Former head boy Jacob Fowler plays dream role as too-cool-for-school JD in Heathers The Musical at Grand Opera House

Jacob Fowler’s Jason ‘JD’ Dean with Jenna Innes’ Veronica Sawyer in Heathers The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday. Picture: Pamela Raith

IN August 2021, Leeds Grand Theatre became the first theatre in the world to host a touring production of Heathers The Musical.

Next week, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s American high-school black comedy reports back for a new term in Yorkshire, this time at the Grand Opera House, York.

Welcome to Westerberg High, school year 1989, where Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody dreaming of a better day. When she joins the beautiful, mallet-wielding, impossibly cruel Heathers, her dreams of popularity may finally come true.

Enter mysterious teen rebel Jason ‘JD’ Dean to teach her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.

Playing JD, the Christian Slater role in Michael Lehmann’s savagely satirical cult teen movie, will be Jacob Fowler, whose path to stardom brings girl group Little Mix into his story.

“I’d gone to Trinity Laban Conservatoire to study musical theatre for three years, but I ended up putting my studies on hold, just before Covid, to do the Little Mix The Search talent show – and I actually won the competition!” he says.

More precisely, singer and pianist Jacob was part of the group Since September, put together to compete in the contest.

“The prize was to support Little Mix on their Confetti Tour of UK arenas. I’ve never known an experience like it when you just don’t get to do that as an average person growing up in Nottingham!

“Then in between doing the TV show and the Little Mix tour, I got my contract as first cover JD in the ensemble for Heathers.”

Jacob had first seen Heathers in his drama student days on a gala night at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and did so again in his home city in September 2021. Two months later, he was in the cast. “After only five shows, the actor playing JD had to go off and ended up being off for two weeks. He came back for a few days but then left the show,” Jacob recalls.

“I did 125 shows in that first contract, 26 as The Geek, and 99 as JD, which meant the first night of the new tour at Windsor Theatre Royal was my 100th show as JD…on Valentine’s Day! The 200th show will be while we’re in York.”

Produced by impresario Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills and directed by Andy Fickman, the tour carries the warning: “This production contains mature themes including: references to suicide and eating disorders; moments of violence; murder; sexual violence; gunshots and flashing lights.”

“It’s that age-old thing of now being more relevant than it’s ever been, dealing with homophobia and fat phobia too. Apart from racism, it touches on all these horrible things we have in society.

“You hope that with homophobia, for example, maybe some progress has been made but it’s still not enough.”

Jacob considers high-school outsider JD, symbolically always dressed in black, to have the best story arc in Heathers. “As a storyline, as a character, he has this depth, starting as a cheeky chappie, not falling for the idiots,” he says. “But then he falls in love and becomes manipulative, though he always thinks he’s doing the right thing.

“It’s a sombre thing to say, but I don’t think there’ll ever be a role like this for me again,” says Jacob Fowler. Picture: Pamela Raith

“Even at the end, he’s saying ‘let’s build a better world’ with Veronica. When he sings, ‘I’m damaged, badly damaged, once I disappear, clean up the mess down here’, I take it that this is his slight redemption. It’s more of a plea, saying, he knows what he’s done, but please change.”

Jacob talks of himself as being part of “this little group of JDs, because only 15 people have played him or understudied the role”. “From the outset, I take a lot from Jamie Muscato, who I saw on that gala night performance. He was the original JD in London, and there’s that thing that you can’t beat the first person you saw in a role,” he says.

“In fact, I’ve now met or messaged pretty much everyone who’s played JD. I’ve even messaged the original Broadway JD, Ryan McCartan, and his understudy, Dan Domenech.

“I loved the way Jamie played and sang it in London; That was my grounding, my blueprint, but of course there’s a part of any actor that can’t help but put themselves in any performance. For mine, I like to go down the line of the more psychotic JD, rather than a naturalistic one.

“Where others play him as always behaving like he’s 17, I play him with jolts and head ticks to make him look psychotic. I just started doing that, and now people come up after a show and say, ‘go on, do your head tick’!”

Jacob will be on tour in Heathers until the last week of October. “I often say to people, and it’s a sombre thing to say, but I don’t think there’ll ever be a role like this for me again – and I’m saying that when I’m only 23,” he says.

“It just happens to be that my dream role is someone so young, someone who gave me my break in musical theatre and is such an incredible role to play. Though hopefully I’ll have the chance to play the Phantom [in The Phantom Of The Opera] one day.”

