The Jungle Book Review

The Lowry, Salford – until Sunday May 6th 2018

Reviewed by Julie Noller


Rudyard Kipling wrote his tale of man cub Mowgli in 1894, it was the story of a lost boy and his journey through life with the help of the jungle creatures. Over a hundred years later and it’s still a much loved story following mans inhumanity and his willingness to survive against all odds. I’m sure Rudyard Kipling never imagined that Walt Disney would work his cartoon magic; the version of his classic many of us are familiar with, the same could be said for tonights performance by The Children’s Touring Partnership alongside Royal and Derngate Northampton, a classic in the making. Jessica Swale and Joe Stilgoe as writer, composer and lyricists have worked their very own brand of magic to bring a new adaption to the stage. There is no age limit for this performance, old and young will all be drawn into the magical jungle world unfurling on stage. It’s funny in a basic down to earth, let’s just laugh way. It has spine chilling music, songs that you sway and clap along to.

We all know our favourite characters and they’re all there ticked off in The Jungle Book register. I admit to being confused when we first meet Mowgli being tucked in by his Mother as she sings him to sleep. He cradles his teddy bear and next we know the wolves are circling, the bed has gone and Mowgli is all alone. I wondered why the teddy bear was crying out and giggling and then realisation dawned I wasn’t looking at Mowgli and teddy bear but just Mowgli for Keziah Joseph was showing great skill as a puppet master, of course Mowgli was just a baby. Keziah Joseph brings Mowgli’s feisty nature and impetuousness to life as a young boy developing and moving towards adulthood. She sings and climbs around a fantastic adult playgroundesque set in a way Mowgli’s fellow wolf cubs can only watch in awe and wonder, I even looked on in envy, much like the kid at school who isn’t allowed to play and run with everyone else. The Wolf pack itself led by Tripti Tripuraneni as the ever watchful and wise Akela, welcomes Mowgli in as one of it’s own – the wolves dance, sing and howl around the stage swishing their tails and using a handy tool of two walking sticks each to cleverly give the impression of four legs better than two. Rachel Dawson is Mowgli’s best friend cub and believer Grey she also plays Kaa a rather larger and glittery Indian Python who despite not having hypnotic eyes whilst leading Mowgli astray does manage to aid his escape from the monkeys or should that be the funkies. Our pack of monkeys who resemble a west side posse, even venture into the audience, trying on jackets and attempting to find the elusive banana. They are desperate to be accepted and liked by the self proclaimed king of the jungle, the royal Bengal tiger called Shere Khan brilliantly portrayed by Lloyd Gorman who was rather a Keith Lemon meets Elvis kind of guy. His costume stood out as glitzy, his Elvis look of tight leather pants, quiffed hair, guyliner and Khan on the back of his jacket, rather like he should be entering into the boxing ring. It’s just one of many fantastically funny touches that make this a five star show.

The heroes of the performance who stood up for the man cub and thus invoking jungle law, in order to stop Shere Khan , Bagheera (Deborah Oyelade) the stealthy black panther (I’ve tried many times to watch the black panther at the zoo and know how easily it can hide in plain sight) she obviously takes inspiration from Eartha Kitts catwoman, she is strong and fiercely proud of being a woman she sounds like a princess from Wakanda but has a strong maternal side when it comes to teaching Mowgli the jungle laws and ways. In sharp contrast to Balloo (Dyfrig Morris) whose costume of furry tramp/clown dungarees helps us to understand this lovable rogue. Always looking for his next honey pot, it is Balloo who welcomes us back into our seats after the interval singing to us about sweets and fizzy pop all whilst starving and being extremely very thirsty (if I hadn’t been mid row I may just have thrown him a chocolate bar from a well known dietary lifestyle change) You know despite his bumbling ways he has Mowgli’s best interests at heart.

You want time to stand still, for Mowgli not to grow up, live for ever more as a man cub within the wolf pack. But time doesn’t and Mowgli makes the difficult decision to return to the man village. He steals the red flower which the animals tell him only man is not afraid of. Finally using both his intelligence, agility and animal courage to defeat Shere Khan once and for all. Encountering a local woman Mowgli finds himself torn, drawn to her but not understanding he feels pain in his chest and wonders why his eyes are leaking water down his face, a wonderfully sensitive, charming and once again humorous way to deal with sadness and emotion. It’s fair to say I loved this musical version of a well loved tale, I hummed and clapped along, laughed but above all I left with a huge smile as I’m sure did all the audience.

