KANDER & Ebb wrote Cabaret, Chicago and Frank Sinatra’s signature song, New York, New York.
In truth, Curtains is not on a par with those peaks, being a musical, satirical comedy and whodunit rolled into a play within a play that excels at none of them.
A recipe with so many rich ingredients might have even Paul Hollywood worried, and what happens here is that nothing quite satisfies, although that is no fault of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s exuberant cast, director Alex Schofield, musical director Scott Phillips and orchestra alike.
The comedy sometimes has to strive too hard in its clunky send-ups of theatre group tropes and murder mysteries alike. Under Scott Phillips’s ceaselessly exuberant musical direction, his wind and brass players are full of oomph, as the songs are given maximum welly, particularly by Jennie Wogan-Wells’s Georgia Hendricks, Jennifer Jones’s Niki Harris and Rosy Rowley’s redoubtable Carmen Bernstein, but they fall well short of K&E’s Seventies’ best.
The whodunit interweaves with the hapless play within a play, a boisterous but seemingly plotless Western by the name of Robbin’ Hood, but it never has the grip, rising tension or intrigue of a Christie murder mystery. The more the plot thickens, somehow the more it doesn’t, because the musical must go on, in theatre tradition…but just too much is going on.
This 2007 American musical, with a book by Escape (The Pina Colada Song) hitmaker Rupert Holmes, is set in 1959, backstage and on stage at the Colonial Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts, where the exasperating, line-forgetting leading lady of a new musical mysteriously suddenly dies (much like her performance, not so mysteriously).
Everyone, cast and crew alike, is a suspect for forensic interrogation by Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Steve Jobson), the unconventional local detective with a passion for musical theatre. So much so, he keeps making suggestions to improve the musical (within the musical, not the K&E musical itself, which might have been a better idea).
You will enjoy the running in-joke of the song In The Same Boat forever being re-written in search of a better tune before Cioffi has the brilliant idea of running all five versions together in the best ensemble number of the show.
Unlike Holmes’s humour, Jobson has a lightness of touch to his performance, at ease with song and script alike, his Cioffi being plucky and persistent, and suddenly romantically involved too.
In a show where individual performances surpass the material, Wogan-Wells has fun as the indefatigable Georgia, taking over from the murdered lead, while Ben Huntley revels in being the Englishman abroad and aghast, Christopher Belling, the director with the waspish tongue and ocean-wide ego.
Curtains is too long, too convoluted, never as funny as a Mischief send-up, but JRTC’s production values are good, from costumes to lighting and Ollie Nash’s sound design. Choreographer Sarah Colestead, principals, featured dancers and ensemble, are kept busy by the flow of song after song and in turn keep the stage busy with commotion in motion.
As usual, JRTC will be raising funds for the JoRo, adding to the £23,000 donated from past productions. That all helps to keep the curtain up, even if Curtains doesn’t raise the roof, despite the committed performances.
Curtains for Curtains, a whydoit dud, but roll on JRTC’s upcoming shows, Helen Spencer’s second instalament of Musicals In The Multiverse and Beauty And The Beast.
Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
A GLUT of York theatre companies, a nocturnal sky festival, a Yorkshire musical and a colourful installation light up the dark nights of February for culture guide Charles Hutchinson.
Social drama of the week: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 5.30pm
DEVISED by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in London, this 90-minute play highlighting the social damage inflicted by zero-hours contracts forms York Actors Collective’s second production, directed by founder Angie Millard.
Performed by Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent, Beyond Caring follows meat-packing factory cleaners Becky, Grace and Sam on the night shift as they confront the reality of low wage employment, never sure whether their ‘job’ will continue. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Late Music at the double: Steve Bingham, violin and electronics, 1pm today; Robert Rice, baritone, and William Vann, piano, 7.30pm tonight, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York
PET Shop Boys’ It’s A Sin chills with Bach’s Allemande in D minor, while a tango from Piazzolla is thrown in for good measure, as Steve Bingham explores four centuries of solo violin music this afternoon. World premieres of David Power’s Miniatures, Wayne Siegel’s Salamander (violin and electronics) and Rowan Alfred’s Cuckoo Phase will be performed too.
York composer David Power has curated Robert Rice and William Vann’s evening recital, featuring the first complete performance of Power’s Three Char Songs (1985 and 2016). Works by Gerald Finzi, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, Herbert Howells, Robert Walker, William Rhys Meek, Charlotte Marlow, Liz Dilnot Johnson, David Lancaster, Hannah Garton, Ruth Lee, Hayley Jenkins and Phillip Cooke. Power gives a pre-concert talk at 6.45pm with a complimentary glass of wine or juice. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.
