More Things To Do in York as Sovereign takes over King’s Manor. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 28 for 2023, from The Press, York

Sovereign actors Fergus Rattigan, left, and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, right, with playwright Mike Kenny

HENRY VIII and the murder of a York glazier take top spot in Charles Hutchinson’s pick of July highlights with outdoor cinema on its way too.

Community event of the month: York Theatre Royal in Sovereign, King’s Manor, Exhibition Square, York, July 15 to 30

YORK Theatre Royal’s large-scale community production, York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of C J Sansom’s Tudor-set murder mystery Sovereign, will be staged outdoors at King’s Manor, where part of the story takes place. Henry VIII even makes an appearance.

Two professional actors, Fergus Rattigan’s disabled lawyer Matthew Shardlake and Sam Thorpe-Spinks’ assistant Jack Barak, lead the 120-strong community company of actors, singers, musicians and backstage workers. Tickets update: sold out.

York artist Tom Wilson stands by his artworks in the City Screen Picturehouse cafe bar

Exhibition of the week: Tom Wilson, City Screen Picturehouse café bar, Coney Street, York, until July 29

YORK punk expressionist artist, designer, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom Wilson is exhibiting his riots of colour at City Screen Picturehouse for the first time with sale proceeds going to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians). Thirty-five works are on display, priced at  £175 to £700.

“My art looks like an explosion,” says Wilson, whose dynamic abstract artwork is influenced by Kandinsky, Max Earnst, Otto Dix, Outsider art, German Expressionism and Rayonism (Russian Expressionism).

Industrial Revolution, one of Tom Wilson’s works on show at City Screen Picturehouse

Tribute show of the week: Steve Steinman’s Anything For Love, The Meat Loaf Story, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

FOR more than 30 years, Nottingham’s Steve Steinman has toured the world with his tribute to the songs of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday). Now he presents his new production, showcasing 25 chunks of Meat Loaf and Steinman’s prime cuts.

Anything For Love combines Steve’s humour and a ten-piece band with such rock-operatic favourites as Bat Out Of Hell, Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Dead Ringer For Love and Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Box office:

The Sixteen: Marking 400th anniversary of the death of composer William Byrd in Sunday’s York Early Music Festival concert at York Minster

Don’t miss at York Early Music Festival: The Sixteen, York Minster, Sunday, 8pm

THE Sixteen’s 2023 Choral Pilgrimage is inspired by the influence of Renaissance composer William Byrd in an exploration of his life, works and pervading Roman Catholic faith. His legacy is marked by two new compositions by Dobrinka Tabakova, bringing his musical heritage into the modern day.

The premieres, Arise Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity, highlight Byrd’s influence of modern polyphony and showcase The Sixteen choir in a new light. Director Harry Christophers’ programme also features works by Van Wilder, de Monte, Clemens Non Papa and Byrd himself. Box office: 01904 658338 or

Emily Belcher’s Emily Webb and Frankie Bounds’ George Gibbs in rehearsal for Amerrycan Theatre’s Our Town

American play of the week: Amerrycan Theatre in Our Town, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

FOUNDER Bryan Bounds directs Yorkshire’s American company, Amerrycan Theatre, in the York premiere of “America’s greatest play”, Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 study of mindfulness, mortality and brevity of life, Our Town.

“Wilder’s portrait of life, love and death set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, a fictional New England town at the start of the 20th century, could happen just as easily in Pocklington,” says Bounds. Tracing the romance and marriage of Emily Webb (Emily Belcher) and George Gibbs (Frankie Bounds), Our Town reveals the hidden mysteries behind the smallest details of everyday life. Box office:

Amerrycan Theatre’s poster for the York premiere of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Outdoor film event of the week: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, Museum Gardens, York, July 14 to 16, doors, 7.30pm; screenings at sundown, 9.15pm approx

CITY Screen Picturehouse heads outdoors for three films in three nights, kicking off on Friday with The Super Mario Bros Movie, wherein Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and brother Luigi (Charlie Day) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world.

