NE Musicals York’s biggest cast heads to the wild wood for The Wind In The Willows

Lee Harris’s Mr Toad leaps in the air during a rehearsal for NE Musicals York’s The Wind In The Willows The Musical

NE Musicals York take over the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Sunday to transform the theatre into a riverbank and wild wood for the York premiere of The Wind In The Willows The Musical.

Director Steve Tearle has created the design for the April 27 to May 1 run of the hit book adaptation by Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey, with songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the Olivier award-winning lyricist-and-composer partnership.

Rehearsals are into the final week for Tearle’s staging of Kenneth Grahame’s story of Ratty, Mole, Badger and the impulsive Mr Toad, whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious bother.

NE Musicals York in an early publicity shot for their York premiere of Wind In The Willows The Musical

When his beloved home comes under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Mr Toad must attempt a daring escape, leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall.

“This family musical packed with thrills, comedy and a massive heart is racing into York for the very first time with exuberant choreography by Ellie Roberts and a beautiful, exciting British score brought to life by musical director Sam Johnson,” says Steve. “Look out for the costumes: they’ve been created by NE Musicals too.”

Tearle’s largest-ever cast is led by Lee Harris as Mr Toad, Finlay Butler as Ratty, Tom Henshaw as Badger and Jack Hambleton as Mole. Sam Richardson plays Chief Weasel; Tearle himself will be Kenneth Grahame and the Magistrate.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening shows and 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Director Steve Tearle (centre, back, by a pillar, in a hat) watches Lee Harris, front, and company members in a rehearsal for NE Musicals’ premiere

REVIEW: Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in Kipps, ‘The New Half A Sixpence Musical’

What a catch! Jennie Wogan-Wells’s Ann Pornick reaches for the bouquet in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Kipps. All pictures: Mike Darley

Kipps, Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow, 2.30pm, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk

FLASH, bang, wallop, what a picture of joy as Jennie Wogan-Wells’s Ann Pennick leaps to catch the wedding bouquet at the finale to Kipps on opening night, fully three years after the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company acquired the rights to this Half A Sixpence re-boot.

Under the pandemic’s shadow, the JoRo’s in-house company moved the production dates three or four times, recalls director Kayleigh Oliver in her programme notes. Kipps may advocate “singing a simple tune”, but there has been nothing simple about the “Herculean effort” of staging a show whose cast is in its 37th incarnation. Yes, 37.

Jamie Benson’s Arthur Kipps with the predatory James and Mrs Walsingham (Stuart Sellens, Helen Spencer) and daughter Helen (JenniferJones)

It remains “a simple story about a simple bloke who just wants a simple life”, as first conjured in HG Wells’ subversive 1905 novel depicting a simple soul, caught between the head and the heart.

Half A Sixpence made cheeky charmer Tommy Steele’s name in David Heneker and Beverley Cross’s stage show and 1967 film musical. In 2016, it re-emerged as Kipps in a refreshing revamp co-created by impresario Cameron Mackintosh with seven new numbers by alchemical songwriting duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe to complement Heneker’s original songs.

Significantly too, the radical, overtly political new book is the sprightly work of Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, the upstairs-downstairs chronicler who tools Kipps with rigidity-busting, robust humour rooted in the clash of the English classes with its accent on having the ‘correct’ accent. It is still a romantic tale, but now has much more of the punk spirit of Richard Bean’s socialist comedy knees-up, One Man, Two Guvnors.

Head over heels: Jamie Benson’s Arthur Kipps and Jennifer Jones’s Helen Walsingham

Jamie Benson’s Arthur ‘Artie’ Kipps is a warm-hearted innocent abroad, an orphaned Folkstone apprentice draper who is suddenly bequeathed a fortune. Out goes a childhood vow to Ann; in comes the properly nice Helen Walsingham (Jennifer Jones) and a “world of upper-class soirees and strict rules of etiquette” that leaves him all at sea on the Kentish coast.

More to the point, Fellowes depicts high society as mercenary snobs, typified by Stuart Sellens’s James Walsingham and Helen Spencer’s scene-stealing Mrs Walsingham, the dragon mother desperate to bring Kipps’s new money into her crusty family via Helen’s entwining with Kipps

Just as the Walsinghams work on exploiting Kipps’s innocence, so Chris Gibson’s story-spinning artful dodger thespian Chitterlow seeks to entice him into backing his new play in his lovably rakish manner beneath his unruly wig.

The Joy Of Theatre, as espoused by Chris Gibson’s dapper thespian, Chitterlow

That elicited the song The Joy Of Theatre, one of the high points of this perky show that so affirmed everyone’s delight at being back in the JoRo, whether on stage or in the auditorium.

