REVIEW: Waitress, Leeds Grand Theatre, serving pie until tomorrow ***

The waitresses in Waitress: Sandra Marvin’s Becky, left, Lucie Jones’s Jenna and Evie Hoskins’s Dawn

SUGAR, spice, all things nice and not so nice make up the recipe for Waitress, the all-American musical based on the late writer-director Adrienne Shelly’s minor-key 2007 film. 

Flavoured with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and book by Jessie Nelson, the show made its West End bow in 2019 and is now doing the regional rounds on its first tour.

Like Heathers: The Musical earlier this season, Waitress has drawn a predominantly female, young, highly enthusiastic audience, out to cheer on heroine Jenna Hunterson (Lucie Jones), waitress and ace pie-maker at Joe’s Pie Diner, a drudge of a cafe off-Highway 27 in small-town Indiana.

Going nowhere in an abusive relationship with layabout, wastrel husband Earl (Tamlyn Henderson), she dreams of escape by winning a prestigious $20,000 pie contest. What a time to discover she has a bun in her own oven.

Newly arrived in town is gynaecologist  Dr Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis, busting out from boy band Busted), whose bedside manner is more akin to bumbling Mr Bean but is nevertheless most agreeably attractive, and you know where this will lead, married though they may both be, once he tastes her pies.

In other hands, other stories, the tone would be more bittersweet, more stridently feminist too, but brutish, feckless Earl stays in the wings for much of Act Two, the story instead being rich with comedic interplay, especially in the burgeoning relationships of Jenna’s fellow waitresses, one older and very self-assured, the other younger and nervous.

No-nonsense, sassy Becky (Emmerdale’s Sandra Marvin) makes out with the ponytailed grump behind the counter, Cal (Christopher D Hunt), while geeky, kooky Dawn (Evie Hoskins) discovers more than a shared love of historical re-enactments with fellow oddball Oggy (scene-stealing George Crawford, who lifts Act One just when it needs an extra ingredient).

Lorin Latarro’s choreography peaks with all three waitresses having their cherry on the cake at the same time, a climactic scene that brings the house down.

It would be misleading to suggest the savvy-humoured Waitress is too saccharine, even if the sung single-word refrain “Sugar” introduces each scene, but friendship and support, the pursuit of love, the search for joy and the quest for the perfect pie prevail over the darkness cast by Earl.

This is a musical, after all, and not a Tennessee Williams play, and so Diane Paulus’s direction is never too heavy on the salt, although always alive to the drive for female empowerment at the entertaining story’s heart.

Lucie Jones (The X Factor finalist in 2009 and Eurovision: You Decide participant in 2017) reprises her lead role from the West End, singing beautifully, especially in the signature song, She Used To Be Mine. Nelson’s book makes Jenna too sweetly accepting at first, but Jones absolutely captures the change into a woman determined to overcome adversity her way, ultimately free of male constraint.

Marvin’s Becky packs a punch, Hoskins’s Dawn is a daffy delight, and an unrecognisable Michael Starke makes a fine Midwestern gent as seen-it-all businessman and proprietor Joe.

Paulus’s direction is brisk, often as sharp as lime juice, sometimes sentimental; Bareilles’s songs have better lyrics than tunes but are delivered with energy and conviction; Scott Pask’s wheel-on set evokes the bustle of a diner and the wide expanse of Indiana beyond; and Paulus’s ensemble deliver sterling support, along with the band to the side of the stage.

Waitress’s musical pie is multi-layered, not perfectly balanced, more salted caramel than lemon zest, but certainly enjoyable.

Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

More Things To Do in and around York with fishermen, Irishmen and a Scotsman. List No. 48, courtesy of The Press, York

Getting Away With Murder(s) documentary filmmaker David Wilkinson at the gate of Auschwitz 1

AS the Grand Opera House reopens, diaries are starting to fill to pre-pandemic levels, much to the delight of a post self-isolating Charles Hutchinson.

Film world premiere of the week: Getting Away With Murder(s); Everyman York, Blossom Street, York, tonight, 6.30pm to 10.30pm

IT has taken 18 years for Yorkshire filmmaker David Wilkinson to bring his documentary, Getting Away With Murder(s), to the big screen.

Exploring an overlooked aspect of the Holocaust, he reveals that “almost one million people in 22 countries willingly carried out the unprovoked murder of 11 million innocent men, women and children but 99 per cent of those responsible were never prosecuted”.

Wilkinson, who examines the reasons behind the disregard for justice, will take part in a post-screening Q&A. Box office: everymancinema.com.

Fisherman’s Friends: Hooked on sea songs at York Barbican

They inspired a film and now they are back: Fisherman’s Friends: Unlocked & Unleashed, York Barbican, tomorrow, 7pm

CORNISH “buoy band” Fisherman’s Friends – combined aged 401 – re-emerge from lockdown for their Unlocked & Unleashed tour.

As celebrated in the film that shares their name, for 40 years they have met on the Platt of Port Isaac’s harbour to sing the songs of the sea.

In the line-up are lobster fisherman Jeremy Brown; writer, shopkeeper and master of ceremonies Jon Cleave; smallholder and engineer John ‘Lefty’ Lethbridge; Yorkshire-born builder John McDonnell; Padstow fisherman Jason Nicholas; filmmaker Toby Lobb and the new boy, former ambulance driver Pete Hicks. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

One Night In Dublin: One night in York for Irish songs aplenty at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Irish gig/jig of the week: One Night In Dublin, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

SATURDAY night is the chance to spend One Night In Dublin – in York – when “Murphy’s Irish Pub” opens its doors at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.

Join in the craic as the lively Irish tribute band covers such Irish staples as Galway Girl, Tell Me Ma, Dirty Old Town, Irish Rover, Seven Drunken Nights and Whiskey In The Jar. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Gary Meikle: Scottish comedian in Surreal mode at York Barbican

This experience really is “Surreal”: Gary Meikle: Surreal, York Barbican, Sunday, 8pm

DELAYED from April 8 to this weekend, playfully dark cheeky-chappie Scottish comedian and “viral sensation” Gary Meikel presents his second tour show in York.

Looking to “get away with talking about anything that will have you laughing at things you probably shouldn’t be”, punchy storyteller Meikle draws material from his own experiences, not least his unique family dynamic.

