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INTERVIEW WITH GARETH MALONE, SING-ALONG-A-GARETH! UK TOUR

What follows is Richard Barber’s syndicated interview with Gareth Malone, who is touring his new Sing-Along-A-Gareth! show throughout the UK this autumn

He’s taken the Military Wives to the top of the charts. He’s had us all singing from our kitchens during the pandemic. Now the irrepressible Gareth Malone, choirmaster extraordinaire, will be spreading joy the length and breadth of the land together with his band, four professional singers and a choir, local to each venue, on a tour of Britain’s theatres.

Sing-Along-A-Gareth! (“I like the fact it’s got Gaga in the middle,” he says, with a smile) opens at The Lowry in Salford on October 26, taking in, among others, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bath, Norwich and London at the Cambridge Theatre on December 5, before coming to a rapturous climax in Poole on December 16.

“I’ve been involved in choirs for many years now,” says Gareth, “and then along came performance stuff on TV. But I’d never quite married the two together although, on previous tours, there was always audience participation, moments when I’d encourage people to join in with the singing.”

During the pandemic. singing was as good as banned. Then came the Great British Home Chorus which saw thousands of people around the country sing with Gareth from their kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms.  Every day at the same time, Gareth would bring joy through music into people’s homes reaching an average of 20,000 live viewers every rehearsal.

So, was a tour part of the plan? ‘I promised myself that once lockdown was over, I’d get back on the road and get out in front of audiences. I wanted to hear people singing again and to entertain them’.

As soon as he put the word out, he started receiving messages from people saying their whole choir would be there. “I love that. I see this tour as a celebration of people coming together after all those months of isolation. It’s certainly the first time for almost three years that I’ll have been on the road performing in public.”

Gareth Malone

The first half of the show will see Gareth, and a group of singers and musicians, perform songs he’s sung over the last fifteen years as well as some tracks he performed with the nation during lockdown. Playing piano, guitar and bass, Gareth will tap into the musical talents of the audience to write their own songs composing something special and unique to every venue. In Cardiff, it might be about Cardiff Bay.

The second half will see a local choir from each venue perform with Gareth, continuing the fun and bringing people together. Improving mental health, wellbeing and happiness, singing encourages a real sense of community, something that was so lacking during the pandemic. Gareth is happy to bring back that sense of togetherness with a feel-good evening of upbeat fun tracks we all know and love which everyone can easily sing along to.

He’s put together a song list, available now online, for the show. “I’m adding to it all the time but it’s guaranteed to include arrangements for some of those numbers people will be familiar with from Home Chorus.

So, what will audiences be singing?

“Elton John’s I’m Still Standing for its positive message,” he says, “and Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves for its joyful optimism.” There will also be Hey Jude (arm-waving obligatory) and Wake Me Up, the Avicii song sung by Gareth’s All Star Choir which topped the charts in 2014 when it became that year‘s Children In Need anthem.

“And I’d have to have Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Then, of course, there will always be a place for Wherever You Are, the song that propelled Gareth’s Military Wives choir to Number One at Christmas 2011, selling more than the rest of the Top 12 combined.

He’ll also be including Fields of Gold, made famous by Sting. “It’s a beautiful and uplifting song, a particular favourite of mine and with a quality that will resonate with everyone, in my opinion, particularly if they were to think of the loss of the Queen.

“I was sitting on the sofa a moment ago, playing it on my guitar, and it’s one of those songs that you can read in a number of ways. There’s a haunting quality to it, something that evokes memories, both happy and sad.”

From as far back as he can remember, he says, Gareth always wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary with his life. His father worked in a bank; his mother was a civil servant. At secondary school, he grew increasingly enamoured of performing: in plays and orchestras and jazz bands and pop groups.

“Choir was like the background of my everyday life. I’d go in at ten past eight and we’d sing for about forty minutes every morning except Friday when there was a school assembly which I hated. That was seven years at a very formative stage.

“I wasn’t quite sure where any of it would lead. I did a drama degree but, when I came back from university, I realised that music was missing from my life. My epiphany came in a concert. I sang a note which seemed to reverberate off the rafters and, on the walk home, I made up my mind I was going to be a professional musician.”

At the London Symphony Orchestra, he ran a number of educational workshops. When someone said they were starting a community choir and would he like to run it, he didn’t need to be asked twice. “In the end, I ran two choirs: one for adults, one for children.” It’s how he came to the attention of the BBC. “And that’s how Gareth Malone, choirmaster, was born.”

He’s a natural performer, something that was traced back to his mother’s father, Teddy, when Gareth was the subject of BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?. “My grandfather was the sort of man who’d dance round the lawn in his underpants to make everyone laugh.”

In much the same way, Gareth enjoys working with an audience. “On this upcoming tour, I’ll be encouraging people to help me make up a song about their local town or city. So, in Bristol, it might be something to do with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I like that interaction, the sense that you’re taking the crowd with you.

“The nice thing about a tour is that, if the lights went out, I’ve got my guitar so I could sit at the front of the stage and we could all sing a song together. It’s organic. I love the immediacy of a live audience.

“But I couldn’t possibly have predicted that, one day, I’d be going on tour, for instance, and filling theatres with people singing at my behest. I’m doing what I really love. I’ve been very, very lucky.”

The only possible downside in a life of wraparound music is that, nine years ago, Gareth was diagnosed with tinnitus. “I had an ear infection in 2013 which left me with a ringing in my right ear. But I’m lucky in that it’s not hearing loss and lucky, too, that’s it’s very mild – like a high-pitched whistle in one ear – because it can be very isolating and, at its worst, send you round the twist.

“Plenty of people respond to music that’s bone-shakingly loud. Not me. I look after my hearing. There’s been no degeneration in my hearing for some years now. And, given what I do for a living, that’s got to be a good thing.”

Recently, Gareth had special ear moulds made that let in the good sounds, as he puts it, and keep out the dangerous frequencies. “I wore them to a gig recently and it was such a nice experience.

“I shall be conscious of that on the tour. For me, volume does not equal quality. You can be moved by two recorders being played without amplification in the Barbican hall, for instance. It can be rhythmical and intense and it can still excite your brain which is where all music happens.”

But isn’t Sing-Along-A-Gareth! going to be a rather noisy affair? “No, it won’t be damagingly loud. A thousand people singing along together needn’t be deafening although a lot of people clapping really loudly can test me to the limit. So, no one should be put off if they see me putting my fingers in my ears.”

He skids to a halt, quickly adding: “Not that I’m discouraging applause, of course.”

Sing-Along-A-Gareth is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff for one night only on Tuesday 8th November 2022. For tickets to Sing-Along-A-Gareth!: visit garethmalone.com

PREVIEW Bat Out Of Hell! at the New Theatre Cardiff 27 Sep – 1 Oct

You took the words right out of my mouth: Bat Out Of Hell!, the electrifying hit musical featuring the greatest hits of Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, rocks and rolls its way to the New Theatre this week!

Bat Out Of Hell! is a post-apocalyptic Peter Pan set in a dystopian version of Manhattan (aka ‘Obsidian’). It’s the stomping ground of Strat, immortal eighteen-year-old leader of ‘The Lost’, a biker gang locked in a deadly war with Falco, Obsidian’s crooked commander-in-chief. When Strat falls in love with Raven, Falco’s rebellious daughter, the game is on and all bets are off.

Winner of the audience-voted best musical at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards, Bat Out Of Hell! features iconic songs like ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’, ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ and the legendary title track that will have you rocking and rolling in the aisles.

Glenn Adamson as Strat in Bat Out of Hell!

Bat Out Of Hell! is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 27 September – 1 October, and across the UK through to April 2023.

Cher and Cher alike: An Interview with Director Arlene Phillips

What follows is a syndicated interview with The Cher Show director Arlene Phillips.

The Cher Show is a brand new musical which tells the life story of the legendary recording artist, and is packed with 35 of her biggest hits, including ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ and ‘Believe’. With book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey BoysThe Addams Family), direction by Arlene Phillips (Saturday Night FeverStarlight Express), choreography by Oti Mabuse (two-time Strictly Come Dancing champion) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (SixIn The Heights), The Cher Show is playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre between 23 – 27 August and continues touring around the UK and Ireland through to 1 April 2023.

Both have successful decade-spanning careers. Both are driven and fiercely independent. And then there’s the mutual love of sequins. Arlene Phillips talks to Vicky Edwards about Girl Power, refusing to act her age and why The Cher Show is an unmissable and fabulously feel-good extravaganza.

“I loved Cher’s music from the first time I heard it, but it’s more than that;

Cher is an icon,” says Arlene, confessing that she is thrilled to be directing The Cher Show.

“I am so excited! Cher is a woman who right from the start of her career was ahead of her time. She’s had hits in every decade, she’s a great actress and she’s whip-smart. She has also been a great pioneer for women’s rights. If there’s something to shout about then Cher shouts about it.”

All of which results in an international following that transcends age, gender and race. And now the show that carries her name seems set to do likewise. Having debuted on Broadway in 2018, earning two Tony Awards, Arlene’s production of The Cher Show marks the European premiere. Telling how Cherilyn Sarkisian went from truck driver’s daughter with big dreams to the Oscar-winning Goddess of Pop and Queen of Reinvention, 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.  Recalling how she battled the men who underestimated her and defied convention, the story is told, Arlene explains, as if Cher is looking back on her life.

“There is a great story running through as she looks back at the moments where she made an impact, whether through a relationship, a hit, a movie or fashion. We want the audience  to embrace her story and have a good time.”

And a soundtrack of all her hits? Arlene is quick to reassure:

“Oh yes. There are so many hits and the show will have a great party feel to it, as the story builds and builds, finishing in a full-on full-out concert.”

And if all that weren’t enticing enough, joining Arlene on the journey are some impressive names. Written by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Rick Elice (who also wrote Jersey Boys and The Addams Family), choreography is by double Strictly Come Dancing champion Oti Mabuse.

 “Oti’s choreography is SO exciting! She is really gifted and people are going to see something that hasn’t been seen before,” promises Arlene, who as one of the world’s most respected choreographers is, let’s face it, pretty well-placed to make such a pronouncement.

And of course you can’t possibly tell Cher’s story on stage without fabulous costumes. Enter costume designer Gabriella Slade, the super-talented creator of costumes for international smash hits including Six, In the Heights and the 2019 Spice World tour. 

“The impact Cher has made in fashion has been enormous. She isn’t afraid to say I want to stay as young as possible for as long as possible and she isn’t afraid to wear the fantastic clothes and look as glamorous as can be. We have phenomenal costumes from Gabi – the details are incredible. It’s a feast of costumes!”

With a female icon as the subject of the show and Arlene, Oti and Gabriella all adding their superpowers to the mix, there’s definitely a whiff of Girl Power about the show.

“I love that,” beams Arlene, who admits that directing rather than choreographing does require a gear shift.

“It is different, but mainly it’s about how you tell the story. With choreography you look at the story, but you listen to the music. As a director you look at the story and then you use the music to help you tell the story; you’re really conscious of seeing the arc all the way through. The audience have to fall in love with the star and find things out about Cher that they didn’t already know.”

Both she and Cher are fiercely independent women. Does Arlene identify with, as well as admire, Cher?

“I totally identify with Cher in that I want to continue doing what I do for as long as I can and not be defined by my age. I am enjoying life and if I can make an impact in some way then I will.” 

With over 100 million record sales and heaps of prestigious awards, including recognition from The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Cher has certainly influenced popular culture more than most. 

“The invention and the reinvention and the ability to use her body in a powerful way is inspirational,” sighs Arlene, going on to tell me that The Cher Show has had a little reinvention of its own, having been reworked since its award-winning Broadway run.

“We have clarified every detail and I can’t wait for people to see it,” she says, passing me a list of the venues that the show will play.

“There are so many theatres on this tour that are special to me, but every theatre is making sure that they are Covid-safe and that audiences feel confident about visiting them. I hope people will support their local theatre. There really is no substitute for live performance and I urge people to go and feel the love and warmth of this show.”

Adding that she sees the production as being “absolutely a show for now,” she continues:  “Escapism is a wonderful mind-healer, and that’s what you get with The Cher Show.  We’re all more fragile than we’ve ever been before and the future feels unsure. This is a show that brings pure post-pandemic joy.  People will go home having laughed, possibly having shed a tear and dancing up the aisles. They can put aside their worries and in that moment they’ll be wrapped up in this extravaganza of a show!”

The Cher Show UK & Ireland Tour is produced by ROYO with Fiery Angel, Cuffe & Taylor/LIVE NATION and Playing Field in association with Tilted, Aria Entertainment and JONES Theatrical Group. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @TheCherShowUK

Here, Cher and Everywhere: An Interview with Choreographer Oti Mabuse

What follows is a syndicated interview with The Cher Show choreographer, Oti Mabuse.

The Cher Show is a brand new musical which tells the life story of the legendary recording artist, and is packed with 35 of her biggest hits, including ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ and ‘Believe’. With book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family), direction by Arlene Phillips (Saturday Night Fever, Starlight Express), choreography by Oti Mabuse (two-time Strictly Come Dancing champion) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (Six, In The Heights), The Cher Show is playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre between 23 – 27 August and continues touring around the UK and Ireland through to 1 April 2023.

A bundle of zesty energy, Oti Mabuse may be on a rare day off when we meet but she’s still operating at warp speed. But then the double Strictly Glitterball champion has good reason to be so happy and animated.

Currently revving up for the hotly anticipated brand new production of The Cher Show, directed by national dance treasure Arlene Phillips and with a book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (of Jersey Boys fame), Oti will be choreographing the show, which will tour until April 2023.

Telling the story of the Armenian American truck driver’s shy daughter who rose to global stardom, The Cher Show charts superstar Cher’s meteoric rise to fame. And of course there is a cracking soundtrack. Packed with 35 of her biggest hits, it’s part show and part party. 

“It’s the story that so many women connect with, but it’s also the songs and the clothes. It will be epic!” beams Oti, adding: “It has to be bigger than anything because it’s her; it has to live up to Cher’s iconic status. Shehas been such an inspiration to so many people and this musical is going to be a celebration of everything people love about her.”

And so it’s down to Oti to weave that star quality into the choreography – a challenge that she is absolutely thrilled with.

“What I love about choreography is that, when I’m dancing, I am only part of the picture, but when you are choreographing, there are so many elements that are so exciting. Creating a storyline through dance means you go through the smallest details – is there a connection or a secret between the dancers that we need the audience to share? What props are there? What is the dancer at the back of the stage doing?”

As for the music, Oti’s exuberance ratchets up yet another notch when we start talking about Cher’s hits.

“I grew up with a family that always listened to music and we all loved Cher’s music. Her songs have stories behind them and I LOVE choreography that has a story behind it! It has an intention you can then give to the movement. It makes everyone in the theatre part of the story. And everyone connects to Cher’s music because it is timeless. SHE is timeless!

“The show starts from the beginning of her life and comes to present day, so if you don’t know Cher’s story you will learn it. There are so many great songs that will make people feel uplifted too. And the show is going to almost every theatre in the country because Cher is an international phenomenon!”

But while she won’t be on the road with The Cher Show, Oti will be touring with her own dance production, I Am Here.

“This is very exciting because it’s my first official tour. It’s such an honour. It’s going to be loud, funny and truthful, and people will meet the real me. We have a live band, great music and a cast of great dancers.

“I love touring and the audiences make it for me. People have paid to come and be entertained and it’s lovely to do that; to create a memorable moment in their lives.”

And, it seems, Oti relishes the educational aspect of touring life.

“I love learning and when you tour in the UK you learn crazy things like whether you put cream or jam on a scone first! I love hearing the different accents and the different way people greet each other depending where you are.”

With an infectious chuckle she adds: “I think touring is the best way to understand human beings!”

“All the theatres my shows are visiting are so supportive of people who come to put a show on; they are so welcoming and so, so hard working. After lockdown and the terrible time that theatres had, it is so lovely to be taking The Cher Show and Here I Am on tour.”

But even with two stage shows hitting the road, human dynamo Oti is still thinking ahead.

“I have a lot of things that I want to achieve in life and I am lucky that my parents raised me to be driven and ambitious. But my goals come from a good place and I really enjoy the journey of pursuing my dreams. Anyone who hires me knows that I will be the hardest working person in the place. For instance, there were very few books about dancing for children, so I wrote one.”

And that’s by no means all. Born in South Africa in 1990, Oti has been dancing since childhood. From making a name for herself in South Africa as the undefeated  eight-time South African Latin American champion, she also managed to train as a Civil Engineer while competing in dance competitions. Winning awards and championships across Europe, TV soon beckoned and Oti joined the German version of Strictly Come Dancing. After two successful seasons, she joined the original BBC version of the show. Winning the coveted trophy in 2019 with actor Kelvin Fletcher, the following year Oti became the first Strictly Pro ever to win the Glitterball two consecutive years, alongside her partner Bill Bailey. TV and theatre work continues to flood in, which she juggles with running The Oti Mabuse Dance Studio, but, I ask, was performing always the dream?

“I wanted to go into Musical Theatre straight from High School, but my mum said I should be first academic and then pursue my passions. Since she was paying the bills, I didn’t have much choice!”

Reflective for a moment, she adds: “Engineering and dance are both about problem solving and precision and I love them both equally. I’d love to do a TV show about it.”

 A TV show about engineering told through the medium of dance? If anyone can pull that off then it’s Oti. Stand by for the Reinforced Concrete Rumba…

The Cher Show UK & Ireland Tour is produced by ROYO with Fiery Angel, Cuffe & Taylor/LIVE NATION and Playing Field in association with Tilted, Aria Entertainment and JONES Theatrical Group. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @TheCherShowUK

PREVIEW Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby at the New Theatre, Cardiff

Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor (photo credit: Caroline Holden)

You are cordially invited to the most fabulous party in town. Northern Ballet, the UK’s widest touring ballet company, is renowned for its innovative, iconic reimaginings of classic tales – Cleopatra, Beauty and the Beast, and Jane Eyre to name but a few – and now their sensational production of The Great Gatsby, which opens in Cardiff this week, is bringing the glitz and glamour of 1920s New York to our shores.

Filippo Di Vilio, George Liang, Gavin McCaig (photo credit: Emma Kauldhar)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a tale of decadence and deceit, of envy and excess. The titular ‘Great’ Gatsby is a self-made millionaire with a mysterious past and a long-unfulfilled love in the shape of the mercurial (and very married) Daisy Buchanan. The fallout of this doomed romance threatens the lives and livelihoods of everyone who calls West Egg home.

Minju Kang (photo credit: Emma Kauldhar)

Choreographed, designed and directed by David Nixon OBE, Northern Ballet’s take on ‘The Great American Novel’ promises to be a night of visual splendour and breathtaking skill, where dancers glide across the floor in sumptuous Chanel-inspired couture to a sweeping score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Murder on the Orient Express).

Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby (photo credit: Emily Nuttall)

Whether you’re an old sport or a bright young thing, you’ll be sure to lose yourself in this lavish tale of love and luxury.

Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby is at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 June

PREVIEW: Interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August.

This brand-new production of Footloose is created by Sara Perks who has designed in the region of 250 productions. Sara has been nominated for Broadway World Awards, a Whats On Stage Award and an Offies Award. She holds an Edinburgh Fringe First; The John Elvery Theatre Design Award and a Vision Design (Costume) Award from the BBC.

We spoke with her to find out more about the life of a Theatre Designer and to find out more about her inspiration for the Footloose Uk Tour.

Can you tell us a little bit about life as a theatre designer – what made you go into this field and who or what were your inspirations

At the moment it’s very busy but it tends to be a bit ‘feast or famine’.  Currently I’m working on four shows which are all at different stages in the process.  For me Covid has meant that all my work suddenly got bunched up together which makes for a lot of plate spinning and juggling of schedules.

My inspirations were and still are the ability to create a live experience that an audience is able to experience together and enjoy together in the same room.  To be connected to something visceral that is happening in front of them – nothing will ever replace that.

You have designed both the costumes and the set for this brand-new production. What is the process of making this happen?

A designer’s process follows a set of deadlines really.  I discuss the needs and wants of the production with producers and the director initially, then filtering in what the choreographer, musical director and lighting designer would like to achieve. 

All of this along with my own creative reaction to the piece results in a preliminary design – a ‘white-card’ model box which is a scale model of the proposed design at 1:25, with technical drawings.  This is then commented upon by the creative team and producers and roughly costed, because of course there is a budget attached to every production that needs to be considered as well.

I would then take the design and model to the next stage – a final.  This would be in full colour with all the chosen finishes and renders. This is then costed and signed off precisely. 

An independent scenic workshop is selected on tender to build.  From that point I work between them, the production manager, the rest of the creative team and rehearsals to try to ensure everything is on track, and make sure information and alterations proceeds as required

And that is just the set.  What about costumes?

Amongst this whole process (which can span over years or just weeks depending on the size of project) I’m busy designing costume. There are similar deadlines, but these tend to be a bit more fluid especially if it is a show that is more based on sourcing vintage items to buy, rather than having a lot of costumes made.

Footloose being set in the 80s was almost all vintage sourcing so I worked very closely with a costume supervisor, my right hand really when it comes to costume, to make that happen.  We shop, buy online, fit and alter, adapt and repurpose all through the rehearsal process and well into the technical rehearsals in order to create the right looks.

It’s a big cast – how many costumes were sourced and created?

After we got past 80+ we stopped counting!

Can you tell us about what audience expect to see in terms of design and what helped to influence this.  Can we expect a real 80’s vibe?

When we started the process (over 2 years ago – a small thing called a pandemic got in the way!) the restyling 80s retro look was very in vogue. 

We looked at shows like Stranger Things and 2 years later – Sex Education, in the way that they are clearly 80s but restyled with a modern eye, and not completely slavish to period.  It was all about looking cool and right for character.

However I’m old enough to the remember the film when it came out and was the same age as the characters in the 80s so my own experience went to some of the costume and hair inspiration!

In regard to the set the inspiration for it really is the classic iron rivetted bridges that you find all over America spanning rivers and gorges.  Like the Potanwey bridge that is mentioned by Ariel in relation to her brother.  The Williamsburg bridge in New York is another example.

The bridge and town limits are central to the plot of the show and why the town of Bomont is under restrictions on socialising, so it seemed a good metaphor to use as a frame for the whole concept.

Do you have a favourite costume in the show?

I love Wendy-Jo’s yellow jumpsuit; and there are several great classic 80s prom dresses in purple; green and cerise, but I think the Rev’s white sequin jacket for the mega mix would have to be the favourite.  And Darren Day wears it so well!

Many might say ‘the gold pants’ (and those who see the show will know why!)  Tell us a bit about the gold pants! Although most of the design is new they’ve been revived from previous productions is that right?

These are a bit of a ‘surprise’ in the show – I  won’t give it away completely – but they always go down a storm with audiences so we decided to keep it in for this new production.  For me it’s the highlight of the show!

Finally, what would be your top tip for audience members who might come along dressed up for the show – how do you create the perfect ‘Footloose’ outfit?

It’s not just a pair of legwarmers or neon socks.  You could choose to go full ‘cowboy’ and join in with some line dancing at the ‘bbq’ at the start of the 2nd half; or grab a taffeta block colour party dress or ra-ra skirt for the prom.  If you want a more tailored look a velvet or sequin tux with jeans would fit right in as well.

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose.

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose

PREVIEW: Interview with Footloose star Darren Day

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose star Darren Day

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August. TV star and musical theatre favourite Darren Day joins the cast of the tour as Rev. Moore and we caught up with him to find out a little more about the tour and his role in the show. 

You’re back on the road In Footloose The Musical how does it feel to be back on tour?

We were about to go into rehearsals for Footloose when the Pandemic hit and the tour was rescheduled a few times before dates were set for our 2022 opening, almost a full two years later than originally planned and it is amazing to be back out there with the show.

2020 was devastating for us all.  But coming out of the other end things have really started moving quickly for me. Having not been able to perform during the pandemic, going back on stage and being part of a big musical feels so magical, in the way it felt when I landed the role of Joseph at the Palladium at the beginning of my career.  

I recently finished the UK tour of Chicago which was brilliant and during that tour I saw a genuine thirst for live theatre so couldn’t be more delighted than to move straight into another tour with Footloose.

In all of my years as a performer in Musical Theatre I don’t think I have jumped straight from one tour into another… I feel very lucky.

Can you tell us a little bit about this tour of Footloose?

This production of Footloose is particularly a special, even if you have seen it before you will want to see it again… and this new version will blow you away.  It’s been reworked with a new set, new costumes. The lot. 

Racky Plews, who’s directing, has brought an edgy and exciting new take on the show. She’s been working closely with the writer of the original movie and songs, Dean Pitchford and his input into this new production has been invaluable.

The cast and the whole team on this are truly ‘the cream of the crop’ a really gifted bunch of performers. Acting, singing, dancing and playing instruments throughout the show.

And what about your role as the Reverend?

I’m so happy to be playing the Reverend. Over a decade ago I met with the producers for Footloose and Chicago within about three months of each other. I was told I didn’t look old enough! So … the only downside of me playing these two roles back-to-back is that I must now look ‘old enough!!’

Since those meetings all those years ago Billy Flynn and the Reverend have been on my bucket list of roles I desperately wanted to play, so to get the opportunity to play them both in one year is incredibly exciting for me and I feel deeply grateful.

Having a teenage daughter myself (in real life!) I have a lot of ‘method’ experience to draw upon! It’s tough letting your ‘little princess’ out into the big bad world!

What do you think keeps Footloose so fresh and keeps audiences coming back for more?  

The great thing about Footloose which I think separates it from other ‘jukebox’ shows is that Dean Pitchford wrote the songs specifically for the movie. So, not only are these songs instantly recognisable the second the intro to them begins. they also carry the plot forward in a very truthful way. Apologies for that sounding incredibly ‘arty’ and ‘theatrical’ But they do!

In the show there are these massive hit tunes that everyone recognises along with a strong and beautiful storyline.  It’s a really feel-good show – no doubt about it.  

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

I guess one of my favourite moments in the show is my solo song ‘Heaven Help Me’ It’s a brilliant tune with beautifully written lyrics. Also the poignant moments with the Reverend’s daughter are lovely to play – and the revelations that happen to him.  

My favourite moment in the rehearsal room was when I sat and watched the cast perform the opening number of the title song. I got goosebumps and thought to myself if this is how it feels in a rehearsal room the way it’s going to feel with a set, costumes and on a stage with an audience will be breath-taking.

Finally – why do you think people should come and see Footloose this year across the UK?

You are going to have the most incredible night. You’re going to hear songs that are instantly recognisable, and I challenge you not to sing along to them. There are big numbers, there’s a beautiful story going on, the cast are ridiculously talented.  You’ll leave the theatre buzzing after having a very special night out.  We will have a ball and I can’t wait to see everyone up on their feet at the end to cut loose!

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose..

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose and follow Darren @DarrenDayOfficial for a peek behind the scenes of the tour!

PREVIEW: INTERVIEW WITH THE STARS OF BEAUTIFUL, THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL

What follows is a syndicated interview with the stars of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical: Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil), and Jos Slovick (Barry Mann)

What can audiences expect when they come see the show?
Molly-Grace: It’s done by a full company of live musicians, which is very different to the original Broadway and West End productions and previous tours. It’s a really feel-good musical. It’s emotional and very heartwarming, to say the least.

Seren: There’s a lot of energy on stage and audiences are excited and happy to be back in the theatre. The music is infectious, we’re all so passionate about what we’re doing and everyone leaves with a smile on their faces and the tunes going round in their heads.

Jos: It’s like a gig within a play – lots of songs that people will recognise and lots of songs they maybe didn’t know were written by Carole King or Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They’re in for some laughs and some drama, and there’s something for everyone from ballads and rock songs to old-style show tunes.

Tom: There’s not a thing that any of our cast members don’t do. It’s full-on because we’re acting, singing, dancing and playing the music so the audience certainly gets its money’s worth.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Molly-Grace, how would you describe Carole King as a character? And do you feel any pressure about bringing her to life on stage?
Molly-Grace: She’s an incredible music icon. She’s very driven and very determined, and you get to see how resilient she is as her story goes on. As for feeling the pressure, yes there’s a lot of that – especially given that she’s still to this day a living legend. But I’m very happy that I’m getting to play her and her music. The big challenge is in playing someone who is still around, so people will inevitably compare you to her as well as other people who have played the role before. It’s about doing your own thing whilst also paying respect to the people before along with Carole herself.

Tom, Seren and Jos, who do you play and how do they feature in Carole’s story?
Tom: Gerry Goffin is her first husband and songwriting partner. In the show he’s quite chaotic, he’s always striving for more and he eventually suffers a massive breakdown.

Seren: Cynthia Weil is part of a songwriting team with Barry Mann whose paths cross with Carole and Gerry during the Brill Building era in the 60s. As a character she’s ahead of her time. She doesn’t conform and she’s very prescient, plus she’s very funny and having a female comic character to play is an absolute gift.

Jos: Barry, as Seren says, is Cynthia’s songwriter partner as well as her husband. He’s very sharp with a lot of that Jewish humour; think Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld because he has that kind of rhythm to him. He’s a humorous hypochondriac.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Were there things you were intrigued to learn about your characters?
Molly-King: [Laughs] That she married many times after Gerry Goffin. I also learned she was incredibly resilient and let nothing stand in the way of her success. She wrote from the heart, and that’s evident in every song she’s ever written. They’re very emotional.

Tom: I’d heard of Goffin and King’s music but I didn’t realise how much they wrote and how much they did for the industry. I also didn’t know about him as a person. He was always chasing happiness and the next big thing, which set him on a downward spiral.

Seren: I knew all the Mann and Weil songs but I didn’t know about the people who wrote them. I was intrigued by how Cynthia grew up in a conservative Jewish family but went against the grain of having that traditional life.

Jos: I knew a load of their songs but I didn’t know who wrote them. When I was a kid I had this talking dog toy and when you pressed its paw it would play Who Put The Bomp. I remember asking my dad ‘Who wrote that song?’ and he told me Barry Mann. But that’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know he’d also co-written On Broadway and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling among many others.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

There are so many great numbers in the show. Do you have any favourites to perform?
Molly-Grace: I’d have to say (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman because it’s such an honest, emotional song about her relationship with Gerry.

Seren: That song is very special because it has such an impact on the audience. I also love the rockier numbers and It’s Too Late, which has a jazzier feel. There are so many good songs, it’s hard to choose between them.

Jos: I play the guitar on It’s Too Late and it’s got a great groove to it. [Laughs] It’s my jam, as the kids say, and Molly-Grace sings and plays it wonderfully.

Tom: There’s a song I do with the cast called Pleasant Valley Sunday and it’s a great rocking, uptempo song.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

As an actor and musician, it must be great getting to bring all your skills to the table?
Molly-Grace: Absolutely. We’re very lucky that we have such a talented cast of actors and musicians who create this amazing sound. Being an actor-musician is what I trained to do but I think these kind of productions are still pretty new for the theatre industry.

Tom: I love music and acting so getting to scratch both itches with this show is brilliant. I’ve done regular acting roles, especially on TV, that I’ve loved but it’s so creatively fulfilling getting to do a bit of everything.

Seren: Having actor-musicians play the parts works so well for this show because it has music at its core. When you have a story like Beautiful that’s all about music and musicianship, it takes it to a whole new level.

Jos: It’s always fun because I get to combine my two great loves, namely acting and playing music. Are there enough shows that offer the chance to do both? [Laughs] I’ll say no because I want to get more work!

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Beautiful aside, what have been your other favourite theatre roles?
Seren: I was in Brassed Off in 2015 and that was such an amazing job. The majority of us had a connection with mining through our families and we still keep in touch. Then I did a tour of Crazy For You which was great fun, getting to perform all those wonderful Gershwin tunes.

Molly-Grace: My first-ever job I did after finishing my training was a punk rock show called Oxy & the Morons and doing that straight out of drama school was very cathartic. I did a panto of Beauty and the Beast, I did Priscilla Queen of the Desert and I did a show called Girls Don’t Play Guitars and it was incredible playing a lead guitarist in a 60s rock-and-roll band.

Tom: My first-ever stage role was in a George Styles and Anthony Drewe musical called Soho Cinders and they were the first people to give me a leg up the musical theatre ladder because I was more of a TV boy. That was a real learning curve. Then recently I was in American Idiot and being able to sing Green Day songs for a year was great.

Jos: I was in Once, where I was a Czech burger joint manager and which I got to play bass, ukulele, banjo and mandolin. Then I was in the Theatre Royal Bath production of Bad Jews, which I loved because it’s such a great play.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

What are you most enjoying about taking Beautiful around the country? And how do you hope people will feel when they leave the theatre?
Molly-Grace: It’s about getting to share some incredible music with people as well as getting to share Carole’s story. A lot of people don’t know enough about her so it’s nice to show what she went through and how much she’s achieved.

Tom: It’s the kind of show everyone needs right now. We’ve all been through the pandemic and hard times and this show has such a feel-good factor. When we do the finale everyone is dancing, singing, clapping and smiling. For us to take it round the country and bring people so much joy is just amazing.

Jos: When we play the finale you can’t help but feel uplifted. Carole had a bit of a rough life but the music she produced was so wonderful that people will be skipping out of the theatre.

Seren: I hope they’ll be happy to be back in the theatre and that they feel excited and exuberant, and that they’ve made a connection during a time that’s been so hard for everyone. I just hope they feel the joy of this truly joyous show.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 24 – 28 May 2022

PREVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Interview with star Jac Yarrow

What follows is a syndicated interview with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat star Jac Yarrow.

Joseph is such a fun, upbeat musical. Is that what we all need right now?
Oh my gosh, 100% yes. When we did it at the London Palladium our favourite shows to do would always be the Saturday or Sunday matinees because we’d get the crowds from all over the UK, not just the London crowds. To be able take this show to the regional theatres that have been closed for so long is just the tonic everybody needs. And particularly this incarnation of Joseph, which is the same production you got at the Palladium. It’s lavish and no-expense-sparred, and it’s really going to lift everyone’s spirits.


You first played the title role in 2019. How did that change your life?
It completely changed my life. I was still at drama school when I got the part and it was literally over the course of two or three days that I went from getting the role to it being announced. I went from being a student living in digs dreaming of being in the West End to suddenly living that dream for real.


You returned to the show again last year and now you’re touring in it. What keeps drawing you back?
It’s massively to do with the fans of the show. It has such an amazing fanbase and it’s ingrained in people’s DNA in the UK. Everybody knows the music and everybody’s grown up with it, even if they’re not aware of where it comes from. People come along and see the show all the time and go: ‘I didn’t realise that song was in it. I love that song and I used to sing it in school.’ I’m thrilled to keep coming back to it for that reason, plus to pass up the opportunity to take this incredible, up-to-date production that changed my life to people’s hometowns would have been crazy.

The show is a perennial school favourite. Were you in any school productions yourself?
I wasn’t in a school production as such but when I was around ten I was in a 30-minute condensed version of Joseph at my Saturday drama school. I did play Joseph himself but I don’t think I had a dreamcoat, just a makeshift little jacket or something. That was my only brush with the show as a kid, although I did see it later when it came to my hometown of Cardiff. I remember really enjoying it and it’s going to be a nice full-circle when I go back to the New Theatre and am on that stage myself.

Can you relate to Joseph in any way?
Yes, especially when I first started. There was the naivety and moving from the home comforts of Cardiff myself and Egypt in his case. It was like somebody flipped a switch and everything turned Technicolor. [Laughs] But my family isn’t as big as his and they certainly treat me a lot nicer.

Do you hit the gym to make sure you look good in the shirtless scenes?
Doing eight shows a week where I’m constantly running around keeps me in pretty good shape but I go to the gym, I eat well and I drink a lot of water – but that’s the stuff you have to do anyway when you’re doing such a full-on show as this.

Jason Donovan, who now stars as Pharaoh, played Joseph in 1991. How is it following in his footsteps?
It’s great. From day one Jason has been the most supportive person. I was terrified when I had to sing Close Every Door in front of him at rehearsal but he’s been amazing. He was the first person to throw his arms around me, congratulate me and give me the boost that I needed early on. Now we have such a laugh. He’s such a fun guy and he’s another reason why I wanted to go on tour with the show, because who better to do that with than Jason Donovan?

Might you play Pharaoh yourself one day?
This is the joke we always make. You could do Joseph forever because you could graduate from Joseph himself to Pharaoh and then you could finally move on to Jacob.

The West End production was one of the first to open to full capacity after social-distancing restrictions. What was the atmosphere like?
It was unbelievable. The atmosphere at Joseph is amazing anyway because of the fans and the way the Palladium is figured it’s such an intimate space, even though it’s huge. Then when the restrictions were lifted and we had full houses it was unbelievable. It’s such a tonic and, as I say, just the kind of show people want to see to lift their spirits. We were all emotional and it was quite overwhelming.

Joseph has been going strong since the early 70s. Why do you think audiences still love it?
I think it’s just timeless and, as Jason always says, it’s a very simple story. What you see is what you get and what you get is a really good time. It’s a wholesome tale about a boy overcoming adversity and it encourages you to follow your dreams. The message is so uplifting and it’s one of those shows that continues from generation to generation. We get people at the stage door saying to Jason ‘You were my Joseph when I was a kid’ and then I meet kids at the stage door and their mums say ‘This is their first time seeing it’ so I’m their Joseph. And it’s such a famous show that it’s kind of ingrained in everybody. It’s a huge part of our theatrical culture in the UK.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice score is full of great songs. Do you have a favourite to perform?
Definitely Close Every Door and I love Go, Go, Go Joseph because we have an amazing cast and they’re all on stage for that one. It’s a huge production number and I think that’s what is so exciting about taking this particular incarnation of Joseph around the country because it’s like we’re taking the West End production to everyone.


What have been your other favourite in-between-Joseph stage roles?
I’ve been lucky to have taken part in some concerts and some TV stuff as well, and I’ve loved doing panto. My first panto was in Birmingham in 2019, then I was in panto at the Palladium this Christmas just gone with another Joseph, namely Donny Osmond. I love doing panto for the same reason I love doing Joseph, because you get an amazing audience response and it’s such fun and so entertaining.

Is this your first big tour and what are you most looking forward to about taking Joseph around the country?
It’s my first tour ever. I’ve never toured before and I’m really looking forward to it because I actually haven’t visited that many towns and cities in the UK and Ireland. It will be amazing to see all these new places, get to know them better and sink my teeth into the role even more. We did it for ten weeks in 2019 and just shy of ten weeks at the Palladium last year, and it almost felt like that as soon as we were getting into the groove the run was over. Now we’re doing eight months on the road and it will be so rewarding to throw myself into it for all that time.

Are there any stops on the tour that are dear to your heart?
I did panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome so I’m looking forward to being back there. I was there in Snow White in 2019 and I love the people, the Hippodrome is beautiful and the audiences go wild. There are a lot of places I’m excited to see, like Blackpool and Glasgow. We’re closing the tour in Edinburgh and I’ve heard the theatre there is amazing. It’s also going to be really interesting to see how different audiences respond to the show in different places.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 7th May