MAMMA MIA! Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

“MAMMA MIA!”

ANNOUNCES NEW BOOKING PERIOD

TO SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2019

AT LONDON’S NOVELLO THEATRE

ON SALE NOW!

 

The global smash hit musical MAMMA MIA! at London’s Novello Theatre is now extending its booking period from Monday 4 March to Saturday 14 September 2019.  MAMMA MIA! will celebrate its 20th birthday in London on 6 April 2019.  The box office for the new booking period is now open.

 

The London cast of MAMMA MIA! stars Sara Poyzer as Donna, Kate Graham as Tanya, Ricky Butt as Rosie, Richard Trinder as Sam, Neil Moors as Harry, Stephen Beckett as Bill, Georgia Louise as Sophie, Alec Porter as Sky, Charlotte O’Rourke as Ali, Leah St Luce as Lisa, Damian Buhagiar as Pepper and Eamonn Cox as Eddie, with Caroline Deverill playing the role of Donna Sheridan at certain performances.

 

Also in the cast are Chloe Ames, Chloe-Jo Byrnes, Adam Clayton-Smith, Adam Davidson, Luke Hall, Lauren Hampton, Jack Heasman, Jennifer Hepburn, Stuart Hickey, Zoe Humphryes, Mark Isherwood, Tyler Kennington, Robert Knight, Chanel Mian, James Willoughby Moore, Natasha O’Brien, Dean Read, Beth Relf, Annie Southall and Katy Stredder.

 

From West End to global phenomenon, MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise.  To date, it has been seen by over 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages grossing more than $2 billion at the box office.  In 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.  MAMMA MIA! is also currently playing an International Tour, receiving great critical and public acclaim.

 

MAMMA MIA! originally opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre on 6 April 1999, before transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2004, and then to the Novello Theatre in 2012.

 

The London production of MAMMA MIA!  has been seen by over 8.9 million people, played over 8,000 performances and has broken box office records in all three of its London homes.

 

Produced by Judy Craymer, MAMMA MIA! The Movie became the highest grossing live action musical film of all time upon its release in 2008.  A second film, MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN, opened in July 2018 and is the most successful live musical movie sequel of all time.

 

With music & lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.

MAMMA MIA! is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal.

LISTINGS INFORMATION

Novello Theatre

Aldwych

London WC2B 4LD

 

Ticket Prices: From £15.00

A £2.25 per ticket booking fee applies to tickets booked online, and a £2.75 per ticket booking fee applies to tickets booked by phone. No booking fee on tickets purchased in person at the Novello Theatre Box Office.

All prices include £1.25 restoration levy.

Early Bird Pricing – anyone booking four months or more in advance of the performance they are attending (Monday to Thursday performances only) will save £20 on Band A and Premium tickets, but only through Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, either online, in person at the theatre, or by calling the Novello Theatre Box Office.

Performance Times:

Monday – Saturday 7.45pm

Matinees – Thursday & Saturday 3.00pm*

* extra Tuesday matinees 6 & 20 August 2019

Christmas 2018/19 Performance Schedule

Monday 24 December     NO PERFORMANCE

Tuesday 25 December     NO PERFORMANCE

Wednesday 26 December     7.45pm

Thursday 27 December     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Friday 28 December     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Saturday 29th December     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Monday 31 December     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Tuesday 1 January      7.45pm

Wednesday 2 January     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Thursday 3 January     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Friday 4 January     7.45pm

Saturday 5 January     3.00pm and 7.45pm

Currently booking to 14 September 2019

The performance lasts 2 hours and 35 minutes (including a 15-minute interval)

Box Office: 0844 482 5151

http://www.mamma-mia.com/

http://www.facebook.com/mammamiamusical

http://twitter.com/MammaMiaMusical

For cast interviews with Donna and the Dynamos (AKA Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt) click the image!
MAMMA MIA!
London Cast 2018/2019

Mamma Mia and cast members; Stephen Beckett, Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt have been nominated for awards at this year’s Entertainment Views Awards, to vote please follow this link: Entertainment Views Awards 2018 

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Entertainment Views Interviews Donna & The Dynamos (AKA MAMMA MIA! Stars Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt)

Earlier in the year I was delighted to see the latest cast of MAMMA MIA! in the west end production and they blew me away. Collectively, the Dynamos are the best three I’ve seen in all my years of watching and occasionally reviewing the show. Sara Poyzer plays Donna and she sparkles with a down to earth quality which I always feel ought to be an overt trait in Donna. Kate Graham is obviously in her element as Tanya, tongue-in-cheek humour, glamorous and loving life whilst attracting the younger man! Ricky Butt as Rosie is everything I expect the character to be – perfect comic timing and her understanding of the character’s persona shows.