New show Surreal covers such topics as evolution, social media, how to deal with burglars, single mums, bee sex and small-man syndrome. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Exploration of family, myth and memory loss: Second Body’s Max Barton and Jethro Cooke in Styx at Theatre At The Mill

Residency of the week: Second Body in Styx, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Sunday and Tuesday, 8pm

SECOND Body duo Max Barton and Jethro Cooke present their theatre-concert exploration of family, myth, memory loss and Max’s grandma, now with remixed music and bearing wounds wrought by 18 months of disrupted human connectivity.

“What does it mean to lose the memories that make us who we are?” they ask. “How can we continue to be ourselves when we are separated from our loved ones.” Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill.

Back in Black: Robert Goodale and Antony Eden in the ghost story The Woman In Black, haunting the Grand Opera House, York, from Monday. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Re-opening of the week: Grand Opera House, York, for The Woman In Black, Monday to Saturday

AFTER 547 days, the Grand Opera House, York, steps out of the darkness and into The Woman In Black from Monday.

In PW Productions’ latest tour of Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story, Robert Goodale plays Arthur Kipps, an elderly lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over his family by the spectre of a “Woman in Black” for 50 years now.

Antony Eden is the young Actor he engages to help him tell that story and exorcise his fears, but soon reality begins to blur and the flesh begins to creep. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

Bird song: Henry Bird, pictured in his Vampires Rock days, will be the special guest for You Can’t Stop The Beat

Community concert of the week: You Can’t Stop The Beat, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

GENERATION Groove and Community Chorus are joined by special guest Henry Bird, the well-travelled York singer and guitarist for Tuesday’s fundraiser.

“Concerts and performances have been on hold for well over a year and we’re all delighted to be back getting you singing and even dancing and raising money to help the wonderful Joseph Rowntree Theatre go from strength to strength,” say the organisers. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Waitress: Serving up a slice of musical pie at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday

Musical of the week outside York: Waitress, Leeds Grand Theatre, September 14 to 18

MEET Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some joy in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life turns more complicated and challenging, but with the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, she finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.

Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson’s comedy musical stars Lucie Jones as Jenna, Emmerdale’s Sandra Marvin as Becky, Evelyn Hoskins  as Dawn and Busted’s Matt Willis as Dr Pomatter. For tickets:  0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Destiny calling: Kirk Brandon’s Spear Of Destiny are heading to The Crescent in York

Cult band you really should see: Spear Of Destiny, The Crescent, York, September 19

LEADING Spear Of Destiny for 38 years now, Kirk Brandon heads out on their Worldservice@35 tour on the back of releasing last November’s lockdown album.

Brandon’s post-punk band – featuring Adrian Portas (New Model Army/Sex Gang Children), Craig Adams (Sisters Of Mercy/The Cult /The Mission), Phil Martini (Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind) and saxophonist Clive Osborne – re-recorded 1985’s WorldService album during 2020.

The WorldService@35 tour features the album and B-sides in full plus an extended career-spanning encore at three Yorkshire shows: York, then Leeds Brudenell Social Club on September 21 and The Welly, Hull, September 25.

Pie thrower: Jonathan Pie will vent his anger at the truth vacuum at the Grand Opera House, York

Angriest man of the month award: Jonathan Pie, Fake News (The Corona Remix), Grand Opera House, York, September 19, 7.30pm

JONATHAN Pie, the no-holds-barred fictitious political broadcaster alter-ego of Tom Walker, is resuming his Fake News tour that began in 2019 and had to twiddle its agitated thumbs through lockdown.

In that hiatus, Walker continued to post Jonathan Pie content to his social-media channels, whether commenting on the global reaction to the 2020 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement or woke culture.

Now he unleashes his righteous rage once more on stage. Tickets for the York slice of Pie are on sale at atgtickets.com/york.

More Things To Do in and around York in the embers of the summer festival season. List No 46, courtesy of The Press, York

Liam Gallagher: Tomorrow’s headliner at Leeds Festival

SUMMER ends with Leeds Festival, apparently, but Charles Hutchinson begs to differ by highlighting plenty more reasons to be cheerful as nights start to lengthen.

Biggest crowd of the week: Leeds Festival, Bramham Park, near Wetherby, tomorrow (27/8/2021) to Sunday

AFTER a gap year in Covid-crocked 2020, Leeds Festival returns from tomorrow with a sold-out crowd at full capacity. 

Among the first day’s top acts are headliners Lian Gallagher and Biffy Clyro, Gerry Cinnamon, Wolf Alice, Blossoms and Doncaster’s Yungblud.

Saturday’s names to watch are Stormzy, Catfish And The Bottlemen, AJ Tracey, Mabel, Sam Fender and Sports Team. Sunday promises Post Malone, Disclosure, Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats and Slowthai.  

Shed Seven: Topping the all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on Saturday

On the other hand, Yorkshire’s gig of the week is…Shed Seven at The Piece Hall, Halifax, Saturday.

YORK favourites Shed Seven at last can go ahead with their all-Yorkshire bill after 2020’s two postponements and a move from June 26 to August 28 this summer.

The dates may change but the bill remains the same: York’s on-the-rise, rousing  Skylights, Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and the Brighton Beach DJs on the decks.

Never mind the clash with Leeds Festival. “Let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” says the Sheds’ Rick Witter.

Andrew Harrison: Performing Nigel Forde’s one-man show, The Last Cuckoo, at Stillington Mill, near York, tomorrow night

Bird song of the week: Sea View Productions in Nigel Forde’s The Last Cuckoo, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, tomorrow, 7.30pm.

ON his return home from his irascible ornithologist uncle Harry Baskerville’s ’s funeral, Duncan Campbell begins the slow, sad process of working through its effects in The Last Cuckoo, a one-man show about loss, hope and birds.

As he does so, he finds within the ghostly confines of this remote coastal cottage a way into a world he never knew existed: the entrance into a life he never dared hope for. However, this awareness brings with it costly choices and, most daunting of all, the possibility of real change.

Penned exquisitely by Warter poet and writer Nigel Forde, former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Bookshelf, this beautiful theatre piece will be performed by Riding Lights Theatre Company alumnus Andrew Harrison, directed for Sea View Productions by Robin Hereford. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill.

The Carpenters Experience: Tribute show to Karen and Richard at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Tribute show of the week: The Carpenters Experience, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

IT’S Yesterday Once More as British singer Maggie Nestor and eight musicians capture the smooth American sounds of Richard and Karen Carpenter. 