Where was Jacob when he was 17? “I was at Trinity Catholic Scool in Nottingham, studying Music, Technolgy and Drama A-levels – all very ‘musical’ things!” he says.

On the Heathers scale, was he a “nobody” or a “somebody”? “I was headboy! The first head boy the school had ever had. We got a new head teacherwho brought in having a head boy or head girl for the first time,” says Jacob.

“Names were put forward and then the final three had an interview. I remember him ringing me up to tell me when I was in the bath! I think there’s a plaque at the school saying, ‘Jacob Fowler, Head Boy 2017-2018’.

“The year before, when there was no official title, the equivalent role went to Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the international cellist, and I thought it was very, very cool to follow him!”

Unlike JD, Jacob was never a rebel. “I very much stuck to the rules, though I would never bow down. I wouldn’t take anything from anyone,” he says. “I’ve never liked authority, which sounds like I’m stubborn and might not fit in with being head boy – but if someone can’t justify something, then I’d challenge it, but I’d always play by the school rules at 16-17.

“It was at such a good school, a normal state school, with such a good music department, and I was lucky to go there. I’m a real advocate for music and theatre in schools. They’re so important.”

Heathers The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, May 9 to 13, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

Copyright of The Press, York

May Tether in her Liverpool Empire dressing room on the night she played Veronica Sawyer for the first time on the Heathers The Musical tour in 2021

Did you know?

MAY Tether, the York Stage favourite of Goole roots, has performed opposite Jacob Fowler in Heathers The Musical in London.

“May was at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in the year above me, so I knew her already,” says Jacob. “She moved up from ‘cover Veronica’ on the first tour to playing Veronica at The Other Palace with me as JD.”

REVIEW: Blood Brothers, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday *****

Niki Evans, as Mrs Johnstone, and Sean Jones, as her son Mickey, as the Blood Brothers principals reunite at the Grand Opera House, where they previously performed together in May 2011

OUT of nowhere in The Rocky Horror Show’s March return to the Grand Opera House, narrator Philip Franks suddenly mischievously mimicked Blood Brothers. Oh, how everyone chortled.

That’s rich, CharlesHutchPress thought, given that Willy Russell’s tragi-comic Liverpool musical is a vastly better structured show without the fall-away in song quality and story in Richard O’Brien’s stupendously silly second act that seemingly all and sundry chooses to ignore.

The chance to compare the two hit shows with the Jacobean tragedy finales comes quickly with the return of Blood Brothers to the Cumberland Street theatre, and if there is any rivalry, it can only be in the number of visits being stacked up.

Rocky Horror? Lost count, but it must be heading for two full sets of fingers. Blood Brothers? Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson’s perennial production keeps on giving blood, sweat and tears, having chalked up eight runs since 1996.

The ninth is better than ever, bolstered by the return of Niki Evans to the role of Mrs Johnstone after a decade and the chance to see Sean Jones, so synonymous with Mrs J’s son Mickey, on his “last ever tour” after 23 years on the road on and off.

More on, than off, with only eight of them in total spent away from Blood Brothers, his latest break coming since 2019 to tend to his poorly parents. When impresario Kenwright invited him back for the 2022 tour, Jones accepted, and here he is at 51 “running around as a seven-year-old in a baggy green jumper and short trousers”, promising to keep going for as long as Kenwright wants him. Like Bob Dylan’s never-ending tour.

More on Jones’s performance later, but first, what a delight to see Niki Evans reviving her Mrs Johnstone, the mother with the fateful family secret, in a devastatingly moving performance of pathos and pain, jagged-edged Scouse humour, love and desperate resilience.

For Mrs Johnstone, struggling with too many children on an impoverished Liverpool estate and deserted by her waster of a husband, the discovery she is pregnant again, this time with twins, is too much for her budget on the never-never.

She can only “afford” one more child, not two, she tells Mrs Lyons (Paula Tappenden), the barren wife of a travelling businessman from up the posh hill for whom she cleans.

All too rashly, a pact is agreed, one where she gives away one of the baby boys to the cold-hearted Mrs Lyons, setting in motion the superstition that if twins separated at birth ever discover each other’s existence they will die instantly.

