The Nutcracker Review

Grand Opera House York – Monday 2 Dec 2019

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s world famous ballet, was brought to life at York’s Grand Opera House by The Vienna Festival Ballet.

The enchanting story tells the tale of a Christmas party, which includes a slightly tipsy grandmother, where Herr Drosselmeyer presents Clara with a nutcracker doll. In the middle of the night she wakes up and goes looking for the nutcracker. What follows is a fantasy adventure of battles against giant mice and the Mouse King, which sees her nutcracker coming to life as a real soldier. The journey doesn’t stop there as they carry on through to the Kingdom of Sweets and the Palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy. After the interval we are treated to dances, a celebration of sweets around the world, before Clara wakes up, back to the real world, clutching her nutcracker.

This is quite a small company with the dancers taking on several roles. The dancing was at times was quite stunning, especially some of the chorus pieces. Children from a local ballet school were used in the first act as the children at the party, this must be such a fabulous experience for them, performing to a packed audience, with an experienced ballet company. The costumes were just lovely, though I couldn’t quite work out why the mice had grey heads and brown bodies, just a niggle there. 

It is such a shame that the dancers are not dancing to a live orchestra, as this would have been that extra sparkle and added to the experience, but the logistics and cost would just be too much and they did the absolute best with what they had. I did have a problem where I was sitting, in that I could not always see the dancers feet, which unfortunately did have an impact on my experience. It was still an enjoyable evening and so great to see a packed theatre thoroughly entranced.

This show is the perfect start to the Christmas season, a fairy tale brought to life.

The Night Before Christmas

Leeds Playhouse – until 28 December 2019

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams


Elf 30046 (Lladel Bryant) gets left behind by Santa and the Christmas fun begins for all at the Leeds Playhouse. Leeds Playhouse’s production of The Night Before Christmas is a delightful piece, full of fun and silliness, with moments of wonder and the chance for the children to interact with the cast.

Carol (Alexandra James) doesn’t like Christmas, she keeps telling us it is silly, she rejects the carol singer and then her neighbour Roger’s present of Christmas pudding and custard. But it is her house that Elf 30046 has landed in and their adventures trying to find Santa make her realise that Christmas is rather wonderful after all!

Elf 30046 of course only speaks some sort of Elfish and Carol is deaf so signs all the way through and her language is simple, which means that this is a very inclusive performance. The actors’ use of gesture and facial expressions and limited language make it ideal for young children and the youngsters who were in the theatre yesterday loved every minute of it and were enthralled from start to finish.

Lladel Bryant plays Roger and Elf 30046, but I don’t think the children in the audience realised this! He makes the most wonderful Elf, full of curiosity, mischief and fun and he had the children in the palm of his hands. This was a very visual performance and just what was needed, I was laughing as much as the children. I have to admit though, that when they hadn’t found Santa in time and I thought he was going to die, my heart was breaking!

Alexandra James is a super Carol, at the beginning it was oh so clear that she was a very lonely and unhappy lady and it was a delight to watch her have fun with Elf 30046, become his friend and to care for him. Again this was a very visual performance but the highlight was Alexandra’s wonderfully expressive face and eyes.

Leeds Playhouse recommends this for 3-7 year olds and they have pitched it absolutely right. The plot is simple to follow and very visual, it zips along at a good pace and there is lots of fun, oh and there are one or two bits for the grown-ups too! At just under an hour it is exactly the right length and would make a brilliant alternative to the traditional Christmas panto for younger families.

It was a treat to watch this performance and to listen to the youngsters guffawing with laughter, my Christmas has now begun!

Band of Gold Review

Leeds Grand Theatre – until 14 December 2019


It’s December, Panto season is upon us, so what better way to get into the festive spirit than a bit of gritty northern realism.

Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold, based on the TV series of the same name also penned by Mellor is very gritty, very northern but also very witty.  I’ve not seen the TV series – something I will try and remedy now – but I was warned about pink marigolds (more of them later!).  Mellor is a fabulous writer and gives life and depth to her characters. This is actually quite an empowering production.

