Why Rowntree Players are happy to be in Grimm mood for storytelling, puppetry and bizarre folk tales at JoRo Theatre

Narrator Chris Meadley, right, and fellow Rowntree Players cast members take to the woods to prepare for Grimm Tales at the JoRo

AMY Carter directs Rowntree Players in Tim Supple’s dramatisation of Carol Ann Duffy’s account of Grimm Tales at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from tonight (11/7/24) to Saturday.

Carter’s cast of 15 – aged 16 to 75 – will take a journey through delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to expose how the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim.

Guided by Chris Meadley in the Narrator’s role, they will perform three “meaty” tales in each half, complemented by a Meadley monologue: The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage, performed as a shadow play in the first half, and Sweet Porridge, in a more physical staging, after the interval.

“Each tale will be a maximum of 20 minutes, some of them shorter,” says Amy. “They were first done by the Young Vic Theatre Company in 1996 and 1997, when Tim Supple turned Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation into dialogue and split it among the characters, introduced by a Narrator, with the characters then taking over the narration.

“In our production, in Snow White, Chris will play both the Narrator and the Magic Mirror, which is a nice dual role to have, and in most of the others he will set the scene, comment on the moral of the tale and make quips to link one tale to the next.”

If the mask fits: Rowntree Players take on all manner of roles in Grimm Tales

Amy has changed the original order of tales from the Young Vic productions to suit the streamlined structure of eight tales and to maximise narrative momentum. “Hansel & Gretel is the only tale that ends with ‘And they all lived happily ever after’, so I knew I wanted to end the show with that one,” she says.

“The biggest balancing act is to achieve light and shade, and with the dark nature of some stories, you don’t want to bring the energy down, so some of the stories are just farces, because the show needs to be a rollercoaster, not a nosedive.

“It’s not that some stories don’t have a happy outcome, they do, but they end with the comeuppance for the villain, which means a couple of times – Snow White and Ashputtel (the Grimm title for Cinderella) – the tales end on a dramatic note.”

Expressing a preference for the 19th century folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm rather than the earlier French fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Amy says: “The Grimm versions feel more like folk tales for the masses, whereas Perrault’s tales were written for the French court, the upper-class society.

“Published as Children’s and Household Tales, the Brothers Grimm turned the stories into cautionary tales for children – like the warning ‘Don’t go into woods’ – and the difference with today is now we just try to protect them from doing anything.

Storyteller: Chris Meadley in the Narrator’s role in Rowntree Players’ Grimm Tales

“Disney’s films have kept the original morals but made them less distressing, but the idea behind the stories was to scare children into behaving, which we don’t do now.

 “Yet if we look at TV shows like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirrors, it’s cathartic to enjoy the darkness in them. That’s the purpose of some of these stories too.”

Rowntree Players will be staging only evening performances, but that is not intended to rule out children from attending. “With our marketing, we’ve done enough to promote it’s a show on the darker side of things, and it’s probably not appropriate for younger children, but if they’re 11, 12, 13, they will really enjoy it because there’s no goriness, no jump scares, just that haunted house/Halloween vibe. It’s like Horrible Histories; it hits that sweet spot.”

Supple’s scripts have guidelines on how to distribute the roles, but Amy took her own approach, favouring multi-role playing. “I wanted to make the principal cast as small as possible, so I ended up with one narrator, four men and four women and a non-speaking ensemble of six,” she says.

“I went through the script and assigned roles working on the theory of archetypes with a mixture of ages, while knowing the pool of Rowntree Players actors we could draw on.

Rowntree Players’ poster for Grimm Tales

“There are ‘father’ archetypes, incorporating kings and villains; ‘mother’ archetypes, such as queens and witches; middle roles, like eldest sons, daughter and sister roles, young roles, and then some have to play cockerels and donkeys because some of the tales are very strange!”

Amy continues: “The other factor with the casting was that I was very keen for it not to be like our pantos, though a lot of the same people are involved but I tried not to cast them in roles that people would have seen them in before.

“That’s another reason Rowntree Players wanted to do Grimm Tales: to show these tales in their original light. Some are different from the pantomimes; some are very similar. Ashputtel [Cinderella] feels very different, such as characters getting their eyes pecked out.”

The production’s design will echo pantomime’s use of medieval and Renaissance costumery and sets, “but it will be much more rustic, more natural, woods, not glitter,” says Amy. “The Magic Mirror is the only thing that’s remotely sparkly.

“Grimm Tales is not bright colours and jolliness. It’s much darker than that with lots of props and puppets, like the birds I’ve made with cardboard and paper craft, as there are lots of things you can’t do with people.

Amy Carter’s cast in rehearsal for Rowntree Players’ Grimm Tales

“For the ‘seven dwarfs’ in Snow White, we’re using the masks we had in our pantomime. I’ve now put eyes on them but I’m not sure it’s made them any less creepy: it’s like Snow White & The Seven Marty Feldmans!”

Rowntree Players in Grimm Tales, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501395 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Who’s in the Grimm Tales cast?

NARRATOR Chris Meadley will be joined by Geoff Walker as Male 1; Graham Smith, Male 2; Joe Marrucci, Male 3; Fergus Green, Male 4; Abbey Follansbee, Female 1; Hannah Wood, Female 2; Meg Badrick, Female 3, and Annie Dunbar, Female 4.

In the ensemble will be Henry Cullen, Jess Whitehead, Britt Brett, Jess Dawson, Libby Roe and Ella Lofthouse.

Rowntree Players cast members parade their puppets for Grimm Tales

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond as classical festival opens. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 24, from Gazette & Herald

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: Residency at Ryedale Festival. Picture: Victoria Cadisch

RYEDALE Festival tops the bill for Charles Hutchinson’s recommendations. A tribute to tribute acts, Grimm tales, Roman emperors, Brazilian sambas and theatrical Fools look promising too.