Brothers in arms: Sean Jones, as Mickey, left, and Joel Benedict, as Eddie, in Blood Brothers

Clodagh Rodgers, Stephanie Lawrence, Bernie Nolan, Sharon Byatt, Marti Webb, Maureen Nolan and Lyn Paul have all played Mrs J in York; Evans is the first to do so twice, in her case divided by 11 years.

First time around, in May 2011, your reviewer observed: “Above all others, Evans will stick in the mind, for being the most real. What makes her performance all the remarkable is that the Birmingham mother of two had never seen a theatre show, except for pantomimes, nor heard of Blood Brothers or impresario Bill Kenwright when she was offered the role on the West End stage after making the semi-finals of The X Factor in 2007”.

Eleven years on, benefiting from more rings on the tree of theatre life, Evans remains a natural for musical theatre, more than she was for a burst of X Factor-fuelled pop stardom.

At 49, her voice is even more powerful, her broad face an expressive canvas for so many emotions, played out in a Scouse accent that accentuates light and dark alike. Evans’s council-house upbringing and her experiences as a working mum both bring authenticity to the performance too, not least in her renditions of the show’s supreme numbers, Tell Me It’s Not True, Marilyn Monroe and Easy Terms.

The harshest songs aptly go to Robbie Scotcher’s ever-present Narrator, a Faustian debt collector full of social truths and spooked folklore, as he steers the path of Russell’s 1983 cautionary tale.

In football parlance, Blood Brothers is a game of two halves, as one face of theatre, comedy, is ultimately overwhelmed by the other, tragedy, as it befalls the split-up brothers, scally Mickey (Jones) and scholarly Eddie (Joel Benedict).

Divided by class, their paths nevertheless keep crossing through fate, and once more Jones plays it with all the conviction of a man who believes there is no role in musical theatre to rival Mickey on his journey from cheeky, blissfully innocent child’s play, through tongue-tied teenage love pangs for Linda (Carly Burns), to the forlorn broken adult reliant on mind-numbing pills.

More than ever, you note the changes in his movement, his voice, from skip to slouch and slump, from up to down. Sean, whatever you do next, thank you for making this reviewer laugh and cry down the years.

Benedict more than holds his own as Eddie, the charmer in the making with a rebellious streak that then turns to steely political activism as a councillor. The role is more emotionally contained, to emphasise the contrast in nurturing, but nature permeates the brotherly bond in Jones and Benedict’s performances. Burns burns brightly too as lovely Linda.

Andy Walmsley’s familiar street scenery, Nick Richings’ lighting, Matt Malone’s musical direction and Dan Samson’s sound design all add to the hard-hitting impact of Russell’s unsentimental yet heart-rending doomed drama. Evans and Jones, reunited from 2011 to even more telling effect, make Blood Brothers a Must See once more.

Blood Brothers, Grand Opera House, York, 7.30pm tonight (7/4/2022) and tomorrow; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 7615.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Sean Jones heads back to York as scally Mickey in his ‘last ever’ Blood Brothers tour

Brothers in arms: Sean Jones as scally Mickey, left, and Joel Benedict as scholarly Eddie in Blood Brothers, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, next week

AT 51, Sean Jones is still “running around in a baggy green jumper and short trousers” playing Liverpool lad Mickey in Willy Russell’s heartbreaking musical Blood Brothers into a 23rd year.

“It would definitely be me, Yul Brynner and Topol in the top three,” says the Welsh actor, in recognition of their long service to Blood Brothers, The King And I and Fiddler On The Roof respectively, although Sean has not kept a record of the exact number of performances he has chalked up.

Next week, on his return to impresario Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson’s touring production for a run from January to late-October, Sean will be taking his Mickey back to the Grand Opera House in York.

Musicals were not his first love, but maybe this was destiny. “I’d had had a string of auditions for musicals off my agent but was getting very disconcerted as I’d trained to be an actor, not a singer and dancer, and then he said again, ‘I’ve got you an audition…for a musical.”

However, this time it was different. “It was the chance to be cover for Mickey in Blood Brothers, which has always been my dream role.

“It’s the most prepared I’ve ever been for an audition! Thankfully I got the gig as understudy on tour, and I remember we came to York on that first tour in 1999.”

He had trodden the boards in York previously. “On my first time there, I did [Agatha Christie’s] A Murder Is Announced with Richard Todd in 1993 in my first job after drama college, with Bill Kenwright as producer, and I remember thinking, ‘that might give me an inroad to Blood Brothers’!”