From lovable Benson to jocund Gibson, spirited Wogan-Wells to thoroughly decent Jones, self-pitying Spencer to Jane Woolgar’s Lady Punnet, Ben Huntley’s food-loving Buggins to Alastair Bush’s foppish photographer, there is so much to enjoy in the performances and singing, supported ever enthusiastically by the ensemble. Not forgetting the opening cameos of Ben Wood as Young Kipps and Kate Blenkiron as Young Ann.

Jane Woolgar’s costumes could not be more colourful; musical director James Robert Ball’s orchestra have a ball with songs older and newer alike and Lorna Newby’s choreography consistently brings a beaming smile. Never more so than in the stand-out Pick Out A Simple Tune, led by the banjo-playing Benson before the Flash, Bang, Walloping finale. Stick it in the family diary for tomorrow: Kipps is indeed “the pick-me-up we so desperately need in grey February”, as Kayleigh Oliver puts it. Book NOW for Kipps with everything.

Picking Out A Simple Tune: Banjo-playing Kipps (Jamie Benson) leads the high-society soiree in a merry dance

Rehearsals start for York Musical Theatre Company’s May show Jekyll & Hyde The Musical. Who’s in Matthew Clare’s cast?

York Musical Theatre Company’s artwork for Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

REHEARSALS are underway for York Musical Theatre Company’s May staging of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical.

“The production team were blown away by the high standard of talent that attended the two days of auditions in January, resulting in a very tough task in the casting of roles,” says company stalwart Mick Liversidge. “In fact, deliberation went on to the early hours of the morning after the final auditionee had left on the second day.

“YMTC feel that the resulting cast will deliver a fantastic show, worthy of marking the company’s 120th year. Rehearsals began on Monday and the cast couldn’t wait to get stuck into the sumptuous music of this fabulous show.”

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story, the epic struggle between good and evil comes to life on stage to the thrilling pop-rock score of Grammy and Tony Award-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double Oscar and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse.

An evocative tale of two men – one, a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself – finds both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret.

A devoted man of science, Dr Henry Jekyll is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve the most challenging of medical dilemmas. Rebuffed by the powers-that-be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons, along with the man that the world would come to know as Mr Hyde.

York Musical Theatre Company invite audiences to “be immersed in the myth and mystery of 19th century London’s fog-bound streets, where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling turn and twist” in the May 25 to 28 run at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. For the Early Bird discount of £2 off each ticket, use the promo code JEKYLL22HYDE when booking online.

Jekyll & Hyde cast:

Dr Henry Jekyll/Mr Edward Hyde: Steven Jobson
Emma Carew:  Alexandra Mather
Lucy Harris:  Nicola Holliday & Claire Pulpher (shared role)
John Utterson:  Anthony Gardner
Sir Danvers Carew:  Nick Sephton
Simon Stride:  Matthew Ainsworth
Lady Beaconsfield:  Helen Spencer
Lady Savage: Elizabeth Vile
Archibald Proops:  Ryan Stocks
General Glossop: Rob Davies
Bishop of Basingstoke: Ryan Richardson
Spider: Ben Caswell
Nellie: Erin Keogh

Ensemble: Eleanor Anson; Faye Addy; Danar Cantrill; Ellie Carrier; Sophie Cunningham; Bethany Edwards; Rebecca Ellis; Tess Ellis; Emily Hardy; Cameron O’Dent; Frankie Nicholls; Suzanne Perkins; Victoria Rimmington; Paula Stainton; Hannah Wakelam.


Director: Matthew Clare; musical director, John Atkin; production manager, Peter Jamieson;
wardrobe, Kathryn Addison.


REVIEW: Life after death in The Missing Peace, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York ****

Many Newby performing the opening monologue, Save The Last Dance, in The Missing P:eace. Picture: David Harrison

Rowntree Players in The Missing Peace, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight, 7.30pm; tomorrow, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

AMERICAN writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher Benjamin Franklin famously said: “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

Yet talking about death remains a taboo subject (and who wants to discuss tax?), but Tow Law-born York all-rounder, teacher, party-band frontman, keynote conference speaker, filmmaker, charity event organiser and storyteller Big Ian Donaghy did just that in his second book, The Missing Peace.

Busker Peter Hyndman in a lonesome moment in The Missing Peace. Picture: David Harrison

“It’s not about dying,” he clarifies. “It’s about living and celebrating life.” Actually, it is about death, coming to terms with death, life after death and, yes, talking about it. Death of partners, parents and pets alike. Siblings and soul mates. Stepping in as the replacement or being the loco in parentis.

Gemma McDonald, teacher and Rowntree Players pantomime favourite, read the book and immediately thought The Missing Peace could be turned from the written to the spoken word on stage in the form of One Play…15 Endings.

Working in tandem with Donaghy, she has adapted and directed the Players’ Talking Heads-style production, set at a busy York railway station, where Mark Addy, no less, is the station announcer in the pre-recorded narrator’s role.