Anita (Laurie Brett) is the Mother figure of the girls.  Living in a flat paid for by her married lover George (Mark Sheals), she feels she’s not a prostitute.  However, she allows the girls to use her flat for their clients and she stays close by to make sure the girls are always safe.  Anita loves to belt out on the karaoke giving us a chance to hear Bretts amazing vocals. George visits every Tuesday and Thursday and wants Anita to use her contacts to get him a cleaning contract from Councillor Barraclough (Andrew Dunn). 

Rose (Gaynor Faye) runs “The Lanes” where the girls tout for cars, always making sure if they go off in a punters car someone must know they are going and they’ve come back.  Safety is paramount for these women.

Gina (Sascha Parkinson) has thrown out her abusive husband, Steve (Kieron Richardson), but finds herself in debt to a loan shark named Mr. Moore (Joe Mallalieu). She is starting up a round selling Avon while her mum Joyce (Olwen May) looks after her young daughter Sarah.  Its inferred that Joyce is in an abusive marriage with second husband Bob, who is controlling and doesn’t like her looking after Sarah. Whilst out selling Avon, Gina meets Carol (Emma Osman), an OCD clean freak prostitute who keeps her home pristine because she doesn’t want her young daughter Emma to catch anything.  With Mr Moore demanding interest on the loan and charging penalties for early payment, Gina realises that she will never earn enough from selling Avon and, with Rose’s permission starts to work “The Lanes”. Whilst all the time her mum believes she is building up her Avon round.

Inspector Newall (Shayne Ward) is an ex-vice now serious crime officer.  He was a client of Carol before he moved departments. Carol also has a regular customer, Poultry factory owner Curly (Steve Garti) who likes her to wear stockings and heels and walk up and down in front of him whilst he “pleasures himself” in pink marigolds (A scene which was fascinatingly hilarious and horrendous in equal measure – such is the brilliance of Mellors writing).  He is generous and harmless in that she just needs to walk and he literally “chokes the chicken”

With a who-dun-nit to solve Newall as his work cut out to solve the case with the women closing ranks against him. 

Band of Gold is an amazing production, just over 2 hours of intense story line and humour.  Mellors writing along with Janet Birds design, Yvonne Milnes costumes and Jason Taylors lighting places you back in the early 90’s in Bradford.  Seeing how life was for girls and women who had bills to pay and sold their bodies as a last resort, they were strong and matter of fact about their lives but there was a camaraderie and safety was a priority for all.  It’s certainly a show that makes you think.

Band of Gold is in Leeds until 14 December 2019 and on tour around the UK in 2020 for details see

Sleeping Beauty

Greenwich Theatre – until 12 January 2020

Reviewed by Donna Easton (and family)


Ah panto! A genre that I just can’t help but love and in this instance a fun and silly night out, made all the more enjoyable as I was also watching through the eyes of my 4 year old daughter.

My little girl was captivated from the outset but I have to admit that I felt the show was a little slow to get going. ‘Back in the USSR’ was lacking the energy one usually expects from a panto opening number and left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I needn’t have worried though as my panto buzz came back with a vengeance with the appearance of the dame, Andrew Pollard’s ‘Tsarina Bertha’. It was at this point that I let my guard down and just sat back and enjoyed the show for what it was. Andrew is clearly an incredibly accomplished Dame, Bertha was delivered with perfect pitch to the audience and we loved watching as she suitably embarrassed one of the men in the audience with her giant ‘black pudding’. I loved Eli Caldwell’s Bjorn, the Swedish Au Pair but a favourite for me was Anthony Spargo who’s Rasputin reminded me of a cross between Rick Mayall and Captain Jack Sparrow. He had the audience laughing and ‘boo’ing with his great opening number and as a panto bad guy, he was spot on.

The show had plenty of memorable moments; the lead characters as babies and Bertha floating through space and Martin Johnston as Tsar Ivan chasing after her in his rocket and also some sweet moments, 525 600 minutes was beautifully sung by the ensemble.

