new victoria theatre

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.

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.

WHEN Dom Joly was first offered a role in The Rocky Horror Show he turned it down flat.

The comic behind Trigger Happy TV says: “Musical theatre is not a good fit for me… in fact it’s my biggest anxiety. I said no it’s not my area but they explained a bit more and I thought actually playing the Narrator sounds made for me.”

Dom Joly as the Narrator. Picture by David Freeman

Of course it’s not the first time Dom has faced a terrifying prospect and survived. Following his success at creating comedy with a hidden camera, he has indulged his passion for travel by making TV programmes and writing books about visiting the sort of places most people avoid – like totalitarian North Korea, nuclear-ravaged Chernobyl and war-torn Syria.

He insists: “Generally the world is less dangerous than people say. I’ll come back from, say, Iran, and people will say ‘Oh you’re brave’ and I say ‘What are you talking about? I went skiing and everyone was lovely’. Normally, people are so chuffed that someone has ignored all the advice that they really welcome you.

“I’ve had pretty much good experiences everywhere, except maybe in the Congo. That was pretty terrible. For my book, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, I went there looking for a lake monster called mokele mbembe and I kayaked down a river on my own, got to a village near the lake and negotiated a guide. But then everything went crazy, the whole village got drunk – absolutely hammered – a spear came through my tent, the guide was tied to a tree and people were waving machetes around.

“I was in real trouble, I was three days from the nearest town, on my own. I got out during the night, just got in my canoe and slipped away. I never got anywhere near the monster lake but I got out alive.

“The thing is when things go wrong, there’s part of you thinking this is amazing, if I get out it’s going to be a great part of the book.”

It might seem a surprising attitude – until you realise that Dom was born in Beirut and grew up in war-torn Lebanon.

“I alternated between living in a war zone and a posh boarding school in England,” he explains. “Because the war was going on in Lebanon you couldn’t really go out and explore whereas at school there were less people shooting at me…

“Lebanon is the most amazing country on Earth. It’s so small but you can go skiing within an hour or to the beach in an hour. Growing up, there were periods when it was fine and then periods where you’re in the basement because you’re being shelled.

“That’s war I suppose…but my ‘what I did in the holidays’ essay was usually the most interesting.”

He’s visited 95 countries (“not that I’m counting”) and is heading to Yemen soon as part of his job as ambassador for Save The Children, having recently returned from the frontline in Eastern Ukraine.

In the meantime he has to face the fancy dress and audience participation of The Rocky Horror Show, which tells the story of a newly engaged couple getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of a mad transvestite scientist, Dr Frank-N-Furter, unveiling his new Frankenstein-style creation – an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect muscle man named Rocky Horror.

Dom says, although he shied away from the show initially he’s loving it. “It’s like going into a casino for the first time and hitting the jackpot,” he says. “I’m loving it but I’m hooked for life now and yet I know it won’t get to be this good again.

“The cast are on stage, the audience are shouting and singing along and I’m in the middle trying to keep it all going. I’ve done the show 50 times and I still couldn’t tell you what the story’s about. It’s mad but everyone has a fantastic time.”

The Rocky Horror Show will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (4 March) until Saturday 9 March.

The iconic character of Beverley Moss in Abigail’s Party is a classic. The party host, she is a monster who inflicts her ‘sophisticated’ tastes onto all the guests while trying to score points against her equally grim estate agent husband.

Created on stage and on TV by Alison Steadman, she’s the main reason Mike Leigh’s satire on the 1970s middle classes is still remembered both fondly and with horror – and she’s impossible to change.

Jodie Prenger – winner of the Beeb’s I’d Do Anything – is the latest actress to get her teeth into the role and says she’ll be staying very much in the character Steadman made so famous.

LET’S PARTY – Jodie Prenger, as Beverly, with Rose Keegan (Susan), Dan Casey (Lawrence), Vicky Binns (Angela) and Calum Callaghan (Tony)
Picture by Manuel Harlan

“That role is just so iconic in the way it was performed and created,” she explains. “So much came out of improvisation. It’s hard to deliver it in a totally different way. It wouldn’t make sense to change it –you’d look like a wally.”

Director Sarah Esdaile agrees, saying: “The fundamental challenge for me is, in a way, escaping from the voice of Alison Steadman, who everyone has in their heads as Beverly.

