Dame Berwick’s Dick Turpin Rides Again held up until December 2021 by Covid-19

Highway robbery: The curse of Covid-19 strikes again as Berwick Kaler’s comeback pantomime, Dick Turpin Rides Again, will be held up until 2021. Here Dame Berwick is pictured with A J Powell, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass at the Valentine’s Day launch at the Grand Opera House

DAME Berwick Kaler’s pantomime, Dick Turpin, will NOT Ride Again at the Grand Opera House, York, this Christmas.

Faced by the Government’s decision not to remove social-distancing requirements for theatres amid the rise in Covid-19 infections, Ambassador Theatre Group and pantomime producers Qdos Entertainment are moving Dick Turpin Rides Again to December 2021/January 2022.

Dame Berwick and his regular team of villain David Leonard, comic stooge Martin Barrass, perennial principal gal Suzy Cooper and luverly Brummie A J Cooper were to have made their Grand Opera House pantomime debut this winter after their headline-making, bittersweet crosstown transfer from York Theatre Royal.

In an official statement today, Kaler said: “Having secured the backing of the world’s leading pantomime producer Qdos, and knowing their commitment to save our acclaimed panto, I’m devastated that our loyal audience is going to have to wait until next year to see what we had planned for them.

“Hence, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Qdos and the wonderful staff of the York Grand Opera House who welcomed myself, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David with open arms. Dick Turpin will ride again for Christmas 2021. It’s a long time to wait for a laugh but I can assure you it will be worth it, and we’ll all be at the Grand Opera House to greet you all.” 

Rachel Lane, theatre director of the Cumberland Street theatre, added: “With the current Government guidance still unclear on when venues can open without social distancing in place, we have decided with our pantomime partner Qdos Entertainment to postpone the production of Dick Turpin Rides Again until Christmas 2021.

“We’re delighted that Berwick, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David are still able to join us next year.  We’ll contact customers directly in due course to move their bookings on a year; they don’t need to take any action at this stage.”

Dame Berwick, who will turn 74 on October 31, had played the Theatre Royal dame over a 40-year span before making his grand exit in The Grand Old Dame Of York, waving goodbye in February 2019, but Britain’s longest-serving dame regretted his decision, even more so when he wrote and co-directed last winter’s show, Sleeping Beauty, wherein Barrass played the nearest role to a dame, The Queen.

Dame Berwick made an impromptu, emotional speech to the last-night home crowd on January 25 in an atmosphere increasingly akin to a bear pit, in the wake of executive director Tom Bird and the board’s decision to break the chain after more than four decades of the distinctive Kaler brand of pantomime comic mayhem.

Only five days later, the switch to the Grand Opera House was announced, and the familiar five assembled on February 14 to launch ticket sales for Dick Turpin Rides Again, a new beginning for comeback-dame Kaler and the Grand Opera House alike, in tandem with Britain’s biggest pantomime producer, Qdos.

On February 3, York Theatre Royal announced a new partnership with Evolution Pantomimes, regular pantomime award winners who duly chalked up another success, taking home the Best Panto award [for750 to 1,500-seat theatres] for Cinderella at Sheffield Lyceum in the 2020 Great British Pantomime Awards.

Scripted by Evolution director and producer Paul Hendy, Cinderella would have been the new partners’ debut show at the Theatre Royal until Covid-19 enforced a change of plan. Hendy will now write scripts for three pantomimes, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and Jack And The Beanstalk, for the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime.

The tour starring York actor, panto comic turn and magician Josh Benson, will take in all 21 York wards in December and January, when audience members at each show will vote for which show they want to see.

Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes take to their living rooms as Your Place Comedy returns

At the double: Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes take to their living rooms for a night of comedy on August 30

YORKSHIRE virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy will return after a brief summer break to deliver a second series of live streamed shows over the next three months, re-starting with Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes.

Corralled by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones, ten small, independent theatres and arts centres from God’s Own Country and the Humber are coming together again, at a time of continued uncertainty for the industry, to provide entertainment from national touring acts.

“None of the venues involved in the project are able to operate in any meaningful way under social-distancing regulations, which are in place until November at the very earliest,” says Chris.

“So we’ve decided to pull together another series of three, monthly shows that will take us up to a time when possibly, with a steady and consistent wind in the right direction, we are able to open our doors again.”

Broadcast live to viewers’ homes for free, Your Place Comedy season two will begin on Sunday, August 30 with Paul Sinha, star of ITV’s The Chase, BBC television and radio regular and one-time Grand Opera House pantomime baddie in York, and Angela Barnes, 2020 guest host of BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz and frequent Mock the Week panellist on BBC Two.

Paul Sinha: Quiz champion, panto baddie and living-room comedy act

Each will deliver a set direct from their own home to yours, with full details on how to watch the 8pm show on YouTube and Twitch at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

“As before, viewers will have an option to make a donation if they have enjoyed the broadcast,” says Chris. “All money raised will be distributed equally among the ten supporting venues, none of which is likely to host live performances for the foreseeable future, having already been shut for over five months.”

Sinha has appeared on BBC 5 Live’s Fighting Talk and BBC Radio 4’s Just A Minute, The News Quiz, The Now Show, Loose Ends and his own Rose d’Or-winning series Paul Sinha’s History Revision, as well as on BBC Two’s QI and Dave’s Taskmaster.

