Wednesday, 20 September 2017

REVIEW: West Side Story at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

 A Great Celebration

West Side Story

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Wednesday 20th – Saturday 23rd September 2017

Book: Arthur Laurents
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Stephen Sondenheim

This show closes on the 23rd September - exactly 150years to the day since the theatre opened. The Tyne Theatre and Opera House has an interesting history throughout its 150 years - however its most recent events are interesting in themselves. The charity that owns the building has now run the theatre since 2015. Slowly they are ploughing back the monies made in shows like West Side Story into restoring the grade 1 listed building.  There are no council grants or arts funding for this venue and hence progress with the restoration takes place at the pace that the funds allow. Hence attending this week’s production is not just an evenings entertainment, it is helping to secure the future of our region’s cultural heritage.

So what of the show? Regular readers will be already aware that we are fans of West Side Story. The show moves Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the new world. It is 1950s New York and two rival gangs are trying to establish their dominance in their neighbourhood. Add in the racial tensions that one gang, the Sharks, is made up of Puerto Rican immigrants whilst the other, the Jets, is made up of established white American lads. Naturally problems occur when former gang member Tony (David Nagaj) falls in love with Maria (Skye Costelloe), sister of the sharks leader Bernardo (Daniel Johnson). This doesn’t stop the leader of the Jets, Riff (David Parker) from setting up a fight with Bernardo’s gang. The gang leaders then meet at Doc’s place and arrange the terms of the battle.

This production is large scale. The huge ensemble fills the stage during some of the dance sequences. The orchestra is so large that a number of rows of seating had to be removed from the stalls. It has clearly been a massive undertaking to pull it all together. Credit, therefore, goes to the creative team for pulling it off. The direction and choreography from Bobby Trotter and Simon Pinkney has created a very pleasant evening’s entertainment. The dancing was vibrant, bold and well timed.

Considering this was opening night there were no obvious nerves or hitches. The cast captivated the spirit of the show well and gave a passionate performance.

The five principals came across as leaders of the pack which is important in order to pull this show off. Also coming under the spotlight were great input from James Reay as Chino, Ollie Cook as Action, Martin Collins as Doc and William Kerr as Pepe. This is an ensemble piece and each of the 40+ on stage gave an entertaining performance.

The orchestra, under conductor Joe Diggle filled the theatre with sound just as it was designed to. We had some great vocals during the show. In particular, Sky Costelloe, as Maria, had a stunningly powerful yet haunting quality to her voice. Her duets with both David Nagaj, such as Tonight, and with Lucy Sutton, who played Anita, on A Boy Like That was a delight to hear. This show is full of great tunes including Maria, I Feel Pretty and of course America.

This production ticked the boxes: great costumes, big numbers and dance moves from a fabulous cast plus a strong story. West Side Story is a great way to mark the 150th anniversary - here’s to the next 150 years!

Review by Stephen Oliver

£16 full price, £14 concessions, £10 limited view. Groups 10+ get 1 free

Tickets available now from: Eventim Tickets LINK
The Tyne Theatre & Opera House Box Office is open 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday and event days
Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday)

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

REVIEW: Son of a Preacher Man at Sunderland Empire

How Can I Be Sure?

Son of a Preacher Man
Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 19th - Saturday 23rd September 2017

Diana Vickers has the opportunity to shine in Son Of A Preacher Man. Her ability to sing the Dusty Springfield back catalogue was a real highlight of the evening.

Son of a Preacher Man is a juke-box musical which is aligned to the Queen/We Will Rock You experience. A selection of fabulous well known songs are performed with a wafer thin book by Warner Brown trying to set up the opportunity for the next song. Fans of the music will have a nice evening at the theatre. Indeed the Sunderland Empire had a big crowd for opening night - and that’s not always the case with a new musical. Dusty’s magic still shines in this part of the world and the cast received enthusiastic applause at the end.

The story surrounds a successful London record shop called ‘The Preacher Man’ which was the place to go in the 60s. You could listen to records in booths - even buy a coffee which hits by the likes of Dusty are played. Paul (Michael Howe) used to go regularly until he moved away. Alison (Debra Stephenson) used to be told by her mother about going to this shop. They both decide to try to find the shop. They are joined by Kat (Diana Vickers) who was also told about the place by her recently deceased gran.

