new victoria theatre

THE vital importance of a ballet gala to raise funds to help a four-year-old disabled Woking boy receive specialist medical treatment in the USA has been terrifyingly brought home to his family once again.

Dexter Summerscales-Heard was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, suffers with epilepsy, is unable to speak and is fully reliant on his wheelchair and family to assist his daily activities.

Laurretta Summerscales and her husband Yonah Acosta with their nephew Dexter at Waverley Abbey House  Picture by Nigel Norrington

Nor is Dexter able to eat orally. Doctors found that his swallowing function was diverting food into his lungs, instead of his stomach – posing a critical threat of respiratory failure.  Doctors have said he could even drown in his own saliva.

Determined to help Dexter, the youngster’s aunt and uncle, international principal ballet dancers Laurretta Summerscales and her husband Yonah Acosta – who live in Kingfield, near Dexter and his family – have put together a gala, Dancing for a Dream.

The gala will be held at the New Victoria Theatre on Sunday 10 November and features some of the world’s top dancers, including principals and soloists from the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich.

Lauretta and Yonah in full costume with Dexter

“It is so important we get this money,” said Lauretta, “and we’ve just had another reminder why. The other day Dexter had to go to A&E. There was a scare that he had pneumonia and his sats (oxygen levels) were dangerously low.

“This was caused by him simply having a cold, which causes, as in all of us, extra saliva and mucus, which he was swallowing into his lungs. In turn, this was making it extremely difficult for him to breathe.

“It highlighted the very fact that this isn’t just to get him eating again, but to try and make having a basic cold not become life-threatening for him.

“We’ve sold about 900 tickets but have still got about 400 to go. To fill the theatre would be amazing.”

“Our only hope is to secure significant funding, which will allow Dexter to travel to a specialist centre in the USA, called NAPA, where he can undergo the treatment,” Laurretta added.

She aims to raise £30,000, which would pay for two visits to NAPA, including flights and accommodation. “Dexter has a place booked at NAPA for 25 January for three weeks, so we have to get the funds.

“We also have items that have been donated from such wonderful dancers as Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nunez, Alina Cojocaru, Roberto Bolle, Vadim Muntagirov, as well as tickets for Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Northern Ballet. They are being auctioned until the day after the gala at www.jumblebee.co.uk/dancingforadream.”

To buy tickets for the gala, please visit www.atgtickets.com/woking or call on 08448717645.

For the full story get the 31 October edition of the News & Mail.

EASTENDERS star Samantha Womack will play the central role in the thriller The Girl On The Train, which comes to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (28 October) until Saturday 2 November.

Based on the international best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, it tells the story of Rachel Watson, who longs for a different life. Her only escape is the perfect couple she watches through the train window every day, happy and in love. Or so it appears.


JUST THE TICKET – Samantha Womack in rehearsal for The Girl On The Train, which comes to Woking on Monday

When Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and even a suspect in a mystery.

Best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in BBC1’s EastEnders, Womack’s other television credits include leading roles in Mount Pleasant and the hugely popular Game On.

THE King will be at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on Saturday next week, 26 October – in the form of Lee Memphis King.

Lee will recreate the essence of a legend in One Night of Elvis, which he has honed over the past 10 years.


Lee Memphis King is the essence of a legend

In this latest production, he portrays Elvis Presley at his peak celebrating the iconic Vegas Years from 1969 to 1977, when Elvis performed in Las Vegas and toured throughout the US and Canada.

The definitive record of these performances is contained in the films Elvis – That’s the Way It Is, Elvis On Tour and the Aloha from Hawaii concert.

Expect authentic Presley costumes, video projections and orchestral backing – and prepare to be taken back in time to the way it was.

NEARLY 1,300 children with special needs and their families are to get free tickets to the Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, courtesy of a Chobham-based charity.

Gordon Parris presents a cheque for the charity first night of Aladdin to New Victoria Theatre director Simon Thomsett with cast members, from second left, Pearce Barron, Mischa Eckersley, Bobby Davro and Brendan Cole. (Picture by Bob Holmes)

The Children with Special Needs Foundation presented a cheque for £25,000 to the theatre to buy out the first night of the pantomime on 6 December. The money will also cover treats for the children and an outing to a performance for Park School in Woking.

Gordon and Ann Parris, the charity founders, are in the process of the mammoth task of allocating seats, involving sending out up to 500 letters and then dealing with requests about seating.

Most of the money for the free shows comes from the foundation’s fundraising throughout the year as well as large donations from companies such as Waitrose and the Foxhills Country Club in Ottershaw.

“We are always looking for sponsors and if any company wants to help, we will put their name in the programme,” Gordon said.

The charity is also organising a similar outing for children to see Robin Hood at the Camberley Theatre.