Nautical adventure of the week: York Light Opera Company in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, York Theatre Royal, February 7 to 17, except February 12
BASED on the classic 1989 Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid tells the enchanting story of Ariel, a mermaid who dreams of trading her tail for legs and exploring the human world. Aided by her mischievous sidekick, Flounder, and the cunning Ursula, Ariel strikes a bargain that will change her life forever.
Martyn Knight’s production for York Light features stunning projection, dazzling costumes, unforgettable musical numbers, such as Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl, and choreography by Rachael Whitehead. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Installation launch of the week: Colour & Light, York Art Gallery, February 7 to 25
YORK BID is linking up with York Museums Trust for the return of Colour & Light: an innovative project that will transform the facade of York Art Gallery to counter the cold winter with a vibrant light installation.
This “high impact and large-scale visual arts project” uses 3D projection mapping to bring York’s iconic buildings to life, first York Minster last year, now York Art Gallery, where the projection will play every ten minutes from 6pm to 9pm daily in a non-ticketed free event.
It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes.
Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Touring musical of the week: Calendar Girls The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees
YOU know the story, the one where a husband’s death to leukaemia prompts a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute to do an extraordinary thing, whereupon they set about creating a nude calendarto raise money for charity.
Premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2015, Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical is now touring with a cast of music, stage and television stars. Baring all will be Laurie Brettas Annie;Liz Carneyas Marie; Helen Pearson as Celia; Samantha Seager as Chris; Maureen Nolan as Ruth; Lyn Paul as Jessie and Honeysuckle Weeks as Cora. Once more the tour supports Blood Cancer UK. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
English manners of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Separate Tables, York Theatre Royal Studio, February 8 to 17, 7.45pm except Sunday and Monday, plus 2pm Saturday matinees
AFTER directing four Russian plays by Chekhov, Helen Wilson turns her attention to Separate Tables, two very English Terence Rattigan tales of love and loss, set in a shabby Bournemouth hotel in the 1950s.
Guests, both permanent and transient, sit on separate tables, a formality that underlines the loneliness of these characters in a play about class, secrets and repressed emotions. Chris Meadley, Paul French, Molly Kay, Jess Murray, Marie-Louise Feeley, Caroline Greenwood and Linda Fletcher are among the Settlement cast. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Festival of the month: North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival, February 9 to 25
TEAMING up for the ninth time since 2016, the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park authorities celebrate the jewels of God’s Own Country’s night sky this month.
Discover nocturnal activities to heighten the senses such as the Dark Skies Experience (February 9 to 25) night navigation (February 16); trail run and yoga (February 17, sold out); canoeing; planet trail and constellation trail at Aysgarth Falls (February 9 to 25); astrophotography workshops at Castle Howard (February 22), stargazing safaris, children’s daytime trails, art workshops and mindful experiences. More details: darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk; yorkshiredales.org.uk/things-to-do/whats-on/shows/dark-skies-festival/.
Outdoor gig announcement of the week: Richard Ashcroft, Forest Live, Dalby Forest, near Pickering, June 23
FORESTRY England completes its Forest Live return to Dalby Forest for the first time since 2019 with Richard Ashcroft, the two-time Ivor Novello Award-winning Wigan singer, songwriter and frontman of The Verve.
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and disco icons Nile Rodgers & CHIC were confirmed already for June 21 and 22 respectively. New addition Ashcroft’s set list will draw on his five solo albums, along with The Verve’s anthems Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man and Sonnet. Leeds band Apollo Junction will be supporting. Box office: forestlive.com.
In Focus: York Ice Trail, City of Dreams, York city centre, today and tomorrow, from 10am
THE theme for York Ice Trail 2024 transforms York into the City of Dreams, inviting visitors to dream big.
The last York Ice Trail, in February 2023, drew 40,000 visitors to York to view 36 sculptures. Organised by Make It York, the 2024 event again sees the “coolest” sculptures line the streets of York, each conceived and sponsored by businesses and designed and created by ice specialist Icebox.
Sarah Loftus, Make It York managing director, says: “York Ice Trail is one of the most-loved events in the city for residents and visitors alike, and we’re excited to be bringing it back for another year in 2024.