Expect echoes of Karen’s silky contralto, Richard’s pretty piano and seamless harmonies in a big production featuring Close To You, We’ve Only Just Begun, Top Of The World, Rainy Days And Mondays, Solitaire, Goodbye To Love, For All We Know and Only Yesterday. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Being Frank: Stephen Tompkinson in Educating Rita, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday. Picture: Matt Humphrey

Theatre show of the week in York: Educating Rita, York Theatre Royal, August 31 to September 4

WHEN married hairdresser Rita enrols on a university course to expand her horizons, little does she realise where her journey will take her.

Tutor Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, less than enthusiastic about taking on Rita, but soon they learn how much they have to teach each other.

Directed by Max Roberts, Willy Russell’s comedy two-hander stars Jessica Johnson as Rita and Stephen Tompkinson as Frank. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Curtains! Another catastrophe is imminent in Magic Goes Wrong, Mischief and Penn & Teller’s calamitous comedy caper at Leeds Grand Theatre

Theatre show of the week ahead outside York: Magic Goes Wrong, Leeds Grand Theatre, casting a spell from August 30 to September 4

BACK with another comedy catastrophe, this time dusted with magic, Mischief follow up The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery with a show created with   Penn & Teller, no less.

A hapless gang of magicians is staging an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity, but as the magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does the fundraising target.

On tour for the first time, the show is written Penn Jillette, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Teller and directed by Adam Meggido. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Fangfest co-organiser Gerry Grant dunking a raku ceramic in water

Top of the pots: Fangfest, Fangfoss, September 4 and 5, 10am to 4pm each day

FANGFEST, the celebration of pottery, crafts, art and scarecrows in Fangfoss, ten miles east of York, returns next month after a Covid-enforced hiatus in 2020.

To keep the family event as Covid-safe as possible, much of the festival organised by Gerry and Lyn Grant, of Fangfoss Pottery, will be taking place outdoors.

The weekend combines art, pottery, illustration, jewellery, printmaking, archery, wood carving, textiles, willow weaving, classic cars, East Yorkshire history, food and scarecrows. Entry is free.

Kate Winslet, left, and Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite, showing at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival in Scarborough

Dinosaurs, stones and more in Yorkshire Fossil Festival’s fistful of films: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, September 10 and 11

FOR the first time, the Stephen Joseph Theatre is teaming up with the Yorkshire Fossil Festival SJT to bring five palaeontology-inspired films to the McCarthy screen.

Highlights include September 10’s 8pm screening of stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen’s 1969 dinosaur classic, The Valley Of Gwangi, introduced by palaeo-artist James McKay, who hosts a post-screening Q&A too.

Further films on September 10 will be Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur (2pm) and Jurassic Park (5pm); September 11, The Land Before Time (2pm and 5pm) and Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan (8pm). Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Fish’n’quips: George Egg serves up his Movable Feast on tour in October

Meals on wheels, jokes on a plate, here comes George Egg’s cracking tour show…

COMEDY and cooking combine when anarchic cook George Egg serves up his Movable Feast on tour in Yorkshire in October.

Determined to make food on the move, Egg offers his guide to cooking with cars, on rail tracks and in the sky.  “It’s time for Planes, Trains and Automob-meals (sorry),” he says. 

Sprinkled with handy hacks, the 7.30pm shows conclude with the chance to taste the results on the three plates. Tour dates include Stillington Village Hall, near York, October 10; Pocklington Arts Centre, October 13, and Terrington Village Hall, near Malton, October 17. Box office: georgeegg.com.

Does too-cool-for-school Heathers The Musical make the grade at Leeds Grand Theatre? Here’s the school report

Hands up if you love Heathers The Musical. Picture: Pamela Raith

Heathers The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, until Saturday. Box office:  0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com

LEEDS Grand Theatre is the first theatre in the world to host a touring production of Heathers The Musical.

No wonder the first-night audience was “super-excited” – everything has to be prefixed with “super” these days” – in a theatre so happy to be back to full capacity under Step 4 relaxation.

It was a predominantly young crowd, from late teens to twenties, and largely unmasked, for a show based on Michael Lehmann’s savagely satirical cult 1988 teen movie, an all-American high-school black comedy with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater appeal.

1988? Long before the stalls crowd were born, and yet the in-crowd knew the story, just as they knew the songs too – especially signature song Seventeen – from a musical premiered at Joe’s Pub, in New York City, in September 2010 but only brought over to London in 2018.

How come they cheer the first sight of the too-cool-for-school, ever-so-cruel trio of Heathers, the dead-mean clique with their croquet-mallet disdain at Westerberg High? Maybe they went down to London? Maybe they have the West End cast recording? More likely, they have tapped into the Heathers The Musical phenomenon on TikTok, apparently.

Here’s a quick refresher course for those new to class: Westerberg High pupil Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes) is just another nobody dreaming of better days at school, until she joins the Heathers clique: leader Heather Chandler (Maddison Faith) and her acolytes Heather Duke (Merryl Ansah) and Heather McNamara (Lizzy Parker).

Whereupon mysterious teen rebel Jason ‘JD’ Dean (Simon Gordon) – his outsider mystery denoted by always wearing black – arrives at Westerberg to teach her that “while it might kill to be a high-school nobody, it is murder being a somebody”. So begins a twisted teen relationship, sure to end more unhappily than a jaunty John Hughes movie.

Lehmann set his savvy, subversive, iconoclastic teen drama against Westerberg High’s tide of dangerously competitive, destructive, dysfunctional social rules, where you could drown in derision, potentially to the point of contemplating suicide, unless you showed the resolute spirit of a Veronica to break the monopoly of priapic sports jocks and hateful Heathers…with fatal consequences.

Now, in 2021, Heathers is darkly topical with teen suicides troubling headline writers, psychologists, parents and school heads alike, although here those suicides are being faked by a vengeful teen sociopath killer. The fact that the school principal and pupils believe they are suicides is arguably more disturbing: collateral damage amid the adolescent angst, turf wars, underdogs and bitches of the school room.

If you want everything to be heightened still more, turn a film into a musical, the opera of our times, and Heathers is duly blessed with top-grade lyrics and music by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, big on drama, cheese and heart-breaking balladry, for a macabre story of broken childhoods, eating disorders, bullying, lies, shootings and suicide. This is the stuff of opera indeed, but now with to-die-for snappy, cynical, yet sincere dialogue. 

Consequently, Heathers is an adrenaline shot of a show with the darkness, sharpness and sass – and the knockout tunes – to give it the allure of a Wicked The Musical or Hairspray, although maybe not quite the devoted following of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show.

