NO musical is safe from Le Gateau Chocolat and Jonny Woo’s fabulously camp cabaret revamp in Now That’s What WE Call Musicals! at York Theatre Royal on June 2.
Dubbed the “Ebony and Ivory of drag”, Le Gateau Chocolat, Olivier award-winning star of La Clique and La Soiree, and Jonny Woo, queen of London’s alternative drag scene, present a melting pot of musical theatre, karaoke, comedy, vaudeville, variety, sing-along invitations and dress-up madness.
“Get ready to be dragged through a catalogue of our favourite musical hits, from Gypsy to Grease, Little Mermaid to The Sound Of Music,” say Gateau and Woo.
Expect sexual references and crude language in a 7.30pm show with an age guidance of 16+. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
BETH McCarthy will play a home-city gig for the first time since March 2019 at The Crescent, York, tonight (2/5/2022).
Much has happened to Beth, singer, songwriter and erstwhile BBC Radio York evening show presenter, since she moved to London.
Lockdown times three may have curtailed her gigging but in that hiatus she has been buoyed by the online response to four singles and videos, drawing 4.8 million likes and 300,000 followers on TikTok and attracting 465,000 monthly listeners and nine million plays of her heartbreak hit She Gets The Flowers on Spotify.
“I moved down to the Big Smoke three weeks before the first lockdown,” recalls Beth. “Got here. World at my feet, then not anymore!
“It was funny really because, in the first stage of lockdown, it was like it was for all performers – everything stopped – so I came back to York and stayed with my parents for a while, and my only outlet for performing was busking on my parents’ drive.
“It got a bit depressing, I’m not going to lie, but I came back to London, as I’d managed to keep my place on, did some songwriting and started busking.”
After Beth was filmed busking, the response to the footage on social media was so positive that she thought, ‘I’d better get on to this’. “I started doing stuff on TikTok, doing something more than straightforward covers by re-working songs to give them a different perspective,” she says.
“That started to take off and the one that really caught on was OMG Did She Call Him Baby?, where I adapted the hook from Will Joseph Cook’s Be Around Me and changed it OMG Did She Call Him Baby?.
“He’s a songwriter from London, he’s got his own label; like me, he’s pretty independent himself. His song was going viral on TikTok, so I contacted him and he said yes to my version, and mine went viral too!”
Beth has settled into London life, living south of the river in Battersea. “That’s uncommon for creatives, but I absolutely love it, even if you could argue I haven’t experienced it at its fullest,” she says.
“But being around its fast pace does me a lot of good, whereas some people are put off by that and feel lonely. Not me. When I did The Voice [the BBC One talent show] in 2014 when I was 16, staying down here for rehearsals, I loved it and I’ve wanted to be here ever since.”
Reflecting on her move, Beth says: “I’ve had what you could call quite a ‘soft release’ to London; going back to York, doing some Radio York shows for a while, and I’ve still got my family there. I’ve had one foot in York, one foot in London, but now this is me, down here full time.”
Last year, Beth supported Sigrid and sold out two headline shows in London and now she has been taken under the wing of Kilimanjaro Live to promote her shows. This spring, she has appeared on Kilimanjaro Live’s stage at Liverpool Sound City on May 1, and coming next after York tonight are gigs at Camden Assembly, London, on May 3 and Deaf Institute, Manchester, on May 7, followed by a set at Kilimanjaro Live’s new festival in Norwich, Neck Of The Woods, on May 29.
“Having Kilimanjaro Live and Live Nation onside is great, and I’ve also signed to the Paradigm agency, who do everyone! I have two agents there; one works with Billie Eilish, not bad company to be in!” says Beth.
“I haven’t got a manager yet. Finding the right one when you’ve been working on your own isn’t easy.”
Beth is signed to a small Manchester label, LAB Records. “They’re great as I just want to keep releasing songs, and there were sniffs around She Get The Flowers when it took off on Spotify for a bigger release. It almost happened but the industry is still bruised [by the pandemic].”
Check out She Gets The Flowers’ accompanying video on YouTube, the one with a litany of female hurt spelled out on cards – a mode of expression patented by Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues – held silently by assorted friends and cohorts of Beth, among them familiar faces from York’s arts scene such as Annie Donaghy and Livy Potter.
“Because it was lockdown, it was one of the hardest things to navigate, with only a restricted number of people allowed in the room and everyone having to be masked up except when each of us was being filmed, but that was the easiest way to film it at the time,” recalls Beth.
“I did it with Ont’ Sofa [the Old Stables recording studios in Harrogate], who I’ve always done stuff with, working with Ben Dave, who has a company called Dot and Diode, and Harrogate musician and producer Jason Odell.
“I’ve worked with Jason really closely. He co-produced it and every song I’ve done since then, so it’s nice to have a little piece of Yorkshire going in with Jason’s involvement.”
The story arch of She Gets The Flowers and its accompanying video charts those who do not receive the flowers and the circumstances why. “Everyone in the video needed to feel comfortable in front of the camera,” says Beth.
“A couple of them, Annie and Livy, had acting experience but the majority didn’t, but it was vital we set it up to create an emotional atmosphere, so we played them all the lyrics before recording, and that’s what made the song translate so well with their candid expressions on camera.”
For her York, London and Manchester gigs, guitarist Beth will perform in a three-piece line-up, but she remains equally at home singing on her own. “I’m back and forth with what I do when I play live.” she says.