Festival of the week: Ryedale Festival, July 12 to 28

THIS summer’s Ryedale Festival features 58 performances in 35 beautiful and historic locations, with performers ranging from Felix Klieser, a horn player born without arms, to trail-blazing Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang, mezz-soprano Fleur Barron to violinist Stella Chen, the Van Baerle Piano Trio to Troubadour Trail host Rachel Podger.

Taking part too will be Royal Wedding cellistSheku Kanneh-Mason, Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili, Brazilian guitar pioneer Plinio Fernandes, choral groups The Marian Consort and Tenebrae, actress and classical music enthusiast Dame Sheila Hancock, jazz singer Claire Martin and Northumbrian folk group The Unthanks. For the full programme and ticket details, head to: ryedalefestival.com. 

Re-Bjorn each show: Sarah-Louise Young in I Am Your Tribute at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Fringe show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young, I Am Your Tribute, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

AFTER An Evening Without Kate Bush, the Julie Andrews-focused Julie Madly Deeply and The Silent Treatment, Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with her Edinburgh Fringe-bound new show, I Am Your Tribute.

In her “most ambitiously interactive performance yet”, she invites you to help her create the ultimate tribute to an act of your choosing. Along the way she will teach you the tricks of the trade, share her greatest hits and uncover the occasionally darker side of living in someone’s else’s shadow. Expect music, wigs and wonderment. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Happily ever after: Rowntree Players cast members in Grimm Tales

Fairy tales of the week: Rowntree Players in Grimm Tales, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm

AMY Carter directs Rowntree Players in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, with Chris Meadley in the role of the Narrator.

The cast of 15 takes a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover that the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Mary Beard: Roman emperors, the truth and the lies, at Grand Opera House, York

History lesson of the week: Mary Beard: Emperor Of Rome, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

CLASSICIST scholar, debunking historian and television presenter Mary Beard shines the spotlight on Roman emperors, from the well-known Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) to the almost-unknown Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE).

Venturing beyond the hype of politics, power and succession and into the heart of the palace corridors, she will uncover the facts and fiction of these rulers, asking what they did and why, and how we came to have such a lurid view of them. Themes of autocracy, corruption and conspiracy will be explored and audience questions will be taken. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Andrew Methven: Playing a Lazy Sunday Session at Milton Rooms, Malton

Afternoon entertainment: Lazy Sunday Sessions, Andrew Methven & Joseph Wing, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 3pm

HEADLINER Andrew Metheven, from Bradford, pens lo-fi folk songs about births, hills, decay and daydreams and too many about birds, as heard on his June 2024 debut album, Sister Winter, available via Bandcamp. Singer and guitarist Joseph Wing, from Malton band Penny Fleck, will be the support act. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Madness: Welcome to the House Of Fun at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Coastal gig of the week: Madness, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Friday, gates 6pm

MADNESS, the Nutty Boys of Camden Town, return to the North Yorkshire great outdoors for Suggs and co to roll out such ska-flavoured music-hall hits as Our House, One Step Beyond, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love, House Of Fun, Michael Caine, Wings Of A Dove, Night Boat To Cairo, My Girl, Driving In My Car, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day and Embarrassment. Standing tickets are still available at scarboroughopenairtheatre.com/madness.

Fernando Maynart: Showcasing new album at Helmsley Arts Centre

Brazilian sambas of the week: Fernando Maynart, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

BRAZILIAN singer, composer, guitarist and percussionist Fernando Maynart introduces his new album, TranSambas, showcasing the different rhythmic nuances of samba rooted in Africa via the West African slave trade and the Afro-Brazilian religion. 

Maynart, whose set also features songs by Brazilian maestro Dorival Caymmi, will be accompanied by Brazilian flautist Daniel Allain and drummer/percussionist Denilson Oliveira, plus Ryedale multi-instrumentalist David Key. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Four go into three: James Aldred, Peter Long, Lucy Chamberlain and Charlotte Horner of The Three Inch Fools

Open-air theatre at the double: The Three Inch Fools in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII, Scampston Hall, Scampston, near Malton, July 20; Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, July 23 and Helmsley Walled Garden, August 6; The Comedy Of Errors, Helmsley Walled Garden, July 19, all at 7pm

THE Three Inch Fools, brothers James and Stephen Hyde’s specialists in fast-paced storytelling and uproarious music-making, head to Scampston, York and Helmsley with their rowdy reimagining of the story of the troublesome Tudor king in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII as he strives to navigate his way through courtly life, while fighting the French again, re-writing religious law and clocking up six wives.

The Play That Goes Wrong’s Sean Turner directs the Fools’ innovative take on Shakespeare’s shortest, wildest farce The Comedy Of Errors, with its tale of long-lost twins, misunderstandings and messy mishaps. Box office: eventbrite.co.uk.

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond when the vampire hunters strikes back. Hutch’s List No. 23, from Gazette & Herald

Killian Macardle, left, Annie Kirkman and Chris Hannon in Dracula: The Bloody Truth at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

THE truth behind Dracula, wall-to-wall graffiti, vicar irreverence and a blast of brass bring variety to Charles Hutchinson’s tips for jaunty July trips.

