Bev Jones Music Company reopen Joseph Rowntree Theatre with Strictly Cabaret

Strictly Cabaret performers Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford, Larry Gibson and Claire Pulpher

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, reopens its doors tonight with Covid-secure measures, socially distanced seating plan and the first of three performances of Strictly Cabaret.

Bev Jones Music Company principals Claire Pulpher, Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson will don their finest to entertain with a glittering cabaret set of their favourites at 7.30pm, to be followed by 2.30pm and 7.30pm performances tomorrow.

“Rat Pack, swing style, top musicals, film favourites, you name it, they will sing it,” says producer Lesley Jones. “Just sit back, reflect upon the year, clear your minds and be thoroughly entertained in the manner befitting the Bev Jones Music Company.

“All the cast will be principal performers in our June production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, directed by Claire, who will play Mary, alongside Chris as Judas, Terry as Caiaphas and Larry as Pilate.”

Under the present JoRo regulations for Step 3 reopening, the Bev Jones Music Company (BJMC) were permitted a company of only four. “That proved to be a headache,” admits Lesley. “How can you entice an audience to a BJMC show with so few cast members? But by offering diversification in content, I think we’ve pulled it off by aiming at all age groups.”

Claire Pulpher: Performing songs from Hamilton and Wicked, Alto’s Lament and a Whitney dancefloor filler

Introducing the Strictly Cabaret programme, Lesley says: “In a forward-thinking move, Claire sings songs from Hamilton and Wicked and the hilarious Alto’s Lament, then changes style with a superb dance-based Whitney Houston number, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

“Chris sings the powerful Pity The Child from Chess, the ever popular I Believe, plus a great swing performance of Mack The Knife and Cry Me A River; Terry performs Stars from Les Miserables, How Wonderful You Are and Tomorrow Never Comes, and Larry has chosen Luck Be A Lady, his favourite rock number from Chess, The Arbiter, plus the swing number The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Anything else, Lesley? “They’ll also all sing duets, trios and big group numbers, such as There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame and songs from Cabaret, Joseph and Abba,” she says.

“You can expect lots of humour and fun, plus power and pathos, but it was important to offer a chink of light after these dark days and hopefully remind people of a positive future.”

For tickets, go to: josephrowntree.co.uk. Jesus Christ Superstar will be staged at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, on June 12, 3pm, and June 13, 2pm and 5pm; same box office.

Martin Barrass WILL star in a York panto this Christmas, but what’s the show? UPDATED

Martin Barrass: Back in pantoland for Strictly Xmas Live In The Park

MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter.

Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.

Presented by the Bev Jones Music Company in a Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, the show will be a one-off on Sunday, December 13 at 2pm.

Martin Barrass as Queen Ariadne in his last York Theatre Royal pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, last winter

“I met Lesley Jones, widow of the formidable York producer and director Bev Jones, five or six weeks ago about doing a Christmas show to get people out and about on a crisp winter’s day,” says Martin.

“I’m thrilled to be taking part, and if you’re wondering why I’m wearing black and pink in the publicity picture, they were Bev’s favourite colours.”

Producer Lesley says: “We are delighted to welcome Martin into our company for this special guest appearance and he fits in so well to the company personality. He will lead the audience in the Christmas song with a drop-down song sheet.”

Martin Barrass, right, with AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper and David Leonard at the February 14 launch of their debut Grand Opera House pantomime, now put back to 2021. PIcture: David Harrison

“I’ve chosen the first song-sheet I ever did at the Theatre Royal…about Yorkshire Puddings!” reveals Martin, as he breaks into song from memory: “‘You can’t beat a better bit of batter on your platter than a good old Yorkshire Pud!’

“I did that with Berwick in Sinbad The Sailor in 1984, and I always remember thinking, ‘Are they going to respond?’, but of course they did!” Nobody does it batter, Martin!

Expect a few seasonal jokes too from Barrass, who will be joined in the festive concert’s panto sequence by Melissa Boyd’s Princess, Terry Ford’s villain and Charlotte Wood’s Silly Billy.

“In addition, we’ll have the Dame, the Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, Jack Ass and other characters,” says Lesley.

Charlotte Wood as Silly Billy for Strictly Xmas In The Park

“The concert will include all the favourite Christmas songs, such as Santa Baby, Jingle Bell Rock and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, as well as the fun panto section for all the family.

“There’ll be a visit from Santa Claus for all the children, followed by a moving Carols By Candlelight finale, encouraging a sing-along for everyone.”

Rowntree Park Amphitheatre will play host to a non-alcoholic Festive Mulled Wine Van, selling hot drinks for all the family, whether tea, coffee, hot apple juice or children’s drinks, served with light complimentary snacks. 