“A general knowledge expert, Paul is perhaps best known as The Chase’s ‘Sinnerman’ and is also the reigning British Quizzing champion,” says Chris.

Angela Barnes, a former winner of the BBC New Comedy Award, has presented four series of BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Newsjack and has appeared on BBC Two’s Live At The Apollo.

Angela Barnes: Will she be sitting down or standing up for her Live From Her Living Room comedy set on August 30?

Both Sinha and Barnes have chalked up multiple sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and their August 30 show takes place on what would have been the 2020 festival’s closing weekend until Covid-19 played its killjoy hand.

Your Place Comedy is a venue-driven initiative that seeks to re-establish the traditional relationship between venue, performer and audience, lost temporarily during the Coronavirus crisis.

“The participating venues have all pledged funds to both support the performers involved and to provide their audiences with entertainment from the kind of artists who, in normal times, would have been appearing in their local arts centre or theatre,” says Chris, who manages both Selby Town Hall and Otley Courthouse.

Those two venues are joined in round two of the virtual venture by The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Helmsley Arts Centre; Howden Shire Hall; Junction, Goole; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.

Looking not so jolly with his brolly: Your Place Comedy regular host Tim FitzHigham

“At the start of the pandemic, I don’t think any venues or performers envisaged that, five months in, they would be contemplating the possibility of no live performances taking place for the remainder of 2020,” says Chris.

“While we’re still unable to host live events inside our venues, the arts centres and theatres who came together to create Your Place Comedy are determined to continue delivering shows for their audiences and providing work for artists.”

Exit Edinburgh 2020, re-enter Your Place Comedy. “A big feature of the first show is that it takes place on what would have been the final Sunday of the Edinburgh Fringe,” says Chris. “Both Paul and Angela are Edinburgh stalwarts and should have been performing the last of their nearly month-long run of shows, before embarking on tours throughout autumn.

“We’re thrilled that they’ve decided to spend that time with us instead, joining us via the wonders of modern technology, keeping spirits up across Yorkshire as we look forward to a time when we can all get together again and share the joy of communal laughter.” 

The August 30 event will be compered remotely once more by Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge. Previously, he hosted Mark Beaumont and Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont in April; prankster Simon Brodkin and Have I Got News For You panellist-in-lockdown Maisie Adam in May and BBC Radio 4 comedy stalwarts Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans in June.

Hullarious: Lucy Beaumont starred in the first lockdown Your Place Comedy night in April

Will Dick Turpin Ride Again or not at Grand Opera House? Qdos Entertainment panto decision upcoming for Berwick and co…

We’ll meet again…or will they? AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass settle into the Grand Opera House auditorium at the launch of Dick Turpin Rides Again on February 14, but now Qdos Entertainment have a decision to make. PIcture: David Harrison

BUMPING into Martin Barrass last night beneath At The Mill’s magical open-air theatre tent at Stillington Mill set the mind to pondering the fate of his winter pantomime in York.

Will comic stooge Martin bounce back with Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and A J Powell in veteran Dame Berwick Kaler’s panto debut at the Grand Opera House this Christmas after their shock transfer to Qdos Entertainment from York Theatre Royal?

Here is the latest statement from Qdos, the pantomime powerhouse across the land, amid the continuing blight of Covid-19’s social-distancing requirements leaving theatres in the dark.

“We had been very clear that we required clarity from the Government regarding the re-opening of theatres by Monday, 3 August, in order for our pantomime season as we know it to take place,” the statement read.

Martin Barrass in his last York Theatre Royal pantomime role as Queen Ariadne in Sleeping Beauty. Picture: Anthony Robling

“Based on the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s reiteration last week that the Government won’t be providing further guidance on theatres operating without social distancing until November at the earliest, we are left with no choice but to begin the consultation process with our partner theatres about the viability of each show. This is a complex process and will take several weeks to complete.

“We are not immediately announcing the postponement of all shows, however plans will be announced by individual theatres and communicated to ticket holders in due course.”

Watch this space for Qdos’s decision on whether Dame Berwick’s pantomime comeback, Dick Turpin Rides Again, will or will not ride again. What will it be: pantomime or pandemime?


QDOS Entertainment today cancelled their biggest pantomime outside London: the Birmingham Hippodrome production of Goldilocks And The Three Bears starring Jason Donovan.

Scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the show is now re-scheduled for Christmas 2021, Donovan, co-star Matt Slack and all.

Qdos’s pantomime at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Sleeping Beauty, has been put to sleep too until 2021.

Grand Opera House confirms no shows until after September 20 at the earliest

Kevin Clifton in his dream role as Scott Hastings in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom: Now running at the Grand Opera House, York, in November 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn, directed by Craig Revel Horwood

ALL performances at the Grand Opera House, York, are suspended until September 20 at the earliest “in order to help contain the spread of Covid-19”.

A statement from the Cumberland Street theatre’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group, said today: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused but hope you understand, given the exceptional circumstances.”

“We were encouraged to see the Government’s intervention to protect UK culture this week,” it went on. “We continue to work closely with health authorities and look forward to the wonderful re-opening of the Grand Opera House as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“To this end, we are sorry to confirm that all performances at Ambassador Theatre Group venues have been suspended until Saturday, September 20.