Platform for discussion: Dealing with death in Rowntree Players’ production of The Missing Peace. Picture: David Harrison

Donaghy has the funny bones and timing of a stand-up, the golden quill of a novelist, an all-too-uncommon common touch and the eye for a story and contacts’ book of a journalist. Hence he can deliver lines, deliver Addy and, in turn, Addy delivers the goods. “He’s like a Peter Sallis, like being by a warm hearth,” said Donaghy after last night’s premiere.

Donaghy is decisive too. Watching the dress rehearsal, the frontman in him told him the cast would need head microphones as well as overhead ones. He and Gemma also instinctively felt that the presentation of a succession of monologues – theatre’s most intense, concentration-demanding form – would benefit from the insertion of an interval.

He was right on both fronts, and in his wish for The Missing Peace to be the starting pistol for conversation, not the finishing line, those conversations could start all the sooner, at half-time.

Mother and son in union: Jackie Holmes listens to Mark McDonald in The Missing Peace. Picture: David Harrison

Gemma McDonald has done a tremendous job too, both in picking the monologues and their varying tones and experiences and her choice of community cast, whether young (Beth Hutchinson, Katelyn Banks, Hannah Woods), ever reliable (Mark McDonald, Mandy Newby, Graham Smith, Maggie Smales, Gemma herself); or assured in centre-stage (Lynne Edwards, Liam Godfrey, Jackie Holmes).

A series of monologues might sound repetitive, but there is nothing mono about their performances; instead they are rich in nuance, all performed with clarity and sensitivity, using the exposure of direct address to the maximum impact. Individuality and teamwork knitted together superbly, and how moving this counselling form of theatre is.

This is not stand-and-deliver theatre; instead Gemma has a painter’s eye in framing each scene, with others present on stage in many, but never distractingly so. All the while, busking guitarist Peter Hyndman links the monologues, looking heavenwards as he sings.

Heaven’s above: Sara Howlett mid-monologue in The Missing Peace. Picture: David Harrison

Sara Howlett excitedly talking about heaven has person after person disengaging from her on the station forecourt; Alison Taylor’s secret “other woman” at her lover’s funeral stands at the back, separate from the motionless, side-on, silhouetted mourners, as she faces the audience in a soft spotlight in a brilliant piece of choreography.

In contrast, Joseph Marucci’s devastated father is all alone in his abiding grief, conversing with his stillborn daughter, “born asleep”.

“You may cry,” wrote Donaghy in his programme notes. We did, at that moment and others too. “You may laugh,” he surmised. We did, knowingly, as Gemma McDonald and Katelyn Banks’s mum and daughter dealt with the death of the family hamster, and when Beth Hutchinson’s daughter revealed to her late dad her switch of allegiance from Manchester United to Liverpool (“Jurgen Klopp is like Fergie with better teeth,” she reasoned).

Director Gemma McDonald in Do You Really Want To Hurt Me. Picture: David Harrison

“But YOU will think,” emphasised Donaghy in capital letters. And, yes, you will think, but more importantly you will talk. Everyone was talking afterwards, opening up about their own experiences.

Just as they will after tonight and tomorrow’s performances. Talk will then turn to what happens next to The Missing Peace, which surely has an afterlife. Watch this space.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

More Things To Do in York and beyond when moments of laughter, sadness and reflection make List No. 66, from The Press

Beth Hutchinson in her monologue in Rowntree Players’ premiere of The Missing Peace. Picture: Duncan Lomax

FROM The Missing Peace to Shed Seven at the races, Charles Hutchinson finds the missing pieces to fill your diary

Premiere of the week: Rowntree Players in The Missing Peace, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 27 to 29, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

ROWNTREE Players director Gemma McDonald has adapted York author, singer, motivational conference speaker and charity champion Big Ian Donaghy’s book The Missing Peace, now billed as “One play…15 endings”.

On stage, Donaghy’s exploration of life after death takes the form of 15 Talking Heads-style monologues, many drawn from interviews he conducted in York. “It’s not a play about death, it’s a play about life,” he says. “There will be moments of laughter, sadness and reflection throughout.”

Look out for Mark Addy, who has recorded the narrator’s role as the Station Announcer. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires: Acoustic show in their regular haunt of Pocklington

Country gig of the week: The Shires – Acoustic, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 26, 8pm

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to Pocklington on the back of working on their upcoming fifth album.

Award-winning duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have made a habit of playing Pocklington since their Studio debut in 2014, appearing regularly at PAC and playing the Platform Festival at The Old Station in 2016 and 2019. To check ticket availability, go to pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or call 01759 301547. 

Ross Noble: What is a Humournoid? Find out, or maybe not, in his new tour show

Comedy gig of the week: Ross Noble: Humournoid, Grand Opera House, York, January 29, 8pm

WHAT happens when a creature is created and bred to do stand up, asks Geordie comic Ross Noble in his Covid-delayed but finally here new tour show, Humournoid?

