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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: firstdirectarena.com. Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

NE Musicals York to stage The Wizard Of Oz with orchestra, two Dorothys, two Totos, a cast of 60, 150 wigs and 200 costumes

They’re off to see the Wizard: Libby Anderson’s Dorothy, Kristian Barley’s Tin Man and Finley Butler’s Scarecrow in rehearsal for NE Musicals York’s The Wizard Of Oz

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from November 23 to 27.

The company will be led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy. “They are both amazing,” says Steve.

Further principal roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

The Lollipop Guild welcomes Dorothy (out of picture) to Munchkinland:  Zachary Pickersgill, left, as Someri Munchkin, Jack Reed as Ginger Munchkin, Matthew Musk as Kikiaru Munchkin and Sam Reed as Henkle Munchkin

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. “This amazing story is full of heart, knowledge, courage and love for our families,” says company chairman Steve.

“With more than 60 cast members and the youngest being just six years old, this truly is a theatre event. Our company is made up of families, with mums and dads on stage and their children or parents chaperoning backstage.”

In the familiar but updated story, when a tornado rips through present-day Kansas, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz.

The Lullaby League: Sophia Cocker as Lullaby League teacher Amie-Amme Munchkin; Lexie Brooks as Mubba-Subba Munchkin; Aimee Dean-Hamilton as Bonnini-Pop Munchkin; Suraya Pickersgill as Pippy-Bay Munchkin; Abigail Ainley as Mulini Munchkin Graggity and Elizabeth Reese as Blinki-Bop Munchkin

There they meet a good witch called Glinda, who tells them they need to follow the Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. Along the way, Dorothy and Toto befriend a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion, who join them on her quest, but not all is as it seems, alas.

The Wicked Witch of the West is determined to stop them, but will she succeed, or will Dorothy prevail and return home safely, Toto in tow?

“We’ll have a full orchestra, 200 specially designed costumes and 150 wigs, and our amazing projections will only add to this being a truly magical musical adventure,” says Steve.

A group rehearsal for NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

“Rehearsals are going well, and we go into the theatre from Sunday. Fingers crossed all goes to plan!  We’ve sold out the Friday evening show and Saturday matinee, with only seven seats left for the Saturday night and limited availability for the Tuesday and Thursday performances.

“Our opening night is dedicated to Millie May Wright, and the charities we’ll be supporting and collecting for are Candlelighters, Snappy and Stimul8.”

NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, November 23 to 27, 7,.30pm nightly and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Meet Dolly, one of two Totos, along with her brother Teddy, for NE Musicals York’s The Wizard Of Oz