“If you have a booking that has been affected by this suspension, you do not need to do anything. Over the coming weeks, we will contact you directly and will be able to handle your requests and enquiries.”

Shows aplenty have been rearranged, such as Strictly Ballroom, starring Strictly Come Dancing old boy Kevin Clifton (November 15 to 20 2021) and comedy gigs by Ross Noble (Humournoid, January 21 2021) and Jimmy Case (Terribly Funny, April 28 2021).

“We are working with producers to re-schedule as many postponed shows as possible, so please do bear with us,” ATG’s statement said. “If your performance is re-scheduled, your tickets will be automatically moved to the new dates and you will be informed accordingly.

Jimmy Carr: Grand Opera House show moving to next spring

“We have also recently announced new performances, such as The Rolling Stones Story on January 22 2021 and The Simon & Garfunkel Story on April 29. Please book with confidence, knowing that if there are any further suspensions, your new tickets will remain fully valid for further exchanges or refunds.”

ATG added: “Customers booked for performances between August 3 and September 6 will be contacted in the week commencing July 13. Customers booked for remaining performances will be contacted in the week commencing July 20.”

Full credit vouchers valid until December 31 2021, including all fees, or refunds, are available for all cancelled shows. For further details, go to  ATGtickets.com/corona.

Nationwide, over the past few months, ATGtickets Customer Service Teams up and down the country have handled the re-scheduling of more than 15,000 performances of plays, musicals, comedy and live music.

“From November 2020 and throughout 2021, we have a wonderful array of productions on sale, everything from pantomime to The Book Of Mormon, Disney’s The Lion King to Jimmy Carr and Derren Brown to We Will Rock You,” said ATG.

“On behalf of all our staff, backstage crews, front-of-house teams, actors, dancers, musicians and the entire British theatre industry, we want to thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to ensure the future success of our industry.

“All of us at ATG are enormously proud to be a small part of British theatre, renowned as the greatest in the world. The arts has inspired, educated, entertained and enriched the lives of audiences for hundreds of years but has never been challenged like this. With your on-going commitment, we believe we can come back faster and stronger than ever before.”

York Stage Musicals confirm The Hunchback Of Notre Dame premiere…and Shrek is back too

Oh, what a Knight: Chris Knight as Donkey in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical in September 2019. Shrek will return to the Grand Opera House in 2021

YORK Stage Musicals are to present The Hunchback Of Notre Dame in…2022.

“Theatres may be closed at the moment but that does not stop us planning for the future,” says artistic director Nik Briggs.

“We are honoured to be producing The Hunchback Of Notre Dame at the Grand Opera House in Autumn 2022. With lyrics by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz and music by Aladdin’s Alan Menken, this is a very exciting project for us indeed.

“It was one where we were approached by the rights holders, like with Shrek The Musical.  We love that because we’re not in the rat race to get it, and it’s nice they value the work we do, especially with Disney, who have very strict regulations.”

The York Stage diary for 2021 is taking shape with Shrek The Musical confirmed for a return to the Grand Opera House next spring, over the Easter holidays, and rights secured for Elf next winter.

Jacob Husband, as Adam, front, Alex Weatherhill, as Bernadette, and Joe Wawrzyniak, as Tick, in York Stage Musicals’ Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Musical, at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Benedict Tomlinson

More shows are being lined up too, not least a new work from Alex Weatherhill, who starred as Bernadette in York Stage Musicals’ production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Musical, in September 2017.

“Alex came to see us in Tim Firth’s The Flint Street Nativity and Steel Magnolias and said he wanted to do something for us, and we’re delighted as he writes the summer show at the Bridlington Spa,” says Nik.

Shrek The Musical will bring York Stage full circle, being the last show the company staged at the Grand Opera House before the Coronavirus pandemic shut down theatres and the first to be mounted by YSM once the Cumberland Street theatre re-opens.

As for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Nik says: “It’s a show we’ve always wanted to look at doing because it’s never been done in the West End, only in America, so it will be nice to bring it to York.”

Indeed it will but, after his tour de force as Shrek in Shrek The Musical last September, will Nik be playing the Hunchback? “Definitely not,” he insists. That Autumn 2022 slot still leaves plenty of time to change his mind, however.

York actor Sam Rippon to take his next step on MA course at Royal Academy of Music

York actor, director and choreographer Sam Rippon

YORK actor, director and choreographer Sam Rippon has won a place at the Royal Academy of Music, London, to study for an MA in musical theatre from September.

For the past three years, he has been reading for a BSc in Government and History at the LSE (London School of Economics).

During that time, nevertheless, Sam, has kept his love of theatre aflame by performing and directing while president of the LSE Drama Society.

“A one-year prestigious and intensive MA course was an attractive option,” he says. “Musical theatre has been of immense importance to me ever since I first stepped on stage in York Stage Musicals’ production of Oliver! over a decade ago.

Sam Rippon takes to the stage for the first time in Oliver in 2009

“It has been an essential part of my life, but often a subordinate one, based in extra-curricular activities. The decision to go and undertake this course is motivated by a long-term desire to put musical theatre first in my life, and to build the skills, connections, and foundations necessary to enter a career in the theatrical world.”

Sam, from Heslington, had a choice to make. “I’d received offers from the Guildford School of Acting and Mountview [Academy of Theatre Arts] too, but chose the course at the Royal Academy for its prestige and first-class alumni network.

