Monday, 22 May 2017

Preview: Son Of A Preacher Man at Sunderland Empire



Son Of A Preacher Man
Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 19th - Saturday 23rd September 2017

Son of a Preacher Man, a heart-warming new musical featuring the soulful music of Dusty Springfield, with a book by Warner Brown and directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, embarks on a national tour starting at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Monday 4 September 2017 with a date at Sunderland Empire 19-23 September 2017.

Three broken hearts, one Soho hang-out, and the only man who could ever help them…

Welcome to the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, The Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.

Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of The Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.

Featuring the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield, including "The Look Of Love", "I Only Want To Be With You", "Spooky" and of course, the classic "Son Of A Preacher Man", this sparklingly funny and sweetly touching new musical play by internationally renowned writer Warner Brown will have you laughing, crying and singing your heart out to some of the greatest songs ever written.

Directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, Son of a Preacher Man comes to Sunderland Empire for one week only - You only want to be with us!

Choreographer Craig Revel Horwood said:  “I am delighted to bring to life for the very first time this wonderful story created by Warner Brown, with soulful songs from the legendary Dusty Springfield's iconic music catalogue. I hope that audiences in Sunderland will come to love this warm-hearted and uplifting new musical as much as I do.”

Choreographer Craig Revel Horwood
Warner Brown works internationally and is well known for his work in musical theatre and straight plays, encompassing both traditional and avant-garde forms.

He wrote ‘the most popular family show of all time’, the arena production Walking With Dinosaurs, creating an entirely new genre of theatrical presentation and winning many international awards.  Currently playing in venues from Madison Square Garden to the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, an episode of CSI: Las Vegas has been based upon the show and it has even been parodied on The Simpsons.
Warner is currently working on multiple developing projects, including the Broadway musicals The Gold Room and The Thomas Crown Affair, both with composer Michael Feinstein; the opera Empty Spaces, with composer Joshua Schmidt, for Florentine Opera in the USA; the musical A Little Danger, with composer Michael Reed, for the St Petersburg Theatre in Russia; and the screenplay for the movie A Minute To Midnight for Bill Kenwright Films. He is part of the consortium, including choreographer Arlene Phillips and musical director Mike Dixon, for the new internet-based project Reality. 

Writing credits include Half A Sixpence (UK Tour), The Biograph Girl (Phoenix Theatre), Cinderella (London Palladium), The Black and White Ball, which opened in London and for which The Cole Porter Trusts granted Warner stage rights to the songs of Cole Porter, Flickers (Broadway’s Circle-In-The Square Theater), The House on the Corner (Edinburgh International Festival) and, in addition, Tallulah For A Day and Sleep With Friends. Plays include Laughing Dove, Wavelength and The Prospero Suite, directed by John Doyle.

Warner has worked extensively in Europe, most recently writing the musical Garbo, with music by ‘Meatloaf’ rock legend Jim Steinman. He also has extensive writing credits for the BBC and was Script Associate of the BBC Classic Musicals Series, for which he adapted fourteen musicals featuring many international stars.  Warner was the subject of the BBC Two TV documentary The Making Of A Musical. Warner is co-sponsor of the international music prize The S&S Award, named in honour of his late parents.

Book                                                                    Warner Brown
Director & Choreographer                             Craig Revel Horwood
Set & Costume Designer                                 Morgan Large
Musical Supervisor & Arrangements            Paul Herbert
Lighting Designer                                             Richard G Jones
Sound Designer                                                Richard Brooker
Associate Director & Choreographer          David James Hulston
Casting Director                                                Anne Vosser

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Preview: Sister Act at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Sister Act
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Monday 19th - Saturday 24th June 2017

Alexandra Burke will make a triumphant return to Newcastle Theatre Royal when she stars as ‘‘Deloris Van Cartier’ in the divine musical comedy Sister Act in June.

Alexandra wowed Theatre Royal audiences as ‘Rachel Marron’ in the smash hit The Bodyguard in 2015 and is joined in the all new critically acclaimed production by Joanna Francis as ‘Michelle’, Jon Robyns as ‘Eddie’, Karen Mann as ‘Mother Superior’ and Rosemary Ashe as ‘Sister Mary Lazarus’.

Directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood – best known as a judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing-  Sister Act is based on the smash hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith and tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody and disguised as a nun Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own.

Alexandra Burke originally rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor. Her debut number one single Hallelujah sold over one million copies in the UK, a first for a British female soloist.

She is to perform the role of ‘Deloris Van Cartier’ at all evening performances.  At the matinee performances, the role of ‘Deloris Van Cartier’ will be played by Joanna Francis.