“It’s a huge celebration of our city and businesses, and the concept will inspire everyone’s inner child, encouraging people to let their imagination run wild.”
Icebox managing director Greg Pittard says: “Returning to York for the 2024 Ice Trail is a true honour for us. The York Ice Trail holds a special place in our hearts, and we are thrilled to bring this year’s theme to life.
“Our talented team of ice carvers pour their passion into crafting magnificent ice sculptures that will transport visitors to a world of wonder and delight.”
The 2024 ice sculptures:
Our City Of Dreams, provided by Make It York, Parliament Street.
A Field Of Dreams, Murton Park, Parliament Street.
A Journey In ice, Grand Central, Parliament Street.
City Of Trees, Dalby Forest, Parliament Street.
Chasing Rainbows, in celebration of York band Shed Seven topping the UK official album chart in January, York Mix Radio, Parliament Street.
I’m Late, I’m Late! For A Very Important Date!, Ate O’Clock, High Ousegate.
Sewing Like A Dream, Gillies Fabrics, Peter Lane.
Mythical Beasts: The Yeti, York BID, Walmgate.
Hop On Your Bike, Spark:York, Piccadilly (Spark:York will be open from 12 noon).
Belle Of The Ball, York Castle Museum, Eye of York.
IT’S curtain up for Curtains, the Kander & Ebb musical comedy whodunnit to be staged by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in York from February 7 to 10.
After playing grouchy feed-store proprietor Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! last year and assistant-directing The Producers in 2018, Kiss Me Kate in 2019, Made In Dagenham in 2020 and Kipps (The Half A Sixpence Musical) in 2022, Alex Schofield steps up to direct a JRTC show for the first time.
“By the time I did Hello, Dolly!,I’d already pitched to direct Curtains, after we secured the rights in spring 2022,” says Alex, who works in human resources at York Minster. “Initially, we’d looked at doing it last September but that couldn’t happen, and it’s one of those situations where it still won’t feel real until the opening night as I’ve been planning it for so long.
“I became aware of the show just before the pandemic when Jason Manford was leading the touring company in 2019 and then transferred into the West End. It came more into my provenance when it was one of those productions that could be streamed during lockdown with donations to arts funding, and that’s when I first saw it.”
This 2007 American musical, with glorious songs by Kander & Ebb and a witty and charming book by Rupert Holmes, is set in 1959 at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in a plucky local detective’s investigation into why the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dropped dead on stage.
“It’s a really funny show, sending up murder mysteries and theatre groups, so that’s all three of my boxes ticked: I love comedy, I love musical theatre and I love whodunits!” says Alex, who first directed a show, The Pirates Of Penzance, for the now-defunct Jorvik Gilbert & Sullivan Company seven years ago.
“I think people should be attracted to Curtains by Kander & Ebb’s involvement. It’ll have the appeal of a classic musical; it’s very fast paced and very funny, but it has loads of tension as well, with all these characters who have different motives for murder.”
Scripted by Rupert Holmes, who was brought in after Peter Stone, the writer of the original concept and book, died in 2003, Curtains features a play within a play. A Western, cowboy accents and all, by the name of Robbin’ Hood.
“You think, ‘how extreme can I make it from real life?’, with the auditions needing to see if people could do both a generic American accent and Southwestern [American frontier] accent so that the audience can distinguish between characters in the play and characters in the play within the play,” says Alex.
Comedy is a key element in Curtains. “It doesn’t take itself seriously and in some ways it speaks more to the English sense of humour, in how it sends itself up, but what separates it from English humour is that what they say is much more direct, whereas in England, it’s all about what’s not being said!” says Alex.
“Mind you, the director of the play within the play [Christopher Belling] is English and he’s very flamboyant, never holding back with his criticisms. I don’t think that if I took his approach there would be many people left in the company! I take a more compromising position.
“The director will be played by Ben Huntley, who’s been in our shows since Kiss Me Kate in smaller roles, so to give him this opportunity and see him shine in this principal role has been fantastic.”
Set up to raise funds for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, JRTC has raised £23,000 from its productions so far, and once more proceeds will go the Haxby Road community theatre. “One of the advantages of this show, especially when we’re fundraising for the Rowntree Theatre, is that it’s a show about theatre, so we’ve made the theatre itself the set, with pretty minimal staging required for the play within the play,” says Alex.
Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in Curtains, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 7 to 10, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
WHAT lies ahead in the New Year? Charles Hutchinson picks his path through highlights across the city’s venues.