The find the venue is still there but the owner that was also known as the Preacher Man has now died. The shop has now a coffee bar managed by his son, Simon (Ian Reddington) - yes, you guessed it, the son of the preacher man. He has 3 members of staff he calls the Cappuccino Sisters.   The three visitors then describe their need to find love again and they ask the son of the preacher man to help them.

This is a chance to play songs like Anyone Who Had A Heart, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and I Only Want To Be With You. The musicians, under musical director Brady Mould, are mainly on stage during the songs. The cast do a great job singing them and this is a real strength of the show.

The pace of the show exposes the lack of much of a story. Normally the direction of a musical is laid out within 20 minutes. This show was still highlighting the “I want” songs 35 minutes in - over half way into the first act. The exposition nearly kills off interest but the show is saved by the music and an improved second act.

Diana Vickers has become a reliable musical actor. Debra Stephenson and Ian Reddington portrayed their characters as very personable types that one could relate to. Michael Howe could sing, but was a little wooden at delivering his lines. 

Dusty Springfield’s music has stood the test of time. The haunting lyrics on the subject of love are as relevant today as they ever were and it is delightful to hear them again. It is easy to see how Dusty has influenced many singers over the years. An evening listening to great songs like Son Of A Preacher Man makes for a pleasant evening.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

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.

Preview:How To Win Against History at Newcastle Northern Stage

Áine Flanagan Productions, Seiriol Davies and The Young Vic presents:

How To Win Against History

Newcastle Northern Stage
Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th October 2017 

Written and composed by Seiriol Davies
Directed by Alex Swift

A run-away hit of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016, the fierce and fabulous musical based on the life of the 5th Marquis of Anglesey comes to Newcastle

“a work of genius” «««««Daily Telegraph
Seiriol Davies’ sell-out show from Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 was a huge hit with audiences and critics alike; now the musical extravaganza will be returning to the Fringe and touring the UK – starting at Pontio, Bangor, near Anglesey, home to both Seiriol and the central character – before a run at the Young Vic.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
Seiriol stars as Henry Cyril Paget, the flamboyant cross-dressing 5th Marquis of Anglesey who gained notoriety for squandering his family’s godlike wealth on diamond-studded plays, star vehicles for himself which nobody came to.
The ‘Dancing Marquis’ inherited his title in 1898 at the age of twenty-one, and was declared bankrupt just six years later, after burning through his vast fortune, spending it on bejewelled dresses, poodles dyed lilac, a fleet of cars modified to give out rose-scented exhaust fumes, and touring Germany with an enigmatic show called The Famous Electric Butterfly Dance. When he died a year later, his family burnt every record of his life they could find, and carried on as though he’d never been. How to Win Against History is an outrageous musical about being just too weird for the world, but desperately not wanting it to forget you.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
Seiriol Davies said, “I grew up on Anglesey, the island on top of Wales, and as a kid I'd visit Plas Newydd the ancestral seat of the Marquises of Anglesey. There were busts and paintings honouring the 1st Marquis, the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th. Then of the 5th… there was a laminated printout of a handful of pictures in the back porch above the doormat. Because this guy was ‘different’. Google ‘Henry Cyril Paget’ and you’ll see what I mean; he looks like Freddie Mercury having gone for a run through Elizabeth Duke's wearing a sellotape suit. But this isn’t some ‘poor little rich boy’ story, it’s about wanting to be part of the world, and the feeling not necessarily being mutual. And what the dickensy heck would it mean to have your whole life judged invalid? I'm stunned by how people have responded to the show, and thrilled that this means we get a chance to take this story to more people, with a slight upgrade on the sparkles budget. Henry rides again!
Seiriol Davies is a writer, composer and performer who trained at LISPA. He has made shows with Punchdrunk, You Need Me, Gideon Reeling, One Tenth Human, Beady Eye as well as being a member of Weimar operatic glam band Temper Temper and punk music hall act Underbling & Vow. In 2012, he worked with Caroline Horton & Co to create and score Mess, which won The Stage Award for Acting Excellence and an Argus Angel. He is currently writing a musical called Scroungers for Boundless Theatre and Ice & Fire, and developing sitcoms for radio and television. The follow-up to How to Win, Milky Woods, inspired by Under Milk Wood and Twin Peaks, is currently in development.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
Director Alex Swift’s recent work includes Me and Mr C by Gary Kitching, Error 404 by Daniel Bye, Fat Man by Martin Bonger, Mess by Caroline Horton & Co, Puffball by Caroline Williams, and I Told You This Would Happen by Kathryn Beaumont. He developed his solo show, Travesty, at Theatre in The Mill, Bradford, is currently developing Kieran Hurley's An Injury, and has co-directed Kieran Hurley's Heads Up which will be playing at Summerhall. He is also Artistic Director of permanent red Theatre Company and an Associate Artist with Daedelus Theatre Company.
Áine Flanagan Productions produces Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho and its sister show Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows by Jon Brittain and Matthew Tedford. Margaret Thatcher has now sold out three Edinburgh Fringe Festivals (2014 - ­2016), has been programmed twice at Leicester Square Theatre for another two sell out runs and has toured the home and abroad to sell out audiences. For Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, she is also producing Prom Kween by Rebecca Humphries and Hear Me Raw by Daniella Isaacs.
The Young Vic produces new plays, classics, forgotten works, musicals and opera. It co-produces and tours widely in the UK and internationally while keeping deep roots in its neighbourhood. It frequently transfers shows to London’s West End and invites local people to take part at its home in Waterloo. In 2016 the Young Vic became London’s first Theatre of Sanctuary. Recent productions include Simon Stone’s multi award-winning new version of Lorca’s Yerma which returns to the Young Vic with Billie Piper reprising her performance in July, the premiere of Charlene James’ multi-award-winning play Cuttin’ It and Ivo van Hove’s multi award-winning production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (West End & Broadway transfers), as well as Horizons, a season of work exploring the lives of refugees.  David Lan is Artistic Director, Lucy Woollatt is Executive Director.

