new victoria theatre

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

A “HAPPENING”, in the middle of Woking brought the 60s back to life on Tuesday 20 August as shoppers were treated to a glimpse of the stars from Motown The Musical, hours before it was due to open at the New Victoria Theatre.

The singers playing The Supremes in Motown the Musical appear in Woking Town centre alongside a 1960s Ford Mustang

The three singers who take on the roles of The Supremes appeared in Jubilee Square in full costume alongside a genuine 1960s Ford Mustang, provided by the Surrey Classic Vehicle Club, as the Woking theatre prepares to host the show until Saturday 24 August, fresh from its recent West End run.

Motown The Musical tells the story behind Motown Records, this year celebrating its 60th Anniversary, and how the label became legendary in music history.

Bookings can be made at the Box Office on 0844 871 7645 (Fees apply. Calls cost up to 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge), or for groups bookings on 0333 009 5386 or online at www.atgtickets/woking (fees apply).

For the full story get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail

AMELIE captured the hearts of film fans everywhere. The shy romantic with a gift for helping others – played in the 2001 French romantic comedy movie by Audrey Tautou – is an astonishing young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind.

Now the story has been brought to the stage as a musical which is coming to Woking at the end of this month.

French Canadian actress Audrey Brisson is in the famous role, and she doesn’t sound too daunted.

Audrey Brisson says Amelie is a fascinating character to play

“It is such a fabulous story, and I love the film it’s based on,” she enthuses. “Amélie is a fascinating character. Her imagination. Her reluctance to give up. She grows up thinking she can’t connect with anyone and that she’ll always be alone, yet she’s got this positivity within her.

“I love her positivity, her perseverance and her way of seeing a situation that’s potentially very dark and then bringing some colours into it. I think that’s something I need to hold on to.”

Amélie secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, She realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart.

Audrey explains: “Amélie is a story of a young girl who struggles to connect to people around her so she just creates a world of imagination. She likes to have a step away from the rest of the world and to view it. She likes to meddle in other people’s lives to try and force them to connect with other people.”

But she adds: “It’s not a fairy tale… She’s not portrayed or made to look perfect and beautiful. She is a complex human being as we all are. She reminds us all of ourselves a little bit, in a way.”

Turning Amélie into a musical was not an obvious move, but Audrey says it works completely.

“It’s the connection,” she says. “You can sit on your sofa and watch the film, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the beauty and be moved by it, but when you come to the show you have real people singing for you, looking at you, talking to the audience.

“We invite you into the story. I think it’s great to remind people that we are, as humans, all in this together. No matter how lonely you might feel, you’ve got someone next to you listening to that same story.

“When you’re in an auditorium of people who will all experience the story differently because they have their own journeys, you’ve got a room filled with different interpretations of what it is to be human. I think that’s quite potent and wonderful.

“Barnaby Race, the music arranger, worked on the music heavily to try and bring it back to a European-ness and closer to the quirkiness of the film. Changing the tempo, the key signature of the music, and the fact we have actual musicians on the stage – it brought that French-ness.”

The UK production also now contains some scenes that weren’t in the Broadway production and Audrey says: “Michael Fentiman, the director, has done a wonderful job of bringing the magical aspect of the film to the stage. There’s this wonderful moment in the movie where Amélie melts and turns into a puddle of water. We can’t do that on stage, but it feels as though we’ve got that same enchanting feeling.”

The film is set in the 1990s and the stage musical version has stuck with that era and Audrey explains: “Our version is set at the same time as the film, before mobile phones and everything, but it’s still so relevant to today with the fact people don’t connect even though they have so many opportunities to talk to one another with phones or texts, message, or emails – it’s so accessible yet so hard to reach.

“I like that… I like the complexities of her as a character. We all have that need and desire to connect with one another, in cities where we are so jammed up together and yet we can feel quite lonely, because God forbid you would ever smile at the person that you were next to on the train.

“I hope that this story is a nice reminder that you should look up and smile at the person on the train next you, they won’t bite you, and actually they’re probably in a similar situation to you, just wanting to be seen and wanting to be acknowledged.”

Audrey Brisson will be joined by Strictly Come Dancing favourite and television actor Danny Mac when Amélie The Musical comes to the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday 27 to Saturday 31 August.

IT’S BEEN almost 60 years since the iconic record label Motown was founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy – launching the careers of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 along with many others.

Now the story of the record label’s success is told in West End show Motown The Musical, which arrives in Woking this month on tour.

The show was created after getting first-hand advice from Michael Lovesmith, who worked alongside Mr Gordy at Motown for years, coached the Jackson 5, produced the likes of The Temptations and The Supremes, and performed himself. As creative consultant, he worked alongside director Charles Randolph-Wright.

The Supremes tribute, with Karis Anderson as Diana Ross, in Motown The Musical

“I was basically born and raised in music,” says Michael. “I was on the road as a child, singing in churches as a trio with my brothers. Then at the age of 11 I was introduced to Holland-Dozier-Holland, who signed me to a song-writing contract, and I wrote my first song for them, to be performed by Dionne Warwick.”