It’s only A Matter Of Time before: Shed Seven release their new album
YORK band Shed Seven will mark the January 5 release of their sixth studio album, A Matter Of Time, on new home Cooking Vinyl with a meet & greet/signing session that day at HMV, in Coney Street, York, at 4.30pm (tickets: shedsevenn.lnk.to/instores). Their midday appearance and stripped-back performance on the same day at Vinyl Whistle, in Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, has sold out.
In the summertime, when the weather is hopefully fine, The Sheds will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a brace of outdoor concerts in York Museum Gardens on July 19 and 20, supported by Peter Doherty, no less. Both have sold out already. Box office: seetickets.com.
It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 7 to 10, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes. Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Beta times ahead: Brudenell Presents Steve Mason, The Crescent, York, January 30, 7.30pm
SCOTTISH indie songwriter Steve Mason, founder of The Beta Band, returns to The Crescent as part of Independent Venue Week. Combining a rare melodic gift with an itch to experiment, as heard on his 2023 album Brothers & Sisters, he investigates where the boundaries lie between the craft of songwriting, technology and free expression.
Taking part in Independent Venue Week too will be Leeds band English Teacher, whose January 28 night of dreamy pop and post-punk noise has sold out already. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Dinosaurs take over York: Jurassic Live 2024 World Tour, York Barbican, February 16, 5pm; February 17, 11am and 3pm; February 18, 1pm
LIFE-SIZED monstrous beasts roar into York in an interactive all-star theatrical spectacular featuring the world’s only Tylosaurus in a giant tank (new for 2024), the last flying Pterodactyl, a Tyrannosaurus Rex called Suzie and more dinosaur species than any other show on Earth.
Join little Amber, Ranger Joe, Ranger Nora and the rest of the Jurassic Live rangers on a musical journey to help save the day from an evil man who is trying to shut down the Jurassic facility. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Most anticipated touring musical: Pretty Woman: The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday
BILLED as “Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage”, Pretty Woman: The Musical is set once upon a time in the late 1980s, when Vivian (Amber Davies) meets Edward (Oliver Savile) and her life is changed forever.
Strictly champ Ore Oduba’s Happy Man/Mr Thompson and Natalie Paris’s Kit De Luca will be in the cast too for a musical featuring original music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
World premiere of the season: Emma Rice’s Wise Children in Blue Beard, York Theatre Royal, February 27 to March 9, 7.30pm and 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees
BLUE Beard will be Wise Children’s fourth visit to York after Wise Children, Malory Towers and Wuthering Heights, this time in a co-production between Emma Rice’s Bristol company, York Theatre Royal, Birmingham Rep, HOME Manchester and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.
Rice brings her brand of theatrical wonder to the beguiling and disturbing folk tale of Bluebeard meeting his match when his young bride discovers his dark and murderous secret. Summoning all her rage, all her smarts and all her sisters, she vows to bring the curtain down on his tyrannous reign. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Welcome home: Rob Auton, The Rob Auton Show, Burning Duck Comedy Club, The Crescent, York, February 28, 7.30pm
AFTER nine Edinburgh Fringe shows on themes as diverse as the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking, time and crowds, York writer, comedian, artist and actor Rob Auton delivers his most autobiographical work, exploring the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Comedy comeback : Rhod Gilbert & The Giant Grapefruit, York Barbican, June 20, 8pm
IN his last show, The Book Of John, firebrand Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert dealt with “some pretty pungent life citrus” and an idiot called John. Little did he know that things were about to turn even more sour.
Gilbert, 55, required surgery for metastatic cancer of the head and neck as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, receiving his first clear cancer scan in October after undergoing treatment.
“Not bitter, he’s bouncing back and feeling remarkably zesty”, returning with a dark, passionate and way-too-personal tour show that squeezes every last drop out of life’s latest curveballs…with a little help from an old adversary. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Even further ahead:Jason Donovan, Doin’ Fine 25 Tour, York Barbican, March 8 2025, 8pm
IF 2023 was the year of Kylie, all that attention on Tension, Padam Padam and ITV’s An Audience With, then 2025, yes 2025, promises a York date with her Neighbours beau, Jason Donovan, in celebration of his “incredible ride” through 35 years in music, theatre, film and television.
His long-awaited sequel to Doin’ Fine 90 will feature Jason’s most beloved songs from his stage shows, nods to his TV times in Neighbours and Strictly Come Dancing and his biggest pop hits. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
In Focus: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, cleaning up from February 6 to 10
YORK Actors Collective follows March 2023’s debut production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloanewith Beyond Caring, a play that highlights the social damage inflicted by zero hours contracts.