On The Web:
@HowToWinAgainst | @seirioldavies | #HowToWinAgainst


Writer and composer Seiriol Davies                 
Director Alex Swift                                                        
Musical Director Dylan Townley
Set and Costume Designer Verity Quinn                       
Lighting Designer Dan Saggers
Dramaturg Eve Leigh   

Devised by the company


Matthew Blake, Seiriol Davies and Dylan Townley
Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th October 2017 Northern Stage, Newcastle
Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 7RH
7.45pm | £10
Box Office: or telephone 0191 230 5151
Running Time: 75minutes | Suitable for ages 14+


Preview: Awful Auntie at Sunderland Empire

Cast Announced

Awful Auntie
Sunderland Empire
Thursday 28th June – Sunday 1st July 2018

The Birmingham Stage Company are delighted to announce casting for the world premiere of David Walliams’ Awful Auntie which is set to play Sunderland Empire 28 June – 1 July 2018 as part of an eighteen-month UK tour.

Great news in store for Harry Potter fans as Georgina Leonidas, who played Katie Bell in three of the Harry Potter films will play Stella Saxby alongside Timothy Speyer (The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox and The BFG) as Aunt Alberta, Stella’s awful auntie.

Awful Auntie tells the story of Stella, who when she sets off to visit London with her parents has no idea her life is in danger. Waking up from a coma three months later, only her Aunt Alberta can tell Stella what has happened. But not everything Aunt Alberta tells her turns out to be true and Stella quickly discovers she’s in for the fight of her life against her very own awful Auntie. David Williams’ amazing tale of frights, fights and friendship features a very large owl, a very small ghost and a very awful Auntie!

Awful Auntie follows the BSC’s record-breaking tour of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny and we are delighted to welcome back to the Sunderland Empire stage Ashley Cousins (Soot) and Richard James (Gibbon), Ashley and Richard recently appeared at the venue in the triumphant run of Gangsta Granny.

David Walliams
On announcing the new production, David Walliams said: "The Birmingham Stage Company's Gangsta Granny is truly brilliant, so I’m hugely excited that they’re now bringing Awful Auntie to the stage. It promises to be a thrilling show and a total hoot - Wagnar the owl and I can’t wait to see it!”