Melissa Boyd’s Princess and Terry Ford’s villain for the Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park

Rehearsals will be held at Rufforth Institute Hall , socially distanced and under a full Covid risk assessment. 

All audience members will be temperature tested on arrival and placed into family private bubble areas.

Tickets cost £5 for children and £10 for adults in bubbles for two to six people, on sale  on 01904 501935 or online at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/concert/strictly-xmas-live-in-the-park/1342/#schedules

Bev Jones Music Company to stage Strictly Christmas Live show at Rowntree Park

The Bev Jones Music Company in a socially distanced rehearsal for last Sunday’s Strictly Live In The Park at Rowntree Park, York

THE Bev Jones Music Company will return to the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, in York, for shows at Christmas and next Easter.

“Further to the overwhelming success of our musical theatre show there last Sunday afternoon, we’ve booked a Christmas date and Easter date for the park,” says producer Lesley Jones.

September 13’s Strictly Live In The Park concert featured more than 20 socially distanced singers and a five-piece band in a “spectacular show for all the family, with popular show music, pop music, dance and comedy”. 

“Sunday was hot and sunny, whereas December will be scarves and hats, fairy lights and hot mulled wine (non-alcoholic),” says Lesley.

Strictly Christmas Live In The Park will take place on Sunday, December 13 at 2pm. “Our Christmas programme will be a mix of modern popular festive music in a spectacular song and dance show, then will culminate in an audience-led Carols By Candlelight at 5pm. Two shows in one,” says Lesley.

“Our production will be staged and directed by Nathan Lodge and Jordan Langford, two former York stage performers with Bev’s company, who turned professional and have been performing and choreographing all over the world. 

“We’re delighted we’ll be welcoming back other familiar names from our company past, plus our current company, resulting in our most talented cast ever.” 

Looking ahead to next spring too, Lesley says: “Easter’s show will have a different musical focus, culminating in our own Jesus Christ Superstar tribute in the park in traditional style.” 

Tickets for Strictly Christmas Live In The Park will go on sale for social bubbles on October 1 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935. 

Bev Jones Music Company to perform Strictly Live In The Park at Rowntree Park

The Bev Jones Music Company cast in rehearsal at York Maze for Strictly Live In The Park

THE Bev Jones Music Company will stage a full-sized musical theatre concert with more than 20 socially distanced singers and a five-piece band at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, on September 13.

Strictly Live In The Park promises a “spectacular show for all the family, with popular show music, pop music, dance and comedy” from 3pm to 5m.

“York deserves this fun Sunday afternoon,” says producer Lesley Jones, Bev’s widow. “We just want to give the public, mainly families, the chance to enjoy entertainment once more.

Bev Jones Music Company cast members maintaining social-distancing at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre

“The cast are so happy to be performing once again, especially when our big spring production, Calamity Jane, was cancelled by the lockdown in March, just four days before the curtain would have gone up.”

The first York community theatre company to stage a musical theatre concert on this scale since the easing of lockdown, the Bev Jones Music Company will perform “typical Bev Jones spectacular music”.

“All the music was arranged by Bev, the company mentor, so we’ll have a huge variety with numbers from Adele to Robbie Williams, Cabaret to Hairspray, Mack & Mabel to South Pacific, The Full Monty to Chess, Miss Saigon to the finale, Les Miserables,” says Lesley.

The Strictly Live In The Park poster for the September 13 concert

“Every number has been changed to suit the current guidelines regarding singing and live music. The huge dance numbers are limited but we’re adapting what we can.” 

The company rehearsed at York Maze for the first time last week. “We only get three rehearsals to put this show together, because we cannot rehearse indoors yet, and thankfully the Maze allowed us those three rehearsals,” says a grateful Lesley.  

“We have directed the show ourselves; John Atkin is the musical director with his five-piece band; Claire Pulpher is the choreographer and all our usual cast members are performing.”

Taking shape: First day of rehearsals for Strictly Live In The Park at York Maze

Among the company for this Not For Profit production will be Chris Hagyard, Sally Lewis, Larry Gibson, Terry Ford, Kelly Bolland and two returning members, who had moved on to become full-time professional performers, Nathan Lodge and Jordan Langford.

“Our concert has been risk assessed thoroughly and all audience members will have hand sanitisers and temperature checks, plus all seating will be in socially distanced, marked-out bubbles. All the cast will be checked too,” says Lesley. 

“Picnic blankets, rugs and chairs are welcome, as are picnics as there’ll be no public refreshments on sale, in line with Government guidelines. We’ll have a large number of stewards to offer assistance and all safeguards will be in place to ensure that people feel happy and safe in every way.” 

Strictly Live In The Park is strictly an all-ticket event, with tickets on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. Seats will be sold in bubbles for two (£15) or up to six people (£30).