“From the start, I paved the way for being able to just rock up with a guitar and just be myself on a stage. Picking up an acoustic guitar and becoming a singer-songwriter from when I was 13, I feel lucky that I was brought up in the very rootsy music scene in York.”
Joining Beth at The Crescent tonight will be drummer and musical director Michael Turnbull and keyboard player Christina Hizon. “Michael is connected with Litany (Beth Cornell’s band], from Harrogate, so it’s northerners coming together! I said, ‘You’re from the north, you’re going to have to be in my band’,” she says.
“Christina’s been on tour with Maisie Peters, and next up, after my shows, she’s going to tour with Ed Sheeran. She played with [Queen drummer] Roger Taylor on his tour last year that came to the York Barbican. We first in a social setting in London.”
Positivity courses through Beth as TikTok, Spotify and YouTube give her momentum, now compounded by her return to the concert platform. “I’m just going to push my music as much and as often as possible,” she says.
“I may have no label deal or management, but what I do have is the hope that people just want to listen to music, in whatever form, and the last two songs I’ve released have really instilled that in me.
“The rest is just fluff, and as long as you do the things that matter to you, that’s what’s important.”
Beth is putting together an EP combining her compositions If You Loved Me Right, Friendship Bracelet, No Hard Feelings and You Ruin Love. “The point was to capture as many feelings as possible out of relationships and break-ups,” she says.
“If You Loved Me Right is a classically bitter break-up song, taking the power back, feeling not sad, but angry. Friendship Bracelet says ‘go ahead, burn my bracelet’. I wanted the title No Hard Feelings for one song, knowing that most of the songs would be about hard feelings. But that’s all fine, that’s me! I like things to have a concept, to have an honest purpose.
“I feel like if I ever did fall deeply in love it would ruin my career! To be fair, the songs have all been pretty sad or angry, though No Hard Feelings is like an amicable break-up song where you end up on good terms. It’s still hard, but sometimes love fizzles out, there’s no falling out and you just don’t see each other anymore.”
In the buzz of London, Beth has been taking part in “loads of writing sessions with a bit of the speed-dating culture but for writing”. “I find everybody is pretty happy to share other talented people for you to work with,” she says.
Her song-writing goal is to conceive “songs for people who don’t have songs yet”, by which she means songs that are personal to them. “It’s that thing when people go, ‘that’s the song that feels like it came from me, even though I didn’t write it’,” says Beth. “I’m always searching for the person that doesn’t have that song.”
Beth McCarthy, The Crescent, York, tonight (2/5/2022), supported by Jemma Johnson. Doors: 7.30pm. Box office: the crescentyork.com or myticket.co.uk/artists/beth-mccarthy
SEEKING Divine inspiration? Here comes Charles Hutchinson with his guide to what’s hot, from topical comedy to charming songwriters, a steamy thriller to intense jazz.
Charmer of the week: The Divine Comedy, York Barbican, tonight, 7.45pm
THE Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon plays York this weekend for the first time since the Irish chamber-pop leprechaun’s Minster concert in May 2011.
Hannon will be showcasing his 2022 compilation, Charmed Life – The Best Of The Divine Comedy, marking the completion of the 51-year-old songwriter, musical score composer and cricket enthusiast’s third decade as a recording artist
“I’ve been luckier than most,” Hannon says. “I get to sing songs to people for a living and they almost always applaud.” Hence that Charmed Life title. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Outdoor dance vibes of the long weekend: Dance Dance Dance, A Damn Big Dance Party, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Sunday, 6pm to 11pm
HEADPHONES on as At The Mill plays host to a three-channel Silent Disco with a bunch of very cool guest DJs, a live set from Flatcap Carnival and the pizza oven fired up for orders.
Organiser Alexander Flanagan Wright says: “We got Joshua Pulleyn coming. We got Bolshee taking over a channel. We got Sarah Rorke blasting out some Northern Soul vibes. Tom Figgins is metaphorically spinning a track or two.
“Paul Smith has some new punk and old-school hip hop heading your way. Abbi Ollive has a solid hour of girl power. And I’m lining up a lot of Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Beyoncé as I can. Come dance. It’s gotta be mega. There’s a handful of tickets left at atthemill.org.”
Homecoming of the week: Beth McCarthy, The Crescent, York, Monday, doors 7.30pm
BETH McCarthy, now living in London, heads home to play her first York gig since March 2019.
Singer-songwriter Beth has been buoyed by the online response to her singles and videos, drawing 4.8 million likes and 300,000 followers on TikTok and attracting 465,000 monthly listeners and nine million plays of her She Gets The Flowers on Spotify. Box office: myticket.co.uk/artists/beth-mccarthy.
Comedy gigs of the week: Stewart Lee, Snowflake/Tornado, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Thursday, 7.30pm
DELAYED by lockdowns, Stewart Lee finally brings Snowflake/Tornado – a double bill of two 60-minute sets, back-to-back nightly – to York with new material for 2022.
Heavily rewritten in the light of two pandemic-enforced dormant years, Snowflake looks at how the Covid/Brexit era has influenced the culture war between lovely snowflakes and horrible people.