“Nobody knows because that isn’t a thing,” says his tour blurb. “What is a thing is Ross Noble doing a show. You can come and see it. This is it.”

As ever with this improviser supreme, it turns out Humournoid has no theme, says Noble, who promises a typically freewheeling performance on his return to one of his five favourite venues in the world. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Porridge Radio: Brighton band making waves at The Crescent in York. Picture: El Hardwick

If you discover one band this month, make it: Porridge Radio, The Crescent, York, January 31, 7.30pm

EVERY Bad, their 2020 album released by the super-cool Secretly Canadian label, has propelled Porridge Radio from a word-of-mouth gem of Brighton’s DIY scene to one of the country’s most exciting upcoming bands.

“Last here opening for BC Camplight, we’re very pleased to see them return,” say promoters Please Please You and Brudenell Presents. Pet Shimmers, a new supercharged seven-piece from Bristol, support. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Malaika Kegode: Guest poet at Say Owt Slam’s return to The Crescent

Word wars: Say Owt Slam with guest poet Malaika Kegode, The Crescent, York, February 5, 7.30pm

BRISTOL writer, performer and producer Malaika Kegode will be the special guest at York spoken-word hub Say Owt’s first Slam night for more than two years.

Kegode has appeared at WOMAD and Edinburgh Book Festival, published two poetry collections with Burning Eye Books and created Outlier, an autobiographical gig-theatre with prog-rock band Jakabol. Passionate about cinema, culture and race, her lyrical work journeys through lives and loves, exploring genre, form and the power of the written word made visual.

In the raucous poetry Slam, performers will have three minutes each to wow the audience. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Contrarian comedian Alfie Brown: Emotional moments in his Sensitive Man show

Moral dilemmas: Alfie Brown: Sensitive Man, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 10, 8pm

DOES emotion help us make moral judgments? In his new show, contrarian comedian Alfie Moore will address this question, using jokes.

These jokes will weave together to create something greater than the sum of their parts, answering a question about emotion and its complicated relationship with morality.

“I refute that I am saying things to plainly and wilfully disrupt social progress,” he says. “I am not. I might seem smug, I know, apologies, and I am often misunderstood. So, at this particular point in the unfolding history of meaning, intention, signs and signifiers, I am sometimes going to tell you what I mean.” Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Florence Odumosu as Nina Simone in Black Is The Color Of My Voice at the SJT, Scarborough

Nina’s blues: Black Is The Color Of My Voice, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 12, 7.30pm

FLORENCE Odumosu plays Nina Simone in Apphia Campbell’s story of the North Carolina-born jazz and blues singer and activist seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father. 

Simone reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy, destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned vocalist and pianist at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Chasing winners: Shed Seven to play after the May 14 race card at Doncaster Racecourse

Racing certainty…hopefully: Shed Seven, Live After Racing @Doncaster Racecourse, May 14, from 11.15am

YORK band Shed Seven’s day at the races should have taken place on May 15 2021, but Covid made it a non-runner. Now they are under starter’s orders at Doncaster Racecourse for a hit-laden live set after the May 15 race card this spring.

Among the Sheds’ runners and riders will be Going For Gold, Chasing Rainbows, She Left Me On Friday, Disco Down, Dolphin, Where Have You Been Tonight? and fan favourites from 2017’s comeback album Instant Pleasures, Room In My House and Better Days. For tickets for the race-day and concert package, go to: doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on.

NE Musicals York’s big cast to start The Wind In The Willows rehearsals on Feb 17

NE Musicals York’s poster for this spring’s production of The Wind In The Willows, The Musical

THE cast is in place for rehearsals to start on February 17 for NE Musicals York’s spring production of The Wind In The Willows, The Musical.

“Yes, we have one of our strongest and largest casts for the most amazing show; a musical by George Stiles & Anthony Drewe and Julian Fellowes that’s brand new to York,” says director Steve Tearle. “It’s an hilarious adventure, a great musical for the whole family.”

Based on Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic, The Wind In The Willows, The Musical is a wild, thrill-seeking tale with a book by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and songs by Olivier Award-winning composer-and-lyricist duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

This riotous comedy follows Mole, Rat, Badger and the impulsive Mr Toad, whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious trouble.

When his beloved home comes under threat from the notorious Chief Weasel and his gang of sinister Wild Wooders, Mr Toad must attempt a daring escape, leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall.

“Full of humour and wit, with a gorgeous, soaring score and heart-warming lessons of friendship, The Wind In The Willows is the perfect fit for family audiences everywhere,” says Steve.

Tearle’s production will run at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from April 27 to May 1 with a cast led by Lee Harris as Mr Toad; Finlay Butler as Ratty; Tom Henshaw as Badger and Jack Hambleton as Mole. Hambleton was last seen as teenage diarist Adrian Mole in Pick Me Up Theatre’s musical production of The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ at Theatre@41, Monkgate, last month.

