertained all day every day and spend a lot of money doing it. Then you realise you’ve been away from home for another ten weeks for nothing.”

Suddenly being a professional actor is starting to lose its appeal. “So, I thought what can I do to supplement the decent acting roles – the ones worth spending time away from home for?” questions Ian. “I looked at the idea of photography and the single headshot world. I went up to photograph The Actor Tribe which is a drama school in Manchester, only charging £50 a head, rather than the usual £160-£180, and because it was so cheap they all said yes. I shot eighty heads in a weekend which me and my mate did. We put some music on, created a nice atmosphere and gave them all something in between a school headshot and a proper portfolio headshot. I’ve developed a great technique with a lighting system which is very complementary; I think because of my years of acting I can read people and within minutes I know how to access their sense of humour – if they’ve got one, ha ha! It’s about finding a way to get their shoulders to drop and their eyes to twinkle within ten minutes. Then you just need to learn how to capture it. It’s hard work but I’m really enjoying it, plus I get to spend much more time back at home doing the admin, edits and posting out – I can even still do the school runs.”

I press Ian to speak directly to our readers: “If any of the groups or schools that read this magazine might fancy getting me along to photograph all the members or kids – at a cheap rate – then I’d be very interested in coming along. I know that these days every society seems to have someone who ‘does the photos’, but if I can come in and, for £50 a head, give you a professional headshot then that’s yours to use wherever and whenever you want; castings, auditions, programmes, social media… it’ll be your professional shot.”

It already sounds appealing but then Ian puts a cherry on top… “What I’d also like to do is, if I end coming in to do a lot of headshots either in a church hall, village hall, school or theatre over a weekend, then I’d be very happy for groups to put on a Q&A or ‘An Evening With…’ kind of thing so I can answer questions, tell some stories and talk about my career. I’ve collected a huge amount of tumble weed onstage over the years and it’s hilarious. I’ve also been into drama schools and given advice on moving forward – things like how to self-tape, but on a phone with a lamp-stand. Tips, tricks, warts and all… short-cuts I’ve learned over the years but will normally take you years to find out. I’ve got a lot to give back.”

To contact Ian (yes, it’s this easy, but mention ‘Sardines’ please) or to find out more just visit: and if your society or school does get him over for some photos and even a Q&A do let us know as we’d love to put a story in a future edition.