Southern Pro Musica’s two new concerts

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Musical

Southern Pro Musica has two exciting concerts for the new year. Songs from the Shows: Musical highlights from stage and screen on Friday, 14th January

Start the new year with a sensational show featuring Songs from the Shows courtesy of Southern Pro Musica at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Following the last two sell-out collaborations with the superb singers from Guildford School of Acting, Southern Pro Musica is delighted to return on Friday, 14th January, to once again present an evening of musical dazzle. There’ll be numbers from the very best Broadway and West End hits, as well as the most enduring film scores, compèred by Julian Woolford and under the baton of renowned conductor Jonathan Willcocks.

The audience will enjoy spirited ensemble numbers such as ‘Hello, Dolly!’, ‘The Best of Times’ and ‘I won’t send roses’ by Jerry Herman; ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ and ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ by Irving Berlin and much more. The orchestra will bring you iconic film music by John Williams – Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark; the Great Escape music by Elmer Bernstein; the Pink Panther theme, to name a few. This will be an evening for all lovers of music theatre and film.

To purchase tickets go to www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk, call 01483 440 000.

G Live will host Family Classics: Fun with classical music for all the family on Sunday, 20th March.

This popular annual event provides the opportunity for people of all ages to have a go at trying all sorts of musical and percussion instruments in workshops led by Southern Pro Musica musicians. The afternoon will be rounded off with a fun classical concert performed by the full professional SPM orchestra with exciting, family-friendly classical music, a narrated musical story and a song for the audience to join in with. There’ll also be guest appearances by SPM’s ‘Strictly Strings’ scheme pupils from Sandfield, St Thomas, Boxgrove and RGS Prep School, as well Guildford High Junior School Lower Choir.

To purchase tickets go to www.GLive.co.uk, call 0343 310 0055.

Southern Pro Musica is firmly established as one of the leading freelance professional chamber orchestras in the south of England. It includes among its core players many of the finest orchestral players to base their work in the south. In 2013 Southern Pro Musica was appointed by Guildford Borough Council as their ‘principal provider of Classical music’, encompassing a broad range of orchestral concerts and educational outreach work in Guildford.

Entrance is FREE to all Music for Guildford concerts for 18s and under.

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Going The Full Monty

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New production aims to boost Urology Unit at Royal Surrey County Hospital

Following the success of Calendar Girls, which raised nearly £7,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Sunflower Productions is back and this time the team are raising money for The Urology Unit at The Royal Surrey and have brought together a fabulous cast of local performers to stage The Full Monty, a Broadway musical.

Based on the smash-hit British film, it follows the journey of a group of unemployed steel workers from Buffalo NY. Jealous of the attention their wives give to a touring Chippendales show, the men hatch an ambitious plan to raise some cash and go ‘the full monty.’

Sue Sillett, co-founder of Sunflower Productions said: “We formed Sunflower in 2013 to raise much-needed funds for cancer research and were astounded by the response, not just of our audiences but from people wanting to help backstage and with fundraising. We’re incredibly proud of the amount we raised for charity and knew we wanted to do a follow up – it just had to be the right show.

“Rehearsals are now in full swing and we’re really excited to see it all taking shape.”

Stuffed full of fantastic songs, loveable characters and featuring a highly anticipated finale number, The Full Monty is a musical about heart, humour and friendship. An uplifting night of musical theatre to banish February blues. 

All profits raised from this production which runs from 26th to 29th February at The Electric Theatre, Guildford, will be donated to The Urology Unit at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

More info..

Tickets £20 (plus £1 booking fee) from  the website or 01483 501200.

Review of Aladdin

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Review of Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre Woking, by Lucy Barker

From the moment the curtain went up on Aladdin, my five-year-old was spellbound by the giant King Cobra snake that reared up at baddie Abanazar’s command. The thing was huge – it reached to the top of the stage and seemed to extend into the audience, complete with flashing eyes and sinuous body.

Next came the double act of David Phipps-Davis as Widow Twankey and Bobby Davro as Wishee Washee, old hats at panto, whose banter was a key feature of the production. Some of the comments were a bit adult for the children but the audience didn’t seem to mind. My son was particularly keen on the donkey derby that took place between ‘mother and son’ although the joke wore a bit thin for me.