It was a good way into the first half that we started picking up some of the traditional Sleeping Beauty storyline. Sleeping Beauty (Anastasia), played by Esme Bacalla-Hayes was a delight. She was just so lovely to watch. Strength and sweetness in equal measure and my 4 year old daughter said she was ‘beautiful’. Exactly what you want from a panto princess.

All in all, we had a great night. A feel good production and an evening to remind us that we shouldn’t take life too seriously and just let go once in a while and enjoy the theatre for what it is. Pure entertainment. Well done Greenwich!

But hey, the most important critic is my 4 year old and here is what she had to say, “I loved the bit when Sleeping Beauty came out the best, it was hilarious when they were babies, the aliens were funny and I loved throwing the moon puddings……Mummy, can we go back and see it again?” Enough said I think.

Full Cast Announced for RAGS at Park Theatre








Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Joseph Houston and William Whelton for Hope Mill Theatre are delighted to announce that Carolyn Maitland, Dave Willetts and Sam Attwater will star as Rebecca, Avram and Bronfman respectively in RAGS The Musical at Park Theatre, London. The show will run for a limited season from 9 January to 8 February 2020, with a press night on 14 January.  RAGS The Musical has a book by Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof), revised book by David Thompson, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and music by Charles Strouse (Annie).  

Carolyn Maitland’s credits include Molly in Ghost (UK tour), Groundhog Day (The Old Vic), Sally Bowles in Cabaret (David Adkin Ltd & ACT Aberdeen), Ellen in Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre), Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (Kilworth House Theatre), From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre), Kiss Me, Kate (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre). Most recently, Carolyn played Grace Farrell in Annie (Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto) and Marian in The Woman in White (Charing Cross Theatre).

Dave Willetts is one of the UK’s leading musical theatre stars, having played some of the best-loved leading roles in the West End, including Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Old Deuteronomy in Cats and Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. Some of Dave’s other roles include George in Trevor Nunn’s production of Aspects of Love (Menier Chocolate Factory), Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (National tour and West End), Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (National tour), Max von Meyerling in Sunset Boulevard (West End), for which he received an Olivier Award nomination, and Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd (National tour).

Sam Attwater is best known for his roles as Leon in EastEnders and Ricky in Hollyoaks.  He won the sixth series of Dancing on Ice in 2011 and participated in the ‘All Stars’ series in 2014, finishing in fourth place. On stage, his credits include Micky Deans in End of the Rainbow (UK tour), Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (UK tour), Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (UK tour) and Norman in Dreamboats & Petticoats (Playhouse Theatre).

Also in the cast are Debbie Chazen as Anna, Alex Gibson-Giorgio as Sal, Rachel Izen as Rachel, Samuel Jones and Jude Muir as David, Martha Kirby as Bella, Oisin Nolan-Power as Ben and Jeremy Rose as Jack. Completing the cast are Arthur Boan, Angela Caesar, Adam Crossley, Drew Dillon, Matthew Gent and Natasha Karp. 

RAGS The Musical is a heart-warming and powerful musical, which tells the story of Russian immigrant Rebecca, who, with her son David, travels to America in search of a better life. Rebecca must decide what matters more to her – staying true to her roots or adopting a new cultural identity in an attempt to ‘fit in’.

RAGS The Musical is directed by Bronagh Lagan (Little Women, Broken Wings), with musical direction by Joe Bunker, choreography by Philip Michael Thomas, orchestrations by Nick Barstow, set and costume design by Gregor Donnelly, lighting design by Derek Anderson, sound design by James Nicholson, casting by Jane Deitch and children’s casting by Keston and Keston.

Hope Aria Productions will also present, for one night only, The Spark of Creation, a Gala Fundraiser celebrating the work of Stephen Schwartz, at Park Theatre on Sunday 19 January. Some of Stephen Schwartz’s favourite compositions will be performed by artists from previous Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre productions, and there will be a panel discussion and an audience Q&A with the world-renowned composer and lyricist responsible for many of the world’s most loved musicals, including WickedChildren of EdenPippin and Godspell. All proceeds from the evening will go towards funds needed to stage RAGS The Musical for its limited run at Park Theatre. Tickets are on sale now.