Tornadoquestions Lee’s position in the comedy marketplace after Netflix mistakenly listed his show as “reports of sharks falling from the skies are on the rise again. Nobody on the Eastern Seaboard is safe.” Good luck trying to acquire a ticket on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Psychological thriller of the week: Fatal Attraction, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm matinees, Wednesday and Saturday
JAMES Dearden, screenwriter for Adrian Lyne’s 1987 “bunny boiler” American psycho thriller, has written a new stage version of Fatal Attraction for 21st century audiences, mobile phones et al.
The plot remains the same: happily married New York attorney Dan Gallagher (Oliver Farnworth) has a night on the town with editor Alex Forrest (Susie Amy) that boils up into passion.
Dan returns home to wife Beth (Louise Redknapp), trying to forget what happened, but Alex has only one rule: you play fair with her and she’ll play fair with you. If not…! Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
Smile of the week: Marti Pellow, Greatest Hits Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7.30pm
LET Marti Pellow introduce his Greatest Hits Tour show. “It’s about finally being able to come together to celebrate love, life, and remember those we may have lost along the way. Most of all, it’s about enjoyment and celebrating the here and now. Get your dancing shoes on: it’s time to party with Marti.”
Expect songs from his Wet Wet Wet and solo catalogues up to 2021’s Stargazer album, cover versions too, plus reflective chat as he sits on the edge of the stage. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Jazz gig of the week: Trish Clowes: My Iris, National Centre for Early Music, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm
SAXOPHONIST Trish Clowes leads her jazz band My Iris in their York debut, providing pianist Ross Stanley, guitarist Chris Montague and drummer James Maddren with a high-intensity platform for individual expression and improvisation.
Driving grooves and lingering melodic lines combine as they “seamlessly morph between earthy restlessness and futuristic dreamscapes”. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.
Indoor dance show of the week: Terpsichoring Dance Company in Me, Myself And Misha, York Theatre Royal Studio, Friday, 7.45pm
TERPSICHORING Dance Company’s Me, Myself & Misha is a heartfelt, autobiographical 40-minute show devised and performed by award-winning dance artist Ana Silverio, who explores the physical and emotional journey, full of challenges and joys, that one woman undertakes to become a mother.
Universal themes of pregnancy and labour are presented, using a mix of physical theatre and dance alongside an original and moving musical score. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Fundraiser alert: Yorkraine, for DEC Ukraine Appeal, Grand Opera House, York, May 24, 7.30pm
YORKRAINE’s benefit concert combines four of York’s finest cover bands, The Supermodels, The Mothers, The Y Street Band and Sister Madly, plus acoustic slots from Alex Victoria and Mal Fry and guest speakers.
The evening of pop and rock classics from the past six decades will raise funds for the British Red Cross DEC appeal to aid Ukrainian refugees who find themselves in dire circumstances. All artists, hosts, sound tech and crew have donated their time free of charge. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.
Gig announcement of the week: Gary Barlow, A Different Stage, Grand Opera House, York, June 10 and 11
TAKE That legend, singer, songwriter, composer, producer, talent show judge and author Gary Barlow is adding a theatrical one-man show to his repertoire.
“I’ve done shows where it has just been me and a keyboard,” says Barlow. “I’ve done shows where I sit and talk to people. I’ve done shows where I’ve performed as part of a group.
“But this one, well, it’s like all of those, but none of them. When I walk out this time, well, it’s going to be a very different stage altogether.” Now the bad news: tickets went on sale at 9.30am yesterday and sold out by 10am, but Pray there could yet be a silver lining…
TWO Big Egos In A Small Car culture podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson take their hat off to Barry in Episode 86 as the Australian comedy chameleon plays his first show in three years at the age of 88 at York’s Grand Opera House.
Plus Graham unexpectedly encounters Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Echo & The Bunnymen and Groove Armada’s Leeds O2 Academy gigs, and Harrogate gallery curator Andrew Stewart RIP.
PULL on your dancing shoes, it’s time to party with Marti, says that Scottish fellow Pellow ahead of his Greatest Hits Tour gig at York Barbican on Tuesday night.
York is one of five additions to the second leg of a post-lockdown itinerary that opened at Scarborough Spa Theatre on November 11 when the former Wet Wet Wet frontman, soulful solo singer and musical theatre star could not wait to re-connect with his devotees.
“Throughout lockdown, I was inundated by beautiful messages from fans, asking me to please organise a tour once we come out of these terrible times,” said the Clydebank singer at the time.
“Twelve million people tuned in for the Lockdown Sessions I did and each one of you has inspired me to make this tour happen this year.”
How did those autumn shows go? “Great! To say I was enthusiastic is an understatement and the audiences were so up for it because concert venues were the first places to close for Covid and the last to reopen,” says Marti, whose tour mission statement is to celebrate love, life and those we lost along the way.
“Calling it the Greatest Hits Tour was perfect too. As much as I did want to play songs from Stargazer [his March 2021 album written in homage to his heroes], and I did do that, most of the night hangs on being a celebration of getting back together.
“They were all shouting back at me, ‘No Marti, no party!’, as I did all those songs from multiple decades. After we’d navigated that year and a half we’d all been through, the set picked itself, whether I wrote the song, co-wrote it, sang it solo or with Wet Wet Wet, or it was a song I’d covered.”
On the tour’s second leg, that format remains the same; “In the more intimate parts of the show, I like to sit down and reflect, and I have a sophisticated audience so they’ll let me do that, dangling my feet off the edge of the stage and shooting the breeze,” says Marti, now 57.