Veteran impresario Bill Kenwright. who knows a winner when he sees one, is producing this tour in tandem with Paul Taylor-Mills, employing American screen and stage director Andy Frickman to steer a thrilling, dead-funny yet poignant production, one where plenty more than the two leads shine.

Wickes’s Veronica is a steely girl-next-door; Gordon’s magnetic, brooding outsider, JD, sparks love, scorn and fear in equal measure. Her voice stirs and yearns; his voice enchants and ensnares with its beauty.

Faith’s sharp-dressed Heather Chandler looks the natural, click-of-a-finger leader, venomous when provoked, but beneath the surface swagger lies needy insecurity and human frailty.

Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan’s dumb-and-dumber Kurt and Ram transform from jock jerks to lovable eye candy and camp-comedy double act once stripped to their underpants; Georgina Hagen’s teacher Ms Fleming and Mhairi Angus’s neglected Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock vie for Heathers’ outstanding vocal cameo; Andy Brady and Kurt Kansley bring bags of personality and humour to assorted school principal/dad/coach roles.

David Shields’ designs, colourful, impressively mobile, smart and very Eighties’ USA, delight too. Of York interest, Gary Lloyd, who choreographed York Stage’s 2020 pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, brings his West End panache to dance routines that fill the Leeds Grand stage with energy, slick movement and bravura style, especially when the Heathers strut to the fore.

He uses the chorus to the full too, and among the ranks is a face familiar to York audiences, May Tether, who must have caught Lloyd’s eye when starring as Jill in York Stage’s panto. Let’s hope the understudy opportunities come her way on tour because May has an exuberant talent for musical theatre that deserves to be untethered.

Dear Diary, please note a second Yorkshire chance to see Heathers The Musical comes at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from September 14 to 18. Box office: sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.

Marks: 8/10

NEWSFLASH: 27/8/2021

HERE comes May-hem!

CharlesHutchPress concluded the Heathers The Musical “school report” with the “hope that understudy opportunities come May Tether’s way on tour because she has an exuberant talent for musical theatre that deserves to be untethered”.

Sure enough, a tweet from the York Stage favourite of Goole roots confirms May has played the female lead, Westerburg High pupil Veronica Sawyer, at the Liverpool Empire.

At 9.43 this morning, May tweeted: “So I made my debut as Veronica Sawyer in the @HeathersMusical UK tour and stayed on for the following two-show day… what a thrill, I’m still in shock, you corn nuts are beautiful! In the wise words of @OfficialTracieB I let Liverpool AVVV ITTTTT.”

May Tether in her Liverpool Empire dressing room as she plays Veronica Sawyer for the first time on the Heathers The Musical tour

More Things To Do in and around York as deathly silence is broken at libraries. List No. 43, courtesy of The Press, York

James Lewis Knight, left, as Jimmy and Matt Stradling as James in Next Door But One’s library tour of Operation Hummingbird in York

GO forth and multiply the chance to see the summer spurt of theatre, musicals and outdoor shows, urges Charles Hutchinson, who also highlights big gig news for autumn and March 2022.

Breaking the library hush: Next Door But One in Operation Hummingbird, in York, today and August 12

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are teaming up with Explore York for a library tour of Matt Harper-Harcastle’s 45-minute play Operation Hummingbird.

James Lewis Knight plays Jimmy and Matt Stradling, James, in a one-act two-hander that takes the form of a conversation across the decades about a sudden family death, realising an opportunity that we all wish we could do at some point in our life: to go back and talk to our younger self.

Today’s Covid-safe performances are at 3.30pm at New Earswick Folk Hall and 7pm, Dringhouses Library; August 12, York Explore, 2pm, and Hungate Reading Café, 7pm. Box office: nextdoorbutone.co.uk.

Exit-kitchen-sink drama: Ashley Hope Allan as bored Liverpool housewife Shirley, planning a holiday to Greece in Esk Valley Theatre’s production of Shirley Valentine. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Play launch of the week outside York: Esk Valley Theatre in Shirley Valentine, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, near Whitby, tonight until August 28

ESK Valley Theatre complete a hattrick of Willy Russell plays with Shirley Valentine from tonight, under the direction of artistic director Mark Stratton as usual.

In Russell’s one-woman show, Coronation Street star Ashley Hope Allan plays middle-aged, bored Liverpool housewife Shirley in a story of self-discovery as she takes a holiday to Greece with a friend, who promptly abandons her for a holiday romance. Left alone, Shirley meets charming taverna owner Costas. Box office: 01947 897587 or at eskvalleytheatre.co.uk.

It’s here at last! Heathers The Musical opens its delayed tour at Leeds Grand Theatre tonight. Picture: Pamela Raith

Musical of the week outside Leeds, Heathers The Musical, Leeds Grand Theatre, tonight until August 14

HEATHERS The Musical launches its touring production in Leeds from tonight with choreography by Gary Lloyd, who choreographed the debut York Stage pantomime last Christmas.

Produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills and directed by American screen and stage director Andy Fickman, this high-octane, dark-humoured rock musical is based on the Winona Ryder and Christian Slater cult teen movie.

The premise: Westerberg High pupil Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes) is just another nobody dreaming of a better day, until she joins the impossibly cruel Heathers, whereupon mysterious teen rebel JD (Simon Gordon) teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.co.uk.

Round To Low Horcum, by Sue Slack, one of the 33 artists and makers taking part in Ryedale Open Studios

Art event of the week: Ryedale Open Studios, Saturday and Sunday and next weekend, 10am to 5pm each day

THE newly formed Vault Arts Centre community interest company, in Kirkbymoorside, is coordinating this inaugural Ryedale Open Studios event, celebrating the creativity and artistic talent of Ryedale and the North York Moors.

Artists, makers and creators will be offering both an exclusive glimpse into their workplaces and the opportunity to buy art works directly. Full details of all 33 artists can be found at ryedaleopenstudios.com; a downloadable map at ryedaleopenstudios.com/map.

Serena Manteghi: Performing in Eurydice at Theatre At The Mill this weekend

Hit and myth show of the week: Eurydice, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, Saturday and Sunday, 7.30pm

THIS weekend, Serena Manteghi returns to the play she helped to create with writer Alexander Wright, composer Phil Grainger and fellow performer Casey Jane Andrews with Fringe award-winning success in Australia in 2019.

Manteghi, a tour de force in the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Build A Rocket, will be joined by Grainger for the tale about being a daily superhero and not giving in to the stories we tell ourselves.