Brighton Rock Review

Northern Stage, Newcastle – until 5 May

Reviewed by Andy Bramfitt


Following on from Playwright Bryony Lavery’s much acclaimed and award nominated Frozen, her adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock is a darkly delicious descent into the anguish and turmoil of a young man trying to understand who he is and what is his place in life. Whilst Greene wrote this story in 1938, the themes and characters are instantly recognisable today, thanks in the main to the brilliant directing of Pilot Theatre’s Esther Richardson, who uses both traditional and contemporary techniques to present the multiple personas constantly in bitter struggles with themselves.

The story focuses on Pinkie, a 17 year old wannabe gang leader who craves respect far greater than his tender age deserves meaning when he doesn’t get it he inevitably turns to violence. Brilliantly played by Jacob James Beswick, Pinkie is constantly on the edge, the edge of reason, the edge of glory, the edge of sanity – Beswick’s energy is truly scary, never quite knowing whether he is about to smile or scream. The rest of Pinkies gang are forever tiptoeing round on eggshells, fearful for saying the wrong word, looking the wrong way, and yet magnetised by his charisma and forthright ambition. Sitting in the 2nd row I felt myself shrink whenever Pinkie took on a rant and yet, like his gang, felt attached to him with an illogical loyalty.

On Pinkie’s orders, the gang murder a rival who was masquerading as a newspaper celebratory but find they have left a witness who can link them to the killing, a young waitress, Rose, and so Pinkie must decide whether to kill her too or befriend, and ultimately try and control her. Rose, played with a heart-breaking mix of wide eyed innocence and adolescent passion by Sarah Middleton, falls for Pinkie, despite (or perhaps because of) his manic obsessions, and agrees to not only keep quiet, but to help him avoid further detection. Sarah is a wonderful actor and in Rose, she is able to take the audience on an accelerated journey to becoming a woman, yet never loses the childish binary belief of right and wrong. This is further reinforced as both Pinkie and Rose are from devout Catholic families, brought up on the premise of Heaven and Hell, of mortal sin and of repent and atonement. When Greene wrote his original story, there were only two dominant paths of fate but you can substitute Catholicism for any religion, faith or belief system making this story as true and relevant to today’s youth as it was for those in the 30’s.

Following all this action is Ida Arnold, a seeker of truth and justice with more than a passing resemblance (in investigative prowess at least) to sleuths of Agatha Christie. Ida, played by Gloria Onitiri, pieces together the fragmented detritus left in Pinkie’s wake and begins to see that the police have either missed, or chosen to ignore, vital clues linking several suspicious deaths all back to Pinkie. When Ida realises that Rose is being drawn into this underworld she vows to protect her, even if it means taking on Pinkie and his gang herself. Gloria gives Ida some real spunk; at first she seems like a bit of a lush, hanging round the bars, betting at the races, but all too soon displays a steely resolve to go toe to toe with the gangs.

The choreography and scene setting is elaborately simple – movement around the stage is poetic, even the set shifting is done with an artistic flourish meaning the audience never drops its gaze. The soundscape, an ever present live accompaniment composed by Hannah Peel is possibly the best I’ve ever heard – it is reminiscent of David Lynch’s underscoring of scenes in the TV series Twin Peaks – rhythmic heartbeats, low and metronomic are almost imperceptible until the action at which point they help drive the audience into the heart of Pinkies psychosis before subtly fading back.