“I met Alison and she told me ‘I was part of the process of creating that character, so I’m intrinsically in it. There’s no point trying to escape me.’ That was so liberating, to realise you don’t have to run away from that.”

The play is intrinsically of its time – it premiered in 1977 – with the music of Demis Roussos and Tom Jones, ice and lemon and Beaujolais all cropping up at regular intervals.

It’s based on a party when three sets of neighbours come together for a pleasant evening which turns into the complete opposite because they’ve all got so much going on individually that they’re not dealing with privately.

“It’s uncomfortable and deliciously dark,” says Jodie. “It’s full of that thing where you don’t really want to watch, but you can’t look away.

“It’s about all the primary things that we’re worried about and will always be worried about until the end of time – aspiration and hunger and thirst and confinement and hope. It’s full of these wonderful sayings and it’s very accessible.

“It’s quite extraordinary that it’s got this power that has just been going for decades, isn’t it?”

Sarah says it’s still relevant because the themes are universal, explaining: “It takes place, socially and politically, at a really interesting turning point in the history of this country. It’s just before Margaret Thatcher came into power and there was rise in people’s obsession with consumerism, belongings and position. It deals with aspiration and disappointment.”

Leigh’s original was created using lots of improvisation by the actors and, although there’s now a set script, Sarah was keen to maintain the tradition.

“It’s about using improvisation in the right circumstances,” she says. “We set up scenarios that will really enrich the work that the actors bring to the stage.

“Often improvisation can be slightly naval gazing and ultimately there’s no evidence of the work. In this case, the subtle dynamics, the differences and the shifts that that work achieves, you’ll be able to smell it on stage.”

Being on stage is important, according to Jodie, even though most people remember Abigail’s Party as a TV classic.

“There is something magical about going to the theatre,” she says. “You’re sat amongst hundreds of people and you never know what’s going to happen. Switching on the TV, you know what you’re going to get. With theatre anything can happen.” Abigail’s Party will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (25 Feb) until Saturday 2 March.

WHY would audiences flock to hear 1970s cheesy classics like YMCA, Blame It On The Boogie, We Are Family and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart?

Because those old hits were the soundtrack to their lives, according to a legend from the era and now a star of stage show Boogie Nights – ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond.

“Why is there such an appeal for the music?” he asks. “When you go on your first date or whatever, all those experiences are set to music, so it takes us back to earlier parts of our life.”

BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE – Andy Abraham, Gareth Gates, Louisa Lytton, Chico, Shane Richie Junior and Jimmy Osmond (inset)

BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE – Andy Abraham, Gareth Gates, Louisa Lytton, Chico, Shane Richie Junior and Jimmy Osmond (inset)

And don’t get the idea that it’s just women who like to re-live their musical youth.

“A lot of them bring their guys along and they look disgruntled at first,” says Jimmy laughing.

“They sit there with folded arms making out ‘the women dragged us here’, but at the end they’re rocking out and singing along – and that makes me so happy. It makes me feel like I’ve had a good experience.

“You also see sons and daughters come along because they have experienced the music with their families.”

Boogie Nights is also a family affair for Jimmy. As well as Gareth Gates and X Factor stars Andy Abrahams, Laura White and Chico, the show includes his brothers Merrill and Jay.

“When my brothers come out we play ourselves and do a medley mix that includes Love Me For A Reason and Crazy Horses and we might throw in a few lesser known ones,” he reveals.

“But it has all the music we all love. It’s fun for us to perform other people’s hits as well.

“I did Boogie Nights years ago and I had such a blast, so I was keen to come back and do it again.Then, at the end of last year’s Osmonds tour, Jay and Merrill said ‘Hey we fancy that’.

“The producers had already hired Gareth Gates and Andy Abrahams but I said ‘Do you mind if my brothers come and join in?’ and they were over the moon.”

Jimmy was too young to be part of The Osmonds originally but he is keen to point out: “I was the first one of my family to record. I had the first hit in the family, I was this little kid singing and had a hit in Japan – the song was called My Little Darling.

“And I’d had four or five hits prior to Long Haired Lover (his first big UK hit in 1972). My first show was with Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra when I was three.”

He has always been very much part of the family and has toured with his brothers in recent years.

“Anybody who has lasted has had to reinvent themselves and put themselves forward for different projects. That’s why my brothers and sisters have lasted,” says Jimmy.