Woven from spoken word and soaring live music, Eurydice is the stand-alone sister show to Orpheus; her untold story imagined and reimagined for the modern-day and told from her perspective. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/.

Kaiser Chiefs: Yorkshire anthems galore at Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Sunday

Yorkshire gig of the week outside York: Kaiser Chiefs, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Sunday, gates open at 6pm

LEEDS lads Kaiser Chiefs promise a “no-holds-barred rock’n’roll celebration” on their much-requested return to Scarborough OAT after their May 27 2017 debut.

“We cannot wait to get back to playing live shows again and it will be great to return to this stunning Yorkshire venue,” says frontman Ricky Wilson. “We had a cracking night there in 2017, so roll on August 8!”

Expect a Sunday night of such Yorkshire anthems as Oh My God, I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less And Less, Ruby, Never Miss A Beat and Hole In My Soul. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Simon Amstell’s hippy-chic poster for his autumn tour show, Spirit Hole, visiting York, Sheffield and Leeds in the autumn

Comedy gig announcement of the week: Simon Amstell, Spirit Hole, Grand Opera House, York, September 25, 8pm

INTROSPECTIVE, abjectly honest comedian Simon Amstell will play the Grand Opera House, York, for the first time since 2012 on his 38-date Spirit Hole autumn tour.

Agent provocateur Amstell, 41, will deliver a “blissful, spiritual, sensational exploration of love, sex, shame mushrooms and more” on a tour with further Yorkshire gigs at The Leadmill, Sheffield, on September 12 and Leeds Town Hall on October 1.

York tickets are on sale at atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/; York, Sheffield and Leeds at ticketmaster.com.

Look sharp! Tickets are on sale for Joe Jackson’s second-ever York concert…next March

York gig announcement of the week: Joe Jackson, York Barbican, March 17 2022

JOE Jackson will play York for only the second time in his 43-year career on his Sing, You Sinners! tour next year.

Jackson, who turns 67 on August 11, will perform both solo and with a band at York Barbican in the only Yorkshire show of his 29-date British and European tour, promising hits and new material.

“We’ve been dealing with two viruses over the past two years, and the worst – the one we really need to put behind us – is Fear,” he says. “Love is the opposite of fear, so if you love live music, come out and support it!” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York as ‘Byrne out’ strikes tonight’s comedy gig. List No. 39, courtesy of The Press, York

Shock of the new: Milton Jones looks startled at the prospect of replacing Ed Byrne at short notice for tonight’s comedy bill at York Theatre Royal

AWAY from all that football, Charles Hutchinson finds plenty of cause for cheer beyond chasing an inflated pig’s bladder, from a late-change comedy bill to Ayckbourn on film, York artists to a park bench premiere.

Late substitution of the week: Byrne out, Jones in, for Live At The Theatre Royal comedy night, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm

ED Byrne will not top the Live At The Theatre Royal comedy bill tonight after all. “We are sorry to announce that due to circumstances beyond our control, Ed is now unable to appear,” says the official statement.

The whimsical Irish comedian subsequently has tweeted his “You Need To Self-Isolate” notification, running until 23.59pm on July 7.

Well equipped to take over at short notice is the quip-witted pun-slinger Milton Jones, joining Rhys James, Maisie Adam and host Arthur Smith. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Naomi Petersen and Bill Champion in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door at the SJT and now on film too. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“Film of the week”: Alan Ayckburn’s The Girl Next Door, from Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Sunday

THE SJT’s film of Alan Ayckbourn’s latest premiere, The Girl Next Door, is available on the Scarborough theatre’s website, sjt.uk.com.

Directed by Ayckbourn, his 85th play can be seen on stage in The Round until Saturday and now in a filmed recording in front of a live audience until midnight on Sunday.

One day in 2020 lockdown, veteran actor Rob spots a stranger hanging out the washing in the adjoining garden, but his neighbours have not been around for months. Who is the mysterious girl next door? And why is she wearing 1940s’ clothing?

Ray of sunshine: Edwin Ray as Tick/Mitzi in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert at Leeds Grand Theatre. Picture: Darren Bell

Musical of the week ahead: Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, Leeds Grand Theatre, July 6 to 10

PRISCILLA Queen Of The Desert returns to Leeds for seven socially distanced performances in a new production produced by Mark Goucher and, for the first time, Jason Donovan, star of the original West End show and two UK tours.

Loaded up with glorious costumes, fabulous feathers and dance-floor classics, three friends hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime.

Miles Western plays Bernadette, Nick Hayes, Adam/Felicia and Edwin Ray, Tick/Mitzi, in this heart-warming story of self-discovery, sassiness and acceptance. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com.

Solo show: Polymath Phil Grainger puts his songwriting in the spotlight in his Clive concert in Stillington

Gig of the week outside York: Clive, alias Phil Grainger, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

CLIVE is the solo music project of Easingwold singer, songwriter, musician, sound engineer, magician, actor, Gobbledigook Theatre director and event promoter Phil Grainger.

As the voice and the soul behind Orpheus, Eurydice and The Gods The Gods The Gods, Clive finds the globe-trotting Grainger back home, turning his hand to a song-writing project marked by soaring vocal and soulful musicianship. Expect a magical evening wending through new work and old classics in two sets, one acoustic, the other electric. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/512182.

Emily Hansen’s Pilgrim 14 as Mary Magdalene in a rehearsal for A Resurrection For York at Dean’s Park. Picture: John Saunders

Open-air theatre event of the weekend: A Resurrection For York, Residents Garden, Minster Library, Dean’s Park, York, Saturday and Sunday, 11am, 2pm, 4pm

THE wagons are in place for A Resurrection For York, presented by York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Festival Trust and York Minster.

Philip Parr, artistic director of Parrabbola, directs a community cast in an hour-long outdoor performance, scripted by Parr and 2018 York Mystery Plays director Tom Straszewski from the York Mystery Plays cycle of the crucifixion and the events that followed. Tickets are on sale at ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/york/residents-garden-deans-park/a-resurrection-for-york/.

Autonomous, by Sharon McDonagh, from the Momentum Summer Show at Blossom Street Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week and beyond: Momentum Summer Show, Westside Artists, Blossom Street Gallery, by Micklegate Bar, York, until September 26

YORK art group Westside Artists, a coterie of artists from the city’s Holgate and West areas, are exhibiting paintings, portraits, photomontage, photography, metalwork, textiles, ceramics and mixed-media art at Blossom Street Gallery.