Sean would subsequently become embedded in Russell’s musical, even meeting his wife, actress Tracy Spencer, though the show. “Tracy played Mrs Lyons. We got married in 2004 on a two-show day when we were at the Cardiff New Theatre,” he says.

Sean Jones in his 2022 return to Blood Brothers as Mickey, with Niki Evans as Mrs Johnstone

“We got married in the morning, did the matinee, took the cast out for a drink, then did the evening performance.

“Blood Brothers is absolutely ingrained in me. When Tracy fell pregnant with Eleanor, after three months, we decided we would go out on tour for four years in the show!”

In Russell’s fateful musical, when young mother Mrs Johnstone is deserted by her husband, she is left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children, taking a job as a housekeeper to make ends meet.

Whereupon her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again, this time with twins. In a moment of desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer, leading to Mickey and Eddie being separated at birth, growing up on the opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with tragic consequences.

“It’s such a journey that Mickey goes on and such a great role for an actor to get his teeth into, with all the high comedy that Willy Russell has written that requires plenty of skill, and then the final hour that takes the audience to some really dark places, with the last few scenes being so harrowing.”

Sean’s career has taken in stage roles in pantomime, Macbeth and Jacqueline’s Wilson’s world premiere of Wave Me Goodbye and television appearances in Emmerdale, The Royal Today and Hollyoaks, but he keeps returning to Blood Brothers, never tiring of playing Mickey from the age of seven, through his teens and into his troubled adult life.

Out of the past 22 years, only eight have not been spent stretching that trademark baggy jumper over his knees. “It’s one of those things, whatever job anyone has, there’s a certain amount of repetition, whether working in a bank or a shop. Same job, different ****! With Blood Brothers, same job, same lines, but the audience keeps you fresh,” he says.

“Each audience comes with a different challenge each show, and you find yourself becoming a bit of a scientist, thinking, ‘who we’ve got in today; what do they want; what do they need?’. You pay attention to that, and that’s why it will always be fresh.

Sean Jones, as Mickey, and Marti Webb, as Mrs Johnstone at the Grand Opera House, York in 2008

“On top of that, Mickey is such a phenomenal role that I’m still finding new things in it after all these years.”

Playing Mickey for more than two decades, Sean has found his performance evolving over that time. “When you’re using techniques in order to get yourself into the zone for those last 30 minutes, the more you can draw on your own emotional memories, because all you are as an older person is a young person with more despair.”

Sean left the show for three years after his parents became poorly. “I needed to be there, with them,” he says. “But I always felt there might be a chance to come back.”

When Bill Kenwright asked him to reprise his Mickey once more, he said yes. “It’s like, go find me a better musical theatre role than Mickey,” says Sean. “There’s a plethora of great roles in musical theatre but none that goes on the journey that Mickey does. It’s brilliant storytelling theatre with so much comedy and then absolute heartbreak.”

The tour publicity states this will be Sean’s “final ever tour of the show”, but will it? “I’m happy to carry on doing it as long as Bill Kenwright is happy for me to get away with doing it!” he says.

“I appear to still have the same energy, hitting all the right notes in the right order, and as long as that keeps happening, I’m happy to keep going, but all I want to do is to keep on being a jobbing actor. That term shouldn’t be a slur. It’s about doing a job I love, whether in Blood Brothers, or in a small play at Theatre Clwyd, though I’d also love to do more screen work.”

Blood Brothers runs at Grand Opera House, York, from April 5 to 9, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Sean Jones’s Mickey and Maureen Nolan’s Mrs Johnstone at the Grand Opera House, York in 2013

Does too-cool-for-school Heathers The Musical make the grade at Leeds Grand Theatre? Here’s the school report

Hands up if you love Heathers The Musical. Picture: Pamela Raith

Heathers The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, until Saturday. Box office:  0113 243 0808 or at

LEEDS Grand Theatre is the first theatre in the world to host a touring production of Heathers The Musical.

No wonder the first-night audience was “super-excited” – everything has to be prefixed with “super” these days” – in a theatre so happy to be back to full capacity under Step 4 relaxation.

It was a predominantly young crowd, from late teens to twenties, and largely unmasked, for a show based on Michael Lehmann’s savagely satirical cult 1988 teen movie, an all-American high-school black comedy with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater appeal.

1988? Long before the stalls crowd were born, and yet the in-crowd knew the story, just as they knew the songs too – especially signature song Seventeen – from a musical premiered at Joe’s Pub, in New York City, in September 2010 but only brought over to London in 2018.