In Mamma Mia! The Movie, next Saturday, Greek island bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is set on finding out who her father is. In next Sunday’s film, Jaws, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss star as a police chief, marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop a gigantic great shark that has been menacing the island community of Amity. Box office:

The Counterfeit Seventies: Heading to Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Pop nostalgia of the week: The Counterfeit Seventies, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 16, 7.30pm

IN the wake of The Counterfeit Sixties, here comes, you guessed it, The Counterfeit Seventies, the decade of glam rock, punk, new wave and everything in between. Revisit Slade, Sweet, T Rex, the Bay City Rollers and plenty more, aided by a light show, costumes of the period and archival footage of bands and events from the era. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Solo show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 16, 7pm

AFTER her celebrations of Kate Bush (An Evening Without…) and Julie Andrews (Julie Madly Deeply), writer-performer Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with the highly personal true story of a singer who loses her voice and embarks on an unexpected journey of self-revelation.

Warning: The show includes themes of trauma and sexual violence. As The Stage review put it, The Silent Treatment is a “a war cry and a message of resilience and hope to anyone who has faced abuse and been made to feel guilty about it”. Box office:

Cher, Cher and Cher alike as three into one go Debbie, Danielle & Millie in new musical

And then there were three: Millie O’Connell’s Babe, left, Debbie Kurup’s Star and Danielle Steers’ Lady in The Cher Show: A New Musical. Picture: Matt Crockett

THE role of Cher in The Cher Show, A New Musical will be shared by Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell at the Grand Opera House, York, next week on the European premiere tour.

In a case of Cher, Cher and Cher alike, the trio of musical actresses will portray the American “Goddess of Pop” and “Queen of Reinvention” in three different stages of her career as a singer, actress and television personality: Millie as Babe; Danielle as Lady and Debbie as Star, each delineated by a different colour scheme.

On the road since April, the year-long British and Irish tour of this Tony Award-winning 2018 Broadway smash has visited Yorkshire already, playing the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in late-October, directed by Arlene Phillips and choreographed by two-time Strictly Come Dancing professional champion Oti Mabuse, with a book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (Six, In The Heights, Spice World 2019 Tour). 

From a young child with big dreams in El Centro, California, the shy daughter of an Armenian American truck driver, to the heights of global stardom, The Cher Show tells the story of Cherilyn Sarkisian’s meteoric rise to 100 million record sales, an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, three Golden Globes and even an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Oti Mabuse: Choreographer for The Cher Show

As the publicity blurb puts it, “Cher takes the audience by the hand and introduces them to the influential people in her life, from her mother and Sonny Bono to fashion designer and costumier Bob Mackie. It shows how she battled the men who underestimated her, fought the conventions and, above all, was a trailblazer for independence”. 

Thirty-five hits feature, from I Got You Babe, Bang Bang and Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves to I Found Someone, If I Could Turn Back Time, The Shoop Shoop Song and Believe, from a songbook of the only artist to have a Billboard chart number one hit in six consecutive decades. 

Let’s meet the three Chers in chronological order, firstly Millie O’Connell’s Babe. “I’d worked with Arlene [director Arlene Phillips] before; she gave me my first job at 19 on TV,” she says. “She’s followed my career since then, and it’s really great to be able to work with her again. She and Oti and Gabriella are a really good production team of women and that really drew me in the most.

“Cher came into my life when I heard Believe. I was like, ‘this is brilliant’! I used to impersonate that song as a party trick, and it’s been really exciting taking that impersonation so far that it now becomes naturalistic.”

Millie O’Connell’s Babe in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

Millie plays Cher “before the high cheek bones”, from the age of six to her early 20s, having worked on voice, mannerisms and movement over an intense four weeks, all leading to a performance with multiple costume changes. “I’m going through all those eras, from before I Got You Babe to The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour; I even have one costume change on stage in the first act!” she says.

Picking out Cher’s enduring qualities, Millie says: “I love how she’s a star who never hides her vulnerability. She reveals her heart, which is really empowering, especially for women.”