Taking part are Adele Karmazyn; Carolyn Coles; Donna Maria Taylor; Ealish Wilson; Fran Brammer; Jane Dignum; Jill Tattersall; Kate Akrill and Lucy McElroy. So too are Lucie Wake; Marc Godfrey-Murphy; Mark Druery; Michelle Hughes; Rich Rhodes; Robin Grover-Jaques, Sharon McDonagh and Simon Palmour.

The Park Keeper director Matt Aston, left, actor Sean McKenzie and writer Mike Kenny at Rowntree Park, York. Picture: Northedge Photography

Theatre premiere of the week ahead: Park Bench Theatre in The Park Keeper, The Friends’ Garden, Rowntree Park, York, July 7 to 17 (except July 11)

AFTER last summer’s trilogy of solo shows, Matt Aston’s Park Bench Theatre return to Rowntree Park with Olivier Award-winning York writer Mike Kenny’s new monologue to mark the park’s centenary.

Performed by Sean McKenzie, The Park Keeper is set in York in the summer of 1945, when Rowntree Park’s first, and so far only, park keeper, ‘Parky’ Bell, is about to retire. That can mean only one thing, a speech, but what can he say? How can he close this chapter on his life? Will he be able to lock the gates to his kingdom one last time? Box office: 01904 623568, at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or via parkbenchtheatre.com.

Andy Fairweather Low: Booked into Pocklington Arts Centre for next February

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Andy Fairweather Low, Pocklington Arts Centre, February 11 2022

ANDY Fairweather Low, the veteran Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and producer, will return to Pocklington next February.

Founder and cornerstone of Sixties’ hitmakers Amen Corner and later part of Eric Clapton and Roger Waters’ bands, Cardiff-born Fairweather Low, 72, will perform with The Low Riders: drummer Paul Beavis, bassist Dave Bronze and saxophonist Nick Pentelow. Box office: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Jane McDonald: Lighting up York Barbican in July 2022 rather than July 4 this summer

Rearranged gig announcement of the week in York: Jane McDonald, York Barbican, July 22 2022

WAKEFIELD cabaret singer and television personality Jane McDonald’s Let The Light In show is on the move to next summer.

For so long booked in as the chance to “Get The Lights Back On” at York Barbican on July 4, the Government’s postponement of “Freedom Day” from June 21 to July 19 at the earliest has enforced the date change for a show first booked in for 2020. Tickets remain valid; box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York before and after Johnson’s “Terminus Est”. List No. 37, courtesy of The Press, York


A fight for survival as sex, power, money and race collide on a hot night: Sophie Robinson as Julie in New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse’s Miss Julie at York Theatre Royal

FREEDOM Day is delayed but Boris Johnson has reached for the Latin dictionary again with his promise of “Terminus Est”.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, life goes on in Charles Hutchinson’s socially distanced diary.

Play of the week ahead: Miss Julie, The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, June 22 to 26

ON the Chinese New Year in 1940s’ Hong Kong, the celebrations are in full swing when Julie, the daughter of the island’s British governor, crashes the servants’ party downstairs.

What starts as a game descends into a fight for survival as sex, power, money and race collide on a hot night in the Pearl River Delta in British-Hong Kong playwright Amy Ng’s adaptation of Strindberg’s psychological drama in New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse’s new touring production. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Reopening today: Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium will be welcoming an audience for the first time in 15 months

Reopening of the day: Leeds Grand Theatre

WHEN Leeds Grand Theatre first opened its doors on Monday, November 18 1878, a playbill declared it would “Positively Open”. Now, after 15 months under wraps, it is “Positively Reopening” today (17/62021) for a socially distanced run of Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake until June 26.

In Northern Ballet‘s emotive retelling, Anthony’s life is haunted by guilt after the tragic loss of his brother. When he finds himself torn between two loves, he looks to the water for answers.

There he finds solace with the mysterious swan-like Odette as the story is beautifully reimagined by David Nixon, who will be leaving the Leeds company after 20 years as artistic director in December. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at boxoffice@leedsheritagetheatres

Abba Mania: Saying thank you for the superSwedes’ music at York Racecourse on June 26

Staying on track: Sounds In The Grounds, Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse, June 25 to 27

JAMBOREE Entertainment presents three Covid safety-compliant Sounds In The Grounds concerts next weekend with socially distanced picnic patches at York Racecourse.

First up, next Friday, will be Beyond The Barricade, a musical theatre celebration starring former Les Miserables principals; followed by Abba Mania next Saturday and the country hits of A Country Night In Nashville next Sunday.

Opening each show will be York’s party, festival and wedding favourites, The New York Brass Band. Tickets are on sale at soundsinthegrounds.seetickets.com or at the gate for last-minute decision makers.

The poster for the return of the York River Art Market

Welcome back: York River Art Market, Dame Judi Dench Walk, York, from June 26

AFTER the pandemic ruled out all last year’s live events, York River Art Market returns to its riverside railing perch at Dame Judi Dench Walk, by Lendal Bridge, for ten shows this summer in the wake of the winter’s online #YRAMAtHome, organised by Charlotte Dawson.

Free to browse and for sale will be work by socially distanced, indie emerging and established artists on June 26, July 3, 24, 25 and 31 and August 1, 7, 14, 21 and 28, from 10.30am to 5.30pm, when YRAM will be raising funds for York Rescue Boat.

On show will be landscape and abstract paintings; ink drawings, cards and prints; jewellery and glass mosaics; woodwork and metalwork; textiles and clothing and artisan candles and beauty products.

Alexander Wright: Contemplating his debut solo performance of poems, stories and new writing on July 10. Picture: Megan Drury

He’s nervous, but why? Alexander Wright: Remarkable Acts Of Narcissism, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, July 10, 7.30pm

LET Alex tell the story: “In a potentially remarkable act of narcissism, I am doing a solo gig of my own work in a theatre I built (with Phil Grainger and dad Paul Wright) in my back garden. 

“It’s the first time I have ever done a solo gig. I write lots of stuff, direct lots of stuff, tour Orpheus, Eurydice & The Gods to hundreds of places. But I’ve never really stood in front of people and performed my own stuff, on my own, for an extended period. So, now, I am…and I’m nervous about it.”

Expect beautiful stories, beautiful poems and a few beautiful special guests; tickets via atthemill.org.