How come they cheer the first sight of the too-cool-for-school, ever-so-cruel trio of Heathers, the dead-mean clique with their croquet-mallet disdain at Westerberg High? Maybe they went down to London? Maybe they have the West End cast recording? More likely, they have tapped into the Heathers The Musical phenomenon on TikTok, apparently.

Here’s a quick refresher course for those new to class: Westerberg High pupil Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes) is just another nobody dreaming of better days at school, until she joins the Heathers clique: leader Heather Chandler (Maddison Faith) and her acolytes Heather Duke (Merryl Ansah) and Heather McNamara (Lizzy Parker).

Whereupon mysterious teen rebel Jason ‘JD’ Dean (Simon Gordon) – his outsider mystery denoted by always wearing black – arrives at Westerberg to teach her that “while it might kill to be a high-school nobody, it is murder being a somebody”. So begins a twisted teen relationship, sure to end more unhappily than a jaunty John Hughes movie.

Lehmann set his savvy, subversive, iconoclastic teen drama against Westerberg High’s tide of dangerously competitive, destructive, dysfunctional social rules, where you could drown in derision, potentially to the point of contemplating suicide, unless you showed the resolute spirit of a Veronica to break the monopoly of priapic sports jocks and hateful Heathers…with fatal consequences.

Now, in 2021, Heathers is darkly topical with teen suicides troubling headline writers, psychologists, parents and school heads alike, although here those suicides are being faked by a vengeful teen sociopath killer. The fact that the school principal and pupils believe they are suicides is arguably more disturbing: collateral damage amid the adolescent angst, turf wars, underdogs and bitches of the school room.

If you want everything to be heightened still more, turn a film into a musical, the opera of our times, and Heathers is duly blessed with top-grade lyrics and music by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, big on drama, cheese and heart-breaking balladry, for a macabre story of broken childhoods, eating disorders, bullying, lies, shootings and suicide. This is the stuff of opera indeed, but now with to-die-for snappy, cynical, yet sincere dialogue. 

Consequently, Heathers is an adrenaline shot of a show with the darkness, sharpness and sass – and the knockout tunes – to give it the allure of a Wicked The Musical or Hairspray, although maybe not quite the devoted following of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show.

Veteran impresario Bill Kenwright. who knows a winner when he sees one, is producing this tour in tandem with Paul Taylor-Mills, employing American screen and stage director Andy Frickman to steer a thrilling, dead-funny yet poignant production, one where plenty more than the two leads shine.

Wickes’s Veronica is a steely girl-next-door; Gordon’s magnetic, brooding outsider, JD, sparks love, scorn and fear in equal measure. Her voice stirs and yearns; his voice enchants and ensnares with its beauty.

Faith’s sharp-dressed Heather Chandler looks the natural, click-of-a-finger leader, venomous when provoked, but beneath the surface swagger lies needy insecurity and human frailty.

Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan’s dumb-and-dumber Kurt and Ram transform from jock jerks to lovable eye candy and camp-comedy double act once stripped to their underpants; Georgina Hagen’s teacher Ms Fleming and Mhairi Angus’s neglected Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock vie for Heathers’ outstanding vocal cameo; Andy Brady and Kurt Kansley bring bags of personality and humour to assorted school principal/dad/coach roles.

David Shields’ designs, colourful, impressively mobile, smart and very Eighties’ USA, delight too. Of York interest, Gary Lloyd, who choreographed York Stage’s 2020 pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, brings his West End panache to dance routines that fill the Leeds Grand stage with energy, slick movement and bravura style, especially when the Heathers strut to the fore.

He uses the chorus to the full too, and among the ranks is a face familiar to York audiences, May Tether, who must have caught Lloyd’s eye when starring as Jill in York Stage’s panto. Let’s hope the understudy opportunities come her way on tour because May has an exuberant talent for musical theatre that deserves to be untethered.

Dear Diary, please note a second Yorkshire chance to see Heathers The Musical comes at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from September 14 to 18. Box office:

Marks: 8/10

NEWSFLASH: 27/8/2021

HERE comes May-hem!

CharlesHutchPress concluded the Heathers The Musical “school report” with the “hope that understudy opportunities come May Tether’s way on tour because she has an exuberant talent for musical theatre that deserves to be untethered”.