“I’m forever mixing it up or changing the running order. I like people to be surprised! Maybe in the first song, I’ll look at them, and they’ll be turning their heads to the right thinking, ‘where’s he going here?!’
“It’s purely about reacting on the spot each evening. You’re thinking to yourself, ‘what’s going on with this audience?’. If it’s an attentive, ‘listening’ audience, I’ll squeeze in a few more ballads. Or maybe I’ll do songs that reflect on topics.
“It’s about how you set it up, like maybe pulling out a James Taylor Jackson Browne cover, or sharing a thought with them that they’ll relate to as audiences are storytellers themselves, remembering when they first heard a song or how their daughter always sang this song at the top of her voice in the back of the car.”
Marti has been delighted to find himself playing to such diverse crowds, whether they know him from Wet Wet Wet, his musical theatre performances or those Lockdown Sessions that went viral.
“What I find fascinating is the age range. At one of the shows I did last year, I met an elderly couple who said they were up having a dance, recalling how they first did that to a Wet Wet Wet song in 1987 when they were in their in their early 50s,” says Marti.
“Then I’ll be standing by a 17-year-old kid who says he’s come to the show because he’s seen me on YouTube and loved it.
“I think that’s got to do with me being a singer-songwriter, a storyteller, first catching an age group in their teens, but then you transcend that by doing half a dozen albums with your old band, 15 solo albums, and by being an eclectic artist, like doing songs from Broadway.
“Having that eclectic skill set transcends to the audience, who switch on to me through different media, including doing Kander and Ebb [Chicago] or being in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.”
Marti does not rest on his laurels. “I like spending some time in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, where it’s about educating myself, and then applying that to what I do. That might switch on certain parts of the audience that will go on a journey with you,” he says.
“I know my audience through engaging with them, listening to what they say on social media. Like for the Greatest Hits Tour, I listened to them when I asked, ‘what kind of show do you want?’.
“Every day is a school day when I’m performing, and when I look at my audience, what I get back from them far outweighs what I give them.”
Describing the concert experience, Marti says: “It’s monumental, in the way that when you go to church, the power of the music will physically move people. Like with a ballad, where people remember how they fell in love to that song; there’s a shared experience when you’re in the moment and you’re engaging in your stagecraft.
“It’s all about escapism. That’s what it’s about. Whether it’s a three-minute pop song by The Beatles or a beautiful piece by Rachmaninov, it has a beauty to behold.
“If you’re the catalyst for that, seeing all those smiles makes it so worthwhile.”
Marti Pellow: Greatest Hits Tour, York Barbican, May 3, 7.30pm; doors 7pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
TAKE That legend, singer, songwriter, composer, producer, talent show judge and author Gary Barlow will present his theatrical one-man show A Different Stage at the Grand Opera House, York, on June 10 and 11 .
“Now I’ve done shows where it has just been me and a keyboard,” says Barlow, “I’ve done shows where I sit and talk to people. I’ve done shows where I’ve performed as part of a group.
“But this one, well, it’s like all of those, but none of them. When I walk out this time, well, it’s going to be a very different stage altogether.”
Tickets for the York shows, part of an itinerary of 24 dates in seven cities, go on sale on Friday at 9.30am at atgtickets.com/York or on 0844 871 7615.
Telling his life story, in his words, in a “dramatised theatre setting”, A Different Stage premiered at The Brindley, in Runcorn, Cheshire, in February, since when Barlow has played to sell-out audiences in Salford, Liverpool and Edinburgh and has announced his West End debut at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre from August 30 to September 25.
Created by Barlow and his long-time friend, fellow son of the Wirral and collaborator Tim Firth, A Different Stage finds Barlow narrating the journey of his life alongside the music from his discography in a 32-year career spanning Take That, solo projects and his musicals Finding Neverland and Calendar Girls The Musical.
The show’s publicity describes A Different Stage as “a project unlike anything he’s ever done before, where Gary will take the audience behind the curtain, with nothing off limits in this special performance”.
As part of Take That, Barlow has won eight BRIT Awards and sold over 45 million records, and among his stellar collaborations he has co-written and produced songs for Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John and Robbie Williams.
Since turning his attention to the world of theatre, he has composed the score for Finding Neverland, worked alongside Tim Firth on Calendar Girls The Musical and collaborating with his Take That bandmates and Firth on The Band’, a record-breaking stage musical now being adapted into a feature film.
Coming next will be Barlow’s autobiography, also entitled A Different Stage. Published by Penguin Books on September 1, it “documents the people, places, music and cultural phenomena that have had an impact on him both as a musician and a human being” in a warm-hearted, humorous and unexpectedly intimate memoir.
“Sometimes you are forced to take stock and wonder what your life’s all been about, and where it is going,” says Barlow. “Ever since I was a boy, I’ve thought that music makes things better. A Different Stage is my love letter to music, a celebration of the songs and sounds that have inspired me and meant something in my life.’
From the working men’s club where it all began through to the stadium tours, the book’s story of Barlow’s life, told through music, is complemented by photography from his one-man show and previously unseen personal photos and notebooks.
“I just wanted to share my personal journey through the last five decades – the highs and lows, the ups and downs. So, in A Different Stage, this is me opening the curtains and sharing moments nobody has heard or seen before,” says Barlow.