“We’ve kept going because we’ve always been open to new things and never been so precious about who we are, or take ourselves too seriously.

“Every one of our personalities is different and we look at things differently, and we have learned to agree to differ. It’s a tough business but we still get along. So many families fall apart because of the narcissism of it.

“It helps that our dad always taught us there’s something bigger than us, which is a relationship with your family and a belief system, and that helps to get you through.

“Sometimes one of us will go off and try something else but they always come back, and we all have our roles to play. I don’t really have any expertise but I guess I’m the clean-up guy. I’ve always loved the business side and represented other artists as well as my brothers and sisters.

“But the most fun is to be part of the team. It can’t be just about me. It comes in things like Boogie Nights where you’re one of the cast, or on tour with The Osmonds where you’re one of the family. Those projects are such fun and it uses all your skills.”

Jimmy Osmond (along with Jay and Merrill) stars in Boogie Nights which will be at G Live in Guildford on Sunday, February 3 and at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Friday, March 1.

A BRAVE panto star came to the rescue of a real damsel in distress in a Christmas Day drama that could have ended in disaster.

Michael Pickering, 27, who plays the lead in the New Victoria Theatre’s smash hit rendition of Dick Whittington, became a real life hero when he and fellow star Dewayne Jameson Adams, 28, stumbled across a woman lying unconcsious in the canal.

But none of their stage training could have prepared them for what they found.

HEROES - Michael Pickering (left) and Dewayne Jameson Adams

HEROES – Michael Pickering (left) and Dewayne Jameson Adams Picture by: Tony Charters

Michael said: “It was quite a scary situation and the adrenalin kicked in straight away. We could easily have walked past and not found her – it could have been dreadful.”

The pair were walking back to Michael’s digs in Horsell after grabbing some dinner in the town centre.

As they crossed the canal at the bridge near the Lightbox they heard a faint cry for help.

Michael went on: “There was a bit of confusion when we first heard the call. We knew something wasn’t right and it was only after we’d taken another 10 paces that we agreed to go back and make sure everything was all right.”

With understandable caution the duo left the main road and made their way towards the source of the distress call.

Dewayne added: “We thought we were going to get mugged. At this time of year you never know what is going to happen, we couldn’t see anything but we knew we had to at least check.”

On the towpath they found a very anxious man who claimed his friend had fallen into the canal. Without hesitation the pair began scanning the edge of the water and the banks for the woman.

Dewayne said: “I had to use the light from my phone to find her and that’s when we saw her lying face down, up to her waist in the water.

“The woman was unconscious and we had no idea how long she had been there.” Dewayne, part of the Dick Whittington ensemble, immediately ordered the man to call 999.

But the pair were not out of the woods yet. Michael and Dewayne made sure the woman did not sink any further into the murky waters but their rescue soon hit a snag.

“We had no time to waste but we couldn’t move her because there was no way of telling if she was injured,” said Michael. Eventually the woman, named only as Debbie, came around and confirmed that she was fit enough to be moved.

The heroes slid down to the water’s edge, pulled the woman from the freezing canal and safeguarded the victim until an ambulance arrived eight minutes later.

Dewayne said: “The fact that both of us were there was a blessing.

“There is no way either of us could have pulled her away from the canal without the other.”

The modest pair even played down their festive heroics. Dewayne said: “We were never just going to walk on – that’s not my mentality. I’m just happy and grateful we were there to help.”

And Michael added: “It’s not a situation you ever want to find yourself in and, for me, it was a case of the right place, right time, with the right two people.”

SOUL SISTER - Denise Black leads a star-studded cast in Sister Act

SOUL SISTER – Denise Black leads a star-studded cast in Sister Act

THERE will be a distinctly soapy feel to Sister Act when it arrives in Woking this month.

Corrie star Denise Black is currently taking centre stage and she’ll be joined by Michael Starke, who played the scally Sinbad in Brookside and has since featured as Kenneth Hopkirk in the Sunday evening TV favourite The Royal.

Denise, who is probably best known as siren hairdresser Denise Osbourne in the Street, is currently taking on the role of Mother Superior in a two-week run of the divine musical Sister Act, while Michael plays Monsignor Howard.

This smash hit musical first opened at the London Palladium in 2009 where it went on to be seen by more than a million people, running for 18 months and achieving huge acclaim.

Sister Act The Musical has been nominated for four Olivier Awards and has won countless others including’s Best Musical.