For the full story get the 10 October edition of the News & Mail

THE naughtiest puppets around are heading to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from Monday to Saturday next week, 7-12 October – and their material definitely isn’t for children.

Following five years in the West End and sell-out runs worldwide the comedy musical Avenue Q – the tale of the lovable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues – is heading out on tour.


The cast of Avenue Q are on tour with their lovable puppets

The characters include Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate who comes to the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account, Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve.

There’s also Nicky, the good-hearted slacker, and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod, an internet “sexpert” called Trekkie Monster and a kindergarten teacher named Kate Monster.

The songs include The Internet is for Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, while the cast includes Megan Armstrong, Jasmine Beel, Ellis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles, Nicholas Mclean, Robbie Noonan, Saori Oda, Cecily Redman, Lawrence Smith, Oliver Stanley and Tom Steedon.

COMEDIAN Bobby Davro visited patients and staff at Woking & Sam Beare Hospice in Goldsworth Park ahead of his annual fundraising gala for the charity.

Davro was accompanied by impressionist Danny Posthill, who was a finalist in Britain’s Got Talent in 2015 in a visit to the Wellbeing Centre and then the ward.

Bobby pops in to visit Pauline and John Erridge and Bernard Eyre at the WSB Wellbeing Centre

The Gala Spectacular will be held on Sunday 27 October at the New Victoria Theatre. The comedian is a longstanding supporter of the hospice after his mother was cared for by the Sam Beare Hospice in Weybridge.

Kerry Bennett, the  Woking & Sam Beare Hospices marketing director, said: “It was a pleasure to have Bobby and Danny visit us at the hospice and we are all really looking forward to the Gala Spectacular.

Bobby Davro with flyers for his fundraising show later this month

“On behalf of all those they made smile we thank them both for taking the time out of their busy schedules”.

The hospices deliver 8,760 hours of care and support to 2,000 patients each year. More than 70% of this is done in patients’ homes for in care or nursing homes.

Patients are primarily from Woking, Surrey Heath, north Guildford, Spelthorne, West Elmbridge and Runnymede but the hospice also cares for some people outside this region.

The charity needs to raise more than £8 million a year to provide its services, which are free of charge.

To buy tickets of the Gala Spectacular show, visit wsbhopsuces.co.uk/bobbydavro or call the hospices’ fundraising team on 01483 742771

For more pictures get the 3 October edition of the News & Mail (Pictures by Terry Habgood)

A BALLET gala featuring some of the world’s top dancers and hosted by star choreographer Wayne Sleep is being organised to help a four-year-old disabled Woking boy to receive medical treatment that will allow him to swallow and eat normally.

Principal ballet dancers Laurretta Summerscales and her husband Yonah Acosta with their nephew Dexter

Dancing for a Dream is being put together by the boy’s aunt and uncle, international principal ballet dancers Laurretta Summerscales and her husband Yonah Acosta, who is the nephew of superstar Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. The couple live in Kingfield, near their nephew Dexter Summerscales-Heard, and his family.

Laurretta and Yonah pose in full costume with Dexter

Performers will include principals and soloists from the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet and the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich. Carlos Acosta has sponsored some of the dancers’ travel costs but will be with his dance company in Cuba when the gala takes place. However, it will be attended by his wife Charlotte and eldest daughter Isla.

It will be held at the New Victoria Theatre on 10 November and the money raised will go to helping Dexter, who was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, to be able to eat normally after a series of health problems left him being fed through a tube.

Dexter suffers with epilepsy, is unable to speak and is also fully reliant on his wheelchair and family to assist his daily activities.

Laurretta said: “Regardless of all of this, Dexter is intelligent and possesses the mental capabilities of any ‘normal’ boy of his age.

“He has an abundance of energy and great sense of humour and is renowned as the class clown, as he always sees the funny-side of situations.”

To buy tickets for Dancing for a Dream, visit www.atgtickets.com/woking or call 08448717645.

For the full story get the 26 September edition of the News & Mail

PLAYING a stand-up comic who is out of tune with his audience should be a doddle for Shane Richie – the former EastEnders star says so himself.

He’s about to take on the stage role of the washed-up Archie Rice in a new production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, which can be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

WASHED-UP STAND-UP: Shane Richie plays Archie Rice in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The action has been moved from the 1950s to the 1980s, but the themes of a failing star performing to audiences looking for a different style of comedy hasn’t changed – and Shane says he knows exactly how Archie feels.

“Unlike a lot of the actors that have played this part before me, like Sir Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh – there is no denying that they are wonderful actors – but they have never done stand-up,” he explains.

“They’ve never stood on a stage, in a club or at Butlins when kids are doing knee-slides in front of you, there’s someone playing on the fruit machines or waiting for bingo to get started. I have.

“I’ve been that comedian and I’ve stood there doing my thing for all these people who have come to see Little and Large or Jimmy Cricket, and I’ve died because this audience had been fed a staple diet of your Jim Davidsons, your Bernard Mannings, your Jim Bowens.