Awful Auntie was published in September 2014 and went to No.1 in the children’s book chart for seven weeks. The paperback was published in February 2016 and sold 212,000 copies, making it the best-selling children’s paperback of the year. Combined sales of the hardback and paperback have reached over a million copies. It has helped to make Walliams one of the country’s best-selling children’s authors, with four of his books charting in the 2016 children’s top ten. They have also been translated into over 50 languages, bringing worldwide sales to 16.7 million.

Awful Auntie will mark the Birmingham Stage Company’s 25th anniversary, starting life at The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, the company’s productions now regularly visit Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. For twelve years they have produced all the Horrible Histories stage shows which now regularly feature in the West End.

Families around the country will not want to miss Awful Auntie, which promises to be awfully thrilling fun for everyone over 5!

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

Monday, 18 September 2017

Preview: Geordie The Musical at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Customs House smash-hit Geordie the Musical comes to Tyne Theatre this October as part of theatre’s 150th Anniversary

Geordie The Musical  
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Wednesday 11th - Saturday 14th October 2017

The Customs House smash-hit production, Geordie the Musical gets its Newcastle debut at Tyne Theatre & Opera House next month, running from Wednesday 11th to Saturday 14th October.

Original 2015 production photo
Tyne Theatre & Opera House are thrilled to have teamed up with the Customs House to bring this heart-warming story of North East Life to their stage as part of their 150th Anniversary celebrations. Performed at Customs House,
South Shields in 2015, Geordie the Musical enjoyed sell-out audiences. The show was awarded the Proud to be in the North East Award from the North East Theatre Guide in 2015 LINK to news

Original 2015 production photo
The show combines traditional Northumbrian songs and music with the award-winning storytelling skills of Tom Kelly. It is set in the 1890s in a pub on the banks of the River Tyne and centres on landlords Bella and James and their daughter Maggie in a changing time for the North East. You're guaranteed a warm welcome at The Wheatsheaf, a traditional popular drinking house where folks from near and far enjoy a pint and a good old sing-song! The show is packed with old favourites which are interwoven into the telling of the tale, including Water of Tyne, Keep your Feet Still, Geordie Hinnie, Cushie Butterfield, Blaydon Races, Geordie Black, Wor Nanny’s A Mazor and Trimdon Grange Explosion.

Original 2015 production photo
The story was the brainchild of ex-pat Andy Bogle. Andy was born and bred in South Shields and grew up in Garrick Street, off Stanhope Road. Despite having lived in the United States for more than 30 years, Andy has kept his accent but he realised certain Geordie sounds and phrases had changed since he’d moved away from his native North East. He began to look into the notion of the region’s dialect changing and came up with the idea of a musical featuring the 19th century songs in his beloved language – Geordie. “When I was younger talking in your dialect was discouraged as it was seen as common but I treasure it now. Geordie is the remnants of Angle, which pre-dates English. In the 1800s people started singing songs and they were published in 1804/5 to preserve this beautiful language. If you read some of them now you couldn’t understand them but this was the language of the people of the North East which has now broken into Northumberland, Tyneside and Pitmatic (Durham).

Writer Tom Kelly has enjoyed success with dozens of shows at the Customs House including most recently the sell-out success story I Left My Heart at Roker Park.Tom is a published poet, award-winning writer and he performs in Men of the Tyne, a multi-media show, incorporating film, stories and song.

Original 2015 production photo
Director Jamie Brown (The Man and the Donkey, Hadaway Harry) says: “We’re over the moon to be bringing Geordie the Musical to the heart of
Newcastle in October. It’s a special show, blessed with some of the finest traditional folk music and performing talent that the region has to offer. Obviously, it’s also a very special occasion, with the Tyne Theatre and Opera House celebrating its 150th anniversary.  In 2015, the atmosphere was electric during the sell-out Customs House production, and we can’t wait to see how that transfers to the grand auditorium of Tyne Theatre.  Geordie humour, songs that can break your heart one minute and have you singing at the top of your voice or tapping your foot the next, and themes that resonate with anyone that has a connection to this unique part of the world, guarantee a great night out for all ages.  Hope to see you there!”

Read our review of the original production: Review LINK

Tickets: £18 full price, £16 concessions & limited view.

Tickets available now ONLINE LINK