Whoopi Goldberg, star of the original hit film and producer of the show, says: “We were thrilled to open Sister Act in London but I’m even more excited to have the show tour in the UK so even more folks get to experience those singing nuns.

“It’s a great show for everyone – your kids, your granny, even the neighbour next door who you might not like so much! I promise, you’ll have a great night at the theatre. Look out Great Britain – the sisters are coming!”

The musical tells the unlikely tale of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses a murder and is then put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be found – a convent!

Disguised as a nun, she quickly finds fans among her fellow ‘sisters’ but makes the wrong impression on the convent’s strict mother superior.

When she turns her attention to the convent’s off-key choir, helping the nuns to find their true voices and breathing new life into the rundown neighbourhood, her cover could be blown for good.

With the gang giving chase, is time running out for Deloris? Or have they underestimated the power of her new found sisterhood?

Alongside Denise and Michael, the current production of Sister Act The Musical features rising new star
Cynthia Erivo as nun-on-the-run Deloris.

Sister Act is at the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday, August 28 until Saturday, September 8.

TERRIFIC PACIFIC – actor Daniel Koak with Samantha Womack as Nellie

TERRIFIC PACIFIC – actor Daniel Koak with Samantha Womack as Nellie

SAMANTHA WOMACK is pondering her next move as her starring role in South Pacific is about to come to an end.

Her final portrayal of Nellie Forbush in the stage musical will be in Woking on Saturday (July 21) as the tour finishes, so her options are open.

Despite a meeting with Simon Cowell, Samantha is not set to be a TV judge on Britain’s Got Talent – yet. She’d love to tackle a Shakespearean role or make an independent film, and she doesn’t rule out a return to EastEnders.

In fact she doesn’t rule out anything…except a second stint singing Britain’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

“I’d never say never to anything in this business because I’m a jobbing actress,” she says when discussing a return to her role as the controversial baby snatcher Ronnie Branning in the Albert Square soap.

But Eurovision, it seems, is a different matter.

The singer/actress (then Samantha Janus) sang A Message To Your Heart back in 1991 when the contest was in Rome – and hated every minute of it.

“That doesn’t really count as a job!” she exclaims. “No, I don’t even consider that part of my career.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys it. Being in those environments when there’s lots of people and lots of press – it’s a nightmare, you’re just constantly being scrutinised – it’s a circus!

“Oh I love watching it – I just don’t want to be in it again.”

Samantha came joint 10th in the song contest with 47 points – a creditable performance compared with recent years
when the UK has traditionally come last as most nations refuse to vote for us.

“Of course it’s political,” adds Samantha. “Why wouldn’t it be? You can’t imagine why people would vote for us when we
keep invading different countries. It’s perfectly understandable.”

She has come a long way since those Eurovision days after appearing on TV in the comedy series Game On, ITV’s hard-hitting drama Liverpool One, and of course EastEnders.

“Nothing’s really quite the same as EastEnders in terms of people recognising you because you’re in people’s living rooms all week,” she says. “People feel they know you.

“I was recognised before but people were a bit more distant. I’d never avoid going anywhere or doing anything, it’s just part of the job. People are very nice, if you just say hello.”

Actually Britain’s Got Talent might outdo EastEnders for viewing figures and there were recent rumours that Samantha would be a judge on the TV talent show. But she’s says it isn’t likely to happen.

“That was never going to work in terms of dates for me,” she confirms. “The idea was that I’d stand in temporarily for Amanda Holden, but the dates didn’t work. I still wanted to fly out to America because I wanted to meet Simon Cowell and see his house. Who wouldn’t?

“I got to go to LA and meet him. He was absolutely charming and I had a lovely time.

“I don’t think it will happen in the future but who knows? I’d consider it very carefully.”

As for the future, she’s looking forward to her first decent break for five years while considering a couple of film scripts – but she does still have one unfulfilled ambition.

“I’ve never done Shakespeare and I’d be embarrassed to call myself an actor without having the guts to do it,” she says.

In the meantime she has a few more performances as South Pacific’s Nellie left to do and says she’ll miss the show and the cast.

“I love it, I’ll be very sad when it finishes. All jobs are different for different reasons but this is a really lovely company to work with, loads of really lovely people.

“And I get to sing Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy – what could be better?”

South Pacific is on at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, until Saturday (July 21).