Sam Richardson will play Chief Weasel; Steve Tearle, Kenneth Grahame and Magistrate; Neve Greenley, Julian ‘Mouse’ Grahame; Libby Anderson, Portia; Perri Ann Barley, Mrs Otter; Ellie Roberts, Lesser Weasel/Olivia Otter, and Kristian Barley, Horse/Scared Weasel.

Maia Stroud has been cast as Sheryl Stoat; Becky Warboys, Mrs Hedgehog; Paul Jefferson, Mr Hedgehog; Carolyn Jensen, Henrietta Horse/Sheila Stoat; Pat Mortimer, Barge Woman/Fiona Fox; Millie Warboys, Shelly Squirrel/Gaoler’s Daughter, and Erin Greenley, Scarlett Squirrel/Engine Driver.

Henry Barker will be Stephano Squirrel/Engine Driver Assistant; Scott Kendrew, policeman Shaun Squirrel/Car Driver; Toby Jensen, policeman Sam Squirrel/Rob Rabbit; George D Moore, prison guard Freddie Fox; Elizabeth Farrell, Serena Swallow/Opal Otter, and Roxy Hurst, SoSo Swallow/Odessa Otter.

Evie Latham will play Skye Swallow/Octavia Otter; Suraya Pickersgill, Harriet Hedgehog; Ishbel Nicholson, Hannah Hedgehog; Callum Richardson, Rabbit Butler; Sam Reed, Michael Fieldmouse/Richard Rabbit; Jack Reed, Josh Fieldmouse/Robert Rabbit, and Scarlett Waugh, Abbie Fieldmouse/Rebecca Rabbit.

Zachary Pickersgill’s roles will be Ben Fieldmouse/Rich Rabbit; Molly Pashley, Molly Fieldmouse/Rosie Rabbit; Missy Barnes, Missy Fieldmouse/Ruth Rabbit; Aimee Dean-Hamilton, Maisie Mouse; Darcy Powell, Monica Fieldmouse; Elenor Powell, Matilda Mouse; Rosie Musk, Faith Fox/Oval Otter; Julie Blackburn, Grandma Fieldmouse, and Katie Ann Thackeray, Felicity Fox.

Eve Parker has been cast as Fern Fox; Freya-Mai Bayley, Faye Fox; Tracy Hurst, Fran Fox; Megan Snelgrove, Wren Weasel; Freya Chilvers, Winni Weasel; Maia Smith, Ce Ce Swallow/Willow Weasel; LaCie Martin, Willowlow Weasel; Sophie Dean-Hamilton, Sophie Stoat; Sophia Cocker, Sylvia Stoat/Olive Otter; Beth Clavery, Stefani Stoat; Lucy Leaf, Shona Stoat, and Kalayna Barley, Sally Stoat.

Ali Butler Hind will be Sara Stoat; Matthew Musk, Matt Fieldmouse/Brian Rabbit; Abigail Ainley, Fifi Fox; Lexi Brooks, Mango Fieldmouse; Charlotte Smith, Shelby Stoat; Dylan Probert, Reginald Rabbit; Mae Bradley, Stella Stoat; Charlotte Bowman, Flame Fox; Holly Walker, Felicia Fox; Maia Baker, Wendy Weasel; Harry Wright, Will Weasel, and Emily Hagyard, Rascal Weasel.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent returns for second online event for Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s Raise The Roof appeal. Entrants sought

The City of York civic party and performers at last September’s Yorkshire’s Got Talent showcase at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

YORKSHIRE’S Got Talent is offering an open invitation for performers to take part in the online event’s second year.

The competition is the brainchild of Hannah Wakelam, Young Ambassador for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, who organised last year’s contest across Yorkshire. Once more, the event will support the JoRo’s “Raise The Roof” fundraising appeal.

2022 entrants are invited to submit their audition tapes by Saturday, January 22 to be considered for the following round.  The ten most successful performers, as decided by a public vote, will be joined by three wildcards of the judges’ choosing.

Those judges will be three West End professional performers, Laura Pick and Nathan Lodge, from last year’s panel, joined by May Tether, fresh from appearing in the national tour of Heathers The Musical. 

Last year’s winner, Ed Atkin, was the headline act when the finalists’ held a showcase at the JoRo last September and has embarked on a course of vocational music study. 

Organiser Hannah Wakelam

Organiser Hannah says: “Last year’s competition was really popular and gave performers from all across our region the chance to compete for a £250 cash prize and to perform on the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s stage. 

“We had to wait a while until we were able to put the showcase on, because of Covid restrictions, but the finalists’ show was well worth the wait. The feedback from all the audience was amazing!  One of the highlights was when the performers had the chance to meet the City of York civic party backstage once the curtain had come down.”

