Southern Pro Musica’s two new concerts

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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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Guildford Jazz Fest

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The team behind Guildford Jazz are getting ready to hold their first festival this month
with a variety of jazz –as well as funk and Latin – on the bill

Guildford Jazz are getting ready to blow their own trumpet as the first Guildford Jazz Fest is set to take place between 20th and 22nd March.

The three-day event at Guildford’s Electric Theatre will feature music from leading UK jazz, Latin and funk artists and begins on 20th by putting some of the best young jazz musicians from across Surrey in the spotlight, from small ensembles to big bands.

Ease yourself into Saturday with a New Orleans jazz brunch with live music from clarinet maestro Duncan Batchelor and his quartet. Follow that with a wide choice of jazz styles including rising star of the British jazz scene Nicolas Meier who is influenced by his love of Middle Eastern and Turkish music; funk and world-music roller coaster from renowned trombonist Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio and Sandy Burnett reliving The Age of Jazz.

Rounding off Saturday, Pete Churchill sings jazz before headliner Iain Ballamy performs 21st Century Pastoral, an arrangement for big band of music by Ballamy spanning his 30-year career.

Sunday brings Alan Barnes and Dave Newton before a Creole jazz lunch spices things up ahead of the afternoon offerings featuring a tribute to the music of Henry Mancini from The Mark Nightingale/Alan Barnes/Steve Waterman Sextet before a showing of classic Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr featuring live musical accompaniment by Gareth Williams, one of the country’s leading modern jazz pianists.

Photos from left: Ian Ballamy, event poster, Marianne Windham

The festival finishes with Latin jazz salsa 
courtesy of Heads South combining Cuban and other Latin rhythms.

Founder of Guildford Jazz which is behind the festival, Marianne Windham is excited about the first for the community-based arts organisation.

She said: “The festival represents a celebration of all that Guildford Jazz is about: bringing the finest UK jazz musicians to Guildford to play a wide spectrum of accessible music in a friendly-club like atmosphere. There is something for everyone in the programme whether you are just looking for great live music or are a committed jazzer.”

Guildford Jazz has been running regular events since 2011, has organised more than 250 gigs, holds two outdoor concerts a year as well as hosting a monthly jam session.

All profits from the festival will go the local charity partner Guildford Philanthropy which helps local people disadvantaged by disability, poor education, mental illness or caring responsibilities.

Find more details

For more details and to book tickets click below or call 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

Beer-fuelled Bard

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Peter Anderson catches up with Stacey & Saul of Sh*tfaced Shakespeare which lands at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre on Tuesday, 12th November

A smash-hit, internationally acclaimed, award-winning, multi sell-out fringe phenomenon comes to Swindon this month presenting Shakespeare in a way none of us remember it from our schooldays. We all know about pre-show drinks, but what if it is a random member of the cast who spends the four hours before a show having the pre-show drinks? Welcome to Sh*t-faced Shakespeare and their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a gin in one hand, a cup of wine in the other and a flagon of ale in the other… What could possibly go wrong?

I catch up with Stacey & Saul from the group to find out this combination of beer and the Bard, came about. “We had one of those sessions where we all put our heads together and came up with ideas on how we can make the improv different. This was the suggestion that someone came up with. I don’t remember whether we said yes or no to it at the time, but it was a little while later that in a radio interview someone mentioned that this was something, we had thought of doing. From then on, we had to it, and it seems to have been well received as we are still filling theatres after some years.”

Is there a chance the plot could change? “Oh yes, when you are one of the sober cast you have to be ready for just about anything, from Juliet deciding she is not going to commit suicide to characters appearing in the wrong play which adds to the spice and fun – for both us and the audience especially. There are rules that we use in improvisation and these can usually keep the play flowing. The important thing is that we are providing something enjoyable for the audience, there is no question of deliberately making one of the cast look stupid.”

You are quite a close-knit group of actors to be able to do improv, especially with the additional jeopardy of alcohol, but if you could have a famous actor join you for a show, who would you love? “Now, there’s a thought! I think the one actress who always seems good fun in the things she does is Helena Bonham-Carter, I am sure she would be up for it and extremely good fun whether she was drunk or sober.”

The Evening Standard said of this show “There is no doubt this is a hoot to watch”. To get your chance to see what could be subtitled for one actor A Midsummer Morning’s Hangover the show is on Tuesday 12th November at the Wyvern Theatre

Want to go?

Get your tickets here

Mum on stage

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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

Green Day’s American Idiot

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Here’s why you should catch this powerful musical at Reading’s Hexagon between now and Saturday, 4th May, writes Peter Anderson

Three childhood friends in post 9/11 America are each seeking for a meaning. That was the inspiration for Green Day’s Grammy winning album, fifteen years ago “American Idiot”. Ten years ago, came the musical with lyrics Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong and a book by Billy Joe and Mike Mayer. The musical won two Tony awards and another Grammy award for best show album. Now the musical is touring the UK and comes to Reading and Wimbledon as part of the tenth anniversary tour. The show stars singer-songwriter Luke Friend (X-Factor), Tom Milner (The Voice and Waterloo Road) and introducing Sam Lavery (X-Factor and Capital FM) as Whatsername.

Peter Anderson caught up with the lovely Sam and asked how she discovered her love and talent for singing. I had often sung around the home as a child, then we had a school trip out to Holy Island that included a talent competition. A lot of the lads did football tricks, some of the girls did dancing and for some unknown reason I had a go at singing. From that moment on that was the way I wanted to go, when I came back from the holiday, I started singing lessons and entered competitions.

Whereas unlike Tom she did not have the chance to sing for Tom Jones, one of her relatives and her inspiration has. “I only have one inspiration, my grandfather. When he was younger, he was a backing singer for a while for Tom Jones and could have made a career of it. But that career would have been in London and he had a young family in the North-East. He decided to forgo the possible career and go down the mines to look after his family. I am so glad that he can now enjoy my success and see what I am doing, and he has been very supportive to me.”

So, what can audiences look forward to in the explosive rock musical that is “Green Day’s American Idiot”? “Very like a gig combined with an emotional roller-coaster ride, we have a live backing band between the three of us. I think it is the kind of show where you leave it humming the tunes and then slowly the issues that the musical also raises dawn on you.”

The three of you are more known as singers than for acting, how did you work on the characterisations? “All three of us major characters have been given a lot of help about the research to do with the complex issues the songs raise. The other idea that I really found helpful was that we were made to read the lyrics time and time again without the music. This gave us the time to really grasp the meaning of the words and who we were singing them to.”

For your chance to see this powerful musical that has introduced a new generation of theatregoers to Green Day’s music the show comes to Reading this week and Wimbledon later in May. It is at the Hexagon from Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May, and the New Theatre Wimbledon between 14th and 18th May.

  For full information on performances and tickets visit www.readingarts.com or www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbedon-theatre.