This week, York Stage’s York premiere of Barlow and Firth’s Calendar Girls The Musical is running at the Grand Opera House with performances at 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow, 4pm and 8pm on Saturday and 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are still available.
KATE Bush has never played York but here comes An Evening Without Kate Bush, Sarah- Louise Young’s show for uber-fans and newcomers alike, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, on Thursday night.
Made by actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer Young with theatre-maker Russell Lucas, this “chaotic cabaret cult” is as much about fandom and mythology as a celebration of Bush’s five decades of ground-breaking music, from the chart-topping Wuthering Heights at the age of 19 in 1978 to the 22-night run of her three-act Before The Dawn show at Hammersmith Apollo in 2014.
“My big brother’s first cerebral and physical crush was Kate Bush, and I do remember dancing madly to Wuthering Heights when I was four and a half, with four older brothers around me,” says Sarah-Louise.
“Hounds Of Love was my Kate Bush album, and I was a big fan of her videos; their theatricality was part of my genesis as a performer.”
Young and Lucas had first made a show together ten years ago, Julie Madly Deeply, in celebration of stage and screen actress Julie Andrews. “We wanted to make another show because we’d started to explore fans and fandom in the Julie show, and with Kate not performing for more than 30 years, we started thinking about doing a show focusing on Kate and her fans,” recalls Sarah Louise.
“Then suddenly she announced the Before The Dawn concerts, so we put it on ice. We both had tickets but had to give them away as we’d been invited to perform a three-week run of Julie Madly Deeply at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto.
“But the idea was still very hot and we thought, ‘let’s just make it’, coming up with the idea of wanting to make a piece of fan art about how Kate Bush might make a piece about her fans, with us creating a show we could perform out of suitcases.”
The resulting show is in the spirit of Kate Bush “but never trying to imitate her”, one where people often come out afterwards with their mouths open, saying “it’s not what I expected at all”…or asking Sarah-Louise if she does yoga exercises. The answer is No.
Kate Bush once said, “it’s not important to me that people understand me”. Indeed Sarah-Louise quotes a line from Graeme Thomson’s 2010 biography, Under The Ivy , that says “some people have found her easier to parody than to understand”, but An Evening Without Kate Bush is definitely not in that camp.
Rather than a parody, it is a deep dive seeking a deeper understanding of her music and mythology. “We nod to tribute shows, but then take a journey down the worm hole to show the flip side, the B-side, of Kate, where she keeps evolving and regenerating,” says Sarah-Louise.
What emerges is a “Chaotic Cabaret Cult”, as Young and Lucas define the show. “We came up with that phrase after we spent a lot of time at the start thinking about the audience experience, what they’ll get out of the show, and will it be fun for us?” says Sarah-Louise.
“I want chaos! ‘Cult’ was an ambitious idea, but it has turned into that, and cabaret, for me, encompasses all theatre genres, especially after the two years we’ve just had. The show is never the same twice.”
Each night is a transformative experience for Sarah-Louise. “I get spat out at the other end of the show,” she says,
Choosing songs was “immensely difficulty”, so much so that “we put it out on social media, asking people to tell us what songs they wouldn’t forgive us for not including”. “But we also didn’t want to make a show where they were all from the early era,” says Sarah-Louise. “And we had to look at what backing tracks were available, so we’ve done Hammer Horror and James And The Cold Gun afresh.”
She acknowledges that “for some people, Kate’s music is a quasi-religious experience”. “We learned a lot from our Julie Madly Deeply show, where people bring their childhood memories to it; their love of The Sound Of Music and Mary Poppins, and that was very helpful in creating this show,” says Sarah-Louise.
“It was important that I was a fan but also a theatre-maker who could step away from that, so that the show works for both super-fans and those who aren’t.
“It’s a celebration of fans and their experiences, made from a place of respect because I was aware that people wanted their love to be respected and affirmed. They love her epic themes, and that is what art should do: give us a portal to understand ourselves.”
An Evening Without Kate Bush takes on a different life each night: “There’s another show going on that’s not in my control,” says Sarah-Louise. “People bring their history and their love; how lucky I am to have those experiences in the room.”
One review has called it “a bonkers triumph”. “I’m very, very happy with that! Those two words – ‘bonkers triumph’ – work so well together because it is in part a clown show that allows that side of Kate to come through, as well as showing respect.”
An Evening Without Kate Bush, but with Sarah-Louise Young, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday (28/4/2022), 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
HERE is the official syndicated interview with Sarah-Louise Young for even more insight into An Evening Without Kate Bush, a show heading out on tour after a three-week London season.
What attracted you to Kate Bush as the possible subject for the show?
“I’ve aways loved Kate Bush’s music and as a child of the ’70s and 80s remember that first appearance on Top Of The Pops and all those amazing videos and songs which followed. Plus my brother fancied her a bit, so her music was always floating through the house.
“Kate Bush is a true icon: her music is unique, spanning nearly five decades, winning countless awards and selling millions of records, but the woman herself is something of an enigma.
“Not performing live for over 30 years between her 1979 Tour Of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn at the Hammersmith Apollo, she spoke to us through her recorded music.
“In her physical absence, her fans created their own community: ‘The Fish People’. They are at the heart of An Evening Without Kate Bush.
“We wanted to celebrate them through her music. That was the starting point of making the show.”
Do you try to impersonate Kate in the show?
“I never set out to impersonate her – I mean who could? – but it’s amazing how many people tell me I sound like her though. A few fans thought I was miming at the start of the show!”