MAMMA MIA!
London Cast 2018/2019

To be able to interview the three actresses who have reignited my passion for the musical was an absolutely superb opportunity, so without further ado – I give you…. DONNA AND THE DYNAMOS!!!

Sara Poyzer (Donna)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Sara, I know you’ve played Donna before on international tour, what enticed you back and made you want to play the role in the West End? 

When I finished the international tour after being on the road for four years, it was the travelling I was tired of rather than the role itself so it was a real treat to be asked to come into the west end and do it. Particularly with the second film coming out and the 20th anniversary of the show coming up. Of course there was no guarantee that I would get the job when I went for it so to be offered it was like being offered the role all over again. I was absolutely delighted!

The chemistry between the three Dynamos works so well, what do you think the secret is? 

I’ve known Kate (Graham, who plays Tanya) for years and we are very old friends and because I’ve done this show for a few years, as soon as I knew Kate was in the cast and that Ricky (Butt, who plays Rosie) had been cast as Rosie we met for coffee ahead of rehearsals and said “right, we’re mates, we’re mates on stage and off stage” and that’s grown over the past few months as we’ve got to know Ricky. We have a genuine friendship and we support each other professionally, emotionally and personally. We’re mates and I’m glad that shows on stage.

What’s your favourite Abba song in the show?

I love singing The Winner Takes It All.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2? Did it live up to your expectations? 

I thought it ticked every box as far as being very sentimental with great story telling and excellent performances. I left with a smile on my face, which was exactly how I reacted to the first film as well. I think in this day and age the film is a real tonic for life’s daily pressures and challenges. I went to the film premiere and I was star struck by the stars and celebs sitting by me so I was half watching the film and half watching Cher out the corner of my eye!

Do you think there’s room for a MAMMA MIA! 3?

I don’t know but I’d like to see Mamma Mia 2 on stage!

If you weren’t in MAMMA MIA! what would you have your eye on doing next in your career?

I don’t know, my heart is in theatre, I love doing theatre – maybe I’d go for something more serious and classical which is where my training is. I think maybe I’d like to work at the National Theatre next.

What led you into a career as a performer? 

I got a job at Nottingham Playhouse Theatre and started to see a lot of plays and it was a bit like an epiphany, I fell in love with performing and the whole romantic notion of what theatre is. So at the age of 24 I decided I wanted to go to drama school. I auditioned for a few drama schools, got in to one and got a local council grant. I trained as a straight actor but I ended up in the cast of Billy Elliot which propelled me into the world of musical theatre. I have no regrets because I absolutely love musical theatre, I think it’s a really powerful medium.

Finally, what would you say to encourage potential audience members to book a ticket and come and see you all? 

The show has so many universal themes such as friendship, love, guilt, joy and comedy. There are so many different elements in this show that I think although it sounds such a cliché when I look out during the finale each night I see people from all walks of life and it feels like it’s appealing to all of them. It’s one of those shows that ticks every box and it features the music of Abba, and they have written such amazing pop songs.

 

Kate Graham (Tanya)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Kate, so you’re no stranger to the show and indeed the role as you played Tanya on international tour, what made you decide to play the role again? 

I played the role eight years ago and I loved it. After I finished the international tour I had been waiting for it to come up when I was free.

What’s your all-time favourite Abba song?

I like Angel Eyes but I also like When All Is Said and Done. I can’t ever fail to be moved by Happy New Year, whenever I hear it I start bawling, no matter what time of year it is!

What’s your personal highlight from Mamma Mia? 

I like Under Attack, although I’m not in it! I think it’s a really good song, I love Sophie on the bed surrounded by the dads and Donna gets a really sexy costume in it. My favourite scene that I’m involved in is the bedroom scene where we sing Chiquitita and Dancing Queen, it’s just a really great scene from start to finish, the progression of it is really fun. The connection that the three of us have is great.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2?

I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it’s marvellous?

It is, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! So, moving on to your career, what led you on this particular career path? 

