“OH, WHAT A NIGHT – That is what Blackpool is in for when watching this spectacular performance of Jersey Boys”
I have never had the opportunity to watch this production and was pleased to hear that it would be gracing the boards at The Winter Gardens Blackpool for the first time.
For me this was a true evening of pure entertainment and delight and was a change to the musicals that I have seen recently that have been adapted from books and movies. To tell the true story and I mean the true story (not a tribute concert) off an extraordinary musical group was to me a real challenge and it is hats off to film writer Marshall Brickman and theatrical advertising executive and writer Rick Elice for produce something so spectacular.
Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the Four Seasons – the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation.
The story revolves around the relationships of the group with a special focus on frontman Frankie Valli, the small kid with the big falsetto. It shows the coming of age of the quartet as performers with the heart of the show about the allegiance to a code of honour learned in the streets of their native New Jersey that helped them push through challenges, gambling debts, Mafia threats and family disasters. Jersey Boys is a glimpse at the people behind a sound that has managed to endure for over four decades in the hearts of the public.
The soundtrack for the musical was vast and just as a tease, you will be treated to hits such as Earth Angel, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man and Can’t Take my Eyes Off of You.
This production starred Michael Pickering as Frankie Valli, Blair Gibson as Bob Gaudio, Dalton Wood as Tommy DeVito and Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi who were supported by an incredible cast. Their voices can only be described as out of this world and along with their acting talents created such a presence on stage and a standing ovation at the end.
The production also needs special thanks to Klara Zieglerova for creating such an adaptable set, Steve Canyon Kennedy for the wonderful sound, Howell Binkley for the dazzling lighting, Sergio Trujillo for the streamlined choreography and Jess Goldstein for the authentic costumes.
Joining the previously announced Anton Lesser (Pope Benedict XVI) and Nicholas Woodeson (Cardinal Bergoglio – the future Pope Francis) in the London premiere and tour of Anthony McCarten’s The Two Popes, will be Lynsey Beauchamp as Sister Brigitta and Leaphia Darko as Sister Sophia, with Malcolm James and Angela Jones in the ensemble. The Two Popes will run at Rose Theatre from 9 to 23 September, with a press night on Tuesday 13 September 2022, after which, it will tour to Cambridge Arts Theatre, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Oxford Playhouse and Theatre Royal Bath.
From the writer of the Academy Award-winning Bohemian Rhapsody, Darkest Hour and The Theory of Everything, comes the play that sparked a major motion picture.
Nine years ago, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by resigning, the first Pope in 700 years to do so. What drove this archconservative to break with sacred tradition and make way for a former tango club bouncer and football-loving reformer with the common touch, to become Pope Francis?
Starring Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones, The Crown, Endeavour) and Nicholas Woodeson (Baptiste, The Death of Stalin, The Danish Girl), this gripping and entertaining new play from Anthony McCarten premiered at Royal & Derngate, Northampton in 2019 and was adapted into the multi-award-winning film, for which McCarten was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Awards. It now receives its London premiere at the Rose ahead of a UK tour.
Directed by James Dacre (2020 Olivier Award-nominated Our Lady of Kibeho), with original music by Grammy and BRIT Award-winning composer Anne Dudley, the production is designed by Jonathan Fensom, with lighting design by Charles Balfour, sound design by David Gregory and video & projection design by Duncan McLean. The Associate Director is Sarah Stacey, the Associate Lighting Designer is Ric Mountjoy, and original casting was by Annelie Powell CDG and Stuart Burt CDG.
A Royal & Derngate Northampton and Anthology Theatre co-production in association with Tara Finney Productions, The Two Popes is presented by Rose Theatre in association with Everyman Theatre Cheltenham and Oxford Playhouse.
Nominees announced for The Stage Debut Awards 2022 in association with ATG 8 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BY Sunday 18th September 2022, 6pm
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Doctor Foster), Emma Corrin (The Crown), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and the stars of West End musicals Jersey Boys and Back to The Future are among the nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2022. In association with ATG, The Stage Debut Awards celebrates the best emerging theatre talent in the UK.