How hard is it to sing in Kate’s extraordinary vocal range?
“It’s definitely a vocally athletic workout! She sang them all live back in 1979, apart from Hammer Horror – a song we do in the two-act touring version of An Evening Without Kate Bush – so there’s no excuse not to do the same.
“What you hear on the albums is months of intricate layering of harmonies and different instruments, so it’s a more raw sound on stage, of course.
“I perform all the songs in their original keys, and I think part of it is that she chose such specific phrasing and wrote such intricate melodies, hearing them instantly hot-wires you back to the original.”
How did you prepare the movement aspect of your show?
“I spent one day working with the amazing Tom Jackson Greaves, who is a director and choreographer. We watched a lot of her videos and noted down some of her choices.
“We explored those in our session; again, never trying to ‘be’ her, more tap into her spirit. Quite by accident, the nicknames we came up with for her moves (‘The Pulse’, ‘The Champagne Whipcrack’, for example) found their way into the show.
“That’s often how it happens with devised work: you become a sponge for every impulse and they jostle around your head during the making process until they either find a home or float off into the ether.
“With the costumes too, my brilliant co-creator, Russell Lucas, and I tried to evoke her, not copy her. We rub shoulders with themes: she uses a lot of nature and bird imagery in her work, hence the feathery headdress.
“The cleaner’s outfit for This Woman’s Work is as much a nod to the cleaner’s story we mention at the start of the show, as it is to her TV special appearance where Kate sang Army Dreamers dressed as a cleaner or archetypal vintage housewife. That’s one for the super-fans.
“We did of course watch a lot of footage, interviews, videos, everything we could find, to get to know her journey as an artist and also how the world around her changed.
“Her early interviews are so uncomfortable. She is often being asked truly banal or overtly sexualised questions. She is so polite and accommodating but it’s great to see her later on in her career take the reins and shut down lines of enquiry that show the interviewers have no idea what they’re talking about.
“I also read the brilliant biography by Graeme Thomson called Under The Ivy. It’s the best music biography I’ve ever read and really lets you into her creative process.”
Do you need to know Kate’s music and be a super-fan to enjoy An Evening Without Kate Bush?
“Absolutely not. It’s one of the biggest compliments the show has received. Of course, if you are a super-fan, you’ll hear lots of the songs you know and love plus some little hidden gems for those in-the-know.
“But none of that is at the expense of the audience members who have perhaps come along with a fan friend or just out of curiosity. We elevate and celebrate everyone and when someone tells me after the show that they didn’t know her work but will be going home to listen to her music, then I’m thrilled.”
Your show encourages interaction. How does that work?
“It’s as interactive as you want it to be. I’ve been working in cabaret for over 20 years and my primary aim is that the audience have a good time. It’s great to be challenged and surprised, but I want them to feel safe. That’s really important to me.
“The invitation to participate starts small, a wave of a hand or a howl in the dark. I’m always really careful with any audience interaction to choose people who want to participate. There’s no enforced joining in; just gentle encouragement.
“I find that people self-select pretty easily. If someone doesn’t want to play, their body language communicates that. So far, I’ve never chosen anyone who didn’t want to be asked and I’ve had people come up to me after the show and fling their arms around me with gratitude.
“There’s a lovely moment where I invite a couple to dance together. During our Edinburgh Fringe run, we had a mum and her son come and dance, which reduced the whole room to tears, and in London, a couple who’d recently broken up but wanted to stay friends joined us on stage: they sought me out afterwards to say thank you. Our audiences have been brilliant. There is always so much love in the room.
“Russell Lucas and I were inspired by Kate Bush flashmobs and events like The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, which have sprung up around the world, from Sydney, Australia to Folkestone, Kent. We’ve taken fans’ stories and paid tribute to them on stage. You’ll enjoy the songs you know and love but put through the lens of the fans’ story.
After the opening song, And Dream Of Sheep, you say, “She’s not here but you are”! How would you feel if the real Kate Bush were in the audience? Would you want to know in advance?
“We would absolutely LOVE it if she came to see the show, although she’d have to wear a disguise as I think the audience would capsize if they knew she was in.
“When we were making it, we always knew we wanted it to be something she would approve of – so it’s been created with love, respect and a hefty does of joyful eccentricity!
“Friends of hers have seen it and loved it, and in Chichester I had the great privilege of meeting one of her original Tour Of Life backing singers, Glenys Groves.
“She was so enthusiastic about the piece and is still in touch with Kate, so you never know…we might yet have an evening WITH Kate Bush one of these days!”
Your show focuses on Kate’s fans worldwide. Who are the most bizarre you came across?
“Kate Bush’s fans are really friendly and open! People have shared so many incredible and personal stories with me: there’s the man who proposed to his wife to The Kick Inside; the young lad who found the courage to come out to his parents after listening to Wow, and the couple who chose Don’t Give Up as the first dance at their wedding.
“We’ve been touring a two-act version of this show around the country, with even more costume changes, so I’m able to weave some of these new stories into the next night’s performance.
“We’ve also heard from fans who went to see every single Tour Of Life date, have tattoos of her lyrics on their arms, and folk who come to the show dressed as her.
Does the show change each night depending on the audience’s reactions?
“No two shows are the same and I love that. It keeps it fresh and alive.