Chess the Musical Review

London Coliseum – until Saturday 2 June 2018 
Reviewed by Lisa Harlow
You cannot avoid the era in which this original concept album was penned. The 80s never liked to play things small. The staging and retro effects were certainly of the time.
The US/Russia Cold War story line was also arguably very of an era, as was any preoccupation with chess. The world stage remains largely unchanged, however, with superpower egos and with one of the musical lead characters named Freddie Trumper (Tim Howar), this revival is rather timely. And without forgetting it comes hot on the heels of the announcement of the reformation of ABBA.
I confess immediately that this musical album was one of my childhood favourites. This performance had a lot to live up to. From the charming ‘Merano’ at its start to the very end of Act II, my heart sang with every line.
There were wobbles. I wasn’t persuaded by some of Michael Ball’s (the Russian Anatoly Sergievsky) vocal effects near the start but by his final song of Act 1, Anthem, he was emphatically triumphant. This was the emotive singing he was searching for and maintained.  Some of the national cliche stereotyping was uncomfortable. The enormous screens beaming the lead action was overpowering at times and I found myself confused which to follow. The dialogue and events that piece together the songs could be more understandable to flesh out why key events happen and the motives of the key characters, and the extra song written for Alexandra Burke (Svetlana) was obviously inserted to flesh out her role and justify her appearance.
But the star of the show was undeniable. The score, written by the boys of ABBA and Tim Rice, is of such high quality, time has done nothing to dampen or detract from it. With the ENO chorus and the orchestra set into the staging up on high, the musical performance was outstanding.
Cedric Neal (the Arbiter), who stood in after Murray Head’s withdrawal, was charismatic and compelling. Equally, Cassidy Johnson (Florence) won my heart in her journey and drew my tears at times. There were waves of claps during songs toward the end as the audience’s appreciation boiled over in a fever. I was enthralled by the jaunty scenes at the British Embassy, and the choreography overall dazzled. The hits ‘One Night in Bangkok’ and ‘I Know Him So Well’ were of course show stoppers, but ‘Pity the Child’, ‘Nobody’s Side’ and ‘You and I’ were my particular highlights.
I floated out of the theatre still misty-eyed. Forget the whispers of ‘Relevance? Dated?’  I dare you not to be drawn in by the beauty of this music. One of the most heart rousing and enjoyable shows I have seen for a long time.
I have already booked my tickets to return.

Awful Auntie Review

Bristol Hippodrome – until 6th May 2018

Reviewed by Lucy Hitchcock


From the Birmingham Stage Company, comes an adaptation of “Awful Auntie”. Originally penned by David Walliams, Neal Foster has taken this best selling children’s book and created a dynamic piece of theatre that is visually very impressive.

In 1940’s Britain, young Stella Saxby awakes from a coma by her Aunt Alberta. Alberta explains that both Stella’s parents are dead and immediately begins to ask for the deeds to ‘Saxby House’, which Stella refuses to hand over, subsequently causing her to be thrown into a dark dungeon.

She meets the ghost of ‘Soot’ down in the dungeon and he helps her to escape. Whilst doing so, Stella’s comes across the car her parents drove when they died, but finds no faults with it sparking a Holmes and Watson style investigation into her parents death. Stella determines that they were poisoned by Alberta, so she contacts local authorities to report the murders instigated by her Awful Auntie. The detective shows up to investigate, but is really Alberta in disguise! She reveals that she did use poisonous plants to kill Stella’s parents and locks Stella in an electrocution chamber, from which she can’t escape. However, with the help of Soot, Stella manages to retrieve her freedom. The 2 embark on an adventure; making Alberta leave Saxby Hall. Eventually, Alberta is carried away by her pet owl, Wagner and Stella adopts all the nearby orphans to live in Saxby Hall with her.

Aunt Alberta, played by Timothy Speyer, was splendid. His performance was light-hearted and consistent throughout. Along with the bright purple, green and orange costume, the garish and unsightly character Alberta was matched with a high pitched voice. At times, this voice change from Speyer was difficult to understand through the sound system, but nonetheless enhanced the performance greatly.

Stella, played by Georgina Leonidas, was also glorious. She played to the audience and really managed to capture the imagination of all the children in the audience. Whilst the character of Stella didn’t really provide us with an emotional arc, she was a joy to watch. Georgina was on the stage from the beginning of the show and didn’t leave at all, showing her brilliance and ability to fully stay in character.

Soot, played by Ashley Cousins is no stranger to the David Walliams stage adaptations and relished his role as a ghost. The vocal ability was brilliant-he had an unfaltering cockney accent that provided back story, as he was a chimney sweep from a workhouse who died. Ben was dynamic and provided some humour for both the children and the adults.

Detective Strauss, played by Peter Mistyyoph, was also skilled. He only had a small role but was everything a stereotypical detective is-loud, brash and has a distinguished look.Peter also provided some comedy, but personally, I would’ve liked to see more of his character.

