MANY actresses would be wary of baring all on stage – even for a hit show like Calendar Girls The Musical, but there are no such fears for Denise Welch.

The former Coronation Street and Waterloo Road star laughs and says: “I’m not nervous about that. I have lots of strategically placed cakes and buns

“Anyway, it’s the least of our worries. We’re all of a certain age and too long in the tooth to care. The production’s not for titillation, it’s for comedy.”

She’ll be getting her kit off as Celia in the latest version of the show alongside television presenter Fern Britton as Marie, Lorraine Bruce as Cora, Anna-Jane Casey as Annie, Sara Crowe as Ruth, Hi-De-Hi’s Ruth Madoc as Jessie and Rebecca Storm as Chris.

STEPPING OUT – From left, Karen Dunbar, Anna Jane Casey, Ruth Madoc, Fern Britton, Rebecca Storm, Denise Welch, Sara Crowe. Picture by John Swannell

Denise says she has no qualms about her curves these days. After a public battle with drinking, she admits that eating replaced her alcohol addiction and she piled on the pounds. But after a weight-loss plan involving some cognitive behavioural therapy she shed two stone and has kept the weight off for five years. She even posted pictures of her bikini-clad self on Instagram recently.

“When I do those photos, I’m basically empowering women,” she explains. “I’m 60 and not bad for an old bird, and you can do that too.

Denise, who won the ninth series of Celebrity Big Brother in 2012, says: “Sometimes I feel every year of my 60 years, and other days I don’t at all. I have a very active, busy life.

“I’ve got a young husband (Lincoln Townley is 15 years her junior) and I’m very lucky to be an in-demand actress, presenter and author.

“A lot of people say they’re invisible at 60 and can’t get a job. I’m lucky that I have several.”

Written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, Calendar Girls The Musical is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies from Rylstone & District WI, who decide to appear nude for a calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5 million for Bloodwise.

This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary. Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, will continue to receive funds from this production.

Calendar Girls The Musical will be at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Tuesday 26 March until Saturday 30 March.

HAVING spent last year touring worldwide with the likes of The Pretenders, Simple Minds and Barenaked Ladies, Brit-winning singer songwriter KT Tunstall brings her own headline tour to G Live in Guildford on Tuesday 26 March.

Since she hit the mainstream in 2004 with Eye To The Telescope, KT has released a further four albums and her songs have been used everywhere from the opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign theme.

In January KT released a stripped-down version of Human Being taken from her latest UK Top 20 album, Wax, which was produced by Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand.

NOW in its 18th year of touring, The Greatest Hits of Motown – How Sweet It Is returns to Woking on Sunday 31 March for a feel-good night of musical Motown magic at the New Victoria Theatre.

This live show combines Motown hits with slick choreography, so audiences could find themselves Dancing on the Ceiling with songs from artistes such as Lionel Richie, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, The Isley Brothers, Edwin Starr and many more.

MICHAEL O’Reilly and Kira Malou will take on the roles made famous by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey when Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage returns to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday 18 March until Saturday 23 March.

Michael is making his professional debut as Johnny Castle in the show after graduating in dance and musical theatre from Bird College, while Kira has played the idealistic Frances “Baby” Houseman on previous tours.

Kira Malou and Michael O’Reilly, centre, with members of the Company. Picture by Alastair Muir

Set in the summer of 1963, the story revolves around 17-year-old Baby about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters of her holiday resort.

Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny, the resort dance instructor.

The show features the hit songs Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and of course (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.

ADAM Ant will play his landmark Friend or Foe album in its entirety as well as classic chart-topping singles and personal favourites when he heads out on tour at the end of this year.

Friend or Foe album was his first album as a solo artist after leaving the Ants and included three hit singles, Goody Two Shoes, Friend or Foe and Desperate But Not Serious. Adam’s tour reaches G Live, Guildford, on Monday 9 December.

FRENCH-CANADIAN stage and screen star Audrey Brisson will play the wonderfully altruist Amélie Poulain in the UK tour of the musical adaptation of the much-loved, five-time Oscar-nominated film.

Amélie The Musical will tell the story of the imaginative and shy romantic with a gift for helping others, and the tour will come to the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Tuesday 27 August to Saturday 31 August.

Audrey Brisson will play Amélie Poulain. Picture by Michael Wharley

Amélie, originally a surprise hit 2001 film starring Audrey Tautou, is the story of a young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. She secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart.

X Factor winner Matt Terry will star as Alex the Lion when Madagascar – The Musical arrives in Woking next week.

The show has transferred from the big screen as one of DreamWorks Pictures best-loved films to a colourful hit adventure on stage and will be at the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday (12 March) until Saturday 16 March.

It’s a big change for Matt who has been recording music all over the world including Miami, LA and Scandinavia, teaming up with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Enrique Iglesias and Sean Paul.