Danielle Steers’s Lady takes up Cher’s story from the late-1960s to the mid-1970s. “I’m middle Cher! Starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and ending with the divorce,” she says.

“I was in a show called Bat Out Of Hell, when I was in the original cast in London and on Broadway, and I sang Dead Ringer For Love, the Cher and Meat Loaf duet. That’s when people said, ‘Oh my god, you sound like Cher, and I’d never thought of my voice that way before.

Barnsley-born Danielle Steers’s Lady in The Cher Show

“While I was in America, The Cher Show was on there and I used to have to pass the show sign on my way to work and I thought, ‘that looks amazing’. I became obsessed!”

Danielle, born and raised in Barnsley, went through “quite the audition process”, on Zoom and in person, for the UK tour but is delighted to now be singing multiple Cher songs.

“When you hear Cher, you just know it’s her. I can’t pinpoint it, but it’s the way she sings certain words and forms her vowel sounds,” she says.

“Everyone always tries to do their best Cher impression, but though it’s hard, in this show you have to find that fine line between gimmickry and reality, and of course Cher singing now doesn’t sound like she did in the 1960s, but we have to be true to her at all times.”

Debbie Kurup’s Star, centre stage (where else!), in The Cher Show. Picture: Pamela Raith

Debbie Kurup plays Cher, the Star. “She’s the oldest and wisest of the three Chers,” she says. “We actually start the show with ‘Star’ having a bit of a confidence crisis and calling on the other two Chers to help her and go through the eras. I pick up the baton again in Act Two, although I narrate throughout.”

Her admiration for Cher is boundless. “She is amazing,” says Debbie. “Some of her inner strength comes from when she was bullied at school, was dyslexic and never felt she fitted in.

“Because she felt like an outsider, she’s always worked harder. She’s funny, she’s a consummate entertainer, not afraid to reinvent herself. That’s what sets her apart, making her a megastar.”

The Cher Show, A New Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, November 15 to 19, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Copyright of The Press, York

Actor, musician and now sonneteer, Aran MacRae joins York Shakespeare Project for Sonnets At The Bar in ‘secret garden’

“Secret mission”: York actor Aran MacRae looks forward to making his York Shakespeare Project debut as a sonneteer in Sonnets At The Bar in the “secret garden” of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre

ARAN MacRae joins Lindsay Waller Wilkinson, Luke Tearney and Josh Roe in the four new sonneteers corralled for York Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar 2021 from this evening.

Not that Aran is “new” to the acting scene. Far from it, the York actor, singer, songwriter and self-taught guitarist and percussion player returned to his home city in March 2019 after building momentum in his career in London, Europe and beyond.

After training in musical theatre for three years at the Guildford School of Acting, post-graduation in 2017 he had originated the role of 14-year-old Tink in the West End premiere of the Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf musical Bat Out Of Hell at the London Coliseum, following up with the Canadian run at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.

“If you shave off your beard, you’ve got the part,” he was told at the last audition: a wonderful start to life on the professional boards.

“We did the show for 13 months and it gave me such an insight to musical theatre and to rock’n’roll too, going to Toronto and falling in love with a beautiful woman who’d just joined the cast there,” he says.

Aran then appeared in the immersive promenade production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent at the world’s oldest working paper mill, Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley, Hertfordshire, in July 2018 and sang in Midas’s Twelve Tenors tour across Europe and South Korea in 2018 and early 2019.

His profile on Mandy states he is now “busking in my hometown of York, playing acoustic covers and putting together lyrics and music for solo material”.

Sonnets At The Bar brings him back to theatre work in the city where, in York College days, he had starred in York Stage Musicals’ The Flint Street Nativity and Mayhem, NUEMusic Theatre’s Bare, Bat Boy The Musical and Rent and Pick Me Up Theatre’s Evita, Che Guevara beard et al. If memory serves, he was the singer in The Frizz too, in even younger days.