Richard James portrayed ‘Gibbon’, an old, senseless butler who appears at moments to break the tension. With his hair in a mess, James didn’t need to try to provide the comedy-as soon as he walked onstage the children in the audience were in fits of laughter.

Roberta Bellekom encompassed the role of ‘Wagner’, Alberta’s pet owl. Roberta was exquisite. With no speech, she managed to make the audience believe she was the owl. Her handling of the 3 different puppets for Wagner were flawless. She was gliding through the stage amazingly, soaring high and low and at points I forgot the owl was a puppet. She was outstanding and truly was the star of the show.

This was quite a visual performance, with only 4 turrets onstage that twist and turn to become different areas of Saxby Hall. Some of the turrets have ladders inside and are used frequently, allowing the escape scenes to be executed with ease. Real cars and motorbikes were also used onstage, along with pyrotechnics. The electrocution scene was very dark, both in tone and lighting-as it took place in the dungeons. The darkness was cut with very bright lights showing the electrocution of Stella; accompanied by screams this was difficult to watch for some.

Roman Stefanski deserves much praise for the execution of the show, as his puppets were phenomenal-so realistic and beautifully crafted. They were a treat to watch and showed his excellent craftsmanship.

‘Awful Auntie’ was an easy watch, however some of the characters were difficult to understand – whether that was due to the sound systems or speech I don’t know, but it left me feeling that the show could be a little more refined. With that in mind however, both Walliams and Foster have done a wonderful thing with this piece. They have brought children to theatres and sparked their enjoyment in this excellent craft. To hear the roar of laughter from the children in the audience was a special moment and this show will no doubt spark the next generation of Awful Aunties.

An Officer and a Gentleman Review

Kindertransport Review

Opera House, Manchester – until 5 May 2018

Reviewed by Julie Noller


Kindertransport is a play written in 1993 by Diane Samuels; it’s a true to life story centring on how Britain agreed to take thousands of young Jewish children as refugees from Nazi Germany during 1938-1940. This is pre-war Europe where innocence has not long been regained after the horrors of the Great War and unsuspecting children knew nothing of the fates that awaited them. It takes place in a series of flashbacks from a 1960’s Manchester attic.

Kindertransport is extremely clever in it’s set design, it makes us the audience think; just to stop and consider how lives interact. The consequences of one generations actions may just have a profound effect on the lives of future generations.

The recurring theme throughout and rather creepy if you are not aware of just what you are looking at on stage is The Ratcatcher played by Matthew Brown (he infact plays all the male characters and I wonder if that’s a coincidence) theres his strangely contorted body aided sometimes by a walking stick (another coincidence is that Helga later uses a walking stick) there’s eerie whistles alerting us to his presence. Matthew Brown also brings us many of the sound effects once again linking The Ratcatcher to everyday life; such as the steam train in motion, this helps us to understand the connections of actions to consequences. The Ratcatcher shows us that fear can be an extremely deep rooted thing, how our minds bring events, sounds and even smells together in that fear. The Ratcatcher is he human? With his presence we feel the impending doom of war looming large, the Nazis and the whole sense that nothing will ever be the same again.

When I first saw and heard Eva up on the stage I truly believed her to be a young child actor. But Leila Schaus is not a child but a very talented actor. I see and feel her angst, desperation and sadness. She is confused, why has she been sent away, why was she abandoned when war broke out. Why did her parents break their word and not come to England, of course a ten year old will believe it’s the 9th of September when really it’s the 11th if she believes her parents will come on that very day as promised. All that attachment fear lives on as Eva becomes English and changes not just her birthday but her identity to Evelyn played as an adult and Mother herself by Suzan Sylvester. She pushes her daughter away and can’t understand why Faith (Hannah Bristow) feels the need to know her heritage. Faith desperately wants to understand her Mother and this secretive hidden side to her birthright brings yet more confusion. Evelyn for her own part who has hidden Eva inside an old battered box, alongside other unspoken and unseen artefacts, is now wallowing in misery unable to cope with this feeling of abandonment. Catherine Janke as Helga is a Mother on the edge, tying to explain to her nine year old daughter Eva; it is with love she is sent away, to simply survive. Eva never did understand why she couldn’t stay home and in an outburst after the war when she finds her Mother alive, says she would’ve preferred to have died with her parents than felt the loneliness of separation. Helga she says was The Ratcatcher, with piercing eyes and constant criticism.