“I was humbled to receive offers from all three of the places I auditioned for, but RAM felt, from the first audition, like the place that I wanted to be, and which would suit my existing skill set.”

Sam, 22, first auditioned at the Royal Academy last December with a 15-minute presentation of his prepared performances, before being invited to recall in April. “As I was based in London at university, it was easy to make my way to the academy to audition, but little did I know that my recall would have to be from right in my living room,” he says.

Sam Rippon in the role of Marius in York Light Youth’s production of Les Miserables School Edition in November 2014

“Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, our recall was adjusted to be a video audition, for which I was required to record my performances, a video about myself and some skill-based work.

“So, my living room turned into a makeshift recording studio with my phone carefully balanced on top of a step ladder!”

Recording performances was not something Sam found particularly enjoyable. “Perhaps, as a stage performer, the thrill of what I do is that it is live and changes, even lightly, each time. Having to get one perfect take, that I was happy with, was not an easy thing to do!” he recalls.

“Final decisions were made following these video submissions, and I was informed of the outcome at the end of April.”

No lying: That’s Sam Rippon, right, as Pinocchio, in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York, last autumn

Will Sam be able to begin in September, given the on-going Covid-19 scenario? “As far as we know, we’re being prepared for a September start as usual,” he says. “Given the smaller classes, it may well be possible to conduct teaching as normal – to an extent – but I guess we should await confirmation of this.”

Sam was seen most recently on the York stage in September 2019 as Pinocchio in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical and earlier last year as Rolf in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music, both at the Grand Opera House, where he also has worked front of house.

He had played Schlomo in the York Stage Experience summer school production of Fame at the same theatre in 2017.

At the LSE, he starred as Anthony in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street in 2019 and the multi role-playing Clown in The 39 Steps in 2018, as well as being the director and choreographer for Sister Act this year and Made In Dagenham in 2018.

“It is impossible to describe the extent to which York has had an impact on where I am today and hope to be in the future,” says Sam Rippon

“The 39 Steps was undoubtedly the most fun I have had on stage or in a rehearsal room,” says Sam. “Bringing so many different characters to life was not only the greatest joy but encouraged me to learn new accents and physical theatre skills that will stick with me.

“Playing Pinocchio last year was a highlight too. The entire Shrek company was oozing with talent and it was a privilege to perform with every one of them, but bringing to life such an iconic and fun character made the experience even more enjoyable.

“Working with Damien [Boston Spa director-choreographer Damien Poole] and the ever-professional York Stage team on this complex production was such a joy.”

York has had an “immeasurable” influence on Sam’s acting and musical skills. “The first show I watched was in York, my first venture on to a stage was in York, and my first classes were held here,” he says. “I was brought up here, and it is impossible to describe the extent to which the city has had an impact on where I am today and hope to be in the future.

“York is blessed to have so many fantastic amateur musical theatre companies, and I have personally been blessed to have performed in several of them.”

The stage awaits: Sam Rippon contemplates a career in theatre

Sam has indeed spread his talent widely in the city. “York Stage Musicals gave me the opportunity to step on stage for the first time in Oliver back in 2009; York Light Opera Company provided me with my first named part as Friedrich in The Sound Of Music in 2012, and York Light Youth have given me countless opportunities to develop new skills,” he says.

“Performing as Marius in Les Miserables in 2014 and Ugly in Honk! in 2015 remain some of the most formative experiences in my passion for musical theatre. This is not to mention York Stage Experience and York Musical Theatre Company, with whom I had further opportunities to develop new skills and make more friends.”

Sam considers himself “fortunate to have grown up in a city that has so much to offer with regards to theatre, and for that, I will be forever grateful”, he says.

“Crucial to my interest and passion too is my school, Archbishop Holgate’s, who have the most engaging and passionate music teachers, who taught me so much and gave me so many opportunities to develop.”

Looking ahead, to beyond his MA, Sam says: “I would love to turn this training into a career on stage. I understand and appreciate the difficulty in making this step in a competitive environment, probably exacerbated by current events, but that is where I want to be, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t going to give everything to make it happen.”

Such determination, such talent too, deserves to be rewarded.  

Kevin Clifton must wait year longer to play dream role after Strictly Ballroom delay

Clifton suspension: Kevin Clifton’s dream role is put on hold for a year after postponement of the Strictly Ballroom tour. Picture: Dan Hogan

KEVIN Clifton will not be in Strictly twice over this year.

In March, the 2018 champion announced he was leaving the Strictly Come Dancing professional squad after seven seasons in annual pursuit of the BBC One glitter ball trophy, filling his diary instead with the 2020/2021 UK and Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, no less.

The tour should have run from September 26 to June 26 2021, but the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated its postponement until a new starting date of September 27 2021 in Plymouth.

“Kevin from Grimsby”, 37, will play his dream role of Scott Hastings at the Grand Opera House, York, from November 15 to 21 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn.

Further rearranged Yorkshire dates are: Bradford Alhambra Theatre, November 22 to 27 2021, Hull New Theatre, April 25 to 30 2022, and Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, May 30 to June 4 2022, on a tour that will end in where else but the ballroom-dancing mecca of Blackpool on July 2 2022.