As a lifelong Strictly Come Dancing Fan I was looking forward to seeing Brendan Cole, who didn’t disappoint as the Spirit of the Ring and completely overshadowed the special effects genie. I, like the rest of the audience, was entranced by the magic carpet ride taken by Aladdin (although my imagination was stretched a bit too far by the fact that only he got to take a ride, leaving his companions to just walk out of the cave!). This was a definite highlight as, like the snake, Aladdin flew over the audience as well as the stage.

CBBC favourite Mischa Eckersley did a good turn as Princess Jasmine and special mention must also got to Pearce Barro in the title role. The production also featured the talents of veteran ventriloquist Dawson Chance as Chief of Police.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night out, from getting to sneak out at bedtime (his, not mine) with my son; to the display in the foyer of a monkey sneaking into the treasure cove; to obviously the production itself, which contained all the elements of a traditional Christmas pantomime.

The panto runs until 5th January 2020

For more information and tickets

Mum on stage

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Musical

Peter Anderson chats with Jodie Nolan, the local mum who is starring in the hyper-successful musical Mamma Mia in the West End this summer

A sunny, funny tale of a mother, daughter and three possible dads set on an idyllic Greek island, has been celebrating the music of Abba and entertaining audiences the world over since 1999. Now a mum who took time out of her West End career has joined the ensemble cast once more. For about a decade Jodie Nolan has been enjoying married life in Chipping Norton, teaching dance and musical theatre, after herself starting to learn ballet at the age of two and a half at a dance school in Byfleet.

Who are her inspirations? “Both my parents, but especially my mother. I was brought up with the philosophy if you really want something go for it, and they were very supportive. Growing up, it was Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz and ballet wise Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Knight.

How did you get your first break in the West End? “I did not go straight into a musicals after leaving the Laine Academy in Guildford, I spent time working as part of the entertainment team on one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise ships, very quickly I had to get my head around all types of shows, and I was away from home. Then, I performed in a couple of tours of Chicago, and then the international tour of Mamma Mia. When I saw that there were vacancies in the West End show and so I gave it a shot and managed to get into the cast in 2008.

Was it hard ten years ago to decide to have a break from the West End? “At the time no, it had been a challenging time for me, I had got married to a lovely husband, but I lost my mother and decided it was time to take a step back for a while. Alongside having children – we now have two lovely daughters and live in idyllic Chipping Norton. I also trained as a teacher in ballet and musical theatre and opened the Nolan Academy. I just felt the time was right now for another shot at the West End and was pleased to get back into Mamma Mia – and supervise the teachers who are covering me in the academy.

Jodie is back on stage in Mamma Mia, but are there any other musicals on her wish list? “What a question! As I walk along The Strand to get to the theatre you see so many musicals that are on. But who wouldn’t want to appear in Les Miserables?”

Want to go?

See Jodie in Mamma Mia in the Novello Theatre in London’s West End – buy your tickets

Annie the musical

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Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood stars as ‘baddie’ Miss Hannigan in Annie at the New Victoria Woking

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood is used to being booed so he’ll be used to it when audiences at Annie turn on him.
The star audiences love to hate is playing Miss Hannigan in the much-loved tale of orphan Annie which starts at Woking’s Victoria Theatre next week.

He’s reviving a role he took on in the West End in the 2015/16 tour and is delighted to be reprising it in Woking.

He said: “I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play Miss Hannigan at first, but I thought it would be great and a real challenge for me. I play her for real – she’s not a pantomime dame, there’s no mucking about or breaking the fourth wall, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show.”

The musical features some of the most well-known songs and you’re sure to join in with Tomorrow and It’s A Hard Knock Life. In case you don’t know the story of Annie, the youngster is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. But is determined to find her real parents. Her luck changes when she spends Christmas with famous billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Miss Hannigan has other ideas and sets about spoiling Annie’s plan.

Playing Miss Hannigan presents Craig with lots of fun, he explained: “Body language has a lot to do with that, the placement of the voice and the accent of course – which I spent six months perfecting.

