new victoria theatre

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.

The baddie is back. Craig Revel Horwood delighted in taunting Woking panto audiences as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella last Christmas – and now he’s returning in another  villainous role.

The Strictly judge is heading to the New Victoria Theatre to star as one of the best musical theatre baddies audiences love to hate, reprising his version of Miss Hannigan, in Annie.

PLAY IT AGAIN – Craig Revel Horwood delights in the role of headmistress Miss Hannigan in Annie

“I just love this character so much,” he enthuses. “I am deeply in love with her. I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman.

“Playing her is like an actor’s playground – she’s a tyrant and a villain, and those are always the most fun characters to play. I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play Miss Hannigan at first, but I thought it would be great, and a real challenge for me.

“I play her for real – she’s not a pantomime dame, there’s no mucking about or breaking the fourth wall, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show.”

Following his panto success, Craig is not daunted by playing another female character either.

“Well the challenges are that you need to be honest and real with it,” he muses. “Obviously body language has a lot to do with that, also the placement of the voice, and the accent of course – which I spent six months perfecting.

“As Annie is set in 1930s New York, it’s really nice to play a part who speaks differently than almost anyone does these days. It was a really enjoyable challenge.”

The musical is set during the Great Depression, and brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search…

Along the way, theatre-goers can expect to hear unforgettable songs like It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. 

Craig says performing in such a well known show is a dream.

“I grew up on musicals,” he explains. “I did West Side Story in Australia and then went into Me and My Girl and La Cage Aux Folles. I joined the famous Lido de Paris and the Moulin Rouge and then that led into being part of West End shows.

“The last musical I appeared in in the West End was Crazy For You which opened in 1993. I had a really fun year that year. I then left to become a director and choreographer, and subsequently a judge on Strictly.

“My first hoorah back onto the boards was when I was asked to do panto ten years ago, and that reignited my passion for performing again really. When I was then asked to do Annie a few years ago I couldn’t believe it, but it’s such a talented cast, I couldn’t say no!”

And even though the old acting adage says you should never work with children and animals, he’s doing both in Annie.

“We have three sets of children on Annie, so they bring something really organic to the show,” says the man whose other West End theatre credits include Munkustrap in Cats, Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and Harry in Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre. “You’ll never get the same show twice.

“You have to play it differently with each set of children and they are so talented and doing incredible work on the stage and are all fantastic young actors. They will come up with stuff and you’ve got to react to it live on stage which is a bit of a challenge!”

Craig Revel Horwood will star in Annie at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (10 June) until Saturday 15 June.

The Illegal Eagles fly in to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on Sunday 23 June to run through hits like Hotel California, Take it to the Limit, Life in the Fast Lane, Take It Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, Desperado and more.

Tribute to The Eagles

This UK tribute act have been touring for over two decades and remain true fanatics of legendary US west coast country rockers The Eagles.

Their longevity and continued international acclaim mean they must be doing something right in their bid to master their heroes’ distinctive sound.

Grease is the word…and you can join in when Sing-a-long-a Grease comes to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Tuesday (28 May).

Basically a screening of the classic film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, the show aims to get the audience up and singing along to all the hits that made it one of the most successful movie musicals of all time.

The evening will begin with the host leading a vocal warm-up before the movie – and fancy dress is very much encouraged…

RUSSELL Kane has added an extra run of dates to his new tour The Fast and the Curious, which is good news for comedy fans in Woking as he’s now heading to the New Victoria Theatre on Thursday 30 May.

The award-winning comic, presenter, actor, social media star, author and scriptwriter’s most recent appearances include his hit TV show BBC Three’s Stupid Man, Smart Phone, BBC podcast Evil Genius, JOE podcast Boys Don’t Cry (which returned for a second series in February), BBC Two’s Live At The Apollo and BBC One’s Michael McIntyre’s Big Show.

ACTION MAN – Russell Kane will be in Woking for an evening of high-energy comedy

Russell also recently took part in the return of Celebrity Apprentice for Comic Relief, which was broadcast on BBC One in March in the run up to Red Nose Day.

He is also well known for his viral Facebook Kaneing videos, which have garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

A POP star and a soap star will join forces for Rock of Ages, which visits the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday 21 May until Saturday 25 May.

Antony Costa, who rose to fame in the noughties as a member of the boyband Blue, will play Stacee Jaxx, while Kevin Kennedy, best known for his portrayal of Curly Watts in Coronation Street, will play Dennis.

LETTING RIP – Rock of Ages brings a lively slice of LA life to the New Victoria Theatre

Rock of Ages, which has also been made into a Hollywood movie, is a hilarious LA love story featuring rock ‘n’ roll debauchery – as well as 25 classic rock anthems including We Built This City, The Final Countdown and I Want To Know What Love Is.

The show will also feature Zoe Birkett, the highest-placed female contestant in ITV’s Pop Idol in 2002.

WEIGHT gain, weight loss, mood swings, housework, homework, electrolysis, men, sex, working out, staying in, going out, celebrity gossip, and, er, a lot of chocolate.

If any or all of these appeal, you’re going to love Hormonal Housewives, a witty, topical, rude and funny sketch show where no subject is taboo.