Joanna Francis has recently finished performing in the West End production of The Lion King. Her other credits include Carmen Jones at the Royal Festival Hall, The Harder They Come at the Barbican and Stratford East and as ‘Sybil’ in The Big Life at the Apollo Theatre.

Jon Robyns’ West End and theatre credits include Avenue Q, Les Miserables, Spamalot, Memphis, Road Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang most recently Legally Blonde

Karen Mann’s extensive theatre credits include Fiddler on the Roof, the national tour of I Dreamed A Dream – the Susan Boyle Story, Copacabana, Martin Guerre, Spend, Spend, Spend and most recently The Witches.

Rosemary Ashe’s many West End credits include The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins and The Witches of Eastwick.   Her other theatre credits include When We Are Married, Oliver! and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾.  She has also appeared at Newcastle Theatre Royal in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Aaron Lee Lambert will play ‘Curtis’, Sarah Goggin ‘Sister Mary Robert’, Susannah Van Den Berg ‘Sister Mary Patrick’, Allison Harding ‘Sister Mary Theresa’, Ricky Rojas ‘Pablo’, Samuel Morgan-Grahame as ‘Joey’ and Sandy Grigelis as ‘TJ’. The company also includes Nicola Bryan, Jennifer Douglas, Aiesha Pease, Sally Peerless and Justin Wilman. 

This all new production of Sister Act is directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood with musical supervision and arrangements by Tony Award-Winner Sarah Travis.   Probably best known as a judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood was most recently seen at Newcastle Theatre Royal as Miss Hannigan in the national tour of Annie.  Set and costume design is by Matthew Wright, with lighting design by Richard G Jones and sound design by Richard Brooker.

Sister Act has music by the 8-time Oscar and Tony Award winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, with a book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner and additional book material by Douglas Carter Beane. Based on the Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture Sister Act written by Jacob Howard.

Sister Act plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 19th - Saturday 24th June 2017.  Tickets are from £19.50 and can be purchased or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Preview: Tiger Who Came To Tea at Newcastle Theatre Royal



The Tiger Who Came To Tea
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Thursday 29th June – Saturday 1st July 2017

North East children are in for a roaring treat as a stage adaptation of the much-loved classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea returns to Newcastle Theatre Royal this Summer. 

The truly magical Olivier Award nominated West End production, which has played numerous sell-out runs at the Theatre Royal (most recently in 2015) is a musical play adapted from Judith Kerr’s ever popular tale.  It is the ideal introduction to theatre for children aged three plus and the perfect treat for the whole family.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea book was published in 1968, and remains a perennial favourite read by several generations. When Sophie and her Mummy welcome the hungry Tiger to tea, he proceeds to eat all the sandwiches, buns, biscuits and more. He even manages to drink all the water in the tap! What will Sophie’s Daddy say when he gets home? Join Tiger, Sophie and her Mummy and Daddy, in this musical slice of teatime mayhem with sing-a-long songs, oodles of magic and interactive fun.

The production is adapted and directed by David Wood OBE, undisputedly the country’s leading writer and director of plays and musicals for children, whose many successes include: The Gingerbread Man, Guess How Much I Love You, eight Roald Dahl adaptations including West End hits The BFG, The Witches and George’s Marvellous Medicine; and the Olivier Award winning Goodnight Mister Tom.   
Wood has been writing plays for children and families for almost fifty years and his productions are seen all over the world.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea was first performed at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2008. The production has since gone on to tour nationally and internationally, playing four smash-hit summer seasons in the West End, Christmas seasons at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Arts Centre, as well as sell-out dates in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Bahrain.

Author Judith Kerr will celebrate her 94th birthday this year.  In 2008 she approached Newcastle’s very own Seven Stories (The National Centre for Children’s Books) to house her archive. The most significant collection of artwork by a single illustrator in the Seven Stories Collection, Kerr’s archive spans 70 years, and includes childhood paintings, drawings from her student days, and finished artwork for most of her published books, including The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

The show is designed by Susie Caulcutt, movement director Emma Clayton and Music Arranger / Supervisor Peter Pontzen, starring Abbey Norman (Sophie), Ashley Tucker (Mummy), Harry Howle (Daddy/Milkman/Postman/Tiger), Katie Arundell (Understudy/Wardrobe) and Jacob Jackson (Understudy/ASM). The Tiger Who Came to Tea is produced by Nick Brooke Ltd.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Thursday 29th June – Saturday 1st July 2017, playing Thu & Fri at 10.30am & 1.30pm, Sat 10am & 12.30pm. Tickets from £14.50.  Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at