In an historic move, the entire ensemble of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy have received a nomination for Best Performer in a Play. This decision reflects the calibre of performances from the entire cast – all of whom were making their debuts of Ryan Calais Cameron’s seminal work, which premiered at New Diorama before transferring to the Royal Court. Back to the Future: The Musical’s Hugh Coles and Jersey Boy’s Ben Joyce are competing for both Best Performer in a Musical and Best West End Debut Performer. Also in the running for Best West End Debut Performer is Jodie Comer for her role in Prima Facie against The Seagull’s Emilia Clarke, Broadway star Sutton Foster for Anything Goes and Emma Corrin for Anna X.
The awards recognise ground-breaking debut work and how this contributes to the wider success of a production such as J’Ouvert in the West End, that has received two nominations in the Best Creative West End Debut category, Chris Bush’s Rock / Paper / Scissors at Sheffield Theatres, the critically acclaimed production of Spring Awakening at the Almeida or Jack Holden’s Olivier Award-nominated Cruise.
The full shortlist celebrates the breadth of emerging talent across the UK. It includes newcomers from productions in Sheffield, Bolton, Leeds and Leicester, as well as from shows in Wales, Scotland and London. Productions featuring debuts showcase the full range of theatre with nominees shortlisted for some of the largest productions in the West End and around the UK as well as pub and fringe shows.
Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage, comments, Judging these awards has, as ever, been a complete joy. We have a wonderful set of nominees. They reflect the artistic flair, skill and diversity of the next generation of theatrical talent who will ensure that British theatre thrives in the years to come. We can’t wait to celebrate their achievements next month.
The Best West End Debut Performer award is the only category in which the winner is determined by an online public vote. Votes can be cast online at https://www.thestage.co.uk/debut-vote-22. This award celebrates a performer’s first time in London’s West End and voting closes at midday on Sunday 4th September 2022.
Mark Cornell, Chief Executive Officer of ATG commented, ATG is thrilled to be supporting British theatre’s emerging talent through The Stage Debut Awards. At ATG we know that people are at the heart of successful theatre and that new ideas and voices are essential to bringing great live experiences to new audiences. We look forward to being part of an exceptional night celebrating professional debuts at these awards in September.
Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Sunday 18th September, with the ceremony being live streamed across The Stage’s Facebook page.
Best Performer in a Play: • Samuel Creasey for Book of Dust at Bridge Theatre, London • Elisabeth Gunawan for Unforgettable Girl at Voila! Festival, London • Kudzai Mangombe for Malindadzimu at Hampstead Theatre, London • Saba Shiraz for An Adventure at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton • Tommy Sim’aan for Starcrossed at Wilton’s Music Hall, London • Joe Usher for Rock / Paper / Scissors at Sheffield Theatres • Michael Workeye for House of Ife at the Bush Theatre, London • Dewi Wykes for Petula at National Theatre Wales • Ensemble of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy at the New Diorama and Royal Court, London (Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh, Kaine Lawrence)
Best Performer in a Musical – sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line • Hugh Coles for Back to the Future at the Adelphi Theatre, London • Elijah Ferreira for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Leeds Playhouse • Ben Joyce for Jersey Boys at Trafalgar Theatre, London • Bella Maclean for Spring Awakening at the Almeida, London • Joe Pitts for Spring Awakening at the Almeida, London
Best Director – sponsored by Theatredor • Anthony Almeida for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Curve, Leicester • Alice Fitzgerald for Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks at the Royal Court, London • Monique Touko for Malindadzimu at Hampstead Theatre, London
Best Designer • TK Hay (set and costume) for An Adventure at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton • Caitlin Mawhinney (set and costume) for My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored / Teechers Leavers at Leeds Playhouse/Hull Truck • Liz Whitbread (set and costume) for Favour at the Bush Theatre, London
Best Writer – sponsored by Sonia Friedman Productions • Kemi-Bo Jacobs for All White Everything But Me at the Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle • Eilidh Loan for Moorcroft at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow • Tyrell Williams for Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre, London
Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer • John Patrick Elliott for Cruise at the Duchess Theatre, London • Jordan Paul Clarke & Francesca Forristal for Public Domain at the Vaudeville Theatre, London • Lauryn Redding for Bloody Elle at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Best West End Debut Performer • Lizzie Annis for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre • Emilia Clarke for The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre • Hugh Coles for Back to the Future the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre • Jodie Comer for Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre • Emma Corrin for Anna X at the Harold Pinter Theatre • Sutton Foster for Anything Goes at the Barbican • Hannah Jarrett-Scott for Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at the Criterion Theatre • Ben Joyce for Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre
Best Creative West End Debut – sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment • Julia Cheng (choreographer) for Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre • Tacita Dean (designer) for The Dante Project at the Royal Opera House • Jack Holden (writer) for Cruise at the Duchess Theatre • Yasmin Joseph (writer) for J’Ouvert at the Harold Pinter Theatre • Isobel McArthur (writer) for Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at the Criterion Theatre • Rebekah Murrell (director) for J’Ouvert at the Harold Pinter Theatre
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: ‘STARSHIP IMPROVISE’ DRAW CROWDS AS THEY FINISH COMEDY IMPROV OUTSIDE AFTER PLEASANCE FIRE ALARM DISRUPTS SHOW AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL
Starship Improvise, a supergroup of performers from Tony and Olivier Award winning companies Mischief, Showstopper! and Austentatious took to the streets to finish their comedy improv show after a fire alarm caused a venue-wide evacuation.
In a spontaneous turn of events, these fringe favourites found themselves in The Potterrow underpass, finishing their longform improv, which follows the fictional members of smash-hit, science-fiction TV show CELESTIA 7 as they headline a fans convention and share memories of everyone’s favourite episodes.
Starship Improvise co-creator and Co-artistic director of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical and director of Mischief hits ‘Pan Goes Wrong’ and ‘Magic Goes Wrong’ Adam Meggido recounts the experience:
“The fire alarm went off in the last twenty minutes of our show so we went out on to the street and finished it there – most of audience stayed on to watch and then other people gathered around – and what had been a very annoying intrusion into our performance became something with an incredible atmosphere and spirit to it. People were shooting on their phones, selfies were taken with us with the crowd, it was one of those moments you can’t plan for, but that encapsulates the real joy and spirit of the Fringe”.
With the heatwaves and downpours that London has been experiencing, the dystopian near future in which The Trials is set doesn’t seem so far off. Dawn King’s play uses a jury of tween and teenagers to decide the fate of the dinosaurs (grown ups) who have retroactively exceeded carbon limits and economic barriers.
As a Donmar Local production, many of the young company are making their professional debuts, holding their own alongside the likes of Nigel Lindsay, Lucy Cohu, and Sharon Small who play the adult defendants on trial. Lindsay, Cohu and Small all deliver powerful monologues explaining their parts in the climate crisis, behaviours that included eating meat, owning two cars (even if one of them is electric), simply not trying hard enough to combat climate change, and working for an oil company. The jury has to discuss the individual cases and decide if they are guilty of past crimes. A decision which seems too big for anyone, and yet these kids are articulate having faced loss and illness themselves in recent times due to climate change. They butt heads over the ethical, economical, and emotional arguments for and against what they are doing and what the defendants have done. A climate change based moral maze.
The young voices were led by a particularly strong Honor Kneafsey playing Ren, the elected head juror who faces a heart-wrenching decision. Another standout was Francis Dourado as Mohammad, the only critic of the system in which they find themselves, and Charlie Reid as Tomaz, a restless teen who is overheating and wants fresh air and to taste bacon again. The young cast work well together and find a good rhythm, dancing around each other; arguing, coughing, reminiscing about snow.