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it was a good thing I had a good song! I met Mr Gordy at age 17, and by that time I had produced about 12 artists. 

“Motown wanted me to work with the Jackson 5. I was their age, so I could relate to them in a way that not everybody could. They were so used to working with older people who didn’t quite understand their energy! 

“I ended up becoming Berry Gordy’s protégé, and started producing and vocal coaching Michael and his brothers. Then soon after that I started recording with The Supremes and The Temptations. That’s pretty much how I got started.”

Motown The Musical tells the story of Mr Gordy’s life and the development of Motown Records in Detroit, which soon became known as Hitsville USA.

Michael explains: “The funny thing about Motown is, I think Motown could have been anywhere, and in a sense it was.”

“Every city had a girl group, a guy group, a kids’ group and a lead singer but the unique thing that Detroit had was Berry Gordy. He was this beacon of light, showing you what you can do and what you could be. There were musicians and singers all over the country, but Detroit had Berry Gordy, so it became a magnet for them.”

With such an iconic sound that audiences have loved for almost six decades, how do you begin the process of faithfully recreating that on stage? Michael says: “We searched high and low for someone who understands the need for the show to sound like Motown.

“One person came to meet us and gave us his idea of how he would find a Stevie Wonder, a Michael Jackson, a Smokey Robinson, which we didn’t think was possible, and that person was Charles Randolph-Wright.

“Charles walked into the room and knew what Motown is, who Motown is and what Motown looks and feels like. He grew up on this music.”

Charles adds: “Motown is all we ever really listened to growing up.” But he did find directing the show tough. “Oh yes, I felt pressure,” he explains. “It was so important to me because Mr Gordy is one of my idols, so I wanted to create the show that he wanted to see.

“I approached it the way that Berry Gordy approached it – I needed to find artists that would evoke a certain thing. What I never wanted to do was find people who would just impersonate those performers, I wanted them to make me feel the way Diana Ross made me feel, an actress that would actually make me put my hands up and sing Reach Out and Touch.

“It’s finding that energy, sometimes it’s such raw performers and sometimes it’s people who have been in 10 shows. It’s an instinctive thing – they’re Motown. Working closely with Mr Gordy and Michael I’ve been able to ask, what is that thing that Stevie Wonder has, what is that specific thing that Smokey has? We find that in someone that is authentic in them, rather than make them pretend to be that.”

Motown The Musical will be at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday 20 August until Saturday 24 August.

Dancer Richard Winsor spent 10 years with Matthew Bourne’s production company performing in shows like Edward Scissorhands, Dorian Grey, and the second generation of Swan Lake – but now he’s returning to his first love, Saturday Night Fever.

Richard Winsor, as Tony Manero, dances with Kate Parr, playing Stephanie in the stage version of Saturday Night Fever

“John Travolta’s performance in the film Saturday Night Fever was what got me dancing as a kid,” says the star of the new stage show of the classic nightclub tale. “The disco scenes, his solo, his very masculine energy, it inspired me. 

“I remembered all the incredible moments from the film and all its themes, and thought ‘If we get that clear and honest for a new stage version, it could be really amazing’.

“And we are taking it back to that dark atmospheric setting. We’re not shying away from that. It is still going to be a stage dance show, but we really are finding the realism in it.”

The film and its iconic Bee Gees soundtrack tell the story of Tony Manero – loser by day but disco dancing star at night.

“He’s a young, enigmatic guy who hasn’t had much opportunity in his life,” explains Richard. “He’s from a hard-working, down on their luck, Brooklyn family, and works in a paint store for minimal wages. But when he goes to the 2001: Odyssey nightclub, he is the king on the dance floor. 

“He’s a different person there. He loves the attention, the sweat, the heat, the women. When the club announces a dance competition with a prize of $1,000 and the chance to dance in the discos of Manhattan, it’s a big deal for him. It offers him that chance to escape.”

The movie has endured since its 1977 release and Richard, also known to TV audiences as Caleb Knight in the BBC hospital drama Casualty, says the themes are still relevant.

“That’s the thing,” he says. “With Trump threatening to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out and people with split families striving for a better life, it’s interesting to look at it and think ‘How far have we come?’  40 years on, and similar families are talking about not being employed and trying to break free. It’s all still there.”

The music has also survived the test of time with songs like Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’ and the rest still proving popular.

“We wanted to keep the music close to the brilliant original soundtrack,” says Richard of the new stage production. “The music supporting the drama and the tragedies as they unfold. We have an electric band guiding us along and the Bee Gees singing the hits, which all adds to the story. Hearing the music played live is amazing.”

As for following in Travolta’s dance steps, he says: “It’s a challenge. I want to draw from him, not imitate him. I’ve got so much to play off – the ways of standing, walking and dancing. But I have to play my own reality, otherwise it becomes contrived imitation.”

