BIG names and big shows are heading to Woking for 2020. There’s comedy from the likes of Jack Dee, Josh Widdicombe and Jimmy Carr, original music from Susan Boyle, Russell Watson and Ward Thomas and musical tributes to everyone from the Bee Gees and Paul McCartney to Cher and Tina Turner.

Cast members of Priscilla Queen of the Desert will bring a healthy dose of fabulously outrageous glitz and colour in March

They’re all part of a packed new year programme at the New Victoria Theatre, which also includes loads of stage shows direct from the West End – with Ghost Stories, Once, The King And I, Friends! The Musical Parody and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on the bill.

The first big show of the year will be Ghost Stories (28 January until 1 February), which is billed as one of the scariest shows you’ll ever see and not recommended for under-15s.

Comedian Jack Dee is as excited as ever about his new show

There’s something dark lurking in the theatre. Punters will enter a nightmarish world, full of twists and turns, where all your deepest fears and disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage. There will be phantoms, poltergeists and plenty of bumps in the night.

The Sound of Music (10-14 March) will be followed by Priscilla Queen of the Desert (16-21 March), Blood Brothers (3 March-4 April), The King and I (7-18 April), A Murder Is Announced (21-25 April), Friends! The Musical Parody (19 May), and Grease (8-13 June).

On the comedy front, David Baddiel will be in town with his new show, Trolls Not The Dolls (23 February) followed by Ed Byrne (4 March), Adam Kay (23 March), Rob Brydon (24 March) and Josh Widdicombe (29 March). Jack Dee brings his new show, Off The Telly, on 30 May to be followed by Rob Beckett with Wallop (31 May) and Jimmy Carr (15 July).

Musical stars already lined up for 2020 include veteran Joe Brown (3 March), Britain’s Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle with fellow star from the show Jai McDowall (7 March), Russell Watson (3 May) and Ward Thomas (13 May).

Britain’s Got Talent stars Susan Boyle and Jai McDowall in rehearsal

There’s even more in the line-up for those who like their music nostalgic and in tribute form – You Win Again (12 January) celebrates the music of The Bee Gees, The McCartney Songbook arrives on 13 January, and Tina Turner’s songs get an outing in What’s Love Got To Do With It (24 January). Other celebration shows include Believe (Cher) on 16 February, Illegal Eagles (2 March) and the Magic of Motown (6 March).

And if you’re already pining for another dose of pantomime, tickets are already on sale for the 2020 Christmas show. It will be Snow White (4 December-3 January) with the stars yet to be announced. Full listings are on the New Victoria Theatre website.

For the full preview get the 2 January edition of the News & Mail

This year’s panto production of Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre Woking, features starring roles for Brendan Cole as The Spirit of the Ring and the nation’s favourite Bobby Davro as Wishee Washee.   And you certainly won’t be disappointed by this hilarious production as it takes you on a magic-carpet ride to be remembered.   

Featuring all of the traditional pantomime ingredients, bucket loads of hilarity, plenty of laugh-out-loud jokes, sensational special effects along with fabulous singing and dancing, there’s no better way to get into the spirit this Christmas.   

Bobby Davro as Wishee Washee

Widow Twankey, played by David Phipps-Davis, steps out in costumes that get more and more outrageous as the show gathers pace.  Starting off in an apron adorned with a washing machine, she later transforms into a Chinese takeaway dish of noodles with chop-sticks adorning her wig. 

Brendan glides across the stage and there are plenty of references for Strictly fans to enjoy, but there was an unexpected winner to the dance-off when much to Bobby Davro’s joy, Brendan dropped his cane and admitted defeat.  The highlight for many must have been when Brendan had to retrieve ‘Five Toilet Rings’ from the audience, no less than three times, impressing the crowd with his acrobatics, then almost coming a cropper as he stood on the back of a seat to throw the prop back on stage.

The Chief of Police and his sleepy turtle ‘Willy’ was a crowd pleaser, especially popular amongst the younger members of the audience.   The whole theatre were soon shouting at the top of their voices to ‘Wake Up Willy’ !

Bobby Davro entertained from start to finish, with some incredible singing about his three legged donkey at the beginning of the show, to having the entire audience up on their feet singing, shouting, screaming and bouncing to his song about his Australian kangaroo, complete with huge kangaroo outfit of course.  It was all going swimmingly, until he fell over and had to be helped back on his feet by back stage staff.  Cue more laughter. 

This year’s panto is fabulous, you will laugh out loud at the cheesy jokes and numerous gags, but you will also be awestruck by the fabulous costumes, special effects and a live orchestra, with no shortage of audience participation. 