To enter this year’s contest, send an audition tape to hannah.wakk@gmail.com  and make a minimum donation of £5 to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s Just Giving page via: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ygt22. “Please add your name, age and a little bit about yourself,” requests Hannah.

Three further rounds of the competition will follow, each judged by Laura, Nathan and May. “For the final round, you will have the amazing opportunity of being mentored by one of the judges,” says Hannah. “Following the initial audition submission, each round will be based on a theme, to be announced at the beginning of each round.”

Dan Shrimpton, chair of the JoRo charity’s trustees, says: “What makes this competition exciting to us, being a hub for community theatre across the whole of the Yorkshire region, is that, as the competition gets better known, we can see what talent the wider region has to offer.”

The Judges

Laura Pick: Returnee judge

Laura Pick

Now playing Elphaba in Wicked in the West End.

Theatre: Dr Osgood and featured ensemble in Anyone Can Whistle (Union Theatre) and understudy for Maria in The Sound of Music (Regent’s Park).

Other work: Lead vocalist for Belinda King Creative Productions; So This is Christmas (UK tour) and chorus for The Songs Of My Life: An Evening With Peter Polycarpou (Garrick).

Training:  Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

Originally hailing from Wakefield, Laura is looking forward to seeing all the new and fresh talent Yorkshire has to offer.

Nathan Lodge: Fellow returnee judge

Nathan Lodge

Vocal vocal captain on M/S Color Fantasy; Queen by Candlelight, the Monastery, Manchester; theatre roles in Aladdin (Brick Lane Music Hall); The World Of Musicals (China Tour); Equally: A New Musical (Cockpit Theatre); Christmas In New York (Palace Theatre, West End); The 8th Fold (Duchess Theatre, West End).

TV credits: The Paul O’Grady Show (ITV); The One Show (BBC)

Training: York College and Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

Originally from York.

May Tether: new judge for 2022

May Tether

In 2021, she understudied Veronica Sawyer and played the drama club drama queen in Heathers The Musical on tour. Played Lily/Elijah/Pip in John Godber Company’s Moby Dick, directed by John Godber at Stage@The Dock, Hull, in June.

Performed for York Stage Musicals for many years, appearing at the Grand Opera House in Hairspray, 9 To 5 The Musical, Legally Blonde and Sister Act. Also appeared as Jill in York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, in December 2020.

Training: Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

Originally from Goole, May is thrilled to be a judge in this year’s Yorkshire’s Got Talent.

More Things To Do in and around York as records are set straight and dark nights lit up. List No. 53, courtesy of The Press, York

Setting the record straight: Adrian Lukis’s roguish George Wickham in Being Mr Wickham at York Theatre Royal

AUTUMN’S fruits are ripe and ready for Charles Hutchinson to pick with no worries about shortages.

Scandal of the week: Being Mr Wickham, Original Theatre Company, York Theatre Royal, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Saturday

ADRIAN Lukis played the vilified George Wickham in the BBC’s television adaptation of Pride And Prejudice 26 years ago this very month.

Time, he says, to set the record straight about Jane Austen’s most charmingly roguish character in his one-man play Being Mr Wickham, co-written with Catherine Curzon.

This is the chance to discover Wickham’s version of famous literary events. What really happened with Mr Darcy? What did he feel about Lizzie? What went on at Waterloo? Not to mention Byron. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Cate Hamer in rehearsal for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle co-production of The Offing. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Play of the week outside York: The Offing, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until October 30

IN a Britain still reeling from the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on an adventure at 16: to walk from his home in Durham to Scarborough, where he hopes to find work, but he never arrives there. 

Instead, up the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay, a chance encounter with the bohemian, eccentric Dulcie Piper leads to a lifelong, defining friendship. She introduces him to the joys of good food and wine, art and literature; he helps her lay to rest a ghost in Janice Okoh’s adaptation of Benjamin Myers’s novel for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.  

Simon Wright: Conducting York Guildhall Orchestra at York Barbican

Classic comeback: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra return to the concert stage this weekend after the pandemic hiatus with a programme of operatic favourites, conducted by Simon Wright.

The York musicians will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and two soloists, soprano Jenny Stafford, and tenor Oliver Johnston, to perform overtures, arias and choruses by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Adam Kay: Medic, author and comedian, on visiting hours at Grand Opera House, York, on Sunday

Medical drama of the week: Adam Kay, This Is Going To Hurt, Secret Diaries Of A Junior Doctor, Grand Opera House, Sunday, 8pm

ADAM Kay, medic turned comic, shares entries from his diaries as a junior doctor in his evening of horror stories from the NHS frontline, savvy stand-up, witty wordplay and spoof songs.

His award-winning show, This Going To Hurt, has drawn 200,000 people to sell-out tours, the Edinburgh Fringe and West End runs, and the book of the same name topped the best sellers list for more than a year and is soon to be a BBC drama. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Boyzlife: Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden unite in Boyzone and Westlife songs at York Barbican

Irish night of the week: Boyzlife, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm; doors, 6.30pm

PUT Irish boy band graduates Brian McFadden, from Westlife, and Keith Duffy, from Boyzone, together and they become Boyzlife, as heard on the July 2020 album Strings Attached, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On tour with a full band, but not the ‘Phil’, they choose songs from a joint back catalogue of 18 number one singles and nine chart-topping albums.

So many to squeeze in…or not: No Matter What, Flying Without Wings, World Of Our Own, Queen Of My Heart, Picture Of You, Uptown Girl, You Raise Me Up, Going Gets Tough, Swear It Again, Father And Son, Love Me For A Reason and My Love. Find out on Sunday. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk

Thumper: Dublin band play Ad Nauseam and much more at Fulford Arms, York, on Tuesday

 Loudest gig of the week: Thumper, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm

THUMPER, the cult Dublin band with two thumping drummers, are back on the road after you know what, promoting a 2021 mix of their single Ad Nauseam: a cautionary tale of repetition, vanity and becoming too close to what you know will eat you.

From the Irish city of the equally visceral Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital, Thumper have emerged with their ragged guitars and “bratty, frenetic punk rock” (Q magazine).

Now their debut album is taking shape after the band were holed up in their home studio for months on end. The Adelphi, Hull, awaits on Wednesday.

At the fourth time of planning: Mary Coughlan, Pocklington Arts Centre, Tuesday, 8pm

Mary Coughlan: Life Stories in song at Pocklington Arts Centre

GALWAY jazz and blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan had to move her Pocklington show three times in response to the stultifying pandemic.

“Ireland’s Billie Holliday” twice rearranged the gig during 2020, and did so again this year in a switch from April 23 to October 19.

At the heart of Mary’s concert, fourth time lucky, will still be Life Stories, her 15th album, released on the wonderfully named Hail Mary Records last September. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Spiers & Boden: Resurrected folk duo head to Pocklington on Wednesday

Double act of the week ahead: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre, Wednesday, 7.30pm

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, releasing the album Fallow Ground and bringing a live show to Pocklington this autumn with special guests. 

First forming a duo in 2001, John Spiers, now 46, and Jon Boden, 44, became leading lights in big folk band Bellowhead, resting the duo in 2014, before Bellowhead headed into the sunset in 2016. Solo endeavours ensued but now Spiers & Boden return. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Matilda takes on Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical Jr

Musical of the week: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, October 20 to 24, 7.30pm; 2pm, 4.30pm, Saturday; 2pm, Sunday.

ONLY the last few tickets are still available for York Stage Musicals’ York premiere of the Broadway Junior version of Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story.

Matilda has astonishing wit, intelligence, imagination…and special powers! Unloved by her cruel parents, she nevertheless impresses teacher Miss Honey, but mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull hates children and just loves thinking up new punishments for those who fail to abide by her rules. Hurry, hurry to the box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntheatre.co.uk.

People We Love: Curtailed by the second Covid lockdown, the York Mediale exhibition has a second life at York Minster from this weekend

Worth noting too:

PEOPLE We Love, the York Mediale exhibition, reopening at York Minster from Saturday. York Design Week, full of ideas, October 20 to 26, at yorkdesign week.com; Light Night Leeds 2021, with a Back To Nature theme for this art and lights festival tonight and tomorrow, at whatson.leeds.gov.uk; Live At Leeds gigs across 20 venues with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sports Team, The Night Café, The Big Moon, Dream Wife, Poppy Adjuda, The Orielles and Thumper, at liveatleeds.com.

Council chaos and Covid clash in Tom Wilson’s timely anarchic farce The Local Authority at Joseph Rowntree Theatre

David Taylor as Richard Carol, left, Emma Turner as Tucker, Stewart Mathers as Dan Lucas and choreographer Karen Nadin as Tinger in a rehearsal scene from The Local Authority

YORK writer-director Tom Wilson’s new anarchic farce of council chaos and Covid, The Local Authority, will be premiered at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from August 5 to 7.

“Written some 12 months ago, the play is basically about a local council emergency budget meeting,” says Tom. “It’s very much a black comedy about embezzlement, chaotic dysfunctional individuals and families and a community trying to come to grips with the madness of the pandemic that engulfed us all – and still does – for well over a year.

“Look out for lots of adult themes, such as drug taking and alcoholism, zany sex workers, high-level council corruption, irrational budget and public amenity cuts, disintegrating relationships and canines in nappies.

“Hopefully it will offer people a chance to purge themselves of the intensity that this virus has forced on us all. I’m hoping it will give folk the opportunity to laugh their way out of the doldrums, laughing at their oppressor as they reclaim their smiles and freedom.”

Tom had written one play, set to be premiered at the JoRo until Covic intervened, and then turned all his thoughts instead to creating a rip-roaring comedy for our times in the tradition of Joe Orton. Cue The Local Authority.

Joel Campbell as Paul Hymen in The Local Authority

In a nutshell, what starts off as a local council emergency budget-cutting meeting on Zoom rapidly descends into an unstructured free-for-all and a chaotic mêlée.

“Eventually, it breaks out into a physical space on stage too,” says Tom. “The story is woven around manager Lesley Carol’s secretive drinking problem and very public fall from grace, and the play gradually reveals most of the participants’ warts and private thoughts.

“After lurid revelations and catastrophic arguments, stories of embezzlement and financial corruption, historic accusations and shocking recriminations, it eventually offers hope for the future and redemption.”

The disintegrating council meeting serves to highlight the confusion and problems faced in the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, says Tom. “It shows the damaging misinformation and the scapegoating that was apparent within some circles, and how some parts of the UK had a different attitude and alternative ways they were prepared to try to quell the burgeoning nightmare that was engulfing all of us,” he highlights.

“There are the failed experiments and the inappropriate language that was levelled in some quarters.” 

Rowan Naylor-Mayers as Neil Planter, left, and Stewart Mathers as Dan Lucas in rehearsal for Tom Wilson’s The Local Authority

This story is pertinent, suggests Tom, because “we can all so easily forget how reluctant some of us were to believe what was actually happening and comply and do the right thing in order to help and support each other”.

“We forget how selfish and paranoid we can and have been around all this mayhem,” he says. “No-one wanted it, but it not only touched our lives, it pretty much brought our lives and societies to a standstill. Although some of the statements are preposterous and some of the characters are petulant and immature in The Local Authority, isn’t that what we all experienced at different times during this hideous hayride?

“We should all want to remember how this pandemic took a stranglehold of us and how we thought in the beginning: ‘If I ignore it then it will go away. It won’t affect me; it will only affect the others’.”

Tom reflects on his own experiences. “I know I thought that way, until it touched those around me, until it took some around me, and finally until I was in hospital myself having an operation and I inadvertently caught it,” he says.

“While lying in bed one night, after being despatched to the Covid ward, not being able to sleep through sheer fear, I saw people being discreetly inserted into body bags and removed. The next morning their bed and belongings had all mysteriously disappeared, as if by magic. There was no trace that they ever existed at all.”

Looking ahead, Tom predicts: “Once this is all over and the hordes and the masses return to their decadent revelry with much gusto, I’m sure a lot of the darkness and intensity will be minimised and eventually put on the back burners and forgotten. 

Kate Hargrave as Christine Nunn during rehearsals for Naloxone Theatre Ensemble’s premiere of The Local Authority

“Let’s hope that tongue-in-cheek, light-and-shade plays like The Local Authority serve to remind us of our folly and our good fortune to still be here to tell the bleak tale and to offer hope to the despairing.”

Rehearsals have been going well, despite the Covid curse of two cast members having had to self-isolate “due to the pandemic not having a sense of humour” and a late change of casting for the role of Lesley Carol. “But we will be ready on the night,” says Tom. “Tickets are selling, steady away, and we’re all getting mighty excited, like horses in the stalls on Derby Day. A splendiferous time is ‘subject to terms and conditions’ for all!”

Summing up his wishes for the impact of The Local Authority, Tom says: “Sincerely, I hope it will serve as a beacon to highlight the ways in which, for better or worse, society has been irrevocably altered, even scared and left wounded.

“Among the many deeds of goodness and ill carried out in the name of virtue, folly or profit, we are all seeking practical and logistical solutions for a ‘new’, more caring and thoughtful society, engendering universal hope for our shared future.”

Naloxone Theatre Ensemble presents Tom Wilson’s premiere of The Local Authority, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, August 5 to 7, 7.30pm and 2.3p0pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk

Did you know?

THE Local Authority will feature music from Tom Wilson’s old band, Scratchings No Gravy, plus songs by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, The Edgar Broughton Band, Earl Bostic, Ry Cooder and Hound Dog Taylor.

Copyright of The Press, York

Who will win Yorkshire’s Got Talent? Find out at 8pm tonight after votes close at 7pm

Glittering prize: Today is judgement day for Yorkshire’s Got Talent

WHO will win Yorkshire’s Got Talent, the contest organised by York teenage musical actor Hannah Wakelam in aid of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

Today is the final of this online competition, and the choice lies between Fladam (the silly-song double act of Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter), Ed Atkin and Jordan Wright.

Hannah has created a poll for public votes that will be combined with the judges’ votes (each one classed as 25 votes) and guest panel votes (each worth 20 votes).

Judging the competition from the start have been Wicked star Laura Pick, cruise-ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and vocal coach Amelia Urukalo

Voting closes today at 7pm and the winner will be announced at 8pm. To vote, go to: https://www.facebook.com/.groups/.687590815139642/.permalink/.755696498329073/.