Our secondary Mother figure is Lil the lovely Jenny Lee who develops from bumbling adult into nurturing parent helping a lost Eva to become a steady Evelyn. I took my teenage pre GCSE exam sitting daughter and she thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance, even understanding and picking apart how each character felt. It’s a tale with an important message; one of life, of human sacrifice and sorrow but it equally shows us all there is kindness in the world and above all else survival. Evelyn’s lesson involved facing her demons, the scene where she faced herself and you feel she will acknowledge Eva is simple but powerful. We are constantly reminded how one small set can cover a lifetime of memories. Of course Eva and Evelyn do not converse for this is a tale across the years and memories, it’s a sad tale and very poignant that 80 years have passed and if generations do not share history then these stories and lessons in life will be lost forever

The Last Ship Review

Leeds Grand Theatre – Until Saturday 5th May 2018

Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood


Sting, under the direction of Lorne Campbell, brings this critically acclaimed musical, The Last Ship, to Leeds which is currently part of the UK and Ireland tour. The musical is based on the singer’s music and lyrics and looks back to the ship building community in the Tyne and Wear during its industry decline in the 1970s.

The story is about Gideon Fletcher (Richard Fleeshman), a sailor, who returns home after spending 17 years in the Navy and is confronted with the past and present tensions concerning his family, particularly his ex girlfriend, Meg (Frances McNamee) and the town’s community. The demise of the shipbuilding industry is evident with their local ship yard closing and the town is determined to fight saving the ship and the yard. This is lead by Jackie (Joe McGann), the yard’s foreman, and his wife Peggy (Charlie Hardwick). The story is in similar vein to Sting who grew up in a similar community, left the town to pursue a music career, and returned to tell this tale.

Sting sought inspiration from his album, The Soul Cages, to generate the moving and powerful musical score and lyrics to the musical. The musical numbers includes the memorable Island of Souls, All This Time, When We Dance and The Last Ship and tells this political and personal stirred story – this is quintessential to many communities who earnestly fought to save the towns’ industries and the livelihoods it generated. One can think of the coal mining towns and villages’ role during the 1984/85 Miners Strike. Each song sung depicts the emotions, passions and the souls of the community and how much the shipyard and the livelihood mean to them. The songs are sung with such conviction from individuals and united in chorus from the ensemble.

59 Production’s staging is stunning with its hi-tech backdrop and life size ship yard from where the story is told. The space is utilised very well with successful transitions being made between each scene. The lighting and sounds, courtesy of Matt Daw and Sebastian Frost, compliment the staging particularly with the notion that one is by the sea and the waves crashing in the background.

The Last Ship is delivered excellently from the cast who perform wholeheartedly and in unison, particularly the songs’ choruses, from beginning to the end. Every single performer has a part to play and impressions are certainly left. A lot of thought, heart and soul have been put into the story along with Sting’s musical and lyrical ingenuity. It is a realistic poignant beautiful musical to see and is highly commended and recommendable during its tour.

Agatha Christie’s Love from a Stranger Review

Richmond Theatre – until Saturday 5th May

Reviewed by Heather Chalkley


A dramatic start and a dramatic finish in true Christie style. The clever back stories intertwine the main thread to an unexpected climax to keep you riveted throughout. Lucy Ball, the Director, has worked in great partnership with the creative team, to produce seamless, flowing transitions, with breathtaking timing. An ingenious sectioned sliding floor, dividing it into three parts so that different rooms of the house can be shown, simply by sliding a section of the stage sideways.

Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell gave you an uneasy feeling from the get go, with classic lines for the audience that really give the game away. When his new wife Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) blindly signed the legal papers, handing over her property and wealth to Bruce he stated that ‘This is one of the best days of my life’. As each part of his modus operandi was revealed his behaviour became more agitated and extreme, leaving the seemingly naive Cecily concerned for his health when it was clearly her own at stake! I was impressed with the ease that Sam slipped in and out of American and English accents, using them to great effect and exquisite placement.