Sure enough, a tweet from the York Stage favourite of Goole roots confirms May has played the female lead, Westerburg High pupil Veronica Sawyer, at the Liverpool Empire.

At 9.43 this morning, May tweeted: “So I made my debut as Veronica Sawyer in the @HeathersMusical UK tour and stayed on for the following two-show day… what a thrill, I’m still in shock, you corn nuts are beautiful! In the wise words of @OfficialTracieB I let Liverpool AVVV ITTTTT.”

May Tether in her Liverpool Empire dressing room as she plays Veronica Sawyer for the first time on the Heathers The Musical tour

More Things To Do in and around York as deathly silence is broken at libraries. List No. 43, courtesy of The Press, York

James Lewis Knight, left, as Jimmy and Matt Stradling as James in Next Door But One’s library tour of Operation Hummingbird in York

GO forth and multiply the chance to see the summer spurt of theatre, musicals and outdoor shows, urges Charles Hutchinson, who also highlights big gig news for autumn and March 2022.

Breaking the library hush: Next Door But One in Operation Hummingbird, in York, today and August 12

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are teaming up with Explore York for a library tour of Matt Harper-Harcastle’s 45-minute play Operation Hummingbird.

James Lewis Knight plays Jimmy and Matt Stradling, James, in a one-act two-hander that takes the form of a conversation across the decades about a sudden family death, realising an opportunity that we all wish we could do at some point in our life: to go back and talk to our younger self.

Today’s Covid-safe performances are at 3.30pm at New Earswick Folk Hall and 7pm, Dringhouses Library; August 12, York Explore, 2pm, and Hungate Reading Café, 7pm. Box office:

Exit-kitchen-sink drama: Ashley Hope Allan as bored Liverpool housewife Shirley, planning a holiday to Greece in Esk Valley Theatre’s production of Shirley Valentine. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Play launch of the week outside York: Esk Valley Theatre in Shirley Valentine, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, near Whitby, tonight until August 28

ESK Valley Theatre complete a hattrick of Willy Russell plays with Shirley Valentine from tonight, under the direction of artistic director Mark Stratton as usual.

In Russell’s one-woman show, Coronation Street star Ashley Hope Allan plays middle-aged, bored Liverpool housewife Shirley in a story of self-discovery as she takes a holiday to Greece with a friend, who promptly abandons her for a holiday romance. Left alone, Shirley meets charming taverna owner Costas. Box office: 01947 897587 or at

It’s here at last! Heathers The Musical opens its delayed tour at Leeds Grand Theatre tonight. Picture: Pamela Raith

Musical of the week outside Leeds, Heathers The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, tonight until August 14

HEATHERS The Musical launches its touring production in Leeds from tonight with choreography by Gary Lloyd, who choreographed the debut York Stage pantomime last Christmas.

Produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills and directed by American screen and stage director Andy Fickman, this high-octane, dark-humoured rock musical is based on the Winona Ryder and Christian Slater cult teen movie.

The premise: Westerberg High pupil Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes) is just another nobody dreaming of a better day, until she joins the impossibly cruel Heathers, whereupon mysterious teen rebel JD (Simon Gordon) teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at

Round To Low Horcum, by Sue Slack, one of the 33 artists and makers taking part in Ryedale Open Studios

Art event of the week: Ryedale Open Studios, Saturday and Sunday and next weekend, 10am to 5pm each day

THE newly formed Vault Arts Centre community interest company, in Kirkbymoorside, is coordinating this inaugural Ryedale Open Studios event, celebrating the creativity and artistic talent of Ryedale and the North York Moors.

Artists, makers and creators will be offering both an exclusive glimpse into their workplaces and the opportunity to buy art works directly. Full details of all 33 artists can be found at; a downloadable map at

Serena Manteghi: Performing in Eurydice at Theatre At The Mill this weekend

Hit and myth show of the week: Eurydice, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, Saturday and Sunday, 7.30pm

THIS weekend, Serena Manteghi returns to the play she helped to create with writer Alexander Wright, composer Phil Grainger and fellow performer Casey Jane Andrews with Fringe award-winning success in Australia in 2019.

Manteghi, a tour de force in the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Build A Rocket, will be joined by Grainger for the tale about being a daily superhero and not giving in to the stories we tell ourselves.

