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

A FAMILY of four from St Johns have reached the semi-finals of the BBC’s new prime-time programme The Family Brain Games.

The Griffiths family of mum and dad Anne and David, and sons Will, 16, and Ollie, 13, will meet their next opponents in a specially designed games lab.

SCREEN TEST – The Griffiths team on the set of BBC quiz The Family Brain Games

The show, presented by Dara O’Briain, will be shown next week. 

Anne is a social science graduate from Lancaster University, and David studied maths at Bath University.

Both work locally. Anne is a prison education tutor and David is the manager of a council education department. Elder son Will is in his first year of sixth-form college, while Ollie is in Year 9.

In each episode two families tackle a series of games designed to go beyond traditional ideas about how to measure brain power, such as individual IQ, and also explore group intelligence.

“We enjoy watching TV quizzes and our eldest son Will was keen to apply. It seemed like a fun opportunity to do something interesting together.”

“It was challenging,” Anne said. “We preferred the games where we worked together so we could help each other out. 

The Family Brain Games is shown on BBC2 at 8pm, Monday to Thursday.

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail

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 will.i.am 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.

A SHOW based around Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates series of children’s books is heading for Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday next week, 19-22 June.

Tom Gates Live on Stage! follows Tom as he tries to keep out of trouble while things go increasingly wrong at home and school. It features characters like Tom’s best friends Derek and Norman and their band Dogzombies.

JOLLY GOOD FUN – Tom Gates and friends head for an adventure

It’s not easy to impress Amy Porter, and moany Marcus Meldew is doing his best to disrupt things while their teacher Mr Fullerman keeps his beady eye on them all.

Things aren’t made easier when his grandparents – The Fossils – announce a big surprise and his mum, dad and sister Delia are doing everything to make his life difficult, which means Tom will need all the help he can get to save the day.

WHEN Monica Cobbett wondered how to celebrate her ninetieth birthday in style, her daughter came up with a spectacular answer: a skydive.

Intrepid adventurer Monica Cobbett ready for her first skydive a few days after her ninetieth birthday

Monica, Woking born and bred but now living in Horsell, said: “I’d had a go at Formula Ford driving at Thruxton a few years ago and we’d been thinking about what to do next. That’s when Sarah-Jane, my daughter, gave me the parachute jump as a birthday present.

“I’ve always been prepared to get involved and you only go this way once, so I thought, ‘Why not?’

“I did the jump at Old Sarum Airfield, Salisbury, at the end of last month and it was on a lovely day. We did all the preliminaries, watched the video, being strapped to the instructor, how to land.

Monica comes in for a graceful landing courtesy of instructor Gary

“There were seven of us on the plane and we had an instructor each. I was with Gary, and he had a video camera attached to his wrist to film it all.”

What about when the time came to jump? Were there any doubts?

“I had to go then, didn’t I? We went up to 7,000 feet, then it was freefall for the first 10 seconds. When the parachute opened everything was so peaceful, the scenery was absolutely beautiful.

“Gary looked after the landing, but overall I think I surprised myself about how cool I stayed!”

For the full story get the 13 June edition of the News & Mail

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.

DOG owners turned out in force to celebrate the 100th birthday of a veteran volunteer at Millbrook Animal Centre.

They fulfilled Sally Field’s wish to stage a 100-dog walk at the Chobham RSPCA establishment on Saturday.

Jenny took three dogs on the walk

Sally was delighted that the event made for than £500 the charity’s funds, through donations and sales of cakes and other refreshments.

“She was really pleased with the number of people who arrived to take part, and it was a lovely occasion,” said Jo Douglas from the centre.

Sally Field with her special cake and the sign photograph of Cliff Richard she received on her 100th birthday

The volunteers who helped organise and run the walk enjoyed sharing a special birthday cake donated by Amy’s Cake Creations.

Sally’s 100th birthday was last December but she decided to wait until the spring for her 100-dog celebration.