“You can still expect a simply fab-u-lous show for all to enjoy,” promises director Craig Revel Horwood

Announcing the tour’s postponement, the producers say: “To ensure everyone’s safety in these uncertain times, we had to take the difficult decision to reschedule the original tour dates.

“But the good news is that all of the shows in the touring schedule have been rearranged and tickets for each performance will be exchanged automatically, so fans will not miss out on this musical extravaganza. Details of how to exchange tickets will follow in the coming weeks.” 

Clifton says: “I’m really delighted that the Strictly Ballroom tour has been rescheduled.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s my all-time favourite film and Scott Hastings is my dream role, so I can’t wait to bring this musical to theatres across the UK next year.  In the meantime, please stay safe and keep well, everyone.”

Director Craig Revel Horwood enthuses: “I’m thrilled that our new production of Strictly Ballroom The Musical has been rescheduled for 2021/2022.  The tour may be a year later, but you can still expect those same sexy dance moves, scintillating costumes and a simply FAB-U-LOUS show for all to enjoy, starring the one and only Kevin Clifton.”

Clifton joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, performing in the final five times, missing out only in 2017 and 2019, and he was crowned Strictly champion in 2018 with celebrity partner Stacey Dooley, the BBC documentary filmmaker, presenter and journalist.

“I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings,” says Kevin Clifton, dressed a la mode as Hastings goes into battle on the ballroom floor

A former youth world number one and four-time British Latin Champion, Clifton has won international open titles all over the world. After making his West End musical theatre debut in 2010 in Dirty Dancing, he starred as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer at Wembley Troubadour Park Theatre and as rock demigod Stacie Jaxx in the satirical Eighties’ poodle-rock musical Rock Of Ages in the West End, a role that also brought him to Leeds Grand Theatre last August.

Clifton last performed at the Grand Opera House, York, in the ballroom dance show Burn The Floor last May.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical tells the story of Scott Hastings, a talented, arrogant and rebellious young Aussie ballroom dancer. When his radical dance moves lead to him falling out of favour with the Australian Dance Federation, he finds himself dancing with Fran, a beginner with no moves at all.

Inspired by one another, this unlikely pair gathers the courage to defy both convention and family and discover that, to be winners, the steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

Featuring a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, the show features a cast of 20 and combines such familiar numbers as Love Is In The Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect.

Rock on: Kevin Clifton as rock demigod Stacee Jaxx in Rock Of Ages at Leeds Grand Theatre last August

Strictly Ballroom began as an uplifting, courageous stage play that Luhrmann devised with a group of classmates at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia in 1984. Eight years later, he made his screen directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom as the first instalment in his Red Curtain Trilogy.

The film won three 1993 BAFTA awards and received a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. Strictly Ballroom The Musical had its world premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in 2014, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, staged the first British production in December 2016 to January 2017.

When announcing his full-time move into the world of musical theatre only a week before the Covid-19 lockdown in March, Clifton said: “I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical. When I was ten years old, I first watched the movie that would become my favourite film of all time. This is my dream role.

“Plus, I get to work with Craig Revel Horwood again. I really can’t wait to don the golden jacket and waltz all over the UK in what’s set to be an incredible show.” Now, alas, he must wait for a year longer.

Tickets for the York run are on sale at atgtickets.com/york; Bradford, “on sale soon”;  Hull, from May 15, at hulltheatres.co.uk; Sheffield, “in the autumn”.

Joanne Clifton, Kevin’s sister, as Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Opera House, York, last June

Did you know?

KEVIN is not the only member of the Clifton dancing family of Grimsby to have graduated from Strictly champion into musicals. Sister Joanne, 36, appeared at the Grand Opera House, York, as demure flapper girl Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie in February 2017; combustible Pittsburgh welder and dancer Alex Owens in Flashdance in November that year and prim and proper but very corruptible Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show in June 2019.

From York’s Snow White to London’s Musical Theatre Academy, Louise Henry vows to take next step

Louise Henry: From Liesl and Snow White to the musical theatre diploma at MTA in London

“FINALLYYYY the day has come that I can say this… I got into drama school!!!!!” So read Louise Henry’s ecstatic Facebook announcement that she has been accepted for the fast-track diploma course at the Musical Theatre Academy (MTA), in London, from October.

Louise, you may recall, made her professional debut in December as “York’s very own” Louise Henry – in reality from Knaresborough – playing Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, York. From 30 auditionees, she had landed the part while working at the Hoxton North café bar in Royal Parade, Harrogate, 

In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, she secured her MTA place through a Zoom audition – “how bizarre,” she says – and now comes the challenge of raising the finance for her two years of musical theatre studies in Tottenham Green.

First, however, let 22-year-old Louise celebrate her good news. “Anyone who knows me will know this has been my dream forever,” she wrote at https://www.facebook.com/louise.henry.311/posts/.

“Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are centred around shows and performing, the earliest being chosen to play Whoops A Daisy Angel in Year 1 – a role I played with absolute conviction, I’ll have you know.

Louise Henry as Shelby in York Stage’s Steel Magnolias at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, her last role before securing her place at MTA

“If I were to ask you what your wildest dream was, beyond all imagination, what would you say? Genuinely, what would it be? Mine would be to perform for a living. My heart is so happy on stage.”