Woven from spoken word and soaring live music, Eurydice is the stand-alone sister show to Orpheus; her untold story imagined and reimagined for the modern-day and told from her perspective. Box office:

Kaiser Chiefs: Yorkshire anthems galore at Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Sunday

Yorkshire gig of the week outside York: Kaiser Chiefs, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Sunday, gates open at 6pm

LEEDS lads Kaiser Chiefs promise a “no-holds-barred rock’n’roll celebration” on their much-requested return to Scarborough OAT after their May 27 2017 debut.

“We cannot wait to get back to playing live shows again and it will be great to return to this stunning Yorkshire venue,” says frontman Ricky Wilson. “We had a cracking night there in 2017, so roll on August 8!”

Expect a Sunday night of such Yorkshire anthems as Oh My God, I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less And Less, Ruby, Never Miss A Beat and Hole In My Soul. Box office:

Simon Amstell’s hippy-chic poster for his autumn tour show, Spirit Hole, visiting York, Sheffield and Leeds in the autumn

Comedy gig announcement of the week: Simon Amstell, Spirit Hole, Grand Opera House, York, September 25, 8pm

INTROSPECTIVE, abjectly honest comedian Simon Amstell will play the Grand Opera House, York, for the first time since 2012 on his 38-date Spirit Hole autumn tour.

Agent provocateur Amstell, 41, will deliver a “blissful, spiritual, sensational exploration of love, sex, shame mushrooms and more” on a tour with further Yorkshire gigs at The Leadmill, Sheffield, on September 12 and Leeds Town Hall on October 1.

York tickets are on sale at; York, Sheffield and Leeds at

Look sharp! Tickets are on sale for Joe Jackson’s second-ever York concert…next March

York gig announcement of the week: Joe Jackson, York Barbican, March 17 2022

JOE Jackson will play York for only the second time in his 43-year career on his Sing, You Sinners! tour next year.

Jackson, who turns 67 on August 11, will perform both solo and with a band at York Barbican in the only Yorkshire show of his 29-date British and European tour, promising hits and new material.

“We’ve been dealing with two viruses over the past two years, and the worst – the one we really need to put behind us – is Fear,” he says. “Love is the opposite of fear, so if you love live music, come out and support it!” Box office:

Sheridan Smith to play Cilla a lorra, lorra more times on tour that visits Leeds Grand

The poster for Sheridan Smith’s return to playing Cilla Black, this time on tour in Cilla The Musical

SHERIDAN Smith will revisit her portrayal of Cilla Black in Cilla The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre from November 9 to 21.

She first played the late Liverpool pop star and television presenter in Jeff Pope’s award-winning ITV mini-series Cilla in 2015.

The part was written for Smith originally for a stage show but was then transferred to television, whereupon her performance won her a 2015 National TV Award and TV Choice Award and she was nominated for a BAFTA and EMMY Award too.

Now, expecting a baby in May, 38-year-old Smith has agreed to step inside the role of Cilla once more in impresario Bill Kenwright’s stage production, penned again by Pope.

Sheridan Smith in the role of Cilla Black for ITV’s 2015 mini-series Cilla

Her past theatre credits include her first Olivier Award nomination for Little Shop Of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London, and her first Olivier Award and WhatsOnStage Award for playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical.

Smith, from Epworth, near Doncaster, then won an Olivier Award and an Evening Standard Theatre Award for her role as Doris in Flare Path. Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at The Old Vic brought her another WhatsOnStage Best Actress Award and she enjoyed a celebrated run in the West End as Fanny Bryce in Funny Girl in 2018.

Cilla The Musical’s heart-warming musical adaptation of Pope’s television series first toured in 2017, when nominated for Best New Musical in the WhatsOnStage Awards.

Kara Lily Hayworth played Cilla after ten rounds of auditions and a final four sing-off at The Cavern in Liverpool for the tour that visited the Grand Opera House, York, in January 2018.

Kara Lily Hayworth played Cilla in the tour of Cilla The Musical that visited the Grand Opera House, York, in January 2018

Directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson, Pope’s story “follows the extraordinary life of an ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame”.

By the age of 25, she was recognised as international singing star Cilla Black. By 30, she had become Britain’s favourite television entertainer, leading to such series as  Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

The musical score features such Cilla landmarks as Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me.

Tickets are on sale on 0844 848 2700 or at

Did you know?

JEFF Pope wrote the screenplays for Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman; Essex Boys; Philomenaand Stan & Ollie. His television work includes the BAFTA-winning ITV drama Mrs Biggs and Cilla, both starring Sheridan Smith.