I ask the audience what their favourite songs are or what’s brought them to the theatre and then weave their stories into the evening’s entertainment.
“We call it a ‘chaotic cabaret cult’ and it really is! It’s playful, anarchic, touching, hot and sweaty and full of music and laughter.
“Imagine if Kate Bush made a tribute show about her fans and you come close to capturing the spirit of An Evening Without Kate Bush. Even if you just howl with the hounds or wave a hand in the air, you are still part of the experience.
“I love hearing people’s stories and I always come out into the foyer afterwards to chat to anyone who wants to stay and talk. The audience really make this show.”
How difficult was it to decide which songs to include?
“It was a massive challenge as there are many across such a huge time span. Inevitably there are lots from her early albums. The Kick Inside and Hounds Of Love are a lot of people’s favourites and first experience of her work.
“When we were making the show, we ran a poll on social media to see what songs people wouldn’t forgive us for not including! But we still had to leave some out. I adore Deeper Understanding and Under The Ivy, for example, but if we put them all in, it would be longer than The Ring Cycle!
“We take well-known songs like This Woman’s Work and Cloudbusting and give them a twist. So, if you come to see An Evening Without Kate Bush, you might find yourself suddenly singing backing vocals or slow dancing with your partner at the school disco.
“If you speak Russian, you might enjoy joining in with my version of Babooshka! The longer touring version allows us to include some surprises like her cover of Sexual Healing and a little slice of Pi.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
“I love the moment, usually about half way through Don’t Give Up, when the couple dancing on stage have realised they basically get to hug for six minutes and after some expected clowning about, just start to relax and enjoy the opportunity to be close.
“The audience is often singing with me and it’s a lovely moment of coming together. At the end of the song, I thank them and guide them carefully to their seats and they often say a big thank you or lean in for a hug.
“I guess my favourite parts are when something spontaneous or unexpected happens as a result of some audience interaction. They keep me on my toes and anything unique to that gathering of people reminds them and me that this night, this configuration of people, will never happen again. It’s special. I like theatre which is made with love and danger; that excites me.”
What’s your favourite costume in the show?
“The feathered headdress I’m wearing in the poster is very special. We found that in Denmark and it was the first piece of costume we bought.
“The whole show is made from scratch, so I hand-made my Vileda super-mop costume, and the Snowflake headdress I wear at the top of Act Two took me about two solid days to stitch, so I love to because it was such a triumph of experience over skill in the making.”
Why is Kate so intriguing to so many people after all the decades?
“Her fans have travelled with her and as she has evolved as an artist, she has become the soundtrack to their lives. That’s my oven-ready hypothesis. I also think she influenced so many other artists that the whole music scene is steeped in her musical juices, as it were.
“She was one of the first people to experiment with the Fairlight, she mastered complex sampling of vocals, including the Trio Bulgarka from Hungary, and if you read the list of pop royalty lining up to play a couple of bars on her albums, everyone wants to work with her.
“She never shied away from writing about the largeness of life either, epic themes, the loneliness of love, the wonder of creation, the sensuality of being human.
“Her albums are somewhere you can climb inside and dream in. She’s one of us and yet totally Other. She’s a tea-drinking mum and an Ivy Glad Goddess.”
If you could ask Kater one thing, what would it be?
“‘Please would you come and see our show?’. I feel like she’s said what she needs to say in her music. Perhaps I’d just ask her if she’d like a cup of tea and we’d see what happens next.”
This woman’s work: Who is Sarah-Louise Young?
Actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer. She has appeared in London’s West End with Julie Madly Deeply, Fascinating Aïda, La Soirée and Olivier-winning improvised musical group The Showstoppers.
Named one of Time Out’s Top Ten Cabaret Acts and voted Best Musical Variety Act in the London Cabaret Awards, she has been nominated for an Offie too and awarded The Stage Award for Acting. She is one half of writing and performing duo Roulston & Young, at present creating a new musical, Maxa, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World.
She directed Mark Farrelly in Jarman and Paulus in Looking For Me Friend, The Music Of Victoria Wood and has directed Russell Lucas in his solo show The Bobby Kennedy Experience.
Calendar Girls, The Musical, York Stage, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Performances: 7.30pm, tonight to Thursday and Saturday; 4pm and 8pm, Friday; 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York
HAVE you been struggling to buy sunflowers in York since Friday?
The reason is simple: these sunworshippers have taken up residence at the Grand Opera House, spreading all over a teenage party dress and a gloriously OTT sofa in director-producer Nik Briggs’ scenic and costume design too.
Even in the dark of the orchestra pit, a sunflower can be spotted radiating nocturnal sunshine from musical director Jessica Douglas’s stand.
Calendar Girls The Musical began life as The Girls when premiered by sons of the Wirral Gary Barlow and Tim Firth at Leeds Grand Theatre in December 2015. Now the Yorkshire sunflower power has been restored for the York premiere by Briggs’s company.
If you missed the Leeds debut, jump at the chance to remedy that error! If you loved the film or the stage play, Barlow and Firth’s musical is even better, the format suiting what is already an opera-scaled human drama of ordinary women at the centre of an extraordinary story.
What’s more, as Briggs says: “Having Yorkshire actors playing these roles in a theatre in York creates a real gravitas to the story. It could work anywhere, but it’s just a bit more special done here as it’s a proper Yorkshire tale.”