Molly Logan brought humour to the play with her character Ethel. She is an enthusiastic housekeeper, using physical humour as well as delivering some corker lines. Throw in a good dose of adult innuendo and outright snobbery from Nicola Sanderson as the Aunt, Louise Garrand and you have a well rounded play. The Director uses the funny moments to accentuate the dark and revealing scenes that follow.

Helen Bradbury played Cecily Harrington with finesse, managing to portray her restless, naive thirst for life and adventure with a yearning for love and stability. Helen captured the privileged attitude of the upper classes to ‘servant’ classes, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The final scene when Cecily was verbally fighting for her life, reversing the psychological upper hand in her favour, both Sam as Bruce Lovell and Helen as Cecily changed personna visibly before your eyes. A masterclass in villain and victim power struggles. We had our murder finally only not who you would expect!

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the cast of Calendar Girls The Musical in Burnsall, North Yorkshire





The new cast of CALENDAR GIRLS The Musical met for the first time with the original Calendar Girls themselves in the beautiful village of Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales and the original Calendar Girls couldn’t be happier with this new cast.

The new production, which will tour nearly every theatre in the British Isles, is already breaking box office records, and tickets are selling like hot buns.  The tour opens at the Leeds Grand Theatre on 16 August 2018.

The new tour will star novelist and television presenter Fern Britton, returning to the stage for the first time in 30 years, as Marie, Anna-Jane Casey (Billy Elliot on tour, Stepping Out in London’s West End, title role in Annie Get Your Gun at Sheffield Crucible) as Annie, Sara Crowe (West End roles include Bedroom FarceThe Real Inspector Hound & Black Comedy and Hay Fever) as Ruth, Karen Dunbar (BBC1 Scotland’s sketch shows The Karen Dunbar Show and Chewin’ The FatShakespeare Trilogy and Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse & St Ann’s Warehouse, New York, The Guid Sisters for the National Theatre of Scotland, Men Should Weep at the National Theatre London, Mary, Queen of Scots) as Cora, Ruth Madoc (Hi-De-HiLittle Britain and Gypsy) as Jessie, Rebecca Storm (discovered by Willy Russell and cast as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and her handprints are part of the Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre Walk of Fame) as Chris and Denise Welch (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Coronation Street and Waterloo Road) as Celia.

Also joining the cast will be Phil Corbitt as John, Ian Mercer as Rod, Sebastian Aberneri as Colin, Alan Stocks as Denis, Pauline Daniels as Lady Cravenshire, Ellie Leah as Miss Wilson, Catherine Digges as Miss Wilson, Danny Howker as Danny and Tyler Dobbs as Tommo.

The critically acclaimed and award-winning musical comedy by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, which is based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play by Tim Firth, played a six-month London season at the Phoenix Theatre last year, and, before that, it played sold-out seasons in Leeds and Manchester.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth grew up in the same village in the North of England and have been friends for 25 years.  With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner.  Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

CALENDAR GIRLS THE MUSICAL is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise. This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, will continue to receive monies from this production.

CALENDAR GIRLS The Musical is directed by Matt Ryan and designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Oliver Fenwick, comedy staging by Jos Houben, movement by Lucy Hind and casting by Sarah Bird.


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16 August – 1 September         Leeds Grand Theatre                                 0844 848 2700

5 – 15 September                      The Marlowe, Canterbury                              01227 878 7787


18 – 29 September                    Newcastle Theatre Royal                                        0844 811 2121


2 – 13 October                           Festival Theatre Edinburgh                                0131 529 6000


16 – 20 October                        Leicester De Montfort Hall                           0116 233 3111


23 – 27 October                         Venue Cymru, Llandudno                               01492 872000


30 October – 10 November        The Lowry, Salford                                 0843 208 6000

13 – 17 November                     Stoke Regent Theatre                                     0844 871 7649


20 – 24 November                     Hull New Theatre                                                  01482 300 306


27 Nov – 1 December                Liverpool Empire                                                  0844 871 3017


8 – 19 January 2019                  Mayflower Theatre Southampton                          02380 711811


22 Jan – 2 Feb 2019                  Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin                       0844 847 2455                                                                                                                    

5 – 16 February 2019                Norwich Theatre Royal                                        01603 630 000                     