“As Annie is set in 1930s New York, it’s really nice to play a part who speaks differently than almost anyone does these days. It was a really enjoyable challenge.”

Craig’s love of musical theatre started in Sydney in the 1970s when he went to see Jesus Christ Superstar. He started training at 14 and when he saw Cats in London around that time he says he just knew that was the path for him.

He went on to do several musicals in Australia before joining the Lido de Paris and the Moulin Rouge which then led him into West End shows and after appearing in Crazy For You in 1993 he then switched track.

He said: “I had a really fun year that year. I then left to become a director and choreographer and subsequently a judge on Strictly.
“My first hoorah back onto the boards was when I was asked to do panto ten years ago and the reignited my passion for performing again.

“When I was then asked to do Annie a few years ago I couldn’t believe it, but it’s such a talented cast, I couldn’t say no.”

And what about future roles? Craig admits he likes to create them and enjoyed doing a movie, Nativity Rocks, last year, which had an improvised script with the character being created from scratch. But he admitted: “I wouldn’t mind playing a boy at some stage. I tend to get lots of female roles which is great because I love playing women but it would be nice to play a bloke so I will aim high and say I’m aiming for the next Bond!”

But something he definitely wouldn’t need as the next Bond are his ‘must-have’ items he takes with him – eyelashes and eyelash glue.
Away from the theatre and TV studio, Craig loves to cook in his down time. He said: “I like sleeping in my own bed and cooking in my own home. There’s nothing better to pass the time – whether to test and make up some new recipes or really to get stuck into cooking something. I love it, I could cook for days on end.”

Fans of Craig’s acerbic comments won’t have to wait that long until he’s back on our TV screens as Strictly is set to return in September but this year minus judge Dame Darcey Bussell, so who does he think should step into her sparkly shoes?

“I think it’s got to be someone who knows about dance and comes from a dance world. I’m certainly going to miss Darcey a lot, she’s a class act.

“There are a lot of people who could do it and I want them to choose someone who is right for the job and has an opinion which is the most important thing.”

See Craig Revel Horwood in Annie at Victoria Theatre, Woking from Monday 10th to Saturday, 15th June. Tickets from £19.50. To book, call the box office on 0844 871 7645 or online at
ATG Tickets

Photos: Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan in Annie  Credit: Paul Coltas

Learn to Play Day

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Musical

Photo credit: Indigo James

Pick up an instrument and Learn to Play this weekend for free

Feel there’s a budding Eric Clapton or Charlie Watts just trying to get out or maybe you just want to give your guitar or drumming skills an outing? This is the perfect opportunity to give it a go…

Share in the joy of music on Learn to Play Day – actually two days – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th,  as venues all over the country encourage thousands to pick up and play a musical instrument, whether you’ve never played before or once did as a child this is your chance to have a go for free.

The event has been running for eight years and in that time music shops, teachers, venues and schools have given tens of thousands of free lessons, including 10,000 last year alone.

Learn to Play Day (or two days to be precise) is run by charity Music For All and supported by a host of big names including Jools Holland, patron of the Music For All charity.

“I’m delighted to lend my support to National Learn to Play Day on March 23rd and 24th,” says Jools. “It’s a pleasure to be able to share the joy of music and this special day allows thousands to get involved as venues all over the country offer music lessons for free.”

Jazz star Jamie Cullum is another supporting the event. He says: “National Learn to Play Day gives everyone a chance to play an instrument, even if they’ve never played before. This wonderful day introduces thousands to the magic of music making, and often reunites people with a lost passion for playing. Get involved and perhaps discover a skill you thought you didn’t have.”

Spreading the joy of playing an instrument is the key element of the two days, as Music For All CEO Paul McManus explains: “While we all may have different tastes and preferred genres, there is no doubt that music is something that is universally loved around the world.

“Our Learn to Play Day events are all about spreading the joy of playing and inspiring those of all ages to take up something that will not only have health benefits for the future, but that also brings so many people together.”

Other Music For All ambassadors include Rick Astley, Aled Jones and Gareth Malone and who knows this could be your first foray into following in their footsteps!

Photo credit: Brian Slater

Photo credit: Alan Fletcher

There are various locations where you can begin your musical journey across the region:

Hickies Music Store, Reading 0118 957 5771
Hogan Music, Newbury 01635 37868
PMT Oxford, Cowley Road 01865 725221
Langdale Hall, Market Square, Witney 07904 397603
Archway School, Stroud 01452 330300
ACM, Bridge Street, Guildford 01483 501212
The College of Richard Collyer, Horsham 07470 964369
Westmount Music, Marlow 01628 481510
Unity Centre, Balham 020 8672 8095
Musicroom London, Denmark Street 020 7632 3950
Yamaha Music London, Wardour Street 020 7432 4400
PMT Music, Clerkenwell 020 7253 3283

Broadway beauty: Guys & Dolls

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Musical

The Mill at Sonning’s Christmas musical this year could almost be described as a Fairytale of New York, writes Peter Anderson.

Guys & Dolls is a Frank Loesser musical based on the characters of Damon Runyan who themselves were based on real New Yorkers.

Meet gamblers, petty crooks, nightclub singers, as well as strait-laced missionaries, who will delight and beguile you.

Joseph Pitcher returns once again to the Mill as director, and he tells me he has quite the background for musicals. “I was drawn to theatre from a very young age and gained experience as a performer in local amateur and youth theatre productions,” he says. “At the age of 18 I moved to London to train as a dancer. After graduating I spent several years appearing West End musicals before retraining on a straight acting course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which led me to work at the national, the RSC and in several of the UK’s leading regional theatres, including the Mill at Sonning where I now regularly direct.

“Alongside performing I had always directed and choreographed in a ‘let’s do the show right here, right now’ type way.”

I wondered what Joseph’s early memories of seeing plays and musicals were. “I have very clear memories of my mum taking me to an amateur version of Grease when I was about seven or eight. I was mesmerised! But the first West End show I saw was Joseph & the Technicolour Dream Coat at the Palladium. And the first show that had a real impact on me in terms of wanting to become a director one day was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was directed by Matthew Warchus, who many years later was my boss at Matilda!”

So, what can we expect from Guys & Dolls, and does performing in more of an amphitheatre make a difference? Joseph says: “We’re hoping to bring a little bit of Broadway to Sonning! An exciting reimagining of a classic musical, vibrant characterisations by West End performers and beautifully orchestrated arrangements of some wonderful songs.” Each performance space presents different challenges, but along with those challenges come opportunities. I wouldn’t say I really have a preference. Working in the semi-round is great in terms of how immersed the audience are in the action but you have to have a constant eye on making sure everyone feels involved.”

Guys & Dolls has it all – glamour, fun, romance, dazzling dance numbers, stunning costumes and some of the greatest show tunes ever including Luck be a Lady and Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat. For your chance to see the show, which runs until February 23rd, please go to www.millatsonning.com

Class Act

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Westerberg High is back in class this summer with new songs, new material and new classmates with Heathers the Musical

Produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor Mills, who produced the award-winning Carrie together in 2015, this musical is one of the most anticipated UK premieres this year, and opens at The Other Palace for a limited run until Saturday, 4th August.

Heathers The Musical is based on the 1988 teen film classic starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The award-winning writing team, Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) and Kevin Murphy’s (Reefer Madness, Desperate Housewives), hit musical adaptation has enjoyed successful runs in Los Angeles and New York, and finally arrives in the UK for its European premiere.

Veronica Sawyer is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher who has shown her versatility in stage musicals appearing as Wednesday in The Addams Family, Eponine in Les Miserables and Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The mysterious JD is played by Jamie Muscato, who is making a return to the Other Palace after appearing there as Story Edward in Big Fish and he has also appeared as Joe in Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre), Anthony in Sweeney Todd (Welsh National Opera).

The three Heathers are played by Jodie Steele, T’Shan Williams and Sophie Isaacs. This musical takes us to a place where popularity is life and death, but is it harder to be a nobody or a somebody? To find out and make sure you don’t miss the school bell, head to www.theotherpalace.co.uk