“I’d been living in Potters Bar in London, plying my trade as an actor, when I decided to come back to York in Spring 2019,” says Aran. “I was aware of York Shakespeare  Project and got in touch straightaway to join their mailing list because I knew that Macbeth and The Tempest were coming up and I was really up for directing The Tempest.  

“Then ‘the Cloud’, as I shall call it, came along and slowed things down; Macbeth was put back, but then I saw they were doing Sonnets At The Bar and I jumped on to it.

Aran MacRae originating the role of Tick in Bat Out Of Hell at the London Coliseum in 2017

“I’m a fan of Shakespeare’s sonnets: not that  they need a lot of investigating, but they explore the concept of love in a manner full of thought and consideration, and what is very special about them is the answer that’s given to any Shakespeare question: they are timeless and you can find modern-day parallels in them.”

Directed by Emilie Knight and produced by fellow company regular Maurice Crichton, Sonnets At The Bar 2021 will be staged in the “secret garden” of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, in Blossom Street, from tonight to August 7.

Emilie, who played a Covid nurse in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard in Goodramgate, has come up with the conceit of the Bar Convent being in use for all sorts of community centre-type activities, some of them outdoors in the garden on account of Covid, with the sonneteers either hosting classes or groups or attending them, all under the watchful eye of the caretaker, Mr Barrowclough.

In YSP’s now time-honoured fashion, each character has a sonnet to set up, the pairing of character and sonnet opening up unknown sonnets in an accessible way or giving well-known ones a new angle.

Aran will be performing Sonnet 25, Let Those Who Are In Favour With Their Stars, in the role of Paul, clerk to the parish council in this age of new awareness of parish-council machinations after the explosive Jackie Weaver and Handworth shenanigans on Zoom went global.

“He’s a little bit righteous, I think,” he says. “He’s not got a point to prove but when he witnesses injustice, he takes it on his shoulders to deal with it, leaving him between a rock and a hard place.

“He has to have a lot of integrity and non-bias and that’s an incredibly lofty responsibility, when you’re dealing with care for the community and injustice, though what he’s witnessed is more to do with internal parish [council] matters, rather than the community.”

Analysing Sonnet 25, Aran says: “My sonnet is about idol worship, and I can certainly find modern-day resonances within it. I’m sure Shakespeare wasn’t thinking of me 420 years ago (!), but I’m thinking of him 420 years later, taking me to an emotional place. It’s like time travel.”

Aran has relished rehearsals under Emilie’s guidance. “It’s been really free spirited, and that freedom has been wonderful, especially in ‘the Cloud’,” he says. “Not only does everyone jump in and sound ideas off each other, but Emilie basically gave each of us a small piece of text to set up each sonnet and said, ‘if you’d like to ad-lib the lead-in to the sonnet, go for it, or if you’d like to add to it, do that’.

Che days: Aran MacRae’s Che Guevara with Robyn Grant’s Eva Peron in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Evita at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, in April 2013

“That was quite testing for me because I then had to look at the structure of what the character was going to say, working out how the parish clerk would communicate in a way that was more astute and level-headed than I would be in that situation!”

Initially, Aran had envisaged “just performing the sonnet and walking off with my chest out”. “But doing it this way, building up a character, allows me to test my writing skills too…because if I’m going to be in a film, I’m going to have to write it myself!” he says.

Where does Aran see his future? “Doing Bat Out Of Hell gave me an insight into where I want to direct my abilities. I loved being in a musical, with all that high energy and lots of post-teens diving around saying ‘this is it’, ‘it’s punk!’, but sometimes I wanted to be thinking more about the task in hand, when it was on stage.

“I want to pursue my career by continuing to work in musical theatre but also look to break into theatre, even though it’s such a closed circle.

“Coming back to the city where I’d lived from the age of three to 21, suddenly there was that ‘Cloud’ and a lot of solitary confinement, so I’ve been reading the classics after I’ve not had the time to read for years, in order to consider it as a career when it’s your heart that calls you to this profession.”