Now, the bad news. “To attend this phenomenal school and receive the training I have long yearned for, I must fund the £32,000 fees with no government funding,” she revealed on Facebook.

“The MTA is not linked with a university and therefore I cannot apply for a student loan in the same way other courses can. Yes. I know. BUT, and humour me here, if every one of my 1,481 Facebook Friends generously donated £20 (or £21.70 to be precise), I would make the amount in full.”

Louise understands that such a proposal is “wishful thinking on my part”, but her Facebook post added: “However, if, by chance of incredible generosity, half, a third, or even a quarter, of said friends donated anything possible, I would be in a much more promising position to be able to attend this school.

“If people kindly donated even £1, I’m £1 closer! If you could share it to reach your friends and family further afield, my chances are immediately increased.”

Louise Henry, back left, in her role as Liesl von Trapp in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music at the Grand Opera House, York, in 2019

CharlesHutchPress is delighted to spread the word, having enjoyed Louise’s performances in such York Stage Musicals roles as 16-year-old Liesl von Trapp in The Sound Of Music and 40-year-old Jane in Twilight Robbery, as well as a young Australian woman, Gabrielle York, in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling last November.

Since then, there have been her dark-wigged Princess Snow White in pantoland and her latest York Stage outing as plucky, resolute but physically fragile Louisiana bride-to-be Shelby in Steel Magnolias in February.

“We are living in such strange, difficult times,” her Facebook open letter continued. “Everything is uncertain for everyone I know and the world is suffering every day. I’m hoping, by this point in the post, that you can appreciate that I simply have to continue as if we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Please believe me, I wish I wasn’t asking for help at a time like this. I understand and agree that there are far more worthy and important causes but I feel I have to consider the potential of my future career.

“Of course, I have spent every minute since I received my offer considering how I could logistically, carefully and respectfully raise money under the current circumstances. But making sure I abide by the Government’s restrictions is leaving me with little I can offer by way of help in exchange.

Louise Henry after she learnt she had been picked to make her professional debut as Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, last winter’s Grand Opera House pantomime .Picture: David Harrison.

“Saying this, if there really is anything – walking dogs with my gloves on, helping in the garden, an online singalong or bedtime story for your children – I will help in any way I can! Equally, if you have any suggestions, please send them my way! Once these restrictions are lifted and we are all much less at risk I will, of course, help in any way possible.”

Summing up her situation, Louise says: “I have to be optimistic in that I don’t know who’s hands/Facebook timeline the post might fall into. I’m doing all I can to make this dream a reality, and that means, for me personally, asking kindly for any help I can get.”

To assist Louise, go to gofundme.com/f/mta-musical-theatre-training.

“My first love has always been musical theatre,” says MTA-bound Louise

Charles Hutchinson puts the questions to Louise Henry as she chases her acting dream and the means to secure that future

WHAT attracted you to MTA in particular? How long will you be studying there and what are your hopes and expectations with this course, Louise?

“MTA’s diploma is only a two-year course and so your training is intensified throughout this time.  

“The school only accepts 22 students per year and, therefore, you’re in a very elite group of performers, and the contact time, as with many drama schools, is incredibly high at 40 hours per week.

“Equally, the course is split 50/50, 50 per cent focused on stage and 50 per cent on screen acting, which is always something I have wanted to study alongside musical theatre. Everything I read about MTA made me feel as though the course would fully prepare you to be a triple-threat musical theatre performer, but also be trained thoroughly as a screen actor.” 

Louise Henry as a young Australian woman, Gabrielle York, in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, last autumn

What steps did you have to go through to land a place at MTA?

“The audition process was obviously very different to that I’m used to: the lockdown implemented by the Government on the outbreak of Covid-19 meant that travelling to the audition would be impossible and potentially very dangerous.

“I soon received an email from Annemarie [Lewis Thomas], the school’s principal, who stated that the auditions would go ahead regardless and instead be held over Zoom, which I was actually very excited about as it would be a totally different experience!

“When the day came, I set up my laptop in my bedroom and had prepared the monologue and song I’d have taken to the audition anyway and from then on it was actually very simple!

“It felt much less daunting than actually being in the room, and I suppose if that translates through people’s auditions it would make the panel’s decision much easier in that it’s based off a very true and honest performance.

“We were even able to do some improv over Zoom with the other auditionees, which was such an interesting experience, led by their head of acting, Tilly Vosburgh, and a group vocal workshop with the head of voice, Josh Mathieson.

“They work very quickly there and so once I had sent in a dance audition – to a song of my choice – I heard back within about 24 hours actually! It was record timing and meant I didn’t spend two anxious weeks refreshing my emails – a feeling I’d grown used to over the past few years’ auditioning.”

Louise Henry playing Liesl von Trapp in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music

Over the past year, you have done a variety of roles on the York stage – musicals, a pantomime, an Aussie play, an American play – showing an all-round talent. Why pick a musical theatre course?

“My first love has always been musical theatre and was initially what I wanted to study straight out of A-Levels. However, it felt as though my dance ability was always letting me down and so I spent a few years going to dance classes with Lyndsay Wells in Harrogate and instead chose to audition for a few years for straight acting. “That being said, singing and acting have always been my strong point and so musical theatre was always my preference.

“Working with Nik Briggs’s York Stage has been invaluable and being able to perform in a few predominantly acting roles has been a great opportunity to exercise that skill without relying on song and dance.