I just really liked doing it, I’ve always liked creating something or performing something or telling a story. I came from quite an academic family so they forced me to go to college and do a proper degree first but all the way through I carried on acting and singing in my spare time. Eventually when I’d done all my qualifications I said “now can I go and do it?” and I was told yes!

Are there any roles that are on your bucket list for the future? 

I just like working and actually the roles that I would play probably haven’t even been created yet, I love doing new things. Prior to doing it I would have said I’d like to play Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot but now I’ve done it! That’s the only role I’ve really hankered after. I always play character roles, I always play smaller roles so they tend to be quirkier and come up in things that are new and you don’t know exist yet.

Previously you worked as assistant director with the children who starred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is that something you’d be keen to go back to in the future? 

Yes I would, I really enjoyed it. I always think you’re better at teaching performance while you’re still performing yourself.

Finally what would you say to encourage everyone to come and see MAMMA MIA!? 

Come and see us, it’s a really great evening out at the theatre.

 

Ricky Butt (Rosie)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Ricky, so first of all, how familiar were you with MAMMA MIA! before you took the role of Rosie? 

Very familiar, I’m friend with Jenny Galloway who was Rosie in the original cast and I remember meeting up with her and she told me how all the songs were going to fit in and I thought that sounds amazing. Funnily enough I did the sound effects for the very first MAMMA MIA! film as a Foley Artist. So this was a natural next step.

Congratulations on winning an Emmy for your work as a Foley Artist, by the way! What led you in that direction in the first place? 

It was when I’d had children and a friend of mine was doing it, an opportunity came up to do it with her – and it fitted in with my family. What they liked was my dancing background as it helps if you have a natural ability to move. It’s become a secondary career as when I had my children I’d turned my back on the theatre really. Now I’m back working in the theatre and I’ve been doing the Foley along with it.

As the Dynamos in Mamma Mia, yourself, Sara and Kate are by far my favourites to date – what makes that chemistry work so well? 

We just seem to click and complement each other very well. I share a dressing room with Kate who plays Tanya and we’ve got to know each other very well so we bring something new into the relationship of Rosie and Tanya every night. I take whatever she throws at me on stage and throw something back.

You also have great chemistry with Stephen Beckett as Bill…

Yes, we are on the same page, we wanted to make it feel as if the characters really like each other, I wanted it to come across that Rosie is testing the waters to begin with and not just after a man. Also, instead of wearing heels for the wedding as Rosie sometimes does, I wear flats so that we can make use of the height difference between us too.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2?

I loved it, I thought particularly when the older characters came on it seemed to give it a bit of a boost and then I thought the rest of the film really worked.

Which roles have you got an ambition to play in the future? Would you carry on in musical theatre if you could? 

I’m at an age where there isn’t that much for women of my casing so I think I’ve won the lottery playing Rosie! These roles don’t really come up very often and this time I got the golden ticket! I’d been asked to audition for the role a couple of years ago and I turned it down, but I’m doing it at the right time now.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to see MAMMA MIA!? 

I know of people, even other actors who have been to see the show and have come out feeling moved and haven’t been able to believe how good it is. It is a jukebox musical and I think people think it’s going to be a bit cheesy but it’s much better than you might think it’s going to be. You’ll have a great time.

I’d like to thank all three ladies for their time, it was great fun chatting to them all and I urge you all to buy a ticket to see MAMMA MIA!: Mamma Mia Tickets 

Can I also draw your attention to the Entertainment Views Awards which are voted for by the public and part nominated by the public, part nominated by the panel. Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham, Ricky Butt and Stephen Beckett are all shortlisted as is the show itself – cast your vote by 1st November: Entertainment Views Awards 2018 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamma Mia ~ Novello Theatre, London

Star rating: *****

Approximately twenty to twenty one years ago, Donna Sheridan met three men within a short space of time and… dot dot dot! Mamma Mia remains as spectacular a West End hit as it has for the past nineteen years it’s been entertaining audiences of a wide age range. In fact with the show almost as old as Donna’s daughter, Sophie, it couldn’t have been a better time to revisit a show I’ve seen a grand total of six times, now.

Abba’s songs have always stood the test of time, if they hadn’t have successfully filtered through various decades the show wouldn’t have worked at all. The popular hits are surely one of the main draws to this particular musical, and nobody in the audience is out of place if they sing along! Unless they’re louder than the lead during a ballad of course!