“That’s all they knew, so I would have to go and perform material which was totally not right for them, and died. So I know. I know what it’s like, I know who Archie Rice is, I know how it feels inside and I know what it’s like to be dead on stage.”

“I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me in Colchester,” he laughs. “I remember in Wales, coming off stage, I was 19 or 20, and back then you had to do three half-hour spots. I remember doing this particular club, going on and doing the material that I was doing then and just dying a death. No one was interested, they were just talking.

“I remember getting changed in the dressing room in between spots and there was a duo there too, and the average age of the duo was dead. And one of them said, ‘Hey, if you don’t mind me saying, I don’t think you’re very funny’. He said, ‘Do you know any Tom Jones? Why don’t you go and sing because you’re not very funny.’

“So I remember going on and singing Rock Around the Clock and a load of old Elvis songs, just so I could get paid.

“This is back in the day when you’d arrive in the middle of nowhere, find a phone box, ring the agent and they would tell you there and then if you were working or not, then you’d have to find some digs for the night. So I know who Archie Rice is, and that’s him.”

In The Entertainer the story is set against the backdrop of the Falklands War of 1982, and  the satirical new world of alternative comedy has dismissed Archie’s style of humour and his act as old–fashioned, even offensive. The mother-in-law joke has been outlawed and a generation of entertainers like Archie have suddenly found themselves irrelevant.

Shane, who played Robin Hood in panto at Woking two years ago and is also a Surrey resident, landed the Archie role thanks to director Sean O’Connor, who worked with him as a story editor on EastEnders.

“I was in my mid-forties then. Sean was still in his early fifties and he said to me, ‘Are you familiar with John Osborne’s The Entertainer?’ And, of course, I was. That amazing performance by Sir Laurence Olivier, a great movie, and he said, ‘Because one day you will make a great Archie Rice’.

“So, we jump 12 years ahead and last year we’re chatting, and he said, ‘How do you fancy having a go at this?’ I said, ‘I’d love to…’”

Shane Richie will star in The Entertainer at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (23 September) until Saturday 28 September.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

THE world’s most famous rags-to-riches fairytale, Cinderella, will come to Woking next week, thanks to Northern Ballet.

A tragic end to a perfect summer’s day leaves Cinderella with no choice but to accept a desolate life of servitude. At the mercy of her wicked stepmother, Cinderella seeks joy where she can, but after encountering the handsome, carefree prince skating on a glistening lake of ice, she yearns for another life.


CHILLING OUT – Northern Ballet’s version of Cinderella makes the most of its icy setting in Imperial Russia

Despite her sadness, Cinderella never forgets to be kind and her generosity is repaid when a chance encounter with a mysterious magician changes her destiny forever…

Choreographed by David Nixon, this version of Cinderella will combine dance with magic and circus skills. He says: “We have staged our ballet in the winter wonderland of Imperial Russia, opening up the possibilities of this colourful world as a new setting for Cinderella to make her journey.

“Audiences will see the dancers skate on a glistening lake of ice, stilt walkers entertaining in a marketplace and the fateful ball held in a Fabergé-inspired ballroom.”

Northern Ballet’s Cinderella will be at the New Victoria Theatre from Wednesday 18 September until Saturday 21 September.

AS A small child Ben Bowman dreamed of stage stardom – but he quit drama college at 17 to concentrate on performing as his long-time hero, the King of Pop.

“At college, they told me I could earn £77 a night in the West End,” he reveals. “So, I quit the course and said ‘I can earn more than that as a Michael Jackson impersonator’.”

Ben Bowman performs as his hero, Michael Jackson

Ben wasn’t wrong. He started by booking his own venues but was soon touring the world and performing as his idol at venues such as the London Palladium.

“When I started, I thought it was just something fun that I could do on the side of working,” says the 33-year-old from Kent. “I never imagined I would be a full-time Michael Jackson impersonator – it’s not like it’s something that comes up at the job centre!”

But Ben seems born to do the job. “Me and my brother grew up with my mother’s vinyl collection and Michael Jackson was part of that,” he said. “We especially caught on to him, and even started dressing up as him for fancy dress parties. I became one of those kids who learned all the dances from the videos.

He has now been performing for 14 years and the show, Michael Starring Ben, is a celebration of Michael Jackson’s work. He says he’s proud to keep the musical legacy alive 10 years on from Jackson’s death in June 2009, shortly before he was due to open a 50-night residency with his This Is It show at London’s O2 Arena.

“I love Michael Jackson’s music as much now as when I was five. I listen to his music every week still, away from performing. I can’t imagine my life any other way.”

Michael Starring Ben will be at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on Thursday, 12 September.

For the full story get the 5 September edition of the News & Mail