THREE sisters arrive at their remote childhood home on the eve of their mother’s funeral.This is the setting for Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory of Water, which comes to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, from Tuesday 21 May to Saturday 25 May.

Having grown apart, the siblings argue and joke as they sort through their mother’s belongings and gradually confide about the realities of their own adult lives. But it’s when they move on to childhood recollections that they discover they remember things differently, leading to a series of dramatic and devastating revelations.

Theatregoers should expect tears and laughter from a cast which includes Juliet Cowan (Cuckoo, EastEnders, Shameless), Nicholas Bailey (EastEnders) and Stewart Wright(People Like Us, Love and Marriage).

A GRIPPING drama, partly written especially for a Woking drama group by an EastEnders scriptwriter is coming to the Rhoda McGaw Theatre.

Burning the Witch has been adapted for the stage from acclaimed radio dramas, with a third act wrapping up the story.

Star Claire Racklyeft on the poster for Burning The Witch

The first act is based on This Repulsive Woman, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and written by Christopher Reason as a “rapid reaction play” inspired by the Shannon Matthews case in which a mother faked her daughter’s kidnap so she and her boyfriend could pocket the reward money.

The play features a character similar to Shannon’s mother Karen; a woman from a run-down estate who is vilified in the tabloid press for her crime.

The second, Every Child Matters, act looks at how social services deals with such cases and the mountain of similar events while being pushed and pulled by public opinion, the police and politicians.

Horsell Amateur Dramatic Society adapted both plays for drama festivals in Woking and Spelthorne, winning a host of awards.

Colin Orbaum, who directed both plays, persuaded Christopher, who has also written for Casualty, The Bill and Coronation Street as well as many radio plays, to write a third act, which ties up many of the loose ends from the other two.

The cast is led by Claire Racklyeft, who plays three characters; Debbie Hurst, the woman accused of exploiting her daughter for money; Joanne, the social worker on the case; and Patti, the social work manager.

Claire said she was looking forward to returning to the roles and also performing all three acts as a single play.

“This trilogy finally answers the questions and tells the story from each couple’s perspective forcing us to ask, ‘what is the truth and who is to blame’?”

Colin, who has worked hard over several years to bring the full play to the stage, said that This Repulsive Woman moved him and made a lasting impression.

“I especially appreciate the excellence of Christopher’s dialogue, which is witty and moving at the same time. It is a delight to work with. I also like the fact that he deals with themes of genuine social conscience.”

Burning the Witch will be performed at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking town centre from Thursday to Saturday at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15 (concessions £13). Book at (no booking fee) or by calling 01483 808354.

For the full story get the 25 April edition of the News & Mail

THIRTY budding actors have enrolled for workshops run by the revived Woking Youth Theatre.

WYT has been relaunched by a group of former members, now well into their forties and fifties,  after closing more than 10 years ago.

The new class of the revived Woking Youth Theatre with Emma Hough, the workshop leader and Bruce Hazelton, the WYT chairman.

Bruce Hazelton, the group’s chairman, said the first workshop was a great success, with participants engaging in drama-based games and improvisation for nearly two hours.

Workshops are lead by Emma Hough who has a Masters Degree in musical theatre.

Catherine Lake, youngest daughter of WYT’s late founder David Hawksworth said she was delighted by the revived group.

“Woking Youth Theatre has started again! The room was buzzing with new faces,” Catherine said. “The workshop was just right and they all seemed to love it. Roll on next week.”

For the full story get the 28 March edition of the News & Mail

GET set for an evening of fun and laughter, as it’s panto time once again in Ripley – oh yes it is!

Ripley Pantomime is bringing Jack and the Beanstalk to the stage next week to support local charities. It’s the 44th year the group has staged an annual performance, stretching back to 1975 when the PTA of Ripley First School decided to put on a yearly pantomime the children could enjoy.

The Ripley cast from last year’s production of Aladdin

Since then, Ripley Pantomime has annually staged a show together with support from the parents, staff and students of what became Ripley C of E Primary School – but this year’s production is the first without helping hands from the school following its closure last year.

Despite losing the pool of pupils and staff who shared the stage and attended the performances, as well as their school support base who helped in the lead up to the shows, the group is adamant that they will keep performing and raising money for charity.

Money raised from this year’s rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk will be split between several charities including the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, a postnatal support group in Guildford, the St Mary Magdalen Church and the village hall in Ripley.

Rehearsals have been building ahead of opening night next Wednesday, 20 March at the village hall. The show runs to 23 March, with an afternoon matinee on Saturday as well.

Tickets can be bought through Wills & Smerdon on 01483 224343 or booked online at Tickets start at £7 for adults, from £5 for concession and £20 for families.

For more on this story as well as our special picture feature, get the 14 March News & Mail