Devised by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in East London in 2014, later transferring to the National Theatre, the story of agency cleaners at a meat factory will be directed in York by Angie Millard, working with a cast of Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent.
Over 90 unbroken minutes, Beyond Caring follows two women, Becky and Grace, and one man, Sam (replacing Sarah from past productions in a directorial decision), as they confront the reality of low wage, zero-hour contract employment, never sure of how many hours they have to work, when they will be paid and whether their ‘job’ will continue.
Director Angie Millard says: “This play is remarkable in its structure and power. It totally represents 2024 where many workers are on the breadline, trapped in employment with no guarantee of further work and no way to improve their position.
“What drew me to the play, however, is the message it conveys about people surviving and keeping a sense of humour. I loved the intensity of the piece with its silences, its disappointments and its determination to get pleasure out of the smallest things. It gave me hope.”
Stage managed by Em Peattie, Millard’s production will play nightly at 7.30pm, Tuesday to Friday, followed by Saturday shows at 2.30 and 5.30pm. “Ticket sales for our first production indicated that a Saturday matinee was very popular,” says Angie.
“We thought that having two early Saturday performances would give the audience an opportunity to see the show and still have time to go for a drink or meal afterwards, making a night of it.” Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre will stage the northern premiere of Mel Brooks’s musical Young Frankenstein in the New Year after the late postponement of last autumn’s run at the Grand Opera House.
Andrew Isherwood has picked up the directorial reins for this stage conversion of Brooks’s comedy horror movie, produced in York by artistic director and designer Robert Readman.
Rehearsals re-started in early December for the January 31 to February 3 run at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, with the original principal cast still in place and Helen Spencer assisting with production management.
“This show is by the creators of the record-breaking Broadway sensation The Producers,” says Robert. “The comedy genius Mel Brooks has adapted his legendary comedy film from 1974 into a brilliant stage show of Young Frankenstein. I saw the West End production and loved it.
“Every bit as relevant to audience members who will remember the original as it will be to newcomers, the musical has all the of panache of the screen sensation with a little extra theatrical flair added. Young Frankenstein is scientifically proven, monstrously good entertainment.”
In Brooks’s spoof, the grandson of infamous scientist Victor Frankenstein, Dr Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”, he insists), has inherited his family’s castle estate in Transylvania.
Aided and hindered by hunchbacked sidekick Igor (pronounced “Eye-gore”), leggy lab assistant Inga (pronounced normally), devilishly sexy Frau Blucher (“Neigh”!) and needy fiancée Elizabeth (“Surprise”!), Frederick finds himself filling the mad scientist shoes of his ancestor.
After initial reluctance, his mission will be to strive to fulfil his grandfather’s legacy by bringing a corpse back to life. “It’s alive!”, he exclaims as his experiment yields a creature to rival his grandfather’s monster. Eventually, and inevitably, this new monster escapes.
Working in tandem with Thomas Meehan, Brooks gleefully reanimates his horror-movie send-up of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, with even more jokes, set-pieces and barnstorming parody songs that stick a pitchfork into good taste. Among those songs will be Puttin’ On The Ritz, Please Don’t Touch Me, He Vas My Boyfriend, The Transylvania Mania and There Is Nothing Like A Brain!, among many more Transylvanian smash hits.
Leading Pick Me Up’s cast will be former world squash champion James Willstrop, continuing his transfer from court to stage player as Dr Frankenstein after his Captain Von Trapp in Pick Me Up’s The Sound Of Music at Theatre@41, Monkgate, last Christmas.
Starring opposite him again will be Swedish-born Sanna Jeppsson (Maria in The Sound Of Music), here cast as Inga, while Jack Hooper, Mr Poppy in York Stage’s Nativity! The Musical in November 2022, will be Dr Frankenstein’s puppy dog of an assistant, Igor, “the classic Hammer Horror sidekick with a hump that keeps moving around”.
Helen Spencer (Mother Abbess in The Sound Of Music and Dolly Levi in Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Hello, Dolly!) will play Frau Blucher, “the very stern housekeeper with surprising hidden depths”; Jennie Wogan-Wells, the Narrator in York Musical Theatre Company’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last May, will be ingenue Elizabeth Benning, Frankenstein’s fiancée from America. “Think Legally Blonde,” says Helen. “Very conscious of her image; very high maintenance, throwing a spanner in the works when she turns up.”