REVIEW: Mixtape 90s at Newcastle Live Theatre


Music Fun From Mixtape

Mixtape - The 90s
Newcastle Live Theatre
Friday 19th May 2017

Have you ever had that water-cooler moment. Everyone else seems to be talking about a show that they’re following and you had not seen it? It might be Lost or Game of Thrones or even The Great British Bake-Off.  Well that’s how it feels at NETG Towers as we hear a succession of really positive reports about Mixtape which goes from strength to strength. The trouble was it always seemed to be on when we had a wedding/son’s parents evening/son’s performance to attend. Not tonight though: finally we would enter the musical gaming arena that is Mixtape and pit our wits against the finest musical minds in the region…

What is Mixtape? It is both a comedy sketch show and a themed music quiz produced by The Six Twenty and directed by Melanie Rashbrooke. By fusing skits using the lyrics of memorable songs, but taken out of context of the original song, you have a show that has the audience laughing at least every 2 and a half minutes.

So we entered the venue and were handed a pen and a quiz sheet with the rules to study. The show is in two halves (side A and side B). The Mixtape Creatives perform a sketch using only the words from the lyrics of a song, though not necessarily in order. Their sketch will be no longer than the original song that inspired it. The audience have to try to guess the song title and artist for each song. At the end someone will win the prize - The Golden Mixtape.

The 90s are full of rich pickings: Blur v Oasis, Boyzone v Westlife, Green Day v Offspring, Mr Blobby v Take That (who can forget the battle for Xmas #1 in 1993?). There was no X-Factor back then, Top Of The Pops beamed the stars into our homes on a Thursday night. We watched, we remember - or certainly we think we can remember.

The energetic troupe bounce onto the stage: James Barton, Steven Blackshaw, Jessica Dawson, Natasha Haws, Dale Jewitt, Lewis Jobson and Caroline Liversidge. We had seen these characters in local bands, panto and theatre productions. We were in safe hands. After brief introductions and a run through the rules the show begins.

Now the concept seems simple: take the lyrics of a well known song and turn it into a new scenario. However, that apparent simplicity hides a lot of clever writing and direction. The writing team includes local heroes such as Melanie Rashbrooke, Nina Berry, Lee Mattinson and Alison Carr who have been responsible from some of the best theatre in the region in recent years.

Some of the songs were immediately obvious, others had you scratching you head until you heard “that line” and the audience collectively reacts with a laugh or a groan as the absurdity of how the scenario has been changed so cleverly. For example: a love song becomes an argument about buying rubbish petrol forecourt flowers as an apology, a heavy metal hit turns into an episode of Jackanory, a grunge hit becomes a popular dance routine. The Jesmond jet-set and Heaton hipsters come in for some shtick too.

This is not quiet theatre. The audience is reacting regularly to what happens on stage. In fact, the crowd is more engaged than many so-called comedy nights. The sketches are also punctuated with loud musical clips of big hits of the time - though they often serve to lead you up a garden path as you are trying to remember that hit that had just been on. Mixtape is an entertaining interactive show that is full of natural pace as the sketches have to change as they cannot be longer than the original song.

The Mixtape performers are very good at what they do. They regularly break the fourth wall and acknowledge the audience. Who thought the simple act of a boy-band sitting down could be so funny?  The ‘3 ringed circus’ feel gives the show the energy of a music gig. 

The music choice was varied. We had the novelty hits, the rock, the pop and the indie. One band was missing from proceedings, but as a Pulp/Blur man myself, I found their omission quite funny in itself.

There is also a fancy dress competition for those who want to relive the 90s youth fashion. The winner gets the silver mixtape as a prize.

By the end of the evening we had done more than score 38 points: we had a cracking night out with an energetic cast looking back at a great era of music.  It is a slick comedy, music and a quiz rolled into one and it works.

Would I lie to you? Believe me. No matter what, Mixtape will hopefully be back for good as you can’t touch this, so, pull up a chair, sit down with the common people and go boom boom boom with the boys & girls. We will return, baby, one more time, otherwise it’d be a tragedy.

Now where is that 90s compilation CD?: “You gotta roll with it, You gotta take your time…”

Review by Stephen Oliver

The Six Twenty present...Mixtape The 90s at Sunderland’s Peacock, previously known as The Londonderry pub, (please note: venue change) on Tuesday 30th June 2017 at 7.30pm as part of Sunderland Stages. Tickets £5.00