“Equally, working in the Grand Opera House pantomime over Christmas only intensified my drive to pursue musical theatre and so, on being recommended the MTA, I felt led to audition.” 

Louise Henry’s Princess Snow White lies prone after biting the poison-drugged apple in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, as the distraught dwarfs and Martin Daniels’ Muddles, right, look on. Picture: David Harrison.

What did you learn from making your professional debut in the 2019-2020 Grand Opera House pantomime?

“Performing in the pantomime was such a brilliant insight to the kind of life I could be working towards. Every day I would try to remind myself that actually soon it would be over and everyday life would assume, and in actual fact you don’t go through every day singing and dancing and dressing up!

“I constantly allowed myself to feel grateful for each performance and despite the intense hard work put into every show, I never tired of performing it. In fact, I really wish we could’ve had more shows somehow crammed into that mad month!

“It taught me that performances can be put together under your very nose and all of a sudden your show is ready and you’re opening. It also taught me that the illusion of a show is one of the most magical and fulfilling experiences for both the performer and the audience member.

“There was no better feeling than getting to the end of the show and being able to see our audiences dancing in the aisles and singing along with us. I’m just really grateful I had that experience and insight to what my life could be like – with a lot of hard work and luck obviously!”

Louise Henry as Princess Snow White, before the dark wig was added, at the press day to launch Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Picture: David Harrison

How did it feel playing the title role in your professional debut in Snow White?

“Playing the title role was a little bit of a shellshock experience every day really; everyone else I was working with – even the incredible children playing the dwarves – had worked a panto run previously, so I was a total newbie.

“The cast and crew made me feel so welcome and I learnt so much from the friends I made. There was also something pretty lovely in that, because I wore the black wig, which was in total contrast to my hair at the time, very few people recognised me leaving the stage door. This was nice as it kind of protected the magic of the show for the kids who had come to watch.” 

Louise Henry, right, front, with fellow Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs cast members Mark Little, left, Steve Wickenden, Martin Daniels, Jonny Muir and Vicki Michelle at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison.

Did you pick up any good tips from the old pros in the company such as Vicki Michelle, Martin Daniels and Mark Little?

“Working so closely with Vicki, Martin and Mark was incredibly insightful and I got so many opportunities to chat with them about their experiences with performing and acting.

“Mark and I were interviewed by BBC Radio York at the same time and so we had a good chat that morning about his career and I spoke to him about how different things are now, in terms of getting into performing.

“Everyone was so encouraging and supportive, they were always spurring me on to try and keep working for this career. It was incredible watching the show being put together and acting with them was a real joy.” 

Louise Henry as Shelby in Steel Magnolias: “Probably my favourite show I’ve ever been involved with,” she says

How had your year gone before lockdown, on stage and off?

“Before lockdown, I was applying to any auditions I could find via the National Youth Theatre member’s board, having been a member since 2015 when I was lucky enough to be invited to attend their intensive summer-school course.

“I sent off applications for a film in which I was cast as an extra, so drove down to London to film for a couple of days in February. That was a fab experience and something I’d never done before.

“I auditioned to attend a workshop with Katie Greenall, a National Youth Theatre associate, and was asked to go down and work for three days on an idea of a performance she is devising.

“I had a couple of auditions and recalls for National Youth Theatre’s REP company, and throughout all the trips to and from London I was working on Steel Magnolias back in York with York Stage.

“This was probably my favourite show I’ve ever been involved with, from the incredible cast I was lucky enough to work with, to the direction and production of the play.

“I just feel so grateful that it came together and we could perform before this  lockdown was implemented. So, actually, I had quite a busy few months!”

“I’ve been training my family in ‘bootcamp’ sessions three times a week, then one big workout on a Sunday morning,” says Louise of her lockdown routine

How are you coping with lockdown?

“Lockdown has been a little bizarre and definitely an adjustment. But I really do love a routine, so once I’d established my routine at home, I got comfortable very quickly! “I love exercise and training in different ways, so I’ve been training my family in ‘bootcamp’ sessions three times a week, then one big workout on a Sunday morning.

“I’ve been creating workouts for three friends separately and doing many Zoom dance classes and yoga sessions. It’s probably the most active I’ve ever been! “Alongside this, I’ve been trying to learn a new song each week, focusing on songs that I wouldn’t usually go for. I try and sing these when my family are out walking, so I don’t deafen them with a loud belt!

“Obviously, I had a lot of preparation for my audition and also was asked by Nik [Briggs] at York Stage to get involved with his Songs From The Settee, singing Doctor’s Orders from Catch Me If You Can.

“I’m really glad to have the offer from MTA, so it feels like I have something to work towards once this is all over.”

Louise Henry, top left, in a promotional picture for York Stage’s Steel Magnolias

What would going to MTA mean to you after all the work you have put in already to develop your skills?

“I’m not going to lie… it’s been a long few years, auditioning to train at drama school, and it has always felt really gutting to have not secured a place despite usually getting to final recalls.

“Every time you feel so close and then can’t help but wonder what it is you were lacking? Or if they already have ‘x’ amount of 5’6 females with brunette hair? You hear that it can be down to issues that small, and it becomes really frustrating trying to pinpoint what it was about you that they didn’t want.