RAGS The Musical at Park Theatre is produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Hope Mill Theatre, in association with Knockhardy Productions, Edward Prophet, People Entertainment Group and Park Theatre and is presented by arrangement with MTI Europe.



9 January – 8 February 2020

Press Night: 14 January 2020 7.00pm

Park Theatre

Clifton Terrace

Finsbury Park

London N4 3JP

020 7870 6876*

*Telephone booking fee: 10% (capped at £2.50 per ticket)


from £18.50 (Previews £18.50)


Mon – Sat 7.30pm, Thurs & Sat 3:00pm

Access performance

Audio Described – Thursday 23 January 7.30pm, Touch Tour 6pm

Running Time

2 hours and 30 minutes

Twitter: @RagsMusicalLDN/@ParkTheatre


Sunday 19 January 2020

Event: 7.30pm

Tickets: £60 & £65

Tickets on sale now


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Award winning singer-songwriter


makes stage debut in


Book by Larry Gelbart | Music by Cy Coleman | Lyrics by David Zippel

BRIT Award winning singer Nicola Roberts makes her stage debut in Josie Rourke’s critically acclaimed and Olivier Award winning production of City of Angels.

Nicola, former Girls Aloud member, takes on the role of Avril/Mallory in the West End production joining the already announced Hadley Fraser (Les Misérables, Young Frankenstein), Rosalie Craig (Company), Rebecca Trehearn (Showboat) and Emmy and Grammy Award nominee Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives), making her West End debut.

Nicola Roberts said:

“I am delighted that Josie and the production have chosen me to be Mallory for City of Angels. To make my acting debut in this show and to work with such a fantastic company of actors and Josie Rourke is a dream come true for me.”

Josie Rourke, Director of City of Angels said:

“It’s exciting to add another dynamite voice, and stellar presence to this revival of City of Angels. Nicola is an exceptional talent, who brings wit and intelligence to the role and the production. Although she’s no stranger to the stage, I’m honoured to be the director for her West-End debut.”

Nicola Roberts is a multi-award-winning singer-songwriter, whose career spans over almost two decades. Nicola’s passion for music and the arts started at a very young age. She enrolled into The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), where she was a part of numerous shows and singing competitions. Her music career took off in 2002 when she became part of one of the UK’s biggest girl band Girls Aloud. Later down the line Nicola began her solo career as a singer-songwriter, releasing her critically acclaimed debut solo album in 2011, Cinderella Eyes. Since then she has gone on to write for numerous artists worldwide.

Away from her musical career Nicola commits a lot of time to helping charities working with underprivileged children around the UK. She is an ambassador for Barnardo’s Young Supporters Charity and visits the children at their schools and events regularly.

City of Angels will play at the Garrick Theatre for a limited season, with previews from Thursday 5 March 2020, reuniting the production’s entire creative team.

A screenwriter with a movie to finish.

A private eye with a case to crack.

But nothing’s black and white when a dame is involved.

And does anyone stick to the script in this city?

This is Tinseltown. You gotta ask yourself: what’s real…and what’s reel

Josie Rourke’s “ingenious, stupendous revival” (The Telegraph) premiered in 2014, when it was hailed as “a blissful evening” (The Stage) that’s “smart, seductive and very funny” (Evening Standard). With a swinging score by Cy Coleman, a brilliantly witty book by Larry Gelbart and lyrics by David ZippelCity of Angels is a musical love letter to the glamorous world of old Hollywood and film noir.

City of Angels is produced in the West End by Nica Burns, Ian Osborne, Eilene Davidson, Adam Blanshay Productions.







It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at The Turbine…

The Christmas season is officially underway at The Turbine. From Sunday 8 December – Sunday 22 December the Battersea Power Station based theatre launches their Christmas At The Turbine. Artistic Director Paul Taylor-Mills, has curated a series of special one-off events with some of the West End’s most talented stars.