One classical role Aran will not be giving us is his Lady Macbeth in York Shakespeare Project’s promenade production of Macbeth in October, staged at Theatre@41 Monkgate by director Leo Doulton in a “corrupted world of moving forests, daggers from the dark and cyberpunk dystopia, falling from civilisation into a civil war between darkness and light”.

Lady Macbeth, Aran?. “I put my two-penneth in at the auditions to play her as I thought, ‘what better chance to play one of the great string-puller roles, like in The Hunger Games in a past of such apocalyptic brutality, with suave sophistication,” he says. “I gave it a good shot…”

The role has gone to Nell Frampton instead, but Aran can still apply to direct The Tempest, with no production dates set in place yet for York Shakespeare Project’s final play.

York Shakespeare Project presents Sonnets At The Bar 2021, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, today (30/7/2021) until August 7; no show on August 2. Performances: 6pm and 7.30pm nightly, plus 4.15pm on both Saturdays. Tickets: 01904 623568, at or in person from the YTR box office.

Joseph Rowntree Theatre adds new string to bow as York String Quartet makes debut

The York String Quartet: Making Joseph Rowntree Theatre debut this Sunday

THE York String Quartet will grace the Joseph Rowntree Theatre stage in York for the first time on Sunday night.

As the JoRo reopens after lockdown, York audiences are being offered a wider choice of performances, the result of both the trustees’ desire to attract new hirers and differing groups’ need to look for suitable venues.

Graham Mitchell, the Haxby Road theatre’s community engagement director, says: “We’re delighted that the York String Quartet has chosen our venue for its first show post-lockdown.

“We haven’t often had this type of show on stage and we know it’ll attract a new audience into the theatre, perhaps people who don’t even know who we are or what we offer.”

In the York String Quartet line-up are Fiona Love, violin, Nicola Rainger, violin, Vince Parsonage, violin and viola, and Sally Ladds, cello.

The 7.30pm programme will comprise: J S Bach’s  Brandenburg No. 3 in G major; Dvorak’s Quartet No. 12, ‘American’  1st movement, Allegro Ma Non Troppo; Beethoven’s  Quartet No. 13 op. 130, 5th movement ‘Cavatina’, Adagio Molto Espressivo, and Schubert’s Quartet No. 13 D.804 in A minor, ‘Rosamunde’, last movement, Allegro Moderato.

A selection from classical, pop, jazz, shows, television and film in a quiz format will follow the interval. Tickets cost £8 to £13 at

Tomorrow’s Meat Loud – The Duo show, with its invitation to “buckle up and get ready for a ride into Hell”, has been cancelled.

Founded by Meat Loud, alias Andy Plimmer, and session singer and vocal coach Sally Rivers, the show is built around Bat Out Of Hell, complemented by other Meat Loaf slices of rock opera and songs penned by Jim Steinman for Bonnie Tyler, Cher, and Celine Dion. Sally has worked with Annie Lennox, Cher and Mick Hucknall, among others.

Alas, tomorrow night is now a case of All Revved Up With No Place To Go.

Losing their Loaf: Meat Loud – The Duo’s Meat Loaf tribute show show at the JoRo tomorrow is off

Chatty art podcast duo Chalmers & Hutch hit Two Big Egos In A Small Car episode 40

Film director Oliver Stone, snazzy blue glasses and all, discusses his film JFK, politics, more politics, his upcoming documentary and yet more politics in an online interview for Harrogate Film Festival

NO Stone unturned as Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Chalmers and Hutch hit Episode 40 with thoughts on Harrogate Film Festival, Oliver Stone & JFK; Jagger & Grohl’s Slade-meets-Sham 69 lockdown knockdown single Eazy Sleazy; bye-bye Bay City Roller Les McKeown & Jim Steinman RIP; jazz & happiness; no Covid insurance government support, no Deer Shed Festival in 2021 & what next for the summer festival season? Oh, and the return of pub theatre…outdoors in York.

Here’s the link: