Corrie & Legally Blonde star Faye Brookes to join Kevin Clifton in Strictly Ballroom The Musical at Grand Opera House in April

Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes team up for Strictly Ballroom The Musical in York this spring

DANCING On Ice finalist and Coronation Street star Faye Brookes is to join Kevin Clifton in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York, from April 24 to 29.

The Manchester actress, 35, will play the lead female role of Fran opposite Strictly Come Dancing alumnus Clifton’s Scott Hastings in Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood’s production, co-choreographed with Strictly creative director Jason Gilkison, on tour until July 15.

Faye will be taking over from 2020 Strictly joint runner-up Maisie Smith, who leaves the ten-month tour on March 25 after being on the road since September 26 last year.

Faye is no stranger to musical theatre, having starred as Roxie Hart in Chicago, Princess Fiona in Shrek and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical, appearing in that pink and perky role at the Grand Opera House in August 2011.

She became a household name after joining ITV soap opera Coronation Street to play Underworld packer and waitress Kate Connor, from 2015-2019. Taking on “some of the biggest storylines the show has seen”, Faye won the 2017 National Television Award for Best Newcomer. In 2021, she skated all the way to the runner-up position in the 13th series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

“I can’t wait to work with Craig Revel Horwood, Kevin Clifton and the hugely talented cast,” says Faye Brookes

“I’m thrilled to be joining the tour of Strictly Ballroom and can’t wait to work with Craig Revel Horwood, Kevin Clifton and the hugely talented cast,” says Faye. “I’m so excited to be playing the role of Fran and making it my own. Bring it on!“

Welcoming her to the tour, Kevin Clifton says: “It’s very exciting news that Faye is joining the cast of Strictly Ballroom and I’m looking forward to singing and dancing my way across the UK and Ireland with her.“

Director Craig Revel Horwood says: “I am delighted to be directing the sensational Faye Brookes as she joins Kevin Clifton and the super-talented cast of Strictly Ballroom The Musical. I know that she’ll be nothing short of FAB-U-LOUS!”

Based on Luhrmann’s 1992 Australian romantic comedy film, Strictly Ballroom The Musical tells the beguiling story of Scott Hastings, a talented, arrogant and rebellious young ballroom dancer (played by former Strictly professional and 2018 champion Clifton).

When he falls out with the Australian Federation over his radical dance moves, he finds himself dancing with Fran (Brookes), a beginner with no moves at all. Inspired by one another, this unlikely pairing gathers the courage to defy both convention and families – and discover that, to be winners, the steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

Faye Brookes in Legally Blonde The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, in 2011

Combining a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce with a cast of more than 20, Strictly Ballroom The Musical brings to stage life such songs as Love Is In the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with joyous verve.

The tour also features new songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect in a show full of “scintillating singing, dazzling dancing and eye-popping costumes”, plus heart, comedy and drama, under the glitterball.

This uplifting and courageous musical originated as a stage play that Baz Luhrmann devised with a group of classmates at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1984.

Eight years later, he made his silver-screen directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom, the first instalment of his Red Curtain Trilogy, winning three awards at the 1993 BAFTAs and receiving a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. In April 2014, Strictly Ballroom The Musical had its world premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, Australia.

Tickets for the York run can be booked at

Who you gonna call when you need a voice for a Holy Snail in a York pantomime? Strictly between us, here’s the answer

The Blue Light Theatre Company cast members in rehearsal for The Legend Of The Holy Snail

THE voice of the National Lottery draws and Strictly Come Dancing will now be the voice of the Holy Snail in a York pantomime.

“Our dame and additional scriptwriter, Steven Clark, happens to know BBC announcer Alan ‘Voice of the Balls’ Dedicoat, so he approached him – and Alan very happily agreed to be our snail’s voice!” says a delighted Perri Ann Barley, of The Blue Light Theatre Company.

“He has already recorded the script we sent him and even put his own spin on it, with a slight nod to the Lottery and Strictly. We’re obviously thrilled about this and very grateful to him for giving up his time to help us out.”

Cast members being put through their paces – but not at snail’s pace! – for The Legend Of The Holy Snail

In the wake of their 2022 murder mystery comedy thriller, A Performance To Die For, raising £1,000 for charity, Blue Light will stage The Legend Of The Holy Snail at Acomb Working Men’s Club, Front Street, York, on January 20, 25, 26 and 27 2023 at 7.30pm, complemented by a 1pm matinee on January 21.

Perri’s new and original story is directed by Craig Barley and choreographed by Devon Wells, who are joined in the cast by Steven Clark, Glen Gears, Brenda Riley, Julie Shrimpton, Simon Moore, Kevin Bowes, Jorvik Kalicinski, Richard Rogers, Nicky Moore, Linden Horwood, Chelsea Frankling, Pat Mortimer, Kristian Barley, Sam Richardson, Kalayna Barley, Kathryn Donley, Harry Martin and Tim Horwood.

“What’s it about? Ariel is celebrating her birthday and as a gift has requested to replace her mermaid’s tail with legs, so she can go to the dance with the Prince,” says Perri. “The only being who has magic powerful enough to make this happen is The Holy Snail, but does it really exist or is it just legend?

The Blue Light Theatre Company poster for January 2023’s production of The Legend Of The Holy Snail

“The Mermaids and Islanders make it their mission to find out. Unfortunately, the incorrigible and evil Captain Hook and his crew have found themselves shipwrecked on the Island and they also want to find the mystical creature. Who will get there first?”

The Blue Light Theatre Company combines York area staff from the Yorkshire Ambulance Servive – hence the company name – with performers from the York actors’ circuit in their productions. This one will be “packed with amazing music that will have you singing and dancing along”.

As usual, all proceeds will go to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and York Against Cancer. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, children £6, from or on 07933 329654.

Another rehearsal scene for The Blue Light Theatre Company’s January pantomime

Strictly Come Dancing – The Professionals adds second York Barbican date, but when?

Strictly Come Dancing: The ten professionals in the tour line-up

TICKETS sold out in 12 hours for the Strictly Come Dancing – The Professionals show at York Barbican on May 12 2023, prompting the addition of a second performance on May 31.

In the line-up of ten of the world’s best professional dancers from the BBC’s hit show will be Strictly pros Dianne Buswell, Vito Coppola, Carlos Gu, Karen Hauer, Neil Jones, Nikita Kuzmin, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Jowita Przystal and Nancy Xu.

“Don’t miss your chance to see these much-loved dancers coming together to perform in a theatrical ensemble that will simply take your breath away,” says the tour blurb. 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

As Strictly returns, champion Joe McFadden plays film director in Agatha Christie thriller The Mirror Crack’d at York Theatre Royal

Joe McFadden’s Jason Rudd and Sophie Ward’s Marina Gregg in the Original Theatre Company’s production of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d. Picture: Ali Wright

2017 Strictly champion Joe McFadden is appearing in his first Agatha Christie mystery, The Mirror Crack’d, on tour at York Theatre Royal all this week in the role of Jason Rudd.

Joining Glasgow-born Joe, 46, in Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation of Christie’s 1962 psychological thriller will be Susie Blake’s Miss Marple and Sophie Ward’s Hollywood star Marina Gregg for a story of revenge and the dark secrets that we all hide, presented by the Original Theatre Company.

In the sleepy village of St Mary Mead, a new housing estate is making villagers curious and fearful. Even stranger, a rich American film star [Gregg] has bought the Manor House. Cue a vicious murder; cue Jane Marple defying a sprained ankle to unravel a web of lies, tragedy and danger.

Here Joe answers questions, but not those posed by Miss Marple.

Who is Jason Rudd?

“He’s a film director who put his career on the back burner because his wife, Hollywood star Marina Gregg, is going through a hard time. Now he’s going to make a film about Henry Vlll and his wives with Marina as Catherine Aragon.

“He manages to tempt her back with a script that he’s been working on for quite a long time. You’re suspicious of his motives. There are so many people circling around Marina, this Hollywood star from a bygone era and you ask yourself: why are they so interested in her? What are they getting out of it?”

Cast an eye over your CV…theatre, TV, Strictly…

“I feel very lucky that I get to do musicals and to do plays – and to do the odd bit of telly now and again. It’s really an actor’s dream in that I’m not stuck doing the one thing. The usual thing is that you either do plays or you do musicals or you do TV, and it becomes hard to break into the others. I feel very fortunate I get to do all of them.”

Joe McFadden in the role of film director Jason Rudd in The Mirror Crack’d. Picture: Ali Wright

What have been your favourite roles?

“I couldn’t pick a favourite, honestly. It’s brilliant doing a play because you get a lot of time to sit down, as we have during The Mirror Crack’d rehearsals, and talk about the story. Working on something like Agatha Christie, it’s absolutely necessary because it’s so textured, so layered and there’s so much in there. On the face of it, it seems a simple whodunit but they’re all such complex characters. Nobody is really what they first appear to be.”

What’s the enduring appeal of Agatha Christie stories?

“They’re so rich, there’s so much in there and it really keeps you guessing. It’s not so much a whodunnit as a social commentary. The Mirror Crack’d is, as I’ve discovered, about mental health. At the time it was written, Agatha Christie was very much ahead of the curve.

“It’s a real examination of this movie star, Marina, and how, when you get to a certain age, you’re not in the running for the parts and you’re cast aside. It’s about the tragedy and unfairness of that. My character adores Marina and will do anything to protect her.

“We discover he’s been there for her in the past but you’re not sure what his motives are and, as is the way with Christie, discover he’s not all he seems to be by the end of the evening. So, it’s really great charting how much you show to an audience and who the red herrings are. Quite exhausting mentally”.

Have you gone back to the book, the TV versions or the film?

“I haven’t really read the book because some details have changed. Rachel Wagstaff has done a wonderful adaptation. It’s kind of confusing for me because I’ve watched the Julia McKenzie TV version and the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor film version and they’re all slightly different.

“What you do get from them is a feel for the period, the style and the characters. It’s difficult when you’re so familiar with the other source material because you’re torn between what you’re doing and what they’re doing.

“I feel like I don’t need to read the book or watch the films again. Not at the moment. Perhaps when we’re all finished I will.”

2017 Strictly champion Joe McFadden in a waltz with Sophie Ward in The Mirror Crack’d. “I’m trying to dredge up from the corner of my mind how to do it,” he says. Picture: Ali Wright

You are appearing in your first Agatha Christie thriller…

“Absolutely my first. My mother was a massive mystery fan. She loved a sleuth, Murder She Wrote, Poirot, all the detective shows, so I was brought up watching these films and TV shows. I do have a real fondness for them because they get you involved.

“You’re not passive when watching, you’re actually trying to work out whodunit. And while you’re working it out, you’re being entertained and getting a real insight into these human beings and their particular circumstances.”

The Mirror Crack’d brings together three regulars from ITV’s Yorkshire series Heartbeat: you, Sophie Ward and director Philip Franks. Plenty of conversation points, no doubt?

“We’re having a great time reminiscing and comparing experiences. I’ve done a number of long-running series and there’s something to be said for knowing the other actors and knowing the crew. It’s nice with a job like Heartbeat or Holby City, where you have a shorthand with people and a relationship with people. Those were particularly lovely jobs to do.

“I was happy to do them for as long as I did: two years of doing Heartbeat and five years in Holby. I’m sure every job is not as happy as those but I was very happy to do them for so long.”

What made you sign up for Strictly Come Dancing in 2017?

“I did agonise over the decision to do it because back in the day, 20 years ago, actors didn’t really do reality TV shows. It was a new thing. I thought long and hard about it and took advice from various people, friends in the industry, but ultimately my reason for doing it was I wanted to learn how to dance. I wanted to have this world champion teach me to dance. That opportunity only comes along once in a lifetime. I felt it would be silly not to grab it with both hands.”

It could not have worked out better: you won!

 “I’m so glad I did it, not because I won but because it was such a brilliant experience. It was about saying yes to things and not being afraid of the unknown. As human beings we like the familiar, the same thing, and that’s a dangerous place for an artist to be because you want to challenge yourself and challenge people’s perceptions of you. Strictly was good for that.”

Champion Joe McFadden’s advice to this year’s Strictly Come Dancing contestants: “Get as much sleep as you possibly can because the tiredness is like nothing you will have experienced in your life”

What was the hardest part of doing Strictly?

“Being myself on screen, which I hadn’t really done before. The most daunting thing was all the speaking and the live television but even that stuff ended up being massively enjoyable. Talking to Zoe Ball on It Takes Two became one of my favourite parts of the week because she made it so lovely. The fans are so appreciative and so warm that you feel the love everyone has for that show, something I perhaps wasn’t aware of going into it.”

What’s your advice to celebrities taking part in the new series of Strictly?

“Just to enjoy every moment, because you never know when it’s going to end, and get as much sleep as you possibly can because the tiredness is like nothing you will have experienced in your life. Just enjoy it because it will be over in a flash. It goes so quickly. Don’t take it too seriously, throw yourself into it and do exactly as your partner tells you.”

Will there be any dancing in The Mirror Crack’d?

“We do a bit of a waltz. I’m trying to dredge up from the corner of my mind how to do it.”

How do you feel about touring?

“I toured with Priscilla Queen Of The Desert for seven months and toured with two different Ghost Stories before that. I love touring. As an actor, you either love it or hate it. I try to get out to see places and not stay in my digs all the time.

“The great thing for Priscilla is that I didn’t drink for the whole time I did the show, which meant I got up in the morning, went to the beach, did the museums. I love how we get to go to these places that you never would at any other time.”

Joe McFadden fact file

Television credits include: Raffaello Di Lucca in Holby City from 2014 to 2020; Alistair in Casualty in 2009; PC Joe Mason in Heartbeat, 2007 to 2009; Jack Marshland in Cranford; Dallas in Sex, Chips & Rock’n’roll; Prentice McHoan in The Crow Road and Gary McDonald in The High Road.

Theatre includes: Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical; Torch Song Trilogy (Menier Chocolate Factory); She Loves Me (Chichester Festival Theatre); Rainbow Kiss (Royal Court Theatre); How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (Chichester Festival Theatre); Aladdin (Old Vic Theatre) and Rent (Shaftesbury Theatre, London).

Joe won BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing glitter ball with partner Katya Jones in 2017.  

Sophie Ward: Cast as Hollywood star Marina Gregg in The Mirror Crack’d. Picture: Ali Wright

Questions for Sophie Ward, an actor playing an actor in The Mirror Crack’d

SOPHIE Ward returns to the York stage this week for the first time since playing the lead role of Eunice in the Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s staging of Ruth Rendell’s tale of murder, A Judgement In Stone, at the Grand Opera House in October 2017.

In the Original Theatre Company touring production of The Mirror Crack’d at York Theatre Royal, Sophie, 57, is cast as Hollywood star Marina Gregg.

Is The Mirror Crack’d your first experience of performing an Agatha Christie story?

“No, I did a television version of A Caribbean Mystery with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and also Go Back For Murder, which was a play by Agatha Christie.

Is Marina Gregg based on anyone in the movie world?

“There was a star called Gene Tierney who was the inspiration for this character, and quite famously Elizabeth Taylor played the character in a film, when Angela Lansbury was Miss Marple. Marina is entering a new chapter in her life, a bit more peaceful. She’s doing films she likes with her husband and finding some respite in buying this big house in an English country village. It’s a new start for her.”

Marina is an actor, as are you, do you identify with her in any way?

“There are lots of things that I understand and I’ve worked in a lot of productions from that period. So, it’s a world I know a little bit about but I hope it’s not too close to my own life.”

Did you experience Hollywood when you were commuting between England and America?

“I did quite a lot of television in various shows but not films in the US. I met my wife [Rena Brennan] in Los Angeles so we like to spend time there. I’d like to get over there more, but my mother-in-law lives in Florida, my mother is in London, and I have grandchildren in England. With work and family, it’s not been easy to get over there in the past few years. A small matter of the pandemic.”

Sophie Ward’s Marina Gregg and Susie Blake’s Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d. Picture Ali Wright

Have you and The Mirror Crack’d co-star Joe McFadden comparrd experiences working on Heartbeat?

“Joe was in the series after my era on Heartbeat, but we have that in common, which is really nice to be able to talk about. I was on the show for two years, quite a big chunk of time to do one job when you’re an actor. We’ve been catching up on our time in Heartbeat.”

How was lockdown for you?

“When we had our first lockdown, I was quite happy doing a lot of gardening for a while. But I think we all had thoughts of a reassessment of life and of what we were doing. I had time to ask myself, ‘Am I going to carry on with acting when this situation finishes’.

“As it turns out, I do want to carry on and I did miss it during lockdown, but it was really great to have that time to think about things. You’re on a wheel, which you get on and keep going round and round. It was good to think ‘I’m choosing to do this and not just carrying on’.”

Where does Marina Gregg fit into the kind of roles you play these days?

“I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of different parts. Marina is very much a movie star with all the charm and challenges that can bring. I’m thrilled to be playing her.”

What are the strengths of Rachel Wagstaff’s new adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d?

“This is one of Christie’s later books and things are changing in society and in St Mary Mead. Rachel’s version shows that they’re quite conscious of that in the village. The characters aren’t stock characters; they are all interesting, three-dimensional people and Rachel has managed to include all their stories.

“As an audience we need to care about them. You want to understand people and not just see another character murdered. Every character is valuable to the story.”

Sophie Ward in the role of misfit Eunice in Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement In Stone at the Grand Opera House, York, in October 2017. Picture: Geraint Lewis

Have you returned to the book or film and TV versions?

“Obviously what we’re doing is our version. Rachel has done an amazing job so that’s what we work on and that’s where my imaginative world is: in Rachel’s world. But I’m really interested to see other versions and find out more about that world. Then you have to focus on Rachel’s version.”

You have written two novels, the first one, Love And Other Thought Experiments, being longlisted for the Booker Prize. Is a third book on the horizon?

“My second book [The Schoolhouse] came out in May and I’m hard at work on the third one. It takes me about five years to write a book.”

What prompted you to ‘go back to school’?

“First I did an undergraduate degree part time, then I did an MA, and I’ve just finished my doctorate at Goldsmiths. There’s a lot of waiting around in our job and I left school after my A-levels, didn’t go to university, just carried on working.

“I really wanted to go back to school. I knew my children would be coming up to that age soon and wanted to be able to talk with them about going to uni, what it meant and what it was. I studied, it took me about 15 years, and out of that came the idea for my first novel, which was a mixture of the things I’d been studying.”

You are an advocate for gay and lesbian rights…

“I try to be supportive and feel open about my life. I did write about equal marriage for the Guardian. I felt very strongly about it, about everyone being able to have that option to get married. I am involved to that extent but there are people whose whole careers are seriously applied to gaining our rights. I’m a very small part of that.

“There have been a lot of changes, changes in the law and people’s attitudes, which has been amazing to see and experience. But I never take it for granted because, as we see in other countries, either things don’t progress in the same way or they’re going backwards. You can’t be complacent.”

Sophie Ward: Actor, gay rights advocate and novelist

What’s coming next for you after The Mirror Crack’d tour?

“I have a research trip for my next book.”

Somewhere exotic?

“I can’t really say as I’m still developing the ideas and immersing myself in a new world. Let’s just say ‘travelling’!”

Sophie Ward fact file

Her first acting role was at the age of ten.

Now playing Rachel Johnson, opposite Kenneth Branagh’s Boris Johnson, in This Scepred Isle on Sky Atlantic/Now TV.

Appeared opposite Claire Foy and Paul Bettany in A Very British Scandal (BBC); starred in Troubled Blood (BBC/HBO), an adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel.

For the past four years, Sophie has hosted the European Diversity Awards and she works closely alongside Stonewall.

Original Theatre Company in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm nightly; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Strictly dance star Johannes Radebe finds Freedom at last in debut solo tour show

FREEDOM. What better title could South African dancer and ground-breaking Strictly Come Dancing star Johannes Radebe give his debut British tour.

“It is the freedom to dance to my own tune for the first time,” says 34-year-old Johannes, ahead of his itinerary opening with a Yorkshire show at Bridlington Spa on Wednesday (16/3/2022) before playing the Grand Opera House, York, on April 12.

“I’ve danced in many productions around the world but I’ve never been able to capture on stage where I came from, and I never thought I’d be able to go on my own tour, so it’s a very welcome surprise.”

Radebe (pronounced Ra-dee-bay) was catapulted to new heights of popularity by bonding so exhilaratingly with 2012’s The Great British Bake Off winner and TV chef John Waite as the first all-male couple in 2021’s series of Strictly, pipped for the Glitterball by first deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis and professional partner Giovanni Pernice.

“It was liberating and healing as well,” says Johannes. “I’ve got a better relationship with my mum now, as we can talk about my sexual orientation – and people’s lives have changed for the better too.

“In a world where two men still can’t be free to be  together, I hope to be able to educate the masses, and if people had a glimpse of that with me and John dancing together, then they can think about it.”

Such was the appeal and dancing brio of both partnerships, each marking a first for Strictly, that many would have loved them to have been declared first equal. “I’m with you!” says Johannes, bursting into laughter. “John kept saying, ‘it’s fine if we don’t win’, and yes, it is s fine! At the finale, we both stood there as couples thinking ‘it’s fine’. That’s the friendship that comes through the show.”

After touring the world in Burn The Floor, Joahannes was head-hunted to join the Strictly professionals for the 2018 series, first moving to Britain that year. In his second season, when partnering Catherine Tyldesley in 2019, he danced the first same-sex routine with fellow Strictly pro Graziano Di Prima.

The tour poster for Johannes Radebe’s Freedom show

Last year was to be even more significant. “My decision to finally dance with another man in the competition came about after I lost a friend of mine within our community. He was murdered, and the last words that were uttered to him by his killer was that he was a ‘faggot’,” says Johannes.

He paused, consumed again by the pain of what his friend had suffered, then said: “I get a moment to highlight it in the show. This is something that needs to be done, to give it that platform, and it’s important to keep being flamboyant – but that does require bravery.”

Freedom marks Johannes’s return to the Grand Opera House for the first time since sharing the York stage with Strictly alumni Kevin Clifton and Graziano Di Prima in Burn The Floor in July 2019.

On tour from March 16 to May 1, Johannes Radebe: Freedom is billed as “a celebration of music and dance, from African fusion to fiery Latin, from classic dance arrangements to huge party anthems”, as Radebe and his dancers take the audience on his personal journey, from starting to dance at seven to leaving South Africa at 21 to travel the world, winning international titles and electrifying Strictly Come Dancing.

Now he will be expressing himself to the full in Freedom. “I’ve been on a quest to find Black dancers in this country that are versed in all dance styles, but not many of them are ballroom dancers, whereas where I come from everyone can do the Cha-cha-cha,” says Johannes.

“I’ve chosen everyone through auditions. I had to be in the room to feel their energy, to see if they move me as a dancer, so I’ve found beautiful, individual dancers, which will make it feel a different show.

“It’s a show designed to be representing everyone, and it will be so beautiful to have audiences that support our artform – and I know we have that privilege because of the Strictly audience.”

Johannes has a theory as to why dance and TV audiences feel such a strong connection with him. “It’s because I have no inhibitions. I know that I come alive when I dance. Something takes over. It’s a feeling as an artist that I can’t explain but people connect with it,” he says.

In a nutshell, Freedom. “Absolutely! Nothing is going to stop me. It’s about the joy that my dancing has brought to my mother. Nothing was more important to me than to see my mum be happy when often she would be sad,” says Johannes.

“I was only a child and so I didn’t understand the magnitude of it when she carried me on her back, telling everyone I’d got a prize in a dance competition. She was so proud, even though it wasn’t first place. But that’s the thing. That talent was nurtured from a young age, and though my mum couldn’t support it financially, everyone else contributed.”

Johannes Radebe’s pathway to Freedom was set in perpetual motion, and hopefully another Strictly series awaits too. “We haven’t had the phone-calls yet, but I’ll gladly do it for as long as they will have me,” he says.

Might he look to do another all-male coupling? “Well, you never now. I’m just glad to have kicked down that door.”

Johannes Radebe: Freedom, Bridlington Spa, Wednesday, 7.30pm; Grand Opera House, York, April 12, 7.30pm. Box office: Bridlington, 01262 678258 or; York, 0844 871 7615 or Further Yorkshire performances: Sheffield City Hall, April 3,; Bradford St George’s Hall, April 9,; Hull City Hall, April 23, 01482 300306 or

Copyright of The Press, York

Ore Oduba in fishnets and high heels? Oh yes, as Strictly champ plays college nerd Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show

Ore Oduba strikes a pose in the obligatory dress code for playing Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show. Fishnets? Tick? High heels? Tick. Picture: Shaun Webb

ACTOR, presenter and 2016 Strictly winner Ore Oduba will be donning his fishnets in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Opera House, York, from March 14 to 19.

Delighted to be resuming his role as squeaky clean Brad Majors in Christopher Luscombe’s touring production from January to June, he says: “I’m so excited to be extending my stay with our amazing Rocky family. Truth is, when you know how it feels to wear a corset and heels, it’s very hard to take them off – at least it is in my case!