Richard Winsor will star as Tony in Saturday Night Fever at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday (6 Aug) until Saturday 10 August.

STRICTLY Come Dancing star Brendan Cole has been announced as one of the stars of this year’s Woking panto.

Strictly star Brendan Cole

The professional dancer will play the Genie of the ring in Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, joined by TV star Bobby Davro, who will take on the role of Wishee Washee.

Aladdin will run from Friday 6 December until Sunday 5 January – tickets already available on the ATG Tickets website.

For more details, see the 25 July edition of the News & Mail

In the final hours of 14 April 1912 the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collided with an iceberg and the “unsinkable” ship slowly sank.

It was one of the most tragic disasters of the 20th Century. 1,517 men, women and children lost their lives…and now it’s been turned into a musical.

IMMINENT DISASTER – The stories of Titanic’s passengers are being told in a new musical

Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Titanic The Musical focuses on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of her passengers who each boarded with stories and personal ambitions of their own.

All innocently unaware of the fate awaiting them, the third class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the second class imagine they too can join the lifestyles of the rich and famous, while the millionaire barons of the first class anticipate legacies lasting forever.

Titanic The Musical will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Thursday (11 July) until Saturday 13 July.

PROFESSIONAL dancers from BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, Aljaž Škorjanec, Giovanni Pernice and Gorka Marquez, are heading to Woking to strut their stuff.

Taking Strictly to a new level: (l-r) Giovanni Pernice, Aljaž Škorjanec and Gorka Marquez

The trio’s new show, Here Come The Boys, aims to demonstrate why they are considered the rock stars of dance.

Unlike other Strictly stage shows, this is set in a club where the resident DJ will spin a soundtrack of dancefloor anthems, club classics and guilty pleasures while Aljaž, Giovanni and Gorka go head to head in a battle of Latin, ballroom, commercial and contemporary dance disciplines – with the audience judging the contest each night.

In addition, the show will feature live vocals from Elizabeth Troy, formerly with Clean Bandit. Here Come The Boys arrives at the New Victoria Theatre on Sunday, 30 June

LUCY O’Byrne has joined the cast of Little Miss Sunshine just in time for the musical’s visit to Woking – and she can’t wait to go on stage.

“I’ve fallen in love with this quicker than I have with any other job,” says the former runner-up on TV’s The Voice. “I think it just has so much heart. The highs and lows they hit on this journey are so over the top it becomes crazy.

“Just when you think it can’t get any worse, something else comes along. But through it all they keep a humour among them. That is so true to real family life.”

RARING TO GO – Lucy O’Byrne

Little Miss Sunshine is based on the hit film of the same name which sees the quirky Hoover family on a road trip across the USA for the daughter to take part in the Little Miss Sunshine contest.

“It centres on Olive Hoover, a 10-year-old girl who desperately wants to be a beauty queen,” explains Lucy, who plays the family matriarch Sheryl. “She’s not what you’d expect from a child pageant wannabe – she’s her own person.

“The show is about how her dysfunctional family manages to get themselves 800 miles across the US in their grandfather’s old campervan – having to push it most of the way – in time for a pageant she really wants to compete in.

“It’s about how everybody’s love for Olive, and their desire to do anything and everything they can for her to get her to this pageant, brings them together as a family.”

Central to that is Sheryl, and Lucy says of her character: “She keeps everyone going, which is the beautiful thing about her. There’s never a moment when she’s going to give up and she doesn’t let anybody else either. She’s doing her best.”

Adding music to a classic movie and staging a road trip on stage might not sound like it would work, but Lucy says: “The film is perfect. It’s beautiful. But the musical just grabs you straight away. The music is gorgeous. The songs are hilarious.

“I think seeing it live lifts the story in a very special way because they’re there in front of you. They’re real people. You’re with them. You get sucked in and brought along on this journey.”

Lucy has been on her own journey since performing on The Voice in 2015.

“I had the time of my life,” she recalls. “I didn’t ever want it to end. I was working with incredible people, people at the top of their game in the TV and music industry.

“Watching a live TV show being made, and being part of it, was one of the most exciting things I think I’ll ever do in my life. And I was addicted to it from the very first live show.

“It wasn’t even that I wanted to win, I just wanted to be there for all the excitement of being on the floor when the cameras are moving around. Money couldn’t buy the opportunity we were being given. I remember saying to us once, ‘Do you have any idea how much it would cost me if I wanted a 15-minute prime time Saturday night television slot on the BBC with all of this production crew – I couldn’t afford this, you’re being given it for free.’

“I’ll never forget that, because it made me take every little bit of it in and think ‘This is incredible’ every time I stood on that stage.”

Now Lucy is heading for the stage at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre to perform Little Miss Sunshine from Tuesday 25 June until Saturday 29 June. The show also features former Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Holby City star Mark Moraghan as Grandpa.