These unique events include intimate performances, Q&As and a workshop with: Luke Bayer (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie), Natalie Paris (Six), Samantha Barks (Les Misérables/Pretty Woman), Jodie Steele (Heathers/Rock Of Ages), Sophie Issacs (Heathers/Cruel Intensions), T’Shan Williams (Heathers/The Life), Louise Dearman (Side Show/Wicked), Laura Pitt-Pulford (Side Show/Falsettos) and Tyrone Huntley (Jesus Chris Superstar/Memphis).

Other events include a night with Rumour Mill (the revue and cabaret show), Matthew Shaw (one of the UK’s most celebrated singing teachers), and Carnaval del Barrio (the stars of the London production of In The Heights re-uniting for a one off concert).

Paul Taylor-Mills said, “I’m over the moon that we are marking our first Christmas at the Turbine with a series of special one off events. These events will compliment our main Christmas offering which is the family favourite, The Cat in the Hat. I’m going to be joined by some of the most incredible artists who have informed my career to date and to have them with us at The Turbine for our first Christmas is a real honour.

“We’ve got intimate cabarets with some of the leading names in musical theatre, special one off reunions and even a bit of naughty burlesque! I like to think of it as our very own advent calendar of delights! A bit of something for everyone. Come and have mince pies and mulled wine with us all.”

Christmas At The Turbine will run in conjunction with the theatre’s first family show, Dr Seuss’s much-loved classic, The Cat In The Hat. The production is adapted for the stage by Katie Mitchell, directed by Lillie Collier, and runs from 11 December – 11 January 2020.



Sunday 8 December – 8pm

Luke Bayer, star of Everyone’s Talking About Jamie and Natalie Paris, star of Six join forces for a special-one off concert that will showcase some of the best numbers written for the silver screen. The evening promises to be a magical night not to be missed.


Thursday 12 December – 8pm

Just like a rumour, everyone is talking about Rumour Mill and we are thrilled to be showing off at the fabulous Turbine Theatre! A spectacular theatrical feast, combining the very best in Burlesque, Boylesque, slick choreographed showgirls and showboys. Rumour Mill is a 5 star show with a 5 star cast. Like nothing you’ve seen before, but you’ll definitely want to see again!


Friday 13 December – 8pm

Matthew is one of the UK’s most celebrated singing teachers. He shares his approach to singing and will share practical advice on his antidotes and methods. Matthew has worked as a voice coach for various West End performers and also regularly coaches in the pop world. He has worked with artists including Rita Ora, Pixie Lott, Billy Ocean, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Saturdays, Pussycat Dolls, Liberty X, Steps and The Wanted. Expect some surprise appearances from some of his favourite clients.


Sunday 15 December – 8pm

Stars of the London production of In The Heights re-unite for a special one off concert, which celebrates the musical they made together and their careers since. This promises to be a once in lifetime, not to be missed event.


Monday 16 December – 8pm

Star of the Les Misérables film and fresh from her run in Pretty Woman on Broadway, Sam is one of the first lady’s of musical theatre on both sides of the pond. This special Night Cap will see her singing songs from the shows that shaped her whilst sharing stories about her journey to become one of the UK’s most celebrated artists in musical theatre.


Thursday 19 December – 10.30am-1.30pm

In a rare one off opportunity the three original UK Heathers are joining forces to lead a practical workshop that will focus on some of their numbers from the multi-award winning show. They will also share their experiences of being involved in the show and how it has informed their careers. This is a practical workshop so please be prepared to move. All abilities welcome. Early booking is advised. 15+. (Please note this workshop will not be at The Turbine. Those that book will be advised on venue once places are booked.)


Friday 20 December – 8pm

Two of the first ladies of musical theatre join Paul Taylor-Mills in an intimate one off concert. Laura and Louise first worked together on the award winning production of Side Show. Expect songs from the acclaimed show with some surprises thrown in for good measure.


Sunday 22 December – 7pm

Evening Standard Award winner Tyrone Huntley joins Paul Taylor-Mills in an intimate Night Cap. Expect songs from some of shows that shaped his career and stories about his celebrated career to date.

Cinderella Review

Theatre Royal, Nottingham – until 5 January 2020

Reviewed by Boo Wakefield


Panto is back in Nottingham – oh yes it is!

This year the Theatre Royal have put on a production of Cinderella. Written by Alan McHugh, it has all the right ingredients for an entertaining night out – spectacular costumes, amazing magic, toe-tapping songs, star-studded cast and local in-jokes for both the young and slightly older!

The two ugly sisters lead the cast played by Les Dennis (Michaela) and Conor McIntyre (Phelina), both from Coronation Street. As they starred last year in panto together, they are at ease playing opposite each other and are a well-timed double act.

Richard Cadell plays an energetic Buttons along with his little friend Sooty. They dominate the play with their slap stick comedy and incredible magic acts and if you are a fan of Sooty you will love it.

Gareth Gates plays Prince Charming and now has 17 years performing experience since his Pop Idol fame. His singing is just as you would expect it to be: beautiful and strong but sadly we don’t hear enough from him in this production. Jack McNeill plays his sidekick Dandini who makes the most of the time he has on stage. Prince Charming’s true love Cinderella is played by Hannah Grace Lawson who is ideal for this role as she is sweet and pretty with a lovey voice. Fairy Godmother Kimberley Blake was a joy to watch, delivering her lines with a touch of humour and her “Fabulous Fairy” song was spectacular with all the dancers dressed as the YMCA. The highlights were the routine for ‘If I Were Not Upon This Stage” which had everyone in fits of laughter and the Two Ugly Sisters, Buttons and Prince Charming timed their slap stick moves to perfection, along with the breath taking carriage and horses taking Cinders to the ball which flew up into the air and over the audience – a spectacular sight.

Overall, this delivers the magic you expect from a panto and the audience loved the water pistols, whoopie cushions, the inevitable screaming of “he’s behind you” and the unpredictable children invited up on to the stage but I was confused as to how sweet Cinderella changed into wrestler during one song and Buttons had to be rescued from a ninja with 6 chainsaws in a magic act. Difficult ones to explain to the children. Yes, there were a few teething problems which were covered up with jokes and laughter but I’m sure these will be ironed out. A sparkly, feel-good production.





Disney Theatrical Productions today announces public on sale dates for their new production of Frozen in London’s West End. The production will reopen the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane, with previews commencing in October 2020. With music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and book by Jennifer LeeFrozen – directed by Michael Grandage – opens for priority booking late January 2020, with general on sale on 6 March 2020. Groups and schools booking opens on 24 February 2020.

Frozen – produced by Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher – opened on Broadway in March 2018 and quickly established itself as the biggest musical hit of its season, nominated for the Tony Award® for Best Musical. In addition to the opening in London, the musical recently embarked on a North American tour, and productions will open in Australia and Japan in 2020, and in Hamburg in 2021.

The highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen was released in cinemas in 2013, winning multiple awards, including two Academy Awards® for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”), the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film and the BAFTA for Best Animated Film. It was written and directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, withmusic and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.Currently in cinemas, Frozen 2 had the biggest ever opening for an animated film worldwide and has already made £27.33M at the UK and Ireland box office, with $739M taken globally after just 12 days on release. 

Audiences are invited to learn more about Frozen the Musical, and to sign up for priority booking by 12 January 2020 at

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane, owned and managed by LW Theatres, is closed until autumn 2020 for a landmark £60 million restoration project and will reopen as Frozen begins previews.

The production features choreography by Rob Ashford,set and costume design by Christopher Oram, lighting design by Neil Austin, sound design by Peter Hylenski,video design by Finn Ross, puppet design by Michael Curry, and musical supervision and arrangements by Stephen Oremus.

Twitter @FrozenLondon

Facebook /FrozenLondon

Instagram @FrozenLondon