The lighting, sound design, and use of video by Jal Morjaria, Xana, and Nina Dunn respectively, during the testimonies brings the play together and helps add tension. The use of a simple set with a backdrop made of piled up benches and chairs acted like a climbing frame, and was a reminder that these were kids and not adult jurors sitting in a courtroom.
At the end, I walked away thinking about my own impact on the earth and I am simultaneously filled with a sense of impending doom and hope for the future. The Trials creates a space to pause and reflect, and to be accountable for our own actions towards halting the climate crisis.
Wimbledon New Theatre, Wimbledon – until 20th August 2022
Reviewed by Bobbi Fenton
‘Footloose’, based on the film of the same name, is an absolutely incredible musical, about a small town in America and their struggle to recover from a five-year-old tragedy.
The small town of Bomont becomes the new hometown for Ren (Joshua Hawkins) and his Mother, Ethel (Wendy Paver). However, Ren soon discovers that for the last five years, dancing has been against the law, following the death of four teenagers on their way home from a dance. The town Reverend, Shaw Moore (Darren Day) had influenced the people living in the town to create this law as a way of honouring the deaths of these teenagers, one of which being his son. When Ren starts to try to change this law, after getting the senior year class on side, Reverend Moore is furious, and forbids his daughter Ariel (Lucy Munden) from seeing him. The show has a very happy ending, though, which will have you out of your seat and dancing along with the characters.
Featuring brilliant 80’s songs, performed by an extremely talented cast, this musical is guaranteed to have you dancing along to the music in your seat. These songs are performed by remarkable actors, with the music being played live on stage with instruments such as a flute, a clarinet, drums, and guitars. Not forgetting the performance by Aston Merrygold as Willard, who manages to perfectly balance the hilarious comedic aspect of the character, as well as powerful vocals during his song ‘Mama says (you can’t back down)’. Merrygold’s performance is bound to have you crying with laughter, especially during his awkward interactions between himself and Rusty (Oonagh Cox), who is hysterically funny during these moments.
This show is truly brilliant, and an absolute must see for everyone. You will definitely not regret it.
Assembly George Square Gardens (Palais Du Variete), Venue 3 – until 18th August 2022
Reviewed By Marcus
With how saturated the fringe is, there is so much variety to see. From hilarious standup comedians to stellar sopranos. Is it possible to find all of it in one show? Believe me when I tell you that yes, it absolutely is. Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales deliver all of that, and then some in She’s Still Got It, and I’ve still got the songs in my head!
Now you’re probably thinking “I know that name”, and if you’re a raging queer like myself, you would know that she won a small series called Rupaul’s Drag Race. Not once but twice, being the first ever queen to do so. With her second win, Jinkx is now hailed as the QUEEN OF ALL QUEENS. Seems like a big title to live up to. I like to think after my many years of reviewing and working in theatre, that I have a good eye for seeing amazing performers. Someone who is professional, present, and passionate. Jinkx is one of those people who should give a master class on the art of performance, being one of the greatest drag queens of all time.
Major Scales, while nowhere near as famous as Jinkx (which in truth is a huge oversight on the part of the general public), is just as exemplary as an artist. Writing songs and working on creating the show. It’s very interesting to look at how Major Scales worked on stage, by boosting Jinkx up and supporting them, yet also finding their own moments to shine as a performer.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show, with a double vodka coke in one hand, and the other being used to wipe tears of laughter from my face. This is not just a drag show, this is a masterpiece of performance.
We were fortunate to go see the opening night of the Windsor summer season of shows beginning with ‘Dial M for Murder’, the play written by Frederick Knott. What a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. The opening scene beginning in a starkly dressed Maida Vale flat from which we never left, some haunting background noise setting the dark tone, and the entertainment left entirely to the fantastic actors who created the atmosphere and told the story admirably. Like a book we can’t put down, we are still discussing the story even today.