Ringmaster and Dame Dolly Donut in TaleGate Theatre’s Goldilocks And The Three Bears at Pocklington Arts Centre

Summer “pantomime”? Yes, in TaleGate Theatre’s Goldlilocks And The Three Bears, Pocklington Arts Centre, August 12, 2.30pm

ALL the fun of live family theatre returns to Pocklington Arts Centre this summer with Doncaster company TaleGate Theatre’s big top pantomime extravaganza.

In Goldilocks And The Three Bears, pop songs, magic and puppets combine in a magical adventure where you are invited to help Goldilocks and her mum, Dame Dolly Donut, save their circus and rescue the three bears from the evil ringmaster. For tickets, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys: Headliners to be found at The Magpies Festival in Sutton-on-the-Forest in August

Festival alert: The Magpies Festival, Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, near York, August 14, music on bar stage from 1.30pm; main stage, from 2.30pm

SAM Kelly & The Lost Boys will headline The Magpies Festival in the grounds of Sutton Park.

Confirmed for the folk-flavoured line-up too are: Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra; Blair Dunlop; fast-rising Katherine Priddy; The Magpies; York musician Dan Webster; East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer; the duo Roswell and The People Versus. Day tickets and camping tickets are available at themagpiesfestival.co.uk/tickets.   

A variation on Malvolio’s cross-gartered stocking theme: Yellow and black rugby socks for Luke Adamson’s version of Twelfth Night on the Selby RUFC pitch

Fun and games combined: JLA Productions in Twelfth Night, Selby Rugby Union Football Club, August 20, 7.30pm; August 21, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

“I’M just getting in touch to announce we’re doing some Shakespeare on a rugby pitch in Selby in August. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s going to be fun!” promises Luke Adamson, Selby-born actor, London theatre boss and son of former England squad fly half Ray.

Adapted and directed by Adamson, a raucous, musical version of “Shakespeare’s funniest play”, Twelfth Night, will be staged with Adamson as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a cast rich with Yorkshire acting talent.

Out go pantaloons and big fluffy collars, in come rugby socks, cricket jumpers and questionable facial hair. Box office: jlaproductions.co.uk.

Opera North launches Home song-writing project for installation at new Leeds centre

Writing Home: Opera North’s song-writing project for the Howard Opera Centre. Picture: Tom Arber

OPERA North is launching Writing Home, a community song-writing project for creating an innovative arts installation when the Leeds company opens its redeveloped home, the Howard Opera Centre.

The new building, on New Briggate, is designed to be a creative space for the whole community, an aim that will be reflected in an interactive musical trail on the theme of home.

Contributions will be recorded by schools, community groups, the Opera North Youth Company and members of the public, with visitors being able to listen to the resulting performances as they walk around the building.

As part of the project, a six-week course of free Writing Home workshops will be held online from Monday, February 22 at 6.30pm, led by professional  musicians Thandanani Gumede and Dave Evans.

Participants will be asked to explore what “home” means to them through a variety of musical genres before creating their own compositions. A selection of these will be featured as part of the final trail.

Everyone is welcome to join. No previous musical experience is necessary, only the willingness to try something new.

Jacqui Cameron, Opera North’s education director, says: “We will be embedding the voices of the people of Leeds and the North in the very walls of the Howard Opera Centre to create a sense of ownership and to encourage the whole community to see it as their artistic home.

“The word ‘home’ has assumed even greater importance over the past year, and this project aims to give participants the time to reflect specifically on what it means to them, and why it is important to us all to have spaces where we feel ‘at home’.

Work ongoing on former shop units beneath the Howard Assembly Room in New Briggate, Leeds. Picture: Tom Arber

“We hope this project will also provide a boost at a time when we are aware how much people are missing their usual evening meet-ups. Thanda is looking forward to finding the inner composer in everyone who takes part, helping them create something that will provide a great testament to the creativity of the people of Leeds in our new building.”

Despite the setbacks posed by the pandemic, Opera North has continued with its £18m redevelopment project on New Briggate, albeit it with new Covid-19 safety measures in place.

The Howard Opera Centre is pencilled in to open later this year. As well as providing new rehearsal facilities for the orchestra and chorus of Opera North, a costume and wigs workshop and administrative offices, the building will feature several public areas.

Among them will be a flexible education centre that will enable audiences of all ages and backgrounds to come together to learn about and participate in music making. 

Anyone accessing the education centre will use the same entrance as the artists and staff in a bid to inspire the younger generation and to encourage a feeling of parity and belonging.

Other public spaces will include a fully accessible atrium and a new restaurant and bar that will replace a row of previously vacant shop units.

Opera North’s performance venue, the Howard Assembly Room, within Leeds Grand Theatre, will reopen with an enhanced programme of musical and spoken-word events.

The work is being delivered by Sheffield contractors Henry Boot Construction, with the first phase scheduled to open in the late spring and final completion in the diary for autumn.

Opera North’s new orchestra rehearsal studio above the existing Harewood and Linacre rehearsal studios in the Howard Opera Centre, seen from the bottom of Harrison Street, Leeds. Picture: Tom Arber

Opera North general director Richard Mantle says: “We want young musicians to feel that they’re an integral part of Opera North, which is why we’re delighted to be able to give them the opportunity to rehearse in the same building as the chorus and the orchestra.

“Having our own dedicated education centre will facilitate more collaborations with the main stage; open up more learning and performing opportunities for children and young people, and provide extraordinary musical experiences for the wider community every day. 

“We very much hope that people will see the Howard Opera Centre as their artistic home in the city, with Writing Home marking the first step in ensuring they feel a part of the building and everything it represents.”

The company is “very grateful” to all the individuals, trusts and organisations that have helped it to raise more than £17 million towards the Music Works fundraising campaign target of £18 million.

Dr Keith Howard OBE, president of Opera North and founder of Emerald Group Publishing, made a philanthropic gift of £11.25 million; Leeds City Council has pledged to contribute £750,000, together with the lease of the vacant shops on New Briggate, and Arts Council England has provided £1 million, including a £500,000 Capital Kickstart Award.

The balance of the funds has come from private donors, trusts and supporters, including a £1 million donation from the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, as well as a significant contribution from Mrs Maureen Pettman and major gifts from private individuals.

In addition, gifts have been pledged by the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Charitable Foundation; Wolfson Foundation; Backstage Trust; the Kirby Laing Foundation; the Foyle Foundation; 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust; Sir George Martin Trust; Garfield Weston Foundation; J Paul Getty Jnr General Charitable Trust; the Arnold Burton 1998 Charitable Trust and Alerce Trust. 