TOPICAL, RUDE AND FUNNY – Vicky Michelle, centre, starts with Josephine Partridge and Julie Coombe in Hormonal Housewives at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.
Picture by Darren Bell

It was the title which first attracted Emmerdale and ’Allo ’Allo! star Vicki Michelle to take part, and she explains: “I thought, this is different, I haven’t done anything like this before – this has got to be fun!

“The script is hilarious and it was immediately appealing to be involved in a show which has laugh-out-loud moments.”

The appeal to women (particularly those of a certain age) is perhaps obvious, but Vicki says she thinks there’s a male audience for Hormonal Housewives too.

“I think it’ll appeal to men as well,” says the 68-year-old. “Men want to know what makes us tick hormonally. If they don’t understand that one week out of the month we’re a bit cranky, then they might learn something and try to understand that it’s not them…well, not entirely!”

Vicki stars alongside Josephine Partridge (Top Girls) and co-writer Julie Coombe, and says their roles are based loosely on their real characters.

“I would hate to say everything’s true to life in case I get into trouble with my husband,” she laughs. “But Julie’s done an amazing job of basing each character on each of us as much as possible. For instance, my character and I both love a glass of fizz, we adore talking to our female friends and obviously a glass of wine or fizz makes the experience even more enjoyable!

“I also share some experiences with my character in terms of family, so it’s lovely to be able to bring some of myself to the stage.”

One of those experiences involves waxing, a subject which reduces her to giggles.

“The waxing scene is going to be hysterical!” she reveals. “Julie and I try to encourage Josephine to get back on the dating scene – she’s newly divorced and a bit hesitant. There’s a whole discussion about how much excess hair to wax – I don’t want to give too much away but I get to play the waxer…”

There’s loads more subjects covered in the show. Vicki says: “Marriage, emotions, relationships, families, guilt complexes, hormones for all ages and eating habits. You know how you reach for the chocolate when you feel tired or your energy is low…well, there’s a lot of that.”

HORMONAL  Housewives will be at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking for one night on Tuesday 16 April.

FORMER Sugababe Amelle Berrabah might be used to performing in front of thousands of fans in arenas around the country but right now the 34-year-old is facing a brand new challenge.

Now a mum, Amelle is currently performing on her first musical theatre tour, making her acting debut in the feel-good celebration of the 1980s that is Club Tropicana The Musical.

“I’m so excited because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, it was just never the right moment,” she says.

Amelle Berrabah, left, with fellow cast members Joe McElderry, Neil McDermott,  Emily Tierney and Kate Robbins. Picture by Darren Bell

The show takes audiences on a trip back to the electric ’80s, when hair was big, shoulders were padded, and mobiles weighed a tonne.

Set to a soundtrack of the chart-topping hits of the era, the story unfolds in the Club Tropicana Hotel. When a budding bride and groom get cold feet, they both decide to jet off to sunnier climes. Little do they realise they’ve checked into the same hotel… a hotel about to get a visit from the hotel inspectors. Can owners Robert and Serena rally their staff to save the day?

Amelle plays Serena and is joined by X Factor winner Joe McElderry, singer and actress Kate Robbins and ex-EastEndersbad boy Neil McDermott, who plays Robert.

“I love Serena because she is someone that everybody likes and she loves that everybody likes her,” she says. “She’s a very good person who would do anything for anyone and who has worked so hard to get the hotel to where it is.

“Basically, she has the best positive outlook ever; you never get to see her crack, even if she does nip away to the toilets to cry in a cubicle on her own occasionally. But then she’ll dust herself off and be there for whoever needs her, even if there never seems to be anyone there for her.”

Amelle is excited but nervous – after all, not everyone who has attempted the leap from pop star to actor has been successful.

“This is like a different chapter for me,” she says. “I almost shy away from saying it out loud to people because its only in the past couple of years that I’ve had the confidence to say ‘I want to do musical theatre’.

“I’ve got quite a big personality so I was told regularly ‘You’d be very good at theatre you know’. So when the opportunity came up I was thrilled.”

She also recalls: “I was obsessed with Whitney Houston when I was younger but my voice was very different to hers. It wasn’t that I had a husky voice, it was high pitched but quite breathy. When I was 11 I was embarrassed to sing because I sounded so much older. In fact, even before that, Husky was my nickname.

“So at school I did quite a lot of dance stuff instead of singing until one day I just thought ‘go for it’, and I did. Suddenly I started getting all these parts in school plays. I suppose at the back of mind I always knew I’d get to do something I loved doing one day. But it was never about the fame, I just wanted to perform. It makes me feel happy. I enjoy seeing people having a good time when I’m entertaining.”

Over the years, Amelle has certainly done that. She replaced Sugababes founding member Mutya Buena in 2005 and went on to become the only member of the group to have a non-Sugarbabes No 1, with Never Leave You, in collaboration with Tinchy Stryder in 2009.

She reflects: “Because everyone sees me as Sugababe Amelle, I’m kind of put in a box, a box that I’m very proud of, but this is a new start for me.”

Although just a child herself in the ’80s, Club Tropicanahas brought vivid memories of the decade flooding back.

“Big hair, great music, Walkmans,” she reflects. “I used to walk around like the Queen when I had my Walkman, and roller-skates as well for some reason. Also, lots and lots of eye shadow. The 80s were big and bold.”

Club Tropicana The Musical will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday 1 April until Saturday 6 April.

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.