19 Feb – 2 March 2019              His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen                  01224 641122


5 – 16 March 2019                     The Orchard Theatre, Dartford                    01322 220000


19 – 23 March 2019                   Sunderland Empire                                      0844 871 3022                                                 

26 – 30 March 2019                   New Victoria Theatre, Woking                      0844 871 7645


2 – 13 April 2019                       Sheffield Lyceum Theatre                              0114 249 6000


16 – 20 April 2019                     New Theatre, Oxford                                      0844 847 1585













Aria Entertainment’s thriving new musical theatre festival, From Page To Stage returns for its 6thyear, with submissions now open. This year’s festival will take place in September at Southwark Playhouse, and follows the hugely successful 2017 festival, which took place at The Other Palace, and received over 300 submissions from across the UK and internationally.


From Page To Stage 2018 will showcase each step of how an original musical is developed, from a song-writing showcase, to full staged readings of new musicals. There will also be a showcase evening, which will feature sections of at least four different shows in development with a repertory cast.


Alongside the 2018 Festival at Southwark Playhouse, FPTS will launch a new venture, From Page To Stage North West in partnership with Aria Entertainment’s northern home, the Hope Mill Theatre, which was founded by Joseph Houston and William WheltonFrom Page To Stage North West is an exciting and unique opportunity offering one writing team a full writing commission of an original musical.


The writing team selected at the end of this process will be fully commissioned and receive a workshop of the new musical in 2019, with the intention to stage the piece fully in 2020 at the Hope Mill Theatre. The team will be selected through a series of pitching days.


Producer Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment says: “I have always believed that the future of musical theatre in this country can only be brought about by investing regularly in new musicals and new writers and so I am proud to be presenting the 6th year of the From Page To Stage Festival of new musicals. In just 6 years we have given a platform to over 100 new musicals from over 15 countries with some shows going on to have full productions, more development workshops and even publishing deals. Contrary to other showcases, we invite both industry and the public in to take part in the early stage development of these works, which is important in helping to mould audiences’ expectations of what the genre can actually deliver. We are delighted to be presenting work at London’s Southwark Playhouse this year and know their incredible record as a receiving house for Musical Theatre means they have a large receptive audience ready to receive this exciting new work.


Our expansion into From Page To Stage North West further cements our commitment to developing, commissioning and staging new musicals in the UK. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be partnering with Joe and Will at the Hope Mill Theatre to find new musicals for us to actually bring from page to stage by 2020.”


Joseph Houston, co-artistic director of the Hope Mill Theatre adds: “We are so thrilled to announce our musical commission as part of Katy’s From Page To Stage season. When Will, Katy and I formed our collaboration it was always our aim to champion new musical theatre and to date we have been so fortunate to be able to stage many premieres, but creating new work was always our ambition and this commission is hopefully the first of many grass roots projects to come from Hope Mill Theatre. It is such an exciting time for Manchester to have From Page To Stage branch out to the North West and we cannot wait to see how we can continue to champion and develop new musicals regionally.”


Young producer and founder of Aria Entertainment, Katy Lipson launched the From Page To Stage Festival in 2013. The festival has gone from strength to strength, and Katy has now produced five seasons, which have showcased over 8 new musicals each year. The project was supported by Grant For The Arts in 2014, ‘15, ‘16, and ‘17, and the 2017 season took place at Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s recently acquired theatre, The Other Palace.


So far, Aria Entertainment and the Hope Mill Theatre have had 2 years working together, making it into The Stage’s 100 Most Influential Figures 2018, and producing over 8 in-house productions and this has developed to 3 London transfers. Many of these shows were UK, Northern or World premieres of new musicals.


Entrants for the From Page To Stage 2018 Festival need to include their show title, lyricist/composer/book writer, a short synopsis and three record tracks and scenes from the show. Each submission of a new musical will be fully assessed by the From Page To Stage expert literary team. In July 2018, it will be announced which musicals have been selected for this years festival.


Writing teams interested in From Page To Stage North West will need to sign up on the From Page To Stage website and register their interest. Writing teams will then be invited to a pitching day in August 2018.


Submissions for FPTS 2018 are open until 25 June 2018.


For full details and more information about submitting a musical, go to the From Page To Stagewebsite: