BE pepped up by the one and only arts club badinage from Two Big Egos In A Small car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch, as they discuss Grewelthorpe’s jewel, the Himalayan Gardens; Velma Celli’s Drag Brunch; Metronomy’s English Riviera landmark; the “Top 20 Most Inspirational Novels”; York’s strange version of The Masked Singer and Cruella & Disney reboots.
THE York version of The Masked Singer is coming to a head.
Bev Jones Music Company’s open-air production should have opened at Rowntree Park amphitheatre this afternoon but instead Jesus Christ Superstar has turned into Jesus Christ Supersnag – all because of masks.
In a nutshell, producer Lesley Jones was given an edict 12 days ago by City of York Council that Claire Pulpher’s cast of 27 must wear masks when singing to meet Covid regulations, not least Claire herself in the role of Mary.
Oh, and the not-for-profit York company would need to pay for professional security staff too for safety purposes, to stop anyone who had not booked from congregating on the periphery. Oh, and could the company provide portable lavatories too, please?
All this came via an email to Lesley from a Public Health Specialist Practitioner Advanced. “Whilst I have every sympathy with anyone trying to deliver an event, we can only give them the advice we have and cannot offer anything other than what the government guidance allows at the time of review,” the council apparatchik wrote.
“It is also worth noting that as this is a musical and involves singing, there is specific reference in the performing arts guidance to singing and the additional risks this poses in relation to Covid transmission. This is not currently considered in the Covid plan supplied by the organiser.”
The official cited an extract from the guidance “requiring the event organiser to pro-actively discourage activities which can create aerosol such as shouting, chanting and singing…as this is a popular musical can we be assured this will be realistic or achievable? Also wearing face coverings reduces the mass of aerosol expelled when singing, so masks should be worn during the event. Probably not possible?”
Probably not possible? Impossible, decided Lesley, as the additional costs would be prohibitive, and so, down the drain went many hours of rehearsals and hundreds of ticket sales for today’s 3pm show and tomorrow’s 2pm and 5pm performances that would need to be reimbursed (a task now being handled by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office).
And yet everything had been possible when Bev Jones Music Company staged the socially distanced Strictly Live In The Park on September 13 last year, same location, but no requirement to mask up the singers. Just as York Stage had been able to perform shows at the amphitheatre from August 23 to 25 (York Stage Musicals revue) and September 18 to 20 (Jukebox Divas).
When Lesley made the booking in February for the return to Rowntree Park, she planned the event in line with the council’s event management plans, requiring a Covid risk assessment and a health and safety assessment, plus contingency plans in the event of a terrorist attack or flooding.
Put in place were Covid testing for the cast; thermometer testing for cast, crew and public at each performance; ticket-only admission; the audience placed in socially distanced bubbles. The new normal, in other words.
The council’s later demands over masks and security came after its discussions with Public Health England and the Safety Advisory Group, but what was the difference this time?
City of York Council, in effect, made an admin error, as explained to Lesley Jones by Sarah Stoltz, the council’s director of public health, in an email on June 6. “One of my staff was asked by Trading Standards on 26th May 2021 to provide public health feedback to the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) on the proposals for your event,” she wrote.
“I must stress, here, that the feedback in the email was only intended to be shared with SAG members for them to consider this, along with all the other expert advice from members of SAG, e.g. North Yorkshire Police, so that SAG could make a decision on whether the event should go ahead and what mitigations might need to be in place.
“We are in stage 3 of the government roadmap out of lockdown and so it is entirely appropriate that SAG undertook due diligence on the safety of the event, as happens with all events across York.”
Here comes the crucial part: “But the email was never intended to be shared with you and it did not constitute public health advice to you personally as the organiser; it was feedback to SAG and members would have considered the appropriateness of this feedback in due course,” said the director.
“However, it was shared and unfortunately taken out of context. I understand how angry and frustrated you must have felt in receiving it and can only apologise for the distress this has caused you.”
The explanation came too late to resurrect Jesus Christ Superstar, alas. “We were given such restrictive regulations by City of York Council, we had no option but to pull the production,” says Lesley, who is launching a formal complaint.
Is there any good news for Bev Jones Music Company devotees, however? “I must tell you that an ‘angel’ has appeared in the form of Jamboree Entertainment, who have offered us their professional [Sounds In The Grounds] festival stage on June 24 as compensation, if we could put together a music event suitable for the venue,” says Lesley.
“Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we’ve taken on the challenge, resulting in the aptly named Strictly Unstoppable, featuring every member of the JCS cast in a new-style production for The Bev Jones Music Company with the emphasis on ‘an evening of fun with massive pop tracks to suit all, plus a beer wagon to help the atmosphere’.
“For those who love festivals, this will be popular, with numbers such as Boogie Shoes, Forget You, Uptown Funk, Sweet Caroline, a Whitney Houston song, Somebody To Love, Barcelona, to name a few, plus a smattering of show tunes from Chicago and The Rocky Horror Show and dozens more. We want the audience to get up in their social bubbles and dance.”
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, reopens its doors tonight with Covid-secure measures, socially distanced seating plan and the first of three performances of Strictly Cabaret.
Bev Jones Music Company principals Claire Pulpher, Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson will don their finest to entertain with a glittering cabaret set of their favourites at 7.30pm, to be followed by 2.30pm and 7.30pm performances tomorrow.
“Rat Pack, swing style, top musicals, film favourites, you name it, they will sing it,” says producer Lesley Jones. “Just sit back, reflect upon the year, clear your minds and be thoroughly entertained in the manner befitting the Bev Jones Music Company.
“All the cast will be principal performers in our June production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, directed by Claire, who will play Mary, alongside Chris as Judas, Terry as Caiaphas and Larry as Pilate.”
Under the present JoRo regulations for Step 3 reopening, the Bev Jones Music Company (BJMC) were permitted a company of only four. “That proved to be a headache,” admits Lesley. “How can you entice an audience to a BJMC show with so few cast members? But by offering diversification in content, I think we’ve pulled it off by aiming at all age groups.”
Introducing the Strictly Cabaret programme, Lesley says: “In a forward-thinking move, Claire sings songs from Hamilton and Wicked and the hilarious Alto’s Lament, then changes style with a superb dance-based Whitney Houston number, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
“Chris sings the powerful Pity The Child from Chess, the ever popular I Believe, plus a great swing performance of Mack The Knife and Cry Me A River; Terry performs Stars from Les Miserables, How Wonderful You Are and Tomorrow Never Comes, and Larry has chosen Luck Be A Lady, his favourite rock number from Chess, The Arbiter, plus the swing number The Lady Is A Tramp.”
Anything else, Lesley? “They’ll also all sing duets, trios and big group numbers, such as There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame and songs from Cabaret, Joseph and Abba,” she says.
“You can expect lots of humour and fun, plus power and pathos, but it was important to offer a chink of light after these dark days and hopefully remind people of a positive future.”
For tickets, go to: josephrowntree.co.uk. Jesus Christ Superstar will be staged at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, on June 12, 3pm, and June 13, 2pm and 5pm; same box office.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, will be reopening its doors on May 21 with Covid-secure measures and a socially distanced seating plan.
That night at 7.30pm and the next day at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, the Bev Jones Music Company will present Strictly Cabaret in this safe, regulated setting.
Claire Pulpher, Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson will don their finest to entertain with a glittering cabaret evening of their favourites.
“Rat Pack, swing style, top musicals, film favourites, you name it, they will sing it,” says producer Lesley Jones. “Just sit back, reflect upon the year, clear your minds and be thoroughly entertained in the manner befitting the Bev Jones Music Company.”
Strictly Cabaret will lead off a line-up of nine shows at the JoRo between May 21 and August 28.
In a fundraiser for the Jo Ro on June 13, music director Jon Atkin will be joined by singers Emma Dickinson, Alexa Chaplin, Richard Bayton and Rob Davies at 7.30pm for An Evening Of Musical Comedy Highlights: a cabaret selection of solos, duets and quartets from musical comedies aplenty with a few popular songs added to the mix.
Poignant after the death of composer Jim Steinman on April 19, Meat Loud – The Duo will perform those very familiar rock operatic songs from Bat Out Of Hell and other Meat Loaf albums, penned by the New Yorker, plus equally grandiose classics he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion and Cher, on June 19 at 7.30pm.
Meat Loud – The Duo was founded in 2018 by Meat Loud, alias Andy Plimmer, and British session singer and vocal coach Sally Rivers, who has worked with Cher, Annie Lennox and Mick Hucknall. “So buckle up and get ready for a ride into hell,” say the duo.
The York String Quartet will play a fundraiser for the Rowntree theatre on June 20, performing a broad repertoire of classical, pop, jazz, television and film music at 7.30pm.
Between them, quartet members Vince Parsonage, violin and viola, Nicola Rainger, violin, Sara Gilford, cello, and Maggy Lamb, viola, have played across Europe with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera.
Some Might Say will re-create the look, swagger and trademark wall of sound in a supersonic tribute show to Oasis on June 26 at 7.30pm.
Selections from all seven albums will feature in a set full of Manchester anthems, from hit singles to fans’ concert favourites and Noel Gallagher’s acoustic numbers. Expect Supersonic, Rock’n’Roll Star, Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Cigarettes And Alcohol and many more.
Black Sheep Theatre Productions will present For The Love Of Musicals in aid of the JoRo in matinee and evening performances on July 10.
Join musical director Matthew Clare, his merry band and a host of singers for a concert of delights as they prove “There’s No Business Like Show Business” with songs from Annie Get Your Gun, classics galore and more recent shows such as Dear Evan Hansen.
The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company Does Gilbert And Sullivan will feature HMS Pinafore on July 29 at 7.30pm and July 31 at 2.30pm and The Mikado on July 30 and 31 at 7.30pm.
The JoRo’s in-house performing team will produce semi-staged performances of G&S’s biggest hits, brimming with popular tunes and brilliant characters. “Come along and enjoy the topsy-turvy musical madness, with all profits going straight back to the theatre,” reads their invitation.
Billed as “the UK’s leading Carpenters’ show”, The Carpenters Experience brings together vocalist Maggie Nestor and eight musicians to capture yesterday once more in the form of Karen and Richard Carpenter’s Close To You, We’ve Only Just Begun, Top Of The World, Rainy Days And Mondays, Solitaire, Goodbye To Love, Please Mr Postman, For All We Know and Only Yesterday on August 28 at 7.30pm.
Dan Shrimpton, chair of the theatre trustees, says: “We’re thrilled to be staging live shows once again and welcoming audiences back through our theatre doors. We’ve missed the buzz of putting on a show and can’t wait for opening night.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure our theatre is Covid-safe. The new procedures and processes we’ve put in place have all been tried and tested. Our priority is to make sure your theatre experience is a safe one.”
For more information on the shows, booking tickets and the new safety procedures, go to the website, josephowntreetheatre.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01904 501935.
THE JoRo has launched its latest fundraising campaign, Buy A Tile, as part of its wider Raise The Roof appeal set in motion last year.
Shrimpton says: “We’ve been staging shows and entertaining local communities in York for more than 85 years. The roof repairs are essential for safeguarding the future of our theatre, so we can continue entertaining communities in York for years and years to come.”
The JoRo needs to raise £45,000 urgently to replace its leaking roofs: still made up of the original tiles laid in place when the Haxby Road theatre was built in 1935. Without repairs to the broken tiles, the Grade II-listed theatre risks damage to the building’s Art Deco fabric.
LOOKING ahead, musical actress, radio presenter, choreographer, director, writer, teacher and model Claire Pulpher will direct the Bev Jones Music Company in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, York, on July 12 at 3pm and July 13 at 2pm and 5pm.
Claire also will play Mary Magdalene in the York company’s first full-scale musical production post-pandemic lockdown, in a safe outdoor setting in the park’s secluded amphitheatre, where audience members can sit in bubbles of up to six people, allocated on the day. Bring picnic chairs, rugs and possibly umbrellas too.
Joining her in the principal roles will be fellow Strictly Cabaret performers Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson.
Jesus Christ Superstar tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’s life, leading to his crucifixion. Pulpher will use the natural setting to maximum effect to bring a unique vision to the 1973 rock opera, complemented by musical director James Rodgers’ band.
“James’s brilliant rock band will have you clapping and joining in with this rousing show, featuring the company’s very best performers, plus new names for you to enjoy in a production set to lift your spirits after such a difficult year,” says producer Lesley Jones .
“Suitable for all ages, with parental guidance, there’ll be singing and dancing to please everyone, in a suitably distanced manner.”