Opera North has launched the Play Your Part campaign, seeking support from patrons, Friends and audience members, as well as continuing to attract funding from the Leeds business community and further charitable trusts and foundations as it looks to raise the £500,000 still needed for the project.

Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks to bob along to Leeds Grand Theatre next winter

The magical musical is on its way: The poster for the Leeds-bound world premiere tour of Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks

IT is time to start believing. There WILL be a Christmas show at Leeds Grand Theatre next winter.

And what a show: the world premiere tour of Disney’s new stage musical, Bedknobs And Broomsticks, will be “bobbing along” to Yorkshire from December 8 2021 to January 9 2022 with its story of three orphaned children, evacuated ever so reluctantly from London to live with the mysterious Eglantine Price, a trainee witch.

Brought to stage life by Harry Potter And The Cursed Child illusionist Jamie Harrison and fellow award-winning theatre-maker Candice Edmunds, the show will feature songs by the legendary Sherman Brothers, of Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats fame.

Among them will be Portobello Road, The Age Of Not Believing and The Beautiful Briny, complemented by a new book by Brian Hill and new songs and additional music and lyrics by Neil Bartram.

The Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium: empty since March 14 in Covid-19 2020. Picture: Ant Robling

The show is based on the books The Magic Bedknob; Or, How To Become A Witch In Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires And Broomsticks (1947) by Highbury-born children’s author Mary Norton, and Disney’s 1971 Academy Award-winning film, Bedknobs And Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.

Confirmation of this five-week Christmas run follows the announcement that Mamma Mia! will return to the Leeds Grand in…2023. Mamma Mia indeed.

The jukebox musical with a book by British playwright Catherine Johnson and the ABBA songs of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, had its 2020 run Covid-cancelled, but Leeds Grand audiences will be saying Thank You For The Music once more from April 4 to 15, almost 16 months from now. 

At the close of a year when the crushing pandemic brought the curtain down on the Leeds Grand stage after the March opening night of Northern Ballet’s world premiere of Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha, that stage will remain dark over Christmas for the first time in the New Briggate theatre’s 142-year history (bar the refurbishment of 2005-6). 

Ayama Miyata as Aiko and Minju Kang as Okichi in Northern Ballet’s Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

As a result of this on-going Covid-cursed shutdown and inability to generate earned revenue through ticket and secondary sales, the Leeds Grand is asking patrons, if financially possible, to help support its long-term survival by donating to its Keep A Seat Warm This Christmas campaign, buying tickets to future shows or memberships, gift vouchers and merchandise.

Chief executive officer Chris Blythe says: “I know it is a huge ask, especially at Christmas, but I also know how much the Grand means to the people of Leeds and wider region.

“The support and generosity of our patrons this year has been overwhelming, both financially and emotionally. It is abundantly clear that arts and culture are needed now more than ever to help boost people’s mental health and build community through shared experience, as we all try to find some escapism from our day-to-day and ongoing concerns for our futures.”

Tickets for Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks and Mamma Mia! are on sale at leedsheritagetheatres.com or on 0113 243 0808. To support Leeds Heritage Theatres this Christmas, go to leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Leeds Heritage Theatres receives £119,900 grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund

The logo for Leeds Heritage Theatres: a name drawing on the past for the future of Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties Music Hall and the Hyde Park Picture House cinema

LEEDS Heritage Theatres has received £119,900 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help address the impact of COVID-19 on its three venues. 

Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and the Hyde Park Picture House cinema now operate under the collective Leeds Heritage Theatres umbrella, a re-branding announced amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

Since the doors to all three closed on March 17, the company has lost 99 per cent of its income, earned through ticket, bar and merchandise sales, and furloughed 96 per cent of staff; with a small team being kept on to manage customer refunds, reschedule performances and maintain necessary administrative functions.

Chief executive officer Chris Blythe said: “Since our venues ceased trading due to the pandemic, we have been doing everything we can to ensure our survival throughout this period, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that will follow, including drawing on our reserves which we had planned to invest back into our three heritage buildings.

“This grant is a lifeline, and while it won’t quite see us out of the woods – we are waiting to hear if we have been successful in our bid for emergency funding from the Government – we’re hugely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting us at this crucial time. It’s invaluable to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.” 

The UK-wide funding, made possible by National Lottery players, was awarded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. In all, £50million was made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector and to help organisations to start thinking about recovery. The money awarded to Leeds Heritage Theatres will be used to fund re-opening costs across the Grand and City Varieties, including signage and PPE. 

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis. 

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as Leeds Heritage Theatres during this uncertain time.”

Like Leeds Heritage Theatres, other charities and organisations across Britain affected by the pandemic are being given access to a comprehensive package of support of up to £600 million of repurposed money from The National Lottery. “This money is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and span the arts, community, charity, heritage, education, environment and sports sectors,” said Kerslake.

Thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised every week for good causes, including heritage of local and national importance. By playing the National Lottery, people up and down the country are contributing to the nationwide response to combatting the impact of Covid-19 on communities across Britain.

Explaining the Heritage re-branding that came into effect on August 26, Blythe said: “The planned name change, and brand launch were originally scheduled for April 2020, when we were hoping, and had plans, to announce the exciting news in a manner more fitting of our industry.

“Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we had to postpone the announcement while we attended to more urgent matters, namely closing our three buildings and furloughing 96 per cent of our staff, while maintaining some business continuity. Now, after considerable work behind the scenes, we are ready to put the new name, brand and website into the public domain.”

Blythe continued: “While we have been trading for more than 30 years as Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd, we have long known that the name was not befitting of our company, and the role our venues and people play within the Leeds arts scene.

“We knew we must choose a name that encapsulates our people, our venues, our heritage and our future, and will raise awareness, both regionally and nationally, of the breadth and quality of our shows/screenings and educational function.

“Now, more than ever, as our venues stand empty, it is important that we make people aware what Leeds and Yorkshire stand to lose if our venues close due to COVID-19.” 

Leeds Heritage Theatres does not receive funding from Arts Council England and the company has been massively hit financially by the pandemic crisis. 

“As we put forward our bid to receive funding from the Government’s arts rescue package, we know that competition is fierce, and we need the support of our loyal customers more than ever,” said Blythe.

“We’re asking that people, if financially viable, buy tickets, memberships and vouchers, or donate what money they can. In such dark times, theatre is a positive force: it provides an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together to share a common bond – a love of performance. Just when our future was looking so bright, we cannot let our theatres fade into the darkness.” 

Donations can be made at https://donate.leedsgrandtheatre.com/.