She has been volunteering at Millbrook for 45 years, and drivers herself to the centre from her home in Addlestone on two days most weeks.

In honour of reaching her century, Sally recently attended a garden party in the presence of the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She was accompanied by Jackie Huston, who has been a volunteer at the RSPCA for 41 years.

See more pictures in today’s (6 June) edition of the News & Mail

BOYS and girls from the Woking area joined more than 500 fledgling Scouts and their leaders from across Surrey for a Beavers Go Wild camp at Bentley Copse Activity Centre.

Beavers with some “friends” they met in the woods

Members of West Byfleet, 8th Woking, 1st Send, 1st Knaphill, Goldsworth Park, 1st St John’s and Brookwood Scout groups enjoyed a weekend of camping and activities.

More than 50 opportunities were on offer, including archery, go-karts, climbing, caving, assault course, firelighting. The Beavers – aged six to eight – also got to learn about malaria from the Surrey Scouts international team.

A group of intrepid Beavers prepare to take on the climbing wall

Six-year-old James said: “I had lots of fun and I enjoyed the cave maze best.”

Sarah, aged seven, added: “The best bit of the weekend was the climbing. I was scared at first, but I got to the top.”

The assistant county commissioner for Beaver Scout, Denise Iverson, commented: “It was great meeting all the youngsters and seeing over 500 Beavers and leaders have a great time.”

See the special picture feature in today’s (6 June) edition of the News & Mail

PUBS, bars and restaurants across the borough are being encouraged to join an initiative that can lead towards being acclaimed as Woking’s best licensed premises.

The recognition could come in the 2019 Woking Best Bar None accreditation and awards scheme, which was launched on Tuesday last week.

National Best Bar None co-ordinator Mick McDonnell, Tom Hardy from Asahi UK and Cllr Kevin Davis

Representatives from last year’s winners and other businesses gathered with borough councillors and supporters for the event at the Woking head office of the lead sponsor, Asahi UK.

Best Bar None is a national scheme supported by the Home Office and the drinks industry. It aims to promote the responsible management and operation of licensed premises that support Woking’s vibrant and diverse night-time economy, while strengthening partnership working between licensed premises and public bodies.

To become accredited, licensed premises must first be assessed process to determine whether they meet an agreed set of operational standards. Once accepted, they will become either a gold, silver or bronze Woking Best Bar None accredited venue.

Gold businesses are entered for awards in six categories, with the winners chosen by a panel of independent judges. In addition, members of the public can vote for their favourite venue in the Woking News & Mail People’s Choice Award.

The categories are:

• Overall Best Bar None

• Woking News & Mail’s Peoples’ Choice

• Best Town Centre Pub

• Best Local Pub

• Best Bar

• Best Dining Experience

• Asahi UK Social Responsibility Award.

Woking Borough Council’s portfolio holder for economic development, Cllr Kevin Davis, commented: “Woking Best Bar None is a fantastic initiative that’s aimed at improving standards in licensed venues across the borough to help create a vibrant, thriving and safe environment for both customers and venues.

“Following the success of last year’s scheme, where 11 licensed premises achieved gold accreditation, I would encourage all local pubs, bars and restaurants to apply.

“Achieving accreditation, either gold, silver or bronze, demonstrates the seriousness and commitment with which you operate your business. It’s a superb way to build your reputation both publicly and within the trade.”

The overall winner for 2018 was The Garibaldi pub at Knaphill, which also got the Best Local Pub and the Asahi UK Social Responsibility awards.

The News & Mail award was won by The Red Lion pub at Horsell. The Best Town Centre Pub was The Sovereigns, Cellar Magneval in Church Path, Woking, was Best Bar and The Cricketers at Horsell got the Best Dining Experience prize.

Licensed premises can sign up to Woking Best Bar None by visiting www.wokingbbn.co.uk.

For more pictures see the 30 May edition of the News & Mail