It begins with Margot and Max, played by Carley Stenson and George Banks who seemed to have a secret thing for each other, which it turned out was just their exemplary acting as part of the story. The story is interrupted by Tony, played by Ben Nealon, a boundless extravagance of a man with no shame or guilt, and yet strangely very likeable, who begins the twists and turns of the story and sets about plan for a murder. Cue Captain Lesgate, played by Gary Webster, a man who’s never been too far from the wrong side of the law and would gladly oblige Tony for the right amount of money.
And here the story twists, again and again, right through the second act when we are introduced to our ‘could-be hero’, the flat footed Detective Inspector Hubbard, played by Paul Nicholls with his calm but irritating manner and subtle diversions introducing yet more twists to the story – but hey it’s a murder mystery play, and in that it sticks to the genre admirably.
All in all, some extraordinary acting, and a wonderfully twisting story made this a thoroughly enjoyable evening in Windsor. We might even go back for seconds, but the show finishes on 27th August, so we have to hurry.
Southampton Mayflower – until Saturday 20 August 2022
Reviewed by Alexandra Browning
‘We Will Rock You’ The Musical is a unique take on an eclectic mix of Queen’s top hits that will make you go GaGa.
As the curtains lift you are transported to a futuristic land where the evil Killer Queen (Jennifer O’Leary) rules over a controlled society. She is a mix of AI and person hellbent on creating the perfect dictatorship of music on the IPlanet. Gaga school graduates are all formed to be one and the same and two alternative students are sent to be processed, after wanting to “Break Free” Galileo (Damien Walsh**), and the soon to be named Scaramouche (Elena Skye) go on a discovery journey and bump into the Bohemians.
Leading the medley of Bohemians is Cliff Richard (Michael Mckell) with help and support from Meat Loaf (Martina Ciabatti Mennell). Meat Loaf steals the show with several of Queens biggest hits and a bold and powerful voice, she single handedly encouraged the biggest round of applause. With their Harley Davison in till they travel, the seven seas of Rhye, to the wonders of Wembley Stadium, with nothing but the vibes and the dreamer they manage to conjure up the last- ever- musical- instrument!!!
During a mega boss battle Galileo and Scaramouche defeat the Killer Queen and lock her away for good. The battle features all their strong voices and makes for a fantastic rendition of “We Will Rock You”, swiftly changing to “We are the Champions” to mark their victories.
The show has an excellent mix of Rock and Roll costumes to a more Steampunk vibe for the Killer Queen ensemble. The set is inspired by a futuristic planet with remnants of the world as it currently is and was, including a vee-dio tappe (video tape) with clips of the sacred Bohemian Rhapsody. Special mentions go to both Meat Loaf, Mennell, and Killer Queen, O’Leary as they had incredibly strong voices and captured the audience during both of their solo stage moments.
The encore of Bohemian Rhapsody leave the audience to join in for the last number singing the cult classic as an entire venue. Overall it’s a great show that leaves you humming Queen tracks all the way home.
**Also played at alternative shows by Ian Macintosh
PLAY CHRONICLES THE BAND’S STORY AND SEVENTIES MUSIC SCENE
NEW DAWN FADES AT CITY CENTRE VENUE ON 14 SEPTEMBER 2022
A stage play documenting the story of 1970s band Joy Division is embarking on an Autumn tour to mark its 10th anniversary – and includes a return to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre.
New Dawn Fades: A Play About Joy Division And Manchester is the story of four ordinary lads who, inspired by the punk revolution of 1970s Manchester, came together to form one of the most influential bands of all time.
New Dawn Fades: A Play About Joy Division And Manchester comes to The Epstein Theatre for one performance only on Wednesday 14 September 2022 at 8pm. Tickets are on sale now.
The Epstein Theatre is Grade II Listed and located in the heart of Liverpool city centre, it was named after the legendary gay Beatles’ manager and ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein.