You surely know that story, the tragicomic one where gentle gent, National Park wall builder and sunflower grower John Clarke (Mick Liversidge) – spoiler alert – dies from leukaemia .
Whereupon his wife, Annie (Jo Theaker), teams up with Knapely Women’s Institute rebel Chris (Julieann Smith) to defy the new but old-school WI chair Marie (Maggie Smales) by posing with fellow members for a fund-raising nude calendar in John’s memory – and in his spirit of being inventive and not following the well-beaten track.
Firth and Barlow open with two big hitters, firstly the scene-setting ensemble anthem Yorkshire, then the character-establishing introduction to The Girls, the diverse members of the WI, in Mrs Conventional.
So, we meet not only Theaker’s grieving but resilient Annie and Smith’s agitated/aggrieved Celia, but also Rosy Rowley’s Cora, the vicar’s no-nonsense daughter; Tracey Rea’s reupholstered, flashy Celia, the former airhostess; Sandy Nicholson’s perma-knitting Jessie, the wise-owl ex-teacher, and Juliet Waters’ reserved dark horse Ruth.
One of the joys of ballad-king Barlow and witty-worded lyricist Firth’s musical structure is how every one of the Girls has a knock-out, character-revealing, storytelling solo number, each drawing cheers and bursts of clapping, especially Rowley’s rousing, big-band blast of Who Wants A Silent Night?, Smith’s assertive Flowers, Rea’s exuberantly humorous So I’ve Had A Little Work Done and Waters’ vodka-guzzling My Russian Friend And I.
Theaker, so consistently excellent in York Stage lead roles, plucks the heartstrings in the stand-out ballad Scarborough and later hits the emotional heights again in Kilimanjaro. Her chemistry with Liversidge is utterly lovely, touching too, making Clarkey’s loss all the harder to take. Likewise, Theaker and the feisty Smith capture the strains and stresses of friendship under the utmost duress.
Calendar Girls is not just about the Girls, but the men too, from Chris’s level-headed husband Rod (Andy Stone) to humorous cameos for the ever-reliable Craig Kirby (Denis) and Graham Smith (Colin), and Finn East’s how-about-we-do-it-this-way photographer, Lawrence, sensitively venturing into new territory as much as his subjects.
Not only does Firth’s script strike the right balance of northern humour, pathos, sadness and bloody-minded defiance, but also he places the stripping-off photoshoot as the climax (mirroring The Full Monty) and brings three teenage children to the fore, both as outlets for awkward, growing-pains humour and to expose their parents in a different light.
Danny Western is lovably cheeky as deluded, cocky workshy Tommo; Izzie Norwood affirms why Mountview Academy of Theatre awaits her in September with an assured, eye-catching York Stage debut as Jenny, the WI chair’s daughter, expelled from her posh school, with her wild, rebellious outsider streak still untamed.
No wonder Sam Roberts’s clean-cut, gilded path to being head boy takes a wayward turn as too-cool-for-school Jenny initiates his discovery of alcohol. Roberts’s understated performance contrasts joyfully with Western’s ebullience as the young lads eggs each other on.
Briggs’s lucid, fast-moving direction places equal stress on the potency of the dialogue and the emotional heft of the songs, while his stage design combines dry-stone walls and Dales greenery with open-plan interiors for WI meetings, homes and the hospital, thereby evoking the vast expanse of Yorkshire yet suited to intimate conversation too.
Jessica Douglas’s keyboard-led musical forces do Barlow’s compositions proud, with Robert Fisher’s guitar, Georgia Johnson’s double bass, Graeme Osborn’s trumpet and Anna Marshall’s trombone all given room to flourish.
A quick mention for Louie Theaker, who stepped in for the temporarily indisposed Danny Western for Friday’s first performance, rehearsing his part from 5pm to 6pm as he called on his experience of learning TV script re-writes pronto for his regular role as Jake in CBBC’s children’s drama series James Johnson.
Audiences have not been as big as expected, but what folly it would be to miss York Stage in sunflower full bloom in a Yorkshire story of tears and cheers, grief and loss, spirit and renewal, humour and humanity, ace songs and cracking performances.
SAXOPHONIST extraordinaire Snake Davis returns to the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, on Thursday with a new venture.
Once part of the York band Zoot & The Roots, this time Snake will be teaming up with award-winning arranger, composer and pianist Robin A Smith.
“Snake and Robin have been sparring partners for decades,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin. “Together their recorded work helped spearhead the Classic Chillout movement 20 years ago, but the duo live in concert are something else.”
Snake’s return to York fills him with enthusiasm. “I’m really excited to have a trio of shows booked with Robin,” he says. “We’re really looking forward to our concert at the NCEM. It’s one of our favourite venues as the acoustics and ambience of St Margaret’s Church are so perfect for us. We can’t wait to come back with our new show.”
Saxophonist-to the-stars Snake has contributed soulful solos to Lisa Stansfield’s Change, M People’s hits, Take That’s A Million Love Songs and plenty more besides.
Robin A Smith was musical director for the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and his versatility has seen him work with Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Kanye West, The 2 Cellos, Rod Stewart and Mike Oldfield.
“Thursday’s unmissable, enthralling and highly accessible show will celebrate the joy and power of music across multiple styles and genres, from classical to folk, pop to jazz,” says Delma.
Tickets for the 7.30pm concert are on sale at ncem.co.uk, on 01904 658338 and on the door.