Craig Kirby (Tom Oakley in Pick Me Up’s Goodnight Mr Tom) will be in Monster mode and further roles will go to Tom Riddolls as Sgt Kemp, Sam Steel as Bertram Bartam and Andrew Isherwood, fresh from directing Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None for Pick Me Up last September, can be spotted as The Hermit as well as directing.
A supporting ensemble will play Transylvanians, students and more besides. Choreography is by Ilana Weets and the orchestra will be led by musical maestro Sam Johnson.
Readman had to call off Pick Me Up’s Halloween double bill of Emma Reeves and Lucy Potter’s The Worst Witch and Young Frankenstein at the Grand Opera House due to unforeseen circumstances. It has not been possible to re-mount Rosy Rowley’s production of The Worst Witch, featuring a young cast, but Young Frankenstein will take over the JoRo slot allocated originally to Pick Me Up’s now jettisoned production of Chicago, whose principal casting was in place, but whose rehearsals were yet to start.
Helen Spencer is relishing the resumption of rehearsals for Young Frankenstein. “Ilana had already put us through a huge amount of tap-dancing work: a very delayed return to tap in my case, having not done it since school, and she’s been very patient,” she says. “We’re having such fun again.
“Young Frankenstein is very silly with some brilliant numbers and really vibrant comedy, and we’re very lucky to have such amazing actors. Robert says it’s the best principal cast he could have wished for, such a safe pair of hands and so skilled that it would have been such a shame not to have done it. Thankfully we’re going ahead in January.”
Pick Me Up Theatre in Young Frankenstein, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 31 to February 32024, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk
NEWSFLASHES…Curtains…The Hollywood Sisters…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Musical Theatre Awards…Musicals In The Multiverse…
JOSEPH Rowntree Theatre Company’s next show will be Curtains, the 2007 Broadway musical mystery comedy with a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by John Kander and additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes.
What’s the plot? Boston’s Colonial Theatre is host to the opening night performance of a new musical in 1959. When the leading lady – a fading Hollywood star and diva, who has no right to be one – dies mysteriously on stage, the entire cast and crew are suspects.
Enter a local detective – and musical theatre fan to boot – who tries to save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, all without being killed.
Delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes await you from February 7 to 10 at 7.30pm nightly plus a 2.30pm Saturday matinee. In the cast will be Steven Jobson, Jennifer Jones, Jennie Wogan-Wells, Rosy Rowley, Jonathan Wells, Paul Blenkiron, Ben Huntley, Jennifer Payne, Anthony Gardner, Chris Gibson and Jamie Benson, among others.
Proceeds from ticket sales on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk will go to the JoRo.
AFTER raising £1,000 for York Mind at their sold-out December 1 concert at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York close-harmony quartet The Hollywood Sisters – Helen Spencer, Cat Foster, Rachel Higgs and Henrietta Linnemann – willreturn there for another charity Christmas show with special guests next December. Watch this space for further details.
THE inaugural Joseph Rowntree Theatre Musical Theatre Awards will be launched formally in January. Watch this space.
Set up by the JoRo, the awards will run annually. “We’ve put out requests to all the companies that do full-book musicals in York, not specifically at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre,” says York actress, singer and director Helen Spencer, who is helping to run the awards with co-founder Nick Sephton. “At least seven companies have said they want to be involved.
“The way it works, each company nominates a judge; the judges will get together at the end of the year to decide who the winners are, with such categories as Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Choreographer, and then the awards ceremony will be held at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Oscars style, in January.”
Explaining the concept behind the awards, Helen says: “The idea is to celebrate the amazing musical theatre scene we have in York and the amazing community we have that puts on these shows. This is a chance to celebrate all that creativity in our city.”
TO quote CharlesHutchPress, from the June 30 review, “Musicals In The Multiverse turns out to be out of this world. A sequel will surely follow.”
Happy to report that this Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company revue will return to the JoRo in June 2024, dates yet to be confirmed.
Directed by Helen Spencer, the show’s modus operandi is “playful, radical too, and has the potential to be rolled out again,” as CharlesHutchPress wrote of June’s inaugural two-night run.
“Imagine alternative worlds – a multiverse – where musical favourites take on a new life with a change of gender, era, key or musical style, arranged with glee, joy and flourish after flourish by musical director Matthew Peter Clare for his smart band”. More details of the sequel will follow.