“It’s been a wild ride so far. This show is the perfect remedy to everything we’ve all been through. People want to laugh and be uplifted and to be able to forget about everything for a couple of hours. It’s all about ‘Leave your inhibitions at the door – we haven’t got time for that’.”

In O’Brien’s risqué and riotous 1973 sci-fi musical sextravaganaza, Oduba’s preppy Texas student Brad Majors and his college-sweetheart fiancée Janet Weiss (Haley Flaherty) inadvertently cross paths with mad scientist Dr Frank-N-Furter (Stephen Webb) and his outrageous Transylvanian coterie.

“I think there’s a lot of Brad in me and in a lot of people, ” says Ore Oduba

In a shock’n’roll sugar-rush of fruity frolics, frocks, frights and frivolity, Ore ends up in assorted states of undress. Previously seen on a Yorkshire musical theatre stage as swoon-inducing crooner Teen Angel in Grease, The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre in July 2019, he signed up to play Brad from last summer, but not before he checked with his wife, television researcher Portia.

“It’s such an iconic show and so well loved, but I thought, ‘I wonder what my wife is going to say about audiences seeing me in stockings?’. I needn’t have worried because what I’d forgotten is that Rocky Horror is one of her and her family’s favourite shows of all time. She was beside herself!

“Then she started chuckling at the idea of me being on stage in just my briefs for the early part of the show, then coming out later in stockings and high heels.”

Ore’s nerdy Brad undergoes a spectacular shedding of inhibitions at the hands of Frank-N-Furter, “just a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania” as he calls himself. 

Given how Ore has gone from studying sports and social sciences at Loughborough University to presenting on Newsround, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and The One Show, to dancing  to Glitterball success with Joanne Clifton on Strictly Come Dancing, to musical theatre roles as Teen Angel and songwriter Aaron Fox in Curtains in the West End, he can connect with Brad’s transformation.

Ore Oduba as Teen Angel in Grease at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2019. Picture: Antony Robling

“I think there’s a lot of Brad in me and in a lot of people,” he says. “It’s the idea of being kind of caged animals, because we all have a lot of reservations and inhibitions and things we hold back. We’re just waiting to be unleashed.”

Not that his Strictly sparkle and burst of musical theatre roles came out of the blue. At 13, he won the school drama prize for his performance in the musical Seven Golden Dragons. “Then at secondary school I did every production under the sun,” recalls Ore, now 36. “It was only when I went to university that I turned my attention to broadcasting, but Strictly reminded me ‘Oh my gosh, I love being on stage’.

“On the surface, doing musical theatre now might seem like a big change-up but when I look back to where I felt happiest and most comfortable when I was younger, it was always on stage. In many ways it’s kind of what I always wanted to do. After Grease and Curtains, Rocky Horror is another step up in my so-far short musical theatre career and a lovely chance for me to do something liberating, fun and a little bit different.”

Ore has taken performing the signature song-and-dance routine The Time Warp in his stride, after continuing to dance since his Strictly triumph, both in the BBC show’s tours and in musicals. “I took up tap dancing too, although my wife and I then decided to renovate the house and turn the garage I was practising in into a kitchen,” he says.

Preppy but unprepared for what lies in store at deliciously, devilishly deviant Dr Frank-N-Furter’s castle: Ore Oduba’s Brad Majors and Haley Flaherty’s Janet Weiss. Picture: David Freeman

“So, I no longer have my tap space. Blame it on the kitchen! But every time I get to do something involving choreography, it gets me as excited as I was when I did Strictly. I love it.”

Wearing fishnets and high heels is altogether more over the top than anything he sported in tandem with Joanne Clifton on Strictly. “We did wear Latin heels but they’re not as high as the ones I have to wear in Rocky Horror,” says Ore.

“I remember the first time I was asked to wear something a little bit sheer on Strictly and I thought, ‘I don’t want to be too much of a show pony, I want it to be about dancing’. But by the time it came to the end, I was like, ‘You can put me in whatever you want’.”

Cue Frank-N-Furter doing exactly that to Ore’s Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show.

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show runs riot at Grand Opera House, York, from March 14 to 19; Monday to Thursday, 8pm; Friday, Saturday, 5.30pm and 8.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615. Fancy dress encouraged.

Copyright of The Press, York

Showtime for Anton and Erin as Strictly duo celebrate Fred, Ginger, Chaplin and Elton

Terpsichorean twirlers Anton du Beke and Erin Boag toast their return to the dancefloor in their first tour since early 2020

LONGSTANDING, long-dancing ballroom couple Anton du Beke and Erin Boag are reunited in Showtime at York Barbican tomorrow night (18/2/2022).

After a fallow 2021, when the pandemic put paid to their tour plans, the Strictly Come Dancing alumni have been on the road since January 28 this winter, playing 30 dates that will take in further shows in Yorkshire at Hull New Theatre on February 22 and 23.

“Not only 2021 was lost,” says Strictly judge Anton. “We lost shows in 2020 as well; we were into the last week of our tour, when were going to play York and then go onto Scotland, so it’s been a while since we danced together.”

Sevenoaks-born Anton, 55, and New Zealander Erin, 46, are taking to the dance floor in Showtime, a “glittering tribute to some of the world’s greatest icons of entertainment”: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Liza Minelli, Elton John and more besides.

Glittering tribute: Anton and Erin are ready to dazzle in Showtime

Returning to dancing after sitting down through the 2021 series of Strictly on the judging panel, Anton says: “To be honest with you. it’s been like ‘wow, I only feel like I’m 28’ because there’s a lot of experience to fall back on.

“We did a few special shows at the back end of last year, like one night in Leeds, where we were only there to do a couple of numbers, and my biggest concern was ‘would the suit still fit’. It did! Then Erin asked, ‘would you do up my zip’, and her dress fitted perfectly too.”

Erin says: “I’m fit! There aren’t many dancers at my age still going strong, but I am, though I’m not the same [dancer] as I was 20 years ago – or even two years ago. But keeping fit is the easiest part. The hardest part is the technical side, but I’ve been really looking forward to the tour as I don’t think anyone will notice that!

“Maybe adrenaline can get you through the first few shows and the presence of an audience can do that too, as well as working with people again, performing with a big orchestra. It’s all about the enjoyment of getting back to dancing again.”

“It’s all about the enjoyment of getting back to dancing again,” says Erin Boag

Six months of preparation have gone into Showtime, a show produced by Raymond Gubbay that combines the dazzle of ballroom couple Anton and Erin with “stunning costumes, fabulous live vocals, a high-energy dance ensemble and a sensational 23-piece orchestra”.

“We have a new sound company working with us, great lighting and costumes,” says Anton. “When there has been no shows, it’s been so much more than Erin and me not being able to put on a show. No shows means no frocks, no work for sound engineers. That’s why it’s important that now that shows are back, the message is clear that people can feel safe to come into a theatre.

“It’s also important that people work harder to make the experience enjoyable, with venues going the extra mile. We get that venues need to be safe, but their job is to make it enjoyable within the safety guidelines. Don’t be officious, be welcoming!”

Anton And Erin in Showtime, York Barbican, tomorrow (18/2/2022), 7.30pm; Hull New Theatre, February 22 and 23, 7.30pm. Box office: York,; Hull,

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Plan B doesn’t stop the Christmas buzz. List No. 60, courtesy of The Press, York

CHRISTMAS shows, Christmas concerts, Christmas plays, ‘tis the season for Charles Hutchinson’s diary to be jolly full.  

Jason Manford: “Exercising the old chuckle muscle”

Busy week for comedy: Jason Manford: Like Me, York Barbican, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm.

SALFORD’S Jason Manford revives his funny-bloke-next-door schtick for Like Me, his follow-up to “the fun we had on my last tour”, Muddle Class, a show about turning from working class to middle class that played York Barbican in February and October 2018.

“In these trying times, it’s always important to be able to get away for a couple of hours and exercise the old chuckle muscle,” reckons Manford, 40, who has tickets available for both nights at

Meanwhile, Jack Dee’s Off The Telly gig, moved from April 25 2020 to tomorrow night, has sold out. So too have Alan Carr’s Regional Trinket shows on December 18 and 19.

Filey Brigg, seascape, by Rosie Dean at Village Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: Rosie Dean, Seascapes, Village Gallery, Castlegate, York, until January 22, open 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

SEASCAPE artist Rosie Dean has taken part in York Open Studios for the past ten years. Now she is exhibiting at Simon Main’s Village Gallery through the winter months.

“I feel total peace breathing the ozone, staring out to sea and focusing on the horizon line, sensing all around me and feeling the elements around me, the sights and sounds, the salt in the air. Pure contentment,” says Rosie.

Levellers: Part of York Barbican’s busy week for concerts. Picture: Steve Gullick

Curiosity concert of the week: The Magical Music Of Harry Potter Live In Concert With The Weasleys, York Barbican, Monday 8pm.

POTTY about Potter? Then exit those Shambles shops and head to York Barbican for a night of music from Harry’s films and the West End musical, performed by the London Symphonic & Philharmonic Film Orchestra with the Weasley brothers in tow.

Original actors, magic, star soloists, a choir and the orchestra combine in the debut European tour’s programme of John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicolas Hooper and Alexander Desplat’s soundtrack magical moments, plus selections from the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child score. 

More music in York Barbican’s crammed pre-Christmas diary comes from Levellers, Brighton’s folk-rock stalwarts, tonight and Steve Steinman’s tribute show, Anything For Love: The Meat Loaf Story, on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm. Box office:

Steve Mason: Solo gig at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall

If you seek out one gig, make it: Steve Mason, Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, Tuesday, doors, 8pm; start, 8.30pm.

STEVE Mason was the frontman of The Beta Band, cult Scottish exponents of folktronica, a blend of folk, psychedelia, electronica, experimental rock and trip hop.

He first dipped his toe into solo work on Black Gold, his mournful 2006 album under the guise of the short-lived King Biscuit Time and has since released Boys Outside in 2010, Ghosts Outside with Dennis Bovell in 2011, Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time in 2013, Meet The Humans in 2016 and About The Light in 2019.

Presented by All Off The Beaten Track, Mason will play solo on Tuesday. Box office:

The poster for The Arts Barge Christmas Party! at The Crescent, York

Christmas jamboree of the week: The Arts Barge Christmas Party!, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm.

THREE York community musical groups, Bargestra, The Stonegate Singers and The Blind Tiger Dance Band, unite for the Arts Barge Christmas bash.

Bargestra, the 20-piece Arts Barge band skippered by Christian Topman, play jazz, swing, Beatles, ska and more. The Stonegate Singers, a community choir open to anyone, is directed by Jon Hughes, who teaches the music by ear, one part at a time, so that anyone can do it.

The Blind Tiger Dance Band, Arts Barge’s 16-piece Lindy Hop swing band with Rinkadon Dukeboy up front, brings together seasoned professionals and rising young instrumentalists. All three groups will join together to make a 50-piece ensemble for the festive finale.

Recommended but alas sold out already at The Crescent are Christmas shows by Mostly Autumn on Sunday and fellow York band The Howl & The Hum on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm.

Chapter House Choir at the double: Carols by Candlelight, York Minster, Wednesday; Festival of Carols, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 18, both at 7.30pm.

THE Chapter House Choir’s Carols by Candlelight at York Minster has sold out, but a second chance to hear the York choir and its bell ringers comes at St Michael-le-Belfrey.

Tickets for a Festival of Carols are available via Eventbrite,  but do hurry because they are limited in number and selling fast.

Danny Mellor and Meg Matthews in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Global warming alert of the week: Badapple Theatre Company in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7pm; Green Hammerton Village Hall, December 20, 2pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has revived artistic director Kate Bramley’s magical eco-fable, The Snow Dancer, for its latest rural tour.

Bramley’s original story blends festive family entertainment with an important eco-message and an original score by Jez Lowe, as actors Meg Matthews and Danny Mellor tell the story of the animals of The Great Wood, who are desperate for a long sleep, but find it too warm because something is awry.

The intrepid heroes in this fairy tale with a furry tail must search for the mysterious Snow Dancer to make it snow if they are ever to sleep. Box office: York, 01904 501935 or at; Green Hammerton, 01423 339168.

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s artwork for A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness

Christmas plays of the week: York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust in A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness, Spurriergate Centre, Spurriergate, York, December 17, 7pm; December 18, 2pm, 4pm, 6.30pm. A Christmas Carol, Mansion House, York, December 17 to 19, 7pm.

TERRY Ram directs the second York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust community production for Christmas, drawn from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays in the old church atmosphere of the Spurriergate Centre. Box office:

The Penny Magpie Theatre Company, from York, have sold out all three Mansion House performances of director Samantha Hindman’s adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, a version seen through the eyes of modern-day schoolboy Jon, who is gradually welcomed into Scrooge’s redemptive tale. Carols, mince pies, mulled wine and a house tour complete the festive experience.

Freedom is…Johannes Radebe’s debut tour show at at the Grand Opera House, York, next spring

Leaping into 2022: Johannes Radebe, Freedom, Grand Opera House, York, April 12, 7.30pm.

MAKING swish waves with baker John Whaite in Strictly Come Dancing’s first all-male coupling, South African dancer Johannes Radebe has announced his debut tour, Freedom.

Radebe will lead a company of dancers in classic Ballroom and Latin arrangements, scorching South African rhythms and huge party anthems, as he takes you on his journey from growing up in Zamdela, to travelling the world, winning competitions and becoming a Strictly professional.

Leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for a night of energy, passion and freedom,” he says. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Stacey Dooley investigates young people’s mental health at York Barbican show next February – and you can ask her questions

Stacey Dooley: In Conversation in York, with the chance for the Barbican audience to put questions to the investigative journalist and documentary maker next February

INVESTIGATIVE journalist, television documentary maker, show host, author and 2018 Strictly Come Dancing champ Stacey Dooley will be In Conversation at York Barbican on February 16 2022.

Dooley, 34, will be on tour for 20 dates promoting her new book, Are You Really OK? Understanding Britain’s Mental Health Emergency, wherein she explores the mental health crisis in Britain and its impact on young people in particular, inspired by her two most recent documentaries on the subject.

Dooley will “open up the conversation about mental health in young people, to challenge the stigma and stereotypes around it”.

“Having worked in collaboration with mental health experts and charities, Stacey will responsibly share the stories of young people in the UK directly affected by mental health issues, in order to shine a light on life on the mental health frontline and give a voice to young people throughout the UK who are living with mental health conditions across the spectrum,” her tour publicity states.

In addition, Dooley will touch on related, broader topics that she has tackled in her documentaries – poverty, addiction, identity and the pressures of social media – and look back on the stand-out moments and interactions from her wide-reaching career.

Alongside her BBC investigative series, the Luton-born documentary maker and author of On The Frontline With The Women Who Fight Back is the presenter of BBC One’s This Is My House, BBC Two’s DNA, BBC3’s Glow Up and W’s Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over.

Join her on February 16 for a thought-provoking, inspiring and informative evening with a chance to try your own hand at journalism by asking Stacey questions.

Tickets are on sale at