Comedy drama of the week: Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight to July 27

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre teams up with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to stage physical theatre comedy exponents La Navet Bete & John Nicholson’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, based very loosely on Bram Stoker’s story.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs Chris Hannon, Annie Kirkman, Alyce Liburd and Killian Macardle as vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing reveals the real story behind the legend of Dracula, the one with the Whitby connection. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Hamish Brown’s Alexis, left, Alexandra Mather’s Miss Aline Sangazure and Anthony Gardner’s John Wellington Wells in York Opera’s The Sorcerer. Picture: John Saunders

Everything stops for tea:  York Opera in The Sorcerer, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JOHN Soper directs York Opera in The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first full-length comic opera, wherein Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Ian Thomson-Smith) hosts a tea party in the Ploverleigh Hall gardens to celebrate the betrothal of his only son, Alexis (Hamish Brown) to Miss Aline Sangazure (Alexandra Mather), daughter of Lady Annabella Sangazure (Rebecca Smith).

When a love-at-first-sight elixir is mixed into the celebration tea by a sorcerer, John Wellington Wells (Anthony Gardner, in the role played by Soper for York Opera in 2001), mayhem follows as the assembled guests fall under his magic spell. What could possibly go wrong? Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton, centre, and Grahame Sammons’s David Horton in 1812 Theatre Company’s The Vicar Of Dibley

Religious conversion of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar Of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, untilSaturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident company in a stage play adapted from the original BBC television series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. When Reverend Pottle dies, much to the surprise of the Dibley Parish Council, his replacement is Geraldine Granger, a vicar who is also a chocoholic sex kitten.

Follow the antics of David Horton, his son Hugo, Jim, Owen, Frank and Mrs Cropley as they adjust to working with the witty and wonderful Geraldine, assisted by her verger, Alice Tinker. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot: York premiere at Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

York musical of the week: Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

NORTH Yorkshire company Bright Light Musical Productions make their JoRo debut in the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot with a cast of 14 directed by Dan Crawfurd-Porter and a seven-piece band under Matthew Peter Clare’s musical direction.  

Inspired by the Californian band’s 2004 album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny (Iain Harvey), “Jesus of Suburbia”, and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

For those about to rock: Live/Wire take the highway to hell with AC/DC classics at The Crescent

Tribute show of the week: Live/Wire, The AC/DC Show, The Crescent, York, Friday and Saturday (sold out), doors 7.30pm

LIVE/WIRE, The AC/DC Show pays tribute to the Aussie heavy rock band, replete with a wall of Marshall amps for two hours of high voltage rock’n’roll. Podge Blacksmith, a double take for frontman Brian Johnson, revels in a set taking in everything from Highway To Hell and Whole Lotta Rosie to Back In Black and latest album Rock Or Bust. Box office for Friday only: thecrescentyork.com.

One of James Jessop’s works on show in Rise Of The Vandals at the disused office block at 2, Low Ousegate, York

Exhibition/installation of the week: Bombsquad, Rise Of The Vandals, 2, Low Ousegate, York, Friday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm.

SPREAD over four floors in a disused Low Ousegate office block, York art collective Bombsquad showcases retrospective and contemporary spray paint culture, graffiti, street art and public art in three galleries, a cinema room, a Wendy house and art shop, in aid of SASH (Safe and Sound Homes).

Taking part in Rise Of The Vandals are York graffiti archivist Keith Hopewell, James Jessop, Bristol legend Inkie, Chu, Rowdy, Kid Acne, Remi Rough, Prefab77, SODA, Replete, Jo Peel, Sharon McDonagh, Lincoln Lightfoot, Anonymouse, Boxxhead and live DJs in SODA’s booth. Free entry; donations are encouraged. Dog friendly.

Fatboy Slim: Cooking up the beats at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. Picture: fatboyslim.net

Coastal gigs of the week: Fatboy Slim, Saturday; Paul Weller, Sunday, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates open at 6pm

NORMAN Cook has come a long way, baby, since he played bass in Hull band The Housemartins. Now the BRIT award-winning, Brighton-based DJ, aka Fatboy Slim, heads back north to fill Scarborough with big beats and huge hooks in Rockafeller Skank, Gangster Trippin, Praise You and Right Here Right Now et al on Saturday night.

The Modfather Paul Weller showcases his 17th studio album, 66, full of ruminations on ageing, in Sunday’s set of songs from The Jam, Style Council and his solo years. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Paul Weller: Reflections on hitting 66 at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Brass Band Summer Showcase of the week: Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2pm

AS part of Brass Band Week, the Summer Showcase features the Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band with trumpet and cornet soloist Sean Chandler. Taking part too will be the Swinton Training Band and The Workshop Band, including members from Swinton, Stape, Malton and Kirkbymoorside Brass Bands. Entry is free; tickets are available from 01653 696240, themiltonrooms.com or ticketsource.co.uk.

Bright Light Musical Productions make York debut with punk opera rebel yell of Green Day’s American Idiot at the JoRo Theatre

On the boulevard of broken dreams: Dan Poppitt’s Tunny, left, Iain Harvey’s Johhny and William Thirlaway’s Will in Bright Light Musical Productions’ York premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

BRIGHT Light Musical Productions will stage the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from tomorrow to Saturday.

Producer/director Dan Crawfurd-Porter’s high-octane, politically driven production opens on American Independence Day and General Election Day in the United Kingdom, while marking the 20th anniversary of Green Day’s groundbreaking album American Idiot.

Produced by North Yorkshire company Bright Light with support from York company Black Sheep Theatre Productions, the Tony Award-winning show with music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong and book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer “promises an electrifying experience that captures the spirit and energy of Green Day’s influential music”. 

Boasting a cast of 14 and an eight-piece rock band, Bright Light’s production is propelled by the vision of producer/director Crawfurd-Porter, musical director Matthew Peter Clare and choreographer/assistant director Freya McIntosh.

“This show is a powerful statement about a world that remains unchanged since the original album’s release in 2004,” says Dan. “Its relevance to young people today is as strong as ever, with its commentary on America and politics resonating deeply this year, especially on July 4th.”

Inspired by the Californian band’s chart-topping album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny the “Jesus of Suburbia” (played by Iain Harvey), and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence.

Their journey embodies the youthful struggle between passionate rebellion and the search for love, echoing the punk voice of their era. From Boulevard Of Broken Dreams to Holiday, Wake Me Up When September Ends to 21 Guns, American Idiot brings the “soundtrack of a generation” to the stage with the promise of captivating and energising audiences with early 2000s’ nostalgia. 

Director Dan Crawfurd-Porter

“Personally, the issues it tackles have affected me profoundly, as they have many others. The aim is to give a voice to those who feel unheard, just as it has given one to me,” says Dan, 25.

“American Idiot is talking about America, but the issues reach across the world – war, drugs, depression and longing for a better world – and they resonate everywhere. Twenty years on, in Britain, those issues are still completely relevant, even if the world is in a different place, but there are still wars going on.

“Obviously, in an ideal world, this musical would no longer be relevant, but the reality is that will keep on being relevant – and Green Day’s songs still resonate too. I was among 50,000 people watching them at Old Trafford [the Lancashire cricket ground) on June 21.

“Those songs speak to anyone who was a teenager or young adult, in the Nineties or 2000s, and they appeal to the teenagers and young adults of today as much as they ever did. ”  

Why does American Idiot work so well in its transfer from studio album to stage musical, Dan? “Because it has a defined story,” he says. “It was the producer/director who saw its potential, starting the process of turning the album into a show by having to convince Green Day.

“There’s a brilliant documentary called Broadway Idiot that charts that process, taking the band from the concept to eventually Billy Joe Armstrong starring on Broadway in the lead role.

“The show takes those great songs, where there are only three of them in the band, playing with so much energy, and then adds five more instruments, multiple characters and an ensemble to give those already powerful songs extra oomph.”

Mickey Moran’s St Jimmy, centre, with Tiggy-Jade, Diane Wilkinson, Rebecca Firth, Charlie Clarke, Jack Fry and Josh Woodgate. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

Assessing those songs’ impact, Dan says: “Green Day’s songs, particularly in this show, are full of life, and with a running time of one hour 45 minutes, non-stop, no interval, it’s almost designed like a rock concert that tells a story, with guitars and strings to the fore.

“There’s a lot of emotion behind it as well as energy, so it’s not just shouting! Like Billy Joe writing Wake Me Up When Saturday Comes after his dad had passed away. Seeing Green Day play last month, you could tell Billy Joe was singing about himself, and the songs were so real because they were written from personal experience.”

 Green Day’s American Idiot forms the first York production for Bright Light after making their debut in 2023 in Ripon. “When I founded the company in 2022 with William Thirlaway, at the time we were doing shows with RAOS [Ripon Amateur Operatic Society], and we did our first Bright Light show, Tick, Tick…Boom!, as an independent production at Ripon Arts Hub,” says Dan, who lives at Killinghall, near Harrogate, where he works as head of design and innovation for Clevershot, utilising his video and photography skills in content-led marketing.

“Tick, Tick…Boom! was the show Jonathan Larson wrote before Rent, and after seeing the film version on Netflix, it seemed like a good choice for us to do, with a cast of four doing eight shows, where we could learn how to put on a show, working with Black Sheep’s experienced Matthew Peter Clare as our musical director.”

Explaining the choice of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre for Bright Light’s York debut, Dan says: “Matthew was my introduction to York, playing Whizzer in his production of Falsettos and appearing in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Musicals In The Multiverse, when he was the MD, both at the Rowntree theatre.

“It was a move up from a black-box theatre in Ripon to doing shows in York, where I found there were many companies already, but I thought ‘why not add another one’?! Having performed Falsettos and ‘Multiverse’ there, the Rowntree theatre seemed like a very accessible space for a company new to York.

“It’s an achievable theatre to perform in, and I immediately realised on contacting them that they’re a really helpful theatre – helping with all aspects of putting on a show.”

Giving it the finger: Charlie Clarke, left, Ellie Carrier, Chloe Pearson, Tiggy-Jade and Rebecca Firth in Green Day’s American Idiot. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

The JoRo is a suitable size too, says Dan. “It’s big, and a show like this needs a big set, with a scaffold design. We needed room for 14 people on that set, to go with all the resources the theatre offers.”

Looking ahead, “it seems like Bright Light are going to transition to York and potentially stay there, but we haven’t decided yet,” says Dan.

Watch this space. In the meantime, “join us for a memorable and high-energy performance that promises to be both a tribute to a seminal album and a resonant voice for today’s issues,” advises Dan.

“It will be interesting to see who comes, but I expect a passionate audience, who will probably already know the show or at least the album, so it could be quite a specific group that forms a large part of the audience. There’ll be Green Day fans but there’ll also be a crossover with musical fans.”

Bright Light Musical Productions present Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow (4/7/2024) to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Who’s in the cast?

IAIN Harvey as Johnny; Dan Poppitt as Tunny; William Thirlaway as Will; Mickey Moran as St Jimmy; Chloe Pearson as Whatsername; Ellie Carrier as Heather; Rebecca Firth as Extraordinary Girl/Dance Captain and Richard Bayton as Favourite Son/ensemble. Jack Fry, Kailum Farmery, Tiggy-Jade, Charlie Clarke, Josh Woodgate and Diane Wilkinson will be on ensemble duty.

Rehaearsals began on March 15 and have since been held on Friday nights and Sundays each week. “The casting didn’t come without its challenges,” says Dan. “I had to pull in Richard Bayton as a replacement. I’d worked with him at the National Centre for Early Music in Black Sheep’s Cages Or Wings? and you could see what he could do with a specific role for him in this show. He’s been an exceptional addition to the cast.”

Richard Bayton, as Favourite Son, with Charlie Clarke (red), Ellie Carrier (silver), Tiggy-Jade (blue) and Rebecca Firth (gold). Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

Rowntree Players to perform delightfully bizarre stories in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales at the JoRo

Rowntree Players cast members rehearsing for Grimm Tales

ROWNTREE Players will stage Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from July 11 to 13.

Amy Carter’s cast will take a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover how the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim.

Presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals, on behalf of Samuel French, Grimm Tales will be narrated by Chris Meadley, joined by Geoff Walker as Male 1; Graham Smith, Male 2; Joe Marrucci, Male 3; Fergus Green, Male 4; Abbey Follansbee, Female 1; Hannah Wood, Female 2; Meg Badrick, Female 3, and Annie Dunbar, Female 4.

In the ensemble will be Henry Cullen, Jess Whitehead, Britt Brett, Jess Dawson, Libby Roe and Ella Lofthouse.

Alongside Carter in the production team are production and technical manager Mark Lofthouse, scenic painter Anna Jones and Lena Ella, who is in charge of marketing and costumes.

Tickets for next week’s 7.30pm performances are on sale on 01904 501395 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk

Rowntree Players’ poster artwork for Grimm Tales at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Lesley Ann Eden marks 50 years of teaching dance in York with Pinocchio And Ponchetta at Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Lesley Ann Eden celebrates 50 years of teaching dance in York with her York School of Dance and Drama pupils. Picture: Nigel Holland

YORK choreographer Lesley Ann Eden stages her 50th anniversary York School of Dance and Drama show at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on Sunday (25/5/2024) evening.

Pupils ranging in age from six to 70 at her Park Grove School dance classes will perform Pinocchio And Ponchetta, Lesley’s take on the old story of Pinocchio and his sister, “full of fabulous dancing and great fun for all the family”.

“We’re well known for using all kinds of quirky things, such as skateboards and Chinese costumes, or ropes and ribbons,” she says. “That will be the case again, with a cross-section of dancers as usual.

“We’ve been serving York for 50 years now. I can’t believe it! We’ve had thousands of children and adults pass through our doors; some have gone on to set up their own dance schools or teach in higher education, others to further their career in stage, television and film work.”

Loughborough-born Lesley recalls how her York dance school began. “I’m just really humble that it all started with three little girls knocking on my door, saying, ‘you are the actress and dancer from London…would you teach us to dance and act?’. I couldn’t refuse!” she says.

A cellist plays at a York School of Dance and Drama performance. Picture: Nigel Holland

“It wasn’t what I had envisaged or planned, having just returned from India with my new, tiny baby and a stage career pending, but their fresh, expectant faces, full of excitement and wonder, made me accept their unexpected challenge – and I’m still doing it! That’s fate! Without that knock on the door, I would never have opened a school.”

Her school teaches everything from “American tap to lyrical, contemporary works to circus skills”. “And I teach it all myself,” says Lesley, who studied at the University of London. “I’m so proud to have been awarded the National Kidscape Award for the work I’ve done with children. 

“When I first got the letter, I thought it was junk mail, but it didn’t quite look like junk mail, and I’m so glad I opened it! I was asked to go to the [Millennium] Dome for the ceremony, and there were so many famous faces there!”

Lesley, who first taught dance at a school run by Irish nuns in West Bengal, India, enjoys teaching as much as ever. “Just recently, one of my ladies said, ‘can I ask the children why they come and what’s so different about coming here’, and one child said, ‘because it makes you feel special’.

“I do it because it gives me the utmost pleasure and satisfaction seeing someone express themselves from their inner core, pouring out their soul through dance. I just stand back and watch in awe.

A trio of York School of Dance and Drama dancers. Picture: Nigel Holland

“I also take in many children with difficulties, giving scholarships to those who can’t afford it. I’ve done that all my teaching life and I really believe in it.”

The dance school’s motto is “Nullos Limos” (No Limits). “It echoes my own philosophy that in our dreams our skills and performance talents are limitless, and if we can make our dreams reality, our own joy will be limitless, as will that of others who share our dreams,” says Lesley.

“Dance is a blending of mind, body and spirit, and it’s total therapy too, making people forget their problems for an hour. I’ve found this to be the case time and again. When you’re blending dancing with music, it’s just a wonderful feeling of completion. I’m so grateful to be able to teach it.”

Lesley, whose teaching has taken her all over the world, once brought her trademark positivity to both Lesley’s Challenge and her health tips in The York Press. “Some people still remember those tips, and they still put porridge left over from breakfast on their face, as I suggested!” she says.

Look out for her new series of books to be published by White Magic Studios in June and July: Lucky and Lucky 2 Love. “They’re about my travels across the world as a single woman, having psychic paranormal experiences,” says Lesley, who has three books out in the United States of America too.

Her thoughts return to Sunday’s 50th anniversary show and the benefits of dancing. “It’s not just the individual physical and mental process. It’s also the fact that you are unified with others when you perform – and that’s what missing from so many lives now, whether it’s families not seeing each other very often or just surviving in your own little box.

York School of Dance and Drama soloist Esme Frere. Picture: Nigel Holland

“When people come together to dance, they embrace that unity. That’s what classes and performances give them – and the performances also give parents the chance to perform on stage with their children, which isn’t common and is a wonderful joy, giving them a memory for a lifetime.”

In dance teacher tradition, Lesley will never retire. “My children say that I will still be dancing the Funky Chicken on my Zimmer frame,” she says.

Will she dance in Sunday’s show? “I won’t this time, but simply because I’ve had two hip replacements, which does make it more difficult, but not impossible – and I’ll still go on for many more years,” promises Lesley.

Lesley Ann Eden’s York School of Dance and Drama in Pinocchio And Ponchetta, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, May 26, 6.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Did you know?

LESLEY Ann Eden was the first of five people to obtain an M.A. in choreography, producing her own style of dance, Junction Jazz. She also has invented a style of performance: the “choreo-drama”.

One last question: What is your best piece of advice to a young dancer, Lesley?

“My advice is to learn the technique, then throw it away and dance with your heart.”

York School of Dance and Drama’s publicity image for Pinocchio And Ponchetta on the Joseph Rowntree Theatre website

REVIEW: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday ****

Toto puppeteer Adam Gill, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Daan Janssen’s Lion in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz. Picture: Lucy Baines, Joy Photography

BY day, Sadie Sorensen teaches A-level Biology. By night and weekend matinee this week, she is “very excited to take on the bucket list role” of Dorothy in only her second show for York Musical Theatre Company (YMTC).

She is relatively new to the York am-dram scene, having relocated here two years ago, but brings bags of experience, having performed in many shows in her Hull past.

What a good talent spot by director and choreographer Kathryn Addison, who is rewarded with a super lead performance by Sorensen.

At 26, she is ten years older than Judy Garland’s iconic Dorothy Gale in Victor Fleming’s 1939 film – much older too than Eleanor Leaper’s Dorothy, aged 13, in YMTC’s 2010 production at York Theatre Royal – but she utterly evokes the tearaway teenager. Pitch of Kansas voice, spot on. Her singing, both powerful and emotive, especially in Over The Rainbow.

Addison’s cast has plenty more hits too, not least casting York stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter into the dark side for the first time as the mean-spirited Miss Gulch and the grouchy villain, the Wicked Witch of the West. Hunter is as entertaining as ever, such a good sport as the baddie.

Fellow “veteran” Martyn Hunter is on good form too, both as the kindly Professor Marvel and the “humbug” Wizard of Oz; Ben Caswell’s Emerald City Guard is full of comic panache; Elizabeth Gardner glitters as Glinda and Marlena Kellie’s Aunty Em is suitably homely.

Full of green energy: Ben Caswell’s Emerald City Guard. Picture: Lucy Baines, Joy Photography

Addison’s cast has an international flavour too. Zander Fick, classically trained in opera and jazz singing, moved to York from South Africa in April 2023 and now follows his scene-stealing Chef Louis in York Light Opera Company’s The Little Mermaid with a Tin Man replete with squeaky, robotic movement and, ironically, plenty of heart.

Better still is Dutch-born Daan Janssen, who honed his musical theatre-inspired drag performing skills while studying for his PhD in Germany and now turns in a terrific Lion. From his arch American accent to his timid yet proud demeanour and supreme singing voice, so deep and playful, he is a roaring success.

JoRo regular Rachel Higgs is an appealing Scarecrow and the Yellow Brick Road travelling troupe is completed by canine puppeteer Adam Gill’s ever attentive Toto in a show with two Totos for the price of one. Cast member Helen Barugh’s dog Daisy takes the role in the opening and closing Kansas farmhouse scenes; Elanor Kitchen’s puppet in Oz.

Addison’s choreography makes splendid use of both the adult ensemble and young Munchkins, while Helen Barugh, Katie Crossley and Kirsty Farrow’s Trees and Rob Davies and Caswell’s Crows have their moments too.

Musical director John Atkin’s ten-piece orchestra feels at home in all those familiar Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg songs, the playing light on its feet, the energy infectious. Julie Fisher’s costumes are a delight, for principals, ensemble and children alike, combining with UK Productions’ set design, Ollie Nash’s sound and Nick Lay’s lighting to complete a high- quality production in the merry old land of Oz. Time to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the box office.  

York Musical Theatre Company in The Wiard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond food, glorious food. Here’s Hutch’s List No 17 for 2024, from Gazette & Herald

Jeanette Hunter’s Wicked Witch, right, in rehearsal for York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz with Daan Janssen’s Lion, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Toto puppeteer Adam Gill

FOOD for thought for the cultural week ahead, from the Yellow Brick Road to Heaven revisited, a foodie festival to Laurie Lee, seascapes to coastal Dexys, as Charles Hutchinson reports.

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time next week, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. 

Velma Celli’s Show Queen: Celebrating the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits at York Theatre Royal

Cabaret celebration of the week: Velma Celli’s Show Queen, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow (23/5/2024), 7.30pm

DRAG diva Velma Celli, the alter ego of York actor Ian Stroughair, goes back to Ian’s roots in Cats, Chicago, Fame and Rent for a new celebration of the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits.

The show “takes us to every corner of the fabulous genre, from Kander & Ebb and Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked and Schönberg’s Les Miserables and many more,” says Velma. “Like, more than Six!”. Special guests will be burlesque star Miss Betsy Rose and belting York singer Jessica Steel. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rebecca Ferguson: Liverpool soul singer’s last album and tour at 37

Soul gig of the week: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven Part II Tour, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

LIVERPOOL soul singer and The X Factor alumna Rebecca Ferguson is touring her fifth and final album, Heaven Part II, released last December 12 years to the day since her debut, Heaven.

Working with new contributors and original Heaven writers and producers, Ferguson sings of love, family, joy, liberation and her journey to happiness over the past seven years. She is, however, calling time on recording and touring to “find a way to have a relationship with music which is positive”. Friday’s support acts will be York country singer Twinnie and Eloise Viola. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival: Look out for the festival guide and map on site

Festival of the week: Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival, Saturday, from 9am; Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, from 10am

ON the streets of “Yorkshire’s Food Capital”, Malton Food Lovers Festival celebrates Yorkshire’s supreme produce and cooking over three days of 120 artisan stalls and street food vendors, talks, tastings, chef demonstrations, brass bands and buskers, festival bar, food shops, sculpture trail, entertainment, blacksmith workshops, vintage funfair and family fun with Be Amazing Arts’ Creativitent, Environmental Art’s Creative Chaos and Magical Quests North.

The live musicians will be: Saturday, Malton White Star Band, 11am to 1pm, The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Oz Ward, 6pm to 8pm; Sunday, White Star Training Band, 11.30am to 12.30pm, and The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Monday, The Acoustic Buddies, 11am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. Festival entry is free.

Kirkby Soul: Playing outdoors at Hemsley Walled Garden on Saturday

Fundraiser of the week: Kirkby Soul, Helmsley Walled Garden, Helmsley, Saturday, 7.30pm

RYEDALE eight-piece band Kirkby Soul present an evening of soul music in aid of Helmsley Arts Centre and Helmsley Walled Garden. Bring chairs, cushions, blankets, dancing shoes and picnics. A paying bar will be operation in the orchid house. Come prepared for the British weather! A marquee will be erected just in case. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Anton Lesser: Performing in Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music at Grand Opera House, York

Literary event of the week: Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, Grand Opera House, York, May 26, 7.30pm

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise, performed by actors Anton Lesser and Charlie Hamblett, accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

Together they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events, tracing Lee’s path through Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War as he ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Jo’s Place, seascape, by Carolyn Coles, from her Home Is Where The Heart Is exhibition at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

Exhibition launch: Carolyn Coles, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, May 30 to August 1

CREATING atmospheric, impressionistic and abstract seascapes, South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles paints mostly with acrylics on stretched canvasses, using an array of techniques and implements.

Known for evoking emotional responses, Carolyn reflects her love for the Yorkshire landscape, offering a direct response to the feelings and connections to places that feel like home. Everyone is welcome at the 6pm to 9pm launch on May 30, when Carolyn will be happy to answer questions.

Dirty Ruby: Ryedale Blues’ headliners at Milton Rooms, Malton

Blues gig of the week: Ryedale Blues presents Dirty Ruby, Milton Rooms, Malton, May 30, 8pm

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE five-piece Dirty Ruby have drawn comparisons with Seventies’ bands Stone The Crows and Vinegar Joe in their energetic, sharp-edged blues rock, combining Hammond organ and bluesy guitar with soulful lead vocals. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Dexys: Showcasing The Feminine Divine at Scarborough Spa

Coastal trip of the week: Dexys, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, May 30, doors 7pm

AFTER playing York for the first time in their 45-year career last September, Dexys return to North Yorkshire on the latest leg of The Feminine Divine Live!

Led as ever by Kevin Rowland, Dexys open with a theatrical presentation of last year’s album, The Feminine Divine, to be followed by a second soulful set of beloved hits, from Come On Eileen and Jackie Wilson Said to The Celtic Soul Brothers and Geno. Box office: 01723 376774 or scarboroughspa.co.uk.

In Focus: The 1879 FA Cup clash of Darwen FC and the Old Etonians in The Giant Killers at Milton Rooms, Malton

The tour poster for Long Lane Theatre Club’s The Giant Killers

MANCHESTER United meet “noisy neighbours” Manchester City in the 143rd FA Cup final on Saturday, coinciding with the tour launch of a fitting theatrical tribute to the competition’s early days.

Staged by Long Lane Theatre Club, The Giant Killers tells the story of how Darwen FC came to the public’s attention in 1870s’ Lancashire to proclaim Association Football as a people’s game and not only the preserve of the upper classes.

Good news for Malton, the story of Darwen’s FA Cup clashes with the toffs of the Old Etonians is booked to appear at the Milton Rooms on July 4 (now confirmed as the date for another battle, the 2024 General Election).

The Giant Killers recounts how a ragtag bunch of mill workers in Darwen took on the amateur gentlemen’s club of the Old Etonians in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1879. The Old Etonians were winning 5-1 but Darwen rallied to force a replay after a 5-5 draw. 

One replay turned into three, with one abandoned through bad light. Forced to travel to London a very expensive three times and with team members losing a day’s work, Darwen eventually succumbed 6-2, but their story of working-class men inspiring a nation enabled the top hats in football crowds to turn into ‘’a sea of flat caps’’.

Kick-off – or kick-toff! – will be at 7.30pm for Andrew Pearson-Wright & Eve Pearson-Wright’s story of how Darwen FC rose up against prevailing social prejudice and the might of the Football Association to earn a place in history as the first real ‘‘giant killers’’ in English football. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

York Musical Theatre Company ready to follow the Yellow Brick Road at the JoRo

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time from Wednesday to Saturday, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Ben Caswell as the Guard, Rob Davies as Uncle Henry, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard.

The production team of director and choreographer Kathryn Addison and musical director John Atkin promises a dazzling production of L Frank Baum’s story with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg.

In the ensemble will be Adam Gill, Katie Greene, Katy Barrow, Jo Gamble, Sue Coward, Katie Crossley, Helen Barugh, Kirsty Farrow and Iris Van Hout.

Jeanette Hunter’s Wicked Witch, right, in rehearsal with Daan Janssen’s Lion, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Toto puppeteer Adam Gill

The delightful Munchkins will be played by the children’s cast of Amelia Berry, Sophie Blackmore, Anna Cook, Emilia Davenport, Olivia Dobson Lopez, Matilda Down, Erica Fletcher, Sucy Innes, Izzy Jackson, Eva Lofthouse, Lucas Macleod, Nia Mcvay, Edith Pickard, Matilda Rose and Ellena Sheader.

Adding to the enchantment will be Daisy the dog as Toto. Owned by cast member Helen Barugh, she brings alertness, friendliness, responsiveness and an affable nature to the part, along with an ability to interact with her fellow actors.

What’s more, audiences will be in for a delightful surprise as the show progresses. Once Dorothy and her companions reach the fantastical land of Oz, Daisy undergoes a magical transformation. From that point forward, Toto will be brought to life through the skilled, precise and charming puppetry of Adam Gill.

York Musical Theatre Company in The Wiard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, May 22 to 25, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Toto meet Toto: Adam Gill’s puppet version with canine star Daisy

More Things To Do in York and beyond when the wonderful and the wicked await. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 21, from The Press

Mikron Theatre cast members Eddie Ahrens, left, Mark Emmon, Georgina Liley and Lauren Robinson: Presenting an outdoor performance of Common Ground at Scarcoft Allotments, York, on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Robling Photography

FROM land access tales to the Yellow Brick Road, wonderful words about wellies to a journey through isolation, show song heights to a soulful heaven, Charles Hutchinson follows the path to cultural discovery.

Touring play of the week: Mikron Theatre in Common Ground, Scarcroft Allotments, Scarcroft Road, York, May 19, 2pm

ON tour on narrow boat and canal, van and land until October 18, Marsden company Mikron Theatre present Common Ground, writer and lyricist Poppy Hollman’s hike through the history of land access in England, where only eight per cent of land is designated “open country”.

Under the direction of Gitika Buttoo, actor-musicians Eddie Ahrens, Georgina Liley, Lauren Robinson and Mark Emmon tell the tale of the fictional Pendale and District Ramblers as they look forward to celebrating their 50th anniversary walk, but the path has been blocked by the landowner. How will they find their way through? No reserved seating or tickets required; a “pay what you feel” collection will be taken post-show.

Harry Baker: Wonderful words by the slam champ at The Crescent

Spoken word gig of the week: Say Owt presents Harry Baker: Wonderful, The Crescent, York, May 20, 7.30pm

WORLD Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker is a poet, mathematician, stand-up comic and writer who reflects on “important stuff”, whether hope, dinosaurs or German falafel spoons, as found in his new poetry collection, Wonderful, published by Burning Eye this month.

On his 30-date Wonderful tour, the “maths-loving, TED-talking, German-speaking, battle-rapping, happy-crying, self-bio-writing unashamed human” brings his signature playfulness and poignancy to new poems about wellies, postcodes, sunflowers, sticky toffee pudding and his favourite German wheat beer. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Jeanette Hunter: Heading to the dark side as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, May 22 to 25, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time next week, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Miranda Sykes: Songs of isolation, illness and recovery at Black Swan Folk Club

Folk gig of the week: Miranda Sykes, Out Of The Woods Tour, Black Swan Folk Club, Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, May 23, 7.30pm

SHOW Of Hands and Daphne’s Flight member Miranda Sykes promotes her pandemic-scarred March album Out Of The Woods in her debut Black Swan solo gig, showcasing songs that chart her journey through isolation, illness and recovery with the aim of bringing comfort after such turbulent years.

“Life is many faceted; like most people I’ve had good times and hard times,” says the Lincolnshire-born singer, double bass player and guitarist. “I’ve taken some forks in the road I shouldn’t have done and I’ve had some knocks, but it’s all part of who I am now.”  Box office: blackswanfolkclub.org.uk.

Velma Celli’s Show Queen: Celebrating the best of West End and Broadway musical theatre at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Sophie Eleanor

Cabaret celebration of the week: Velma Celli’s Show Queen, York Theatre Royal, May 23, 7.30pm

DRAG diva Velma Celli, the alter ego of York actor Ian Stroughair, goes back to Ian’s roots in Cats, Chicago, Fame and Rent for a new celebration of the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits.

The show “takes us to every corner of the fabulous genre, from Kander & Ebb and Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked and Schönberg’s Les Miserables and many more,” says Velma. “Like, more than Six!”. Special guests will be burlesque star Miss Betsy Rose and belting York singer Jessica Steel. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rebecca Ferguson: Final album and tour at 37

Soul gig of the week: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven Part II Tour, York Barbican, May 24, 7.30pm

LIVERPOOL soul singer and The X Factor alumna Rebecca Ferguson is touring her fifth and final album, Heaven Part II, released last December 12 years to the day since her debut, Heaven.

Working with new contributors and original Heaven writers and producers, Ferguson sings of love, family, joy, liberation and her journey to happiness over the past seven years. She is, however, calling time on recording and touring to “find a way to have a relationship with music which is positive”. Friday’s support acts will be York country singer Twinnie and Eloise Viola. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Anton Lesser in Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music at Grand Opera House, York

Literary event of the week: Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, Grand Opera House, York, May 26, 7.30pm

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise, performed by actors Anton Lesser and Charlie Hamblett, accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

Together, they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events, tracing Lee’s path through Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War as he ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Home Is Where The Heart Is, seascape, by Carolyn Coles, from her exhibition at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

Exhibition launch: Carolyn Coles, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, May 30 to August 1

CREATING atmospheric, impressionistic and abstract seascapes, South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles paints mostly with acrylics on stretched canvasses, using an array of techniques and implements.

Known for evoking emotional responses, Carolyn reflects her love for the Yorkshire landscape, offering a direct response to the feelings and connections to places that feel like home. Everyone is welcome at the 6pm to 9pm launch on May 30, when Carolyn will be happy to answer questions.