Picture by Scott Rylander

But he’s loving his stage role and says: “The show brings together everything you’ll know and love from the Dreamworks film with an immense score and amazing sets, costumes and puppets.”

Madagascar – The Musical follows all the animal friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to the madcap world of King Julien’s Madagascar.

Alex the lion is the king of the urban jungle, the mane(!) attraction at New York’s Central Park Zoo. He and his best friends – Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo – have spent their whole lives in blissful captivity before an admiring public and with regular meals provided for them. Not content to leave well enough alone, Marty lets his curiosity get the better of him and makes his escape – with the help of some prodigious penguins – to explore the world.

Oxford-based electronic outfit Low Island are back with In Person, their first new music for 2019, and will kick off the tour to promote it in Surrey next week.

Singer Jamie Jay says: “In Person is about sustaining relationships in a digital age. It’s never been easier to feel in constant contact with everyone, when actually you’re slowly drifting apart.

“This song marks a big turning point for us musically, as we’re committing much more to our love of electronic dance music, so much so that we’ve just spent all our money on synths and other crazy machinery for our live tour in March.

“This song has also settled a long-standing band argument – is it OK to have a cowbell…yes, always.”
Low Island start their tour at the Boilerooom in Guildford on Friday 15 March.

SADS (Send Amateur Dramatic Society) are hoping the popularity of the murder mystery combined with humour will continue for a while.

Their latest production, Over My Dead Body by Pat Baker, is a great example and will be performed in an evening of one act plays at the Lancaster Hall, Send, from Thursday (14 March) to Saturday 16 March.

Emily Wright, Greg Freeman and Brian Higgs

Director, Karen Woodland says: “It’s set in the 1920s and so is full of hilarious characters from the lord of the manor to the butler. Moreover, as with all murder mysteries, it has a twist in the tail.”

Over My Dead Body will be performed alongside Bride Before a Fall by Robert Scott. The show starts at 7.30, tickets are available from 07542 107815.

THE over-used phrase “timeless classic” has never been more appropriately applied than to the Rocky Horror Show, writes Stuart Flitton.

While the 1975 film is a treasured memory for many, to get the full force of the phenomenon, you have to see the stage version and audiences up and down the country currently have an opportunity to see this during a tour lasting nearly a year.

This week, until Saturday 9 March, this piece of Transexual, Transylvania, is planted at The New Victoria Theatre in London.

The skill and energy on display at this show are incredible. From the opening song Science Fiction by an Usherette (Laura Harrison), who bookends the show, the audience is taken into the mad world of what the creator called “an alternative pantomime.”

Former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Joanne Clifton and A1 band member Ben Adams are perfect as the preppy young couple, Brad and Janet, who stumble upon a creepy mansion full of weird characters. Clifton reveals a strong and clear voice and she and Adams clearly have long careers in top musical theatre ahead of them.

The plot, a homage to 1950s hammy horror, is turned on its head as the “Dr Evil” in charge of proceedings is a 6ft, muscle-bound transvestite called Frank N Furter (Stephen Webb).

This is a part with no boundaries and Webb throws his full force into it. Belting out Sweet Transvestite but also the balladic Don’t Dream It — Be It, Webb commands the stage.

Frankie’s coterie are led by Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), Magenta (Laura Harrison) and Columbia (Miracle Grange), who excel individually and as a group.

The role of Narrator is, like most of the main roles, being taken by different actors during the long tour and Woking audiences are very fortunate to have Dom Joly.

What makes this stage show unique is that, as in pantomime, audience members dress up and feel free to shout out.

But instead of small children dressed as fairies, shouting “he’s behind you”, the front rows and large pockets of the auditorium are full of superfans, wearing a variety of the outlandish costumes and make-up of the characters.

The heckling, sometimes called call-backs, gives the show an extra level and ranges from the witty to the crude.

Joly handles these perfectly, sometimes raising an eyebrow and at other times taking the heckle and playing with it.

In an interview with the News & Mail the lead actors said that the audience know every word of the script and this was clear at this performance. Not only do they know when to shout out, but also show great antici… pation.

One of my favourite heckles, and probably one of the few I can repeat here, was when Riff Raff first meets Brad and Janet and says, “hello”. With perfect timing, one of the superfans shouted out “what is your favourite magazine?” just before Riff Raff speaks.

Whether you’re a superfan or not, the Rocky Horror Show is a theatre experience like no other.

It is transformative in so many ways and this production, from the cast through the stunning musicianship to the breathtaking scenery, is first class.

Don’t dream it – see it!

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is at the New Victoria Theatre (0844 871 7645) until Saturday 9 March, then in Belfast, followed by the Oxford New Theatre (0844 871 7645) from 25 to 30 March, the Mayflower Theatre Southampton from 8 to 13 April and the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from 15 to 20 April before moving around the UK and Ireland.

For the full tour details, visit https://www.rockyhorror.co.uk/tour-dates