“So, this year, to finally secure a place, in the middle of so much uncertainty, I really feel overwhelmed by it! I know it is so clichéd but this is really my one dream to try and achieve making a career of performing, so the place at MTA, I believe, is the first step towards that dream becoming reality.

“I can’t put into words what it was like finally seeing ‘we are delighted to inform you…’ on my acceptance email. I ran downstairs screaming; I feel bad for my neighbours!”

“Your whole chest is just full and you feel like you might just ‘Mary Poppins’ it at any second and take off,” says Louise Henry, describing her love of performing

It may be an obvious question, but what makes you want to be an actor?

“Not at all an obvious question as I have absolutely had moments over the years of ‘oh god, why am I doing this?’. ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’. But quite simply, there’s no better feeling to me than being on stage and performing.

“I don’t know how I can describe this concisely, but there’s a feeling I get when I’m taking my bow or at the end of a run or in the ‘big bit’ of a song and it’s just like you’ve won the marathon or the lottery or you’re reunited with someone, and your whole chest is just full and you feel like you might just ‘Mary Poppins’ it at any second and take off.

“And that feeling to me makes everything else worth it. It’s massive lows but MASSIVE highs and for some peculiar reason the highs make you forget all the lows.

“It’s all I could ever see myself doing, and I would regret it forever if I didn’t throw myself at it and give it everything I have.” 

Grim question: If you can’t get the money together, what happens to your plans to go to MTA?

“Interesting. I suppose I can’t really answer this, as that simply isn’t an option for me. I will, and am, doing everything I possibly can, given the current circumstances, and I truly believe I will make this work.

“To me, there is really no alternative: this training is all I have longed for over the past four years. Obviously, so far, I have received some wonderful and incredibly generous help from friends and family, and alongside that I’m saving every penny and plan to work alongside my course.”

No turning back: Louise Henry, pictured in the promotional shots for Steel Magnolias, is determined to take up her place at the Musical Theatre Academy in London in October

“I plan on creating a series of videos, mini-performances of songs or spoken word to post online hopefully for the viewer’s enjoyment – which might encourage people to donate whatever they can.

“The payments are termly and so that breaks down the sum, and I’m incredibly lucky as the MTA are very keen on not letting money be an issue between you attending the course.

“As I said, they choose only 22 students per year and so they have spent a lot of time in selecting who they truly want to train. Not only is this a real honour to have been offered a place, but it also reassures me that the school wants me there. There’s no better feeling after working so hard over the years.” 

Expect peak performance from Sir Ranulph Fiennes at York Barbican next March

SIR Ranulph Fiennes’s destination on March 24 2021 will be York Barbican, his mission to deliver his live show Living Dangerously for the third time in the city. 

Named by the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer” and in Burke’s Peerage as Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet of Banbury,  he has spent his life in pursuit of extreme adventure, risking life and limb in “some of the most ambitious private expeditions ever undertaken”.

Among his many record-breaking achievements, he was the first explorer to reach both the North and South Poles, the first to cross the Antarctic and the Arctic Ocean, and the first to circumnavigate the Earth’s surface along its polar axis.

In Living Dangerously, Sir Ranulph, takes a journey through his life, from his early years to the present day. Both light-hearted and poignant, the show revisits the 76-year-old explorer’s childhood and school misdemeanours, his army life and early expeditions.

He will share insights into his transglobal expedition and his present global reach challenge:  his goal to become the first person in the world to cross both polar ice caps and climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Sir Ranulph presented Living Dangerously previously in York at the Grand Opera House in July 2018 and June 2019.

Tickets for his 2021 return go on sale on Friday, April 24 at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

We Will Rock You will rock you in 2021 with rearranged tour and new York shows

We Will Still Rock You: The Queen and Ben Elton musical will rise again in 2021

THE 2020 tour of We Will Rock You bit the dust with the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown, but the show must go on for the Queen and Ben Elton musical.

Not only have many of the original dates been re-scheduled for 2021, but several venues have been added too, not least the Grand Opera House, York, for a run from March 22 to 27.

“The producers did not want to disappoint fans who had bought tickets, so they have been working hard to reschedule as many of the shows as possible, giving people something to look forward to in these unsettling times,” says the official statement.

“We are delighted to announce the good news that the musical extravaganza will once again rock theatres across the UK from January next year, playing many of the original 2020 dates and several additional venues too.”

Kicking off in Cardiff on January 18 2021, the tour will then play Milton Keynes; Southend; Stoke; Bristol; Wimbledon; Bournemouth; Ipswich; Bromley; York; Newcastle; Northampton; Peterborough; Norwich; Reading; Liverpool; Birmingham and Southsea, with more dates to follow. Details of how to exchange tickets will follow in the coming weeks.

Queen guitarist Brian May said: “Happy to say our magnificent UK tour of We Will Rock You, the rock theatrical, will rise again. The Coronavirus has had us all on the run, but live theatre will win in the end. Keep hold of your bookings and the vibe will be yours in 2021.”

Drummer Roger Taylor added: “This is great news, I’m so pleased to see the show on the road again.”

Writer Ben Elton agreed: “I was so pleased to get the great news that We Will Rock You is to be remounted next year, after being forced to close mid-tour, and I hope Queen’s incredible music can help to make us feel like champions again.”

Tickets for the York run are on sale at atgtickets.com/york.