To celebrate a decade of the stage production, the show is embarking on a tour this Autumn and also marks more than 40 years since the release of Joy Division’s debut album Unknown Pleasures in 1979.
The show was previously staged at The Epstein in 2015. As part of its Autumn 2022 tour, it will also visit venues in Sheffield, Chorley, Bury, and Huddersfield – before concluding at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the show’s biggest venue to date.
New Dawn Fades: A Play About Joy Division And Manchester is brought to the stage by Manchester production company All Roads Meet, with executive producer Nina Whiteman. It is directed by Sean Mason and Giles D Bastow, who have been an integral part of the show since its smash-hit debut in 2013, they are also part of the cast.
Sean Mason is a writer, director, actor, and improviser based in Salford. He is thrilled to be back once again for another tour of New Dawn Fades. Stage credits include adaptations of classic sitcoms Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, Rising Damp, and Jack Rosenthal’s Hot Fat. Most recently he was involved in Sitcom Stories, a night of short plays inspired by the drama behind the scenes of our most beloved sitcoms. As well as performing, he also teaches media and performance skills at the University of Salford.
Giles D Bastow is a visual artist, performer, director, film maker and designer, whose work includes the audio drama Everyman – A Celebration of Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner, and music videos for the cult band Evil Blizzard.
Cast members include Joe Walsh as Ian Curtis; Leah Gray-Scaife as Deborah Curtis; Alan Donohoe as Tony Wilson; Bill Bradshaw as Peter Hook; Matthew Melbourne as Stephen Morris; Sean Mason as Martin Hannett, Paul Morley, and Frederich Engels; and Giles D Bastow as Joy Division’s iconic manager Rob Gretton – some of whom have been with the production since the very start 10 years ago.
Written by Brian Gorman, the play is based on his graphic novel of the same title and was an instant hit when it debuted at Manchester’s The Lass O’Gowrie pub in 2013. This latest re-staging promises the same Mancunian energy that has had audiences rising to their feet for standing ovations, and many music fans returning to see the show.
Co-directed Sean Mason commented: “We can’t wait to bring this iconic story back to the stage. It’s about more than just the music and the memories, it’s about capturing a moment in time and a movement that gave voice to ordinary people, demanding to be heard.”
In 1976 four young men are inspired by the Sex Pistols gig at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, they go on to form a new post-punk band that would eventually morph into Joy Division, with lead singer Ian Curtis stunning audiences with his visionary lyrics and mesmerising stage performances. They sign for Manchester’s ground-breaking Factory Records under the leadership of legendary impresario Tony Wilson, producing two all-time classic albums before tragedy struck.
The show is a thrilling rollercoaster ride through a turbulent and hugely creative post-punk era, with a sparkling array of colourful and memorable characters. The character of Tony Wilson narrates, and takes audiences on a breath-taking whistle stop tour of 2,000 years of Mancunian history, uncovering the surprising influences on Joy Division’s music – from Roman General Julius Agricola and Frederich Engels, through to Dr John Dee and many more.
The iconic album Unknown Pleasures was recorded while the band were rehearsing at Tony Davidson’s legendary studios on Little Peter Street in the late 1970s, alongside many of the city’s upcoming bands including The Fall, Buzzcocks, V2, The Drones, and Mick Hucknall. Many of those colourful characters – and their acclaimed music – appear in the show which captures the spirit and energy of the era. Drawing from the history of the city, oral history from those on that were there, and Curtis’ haunting lyrics, the play explores the local and cultural influences on the band with humour and heart.
The result is a spellbinding journey of love, passion, progress, grief and music, drawing inspiration from the enigmatic lyrics of Ian Curtis, with a soundtrack featuring live performances of his beloved tracks.
Telephone bookings: 0844 888 9991 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge)
In person: During Summer, The Epstein Theatre Box Office is open for one hour before a performance on performance days only. Please note there is a £1 per ticket transaction fee when booking in person at the box office.