The striking feature with this latest incarnation which has undergone a recent cast change is that I truly feel I have witnessed the best combination when it comes to casting for Donna, Tanya and Rosie. The chemistry between Sara Poyzer (Donna), Kate Graham (Tanya) and Ricky Butt (Rosie) was so unbelievably natural, infectious and gripping that it rivalled that of Streep/Baranski/Walters in the movie version. The trio were simply electric together and their delivery of such favourites as ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Super Trooper’ and the hilariously choreographed ‘Chiquitita’ was simply musical theatre magic at its best. While in previous trips to see the feel-good show I’ve always left the auditorium with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, I left reluctantly on this occasion as I had an over-riding feeling of desperately needing to see the show again… right there and then!

Of course, the triplet of triple threats were not alone in creating such an overwhelmingly engaging atmosphere, their male counterparts were equally talented super troopers. From Dean Read’s palpable love-struck Sam Carmichael to Neil Moors who was understated yet extremely likeable as the wannabe spontaneous Harry Bright to free spirited Aussie Bill Austin who is played with astonishing verve and impeccable comic timing, by Stephen Beckett. Add Georgia Louise to the mix as antsy bride-to-be, Sophie who’s seeking out her father so he can walk her down the aisle – Georgia gave a beautiful performance. Alec Porter was well cast too as her husband-to be, Sky, another triple threat to watch out for.

The set transports you to a Greek island quite effortlessly with simple, effective and practical staging, almost minimal which allows the sheer energy of the musical to take the limelight. There’s not one weak link in an ensemble who each characterise the roles they play, brilliantly. The orchestra were a joy to hear, powerful and a match for the fine vocalists who sing Abba’s technically stringent back-catalogue as if it’s second nature.

Do you need to be a fan of Abba to enjoy the twists, turns and laugh out loud comedy of this gleeful show? No! Even if you’re not a fan of Abba’s music, I wager that a trip to see Mamma Mia might just convert you.

Book your tickets now: Mamma Mia Tickets

 

Photo Credits: Brinkhoff/Mogenburg 

Mamma Mia ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Mamma Mia stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until 24th February, book your tickets here: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Box Office

Star rating: *****

Mamma Mia here I go again an it is glorious, I’m a huge fan of the show and indeed of Abba’s music and this exceptional piece of musical theatre ticks every box for me. It’s got a cast de force, a list of musical numbers which are instantly recognisable and have my feet tapping and lips synching. Plus with a basic set and a few trucks, we’re transported to Greece – what’s not to love? There’s eye-catching choreography which showcases a talented ensemble too.

The story follows a character called Sophie (played by the excellent triple threat, Lucy May Barker) who is on a mission to find her biological father having been raised by her mum, Donna (Helen Hobson). The reason for tracking down daddy? She’s getting married to the love of her life, Sky (Phillip Ryan) and wants the her father to walk her down the aisle. However, her mother’s diary from around the time of supposed conception cites that one of three men could be responsible for fathering the curious ‘child’. Therefore, Sophie resolves to invite Sam Carmichael (Jon Boydon), Harry Bright (Jamie Hogarth) and Bill Austin (Christopher Hollis) to her wedding in the hope of uncovering which one is the right candidate!

Cue much madcap hilarity as Sophie is reunited with her best friends and bridesmaids, Ali (Fia Houston-Hamilton) and Lisa (Blaise Colangelo) both of whom she reveals her plan to. Donna also has her best friends flying over for the occasion; man-eater Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Rebecca Seale) who are just the sort of supportive friends you need when three of your ex fellars are suddenly staying in your Taverna. It’s an interesting journey to the altar, punctuated with classic and well-timed Abba hits, from ‘One of Us’ to ‘Dancing Queen’ to a trippy rendition of ‘Under Attack’ and there’s also my personal favourite ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

Helen Hobson is resplendent as Donna, she’s maternal, skittish, witty and game for a laugh – has excellent rapport with her mates and extremely believable chemistry with Sam. Emma Clifford is a laugh a minute as Tanya, she’s elegant then she’s throwing herself into silly antics with gay abandon and ‘Does Your Mamma Know’ was one of the many highlights of the show. A standing ovation must go to Rebecca Seale who stepped in to understudy the role of Rosie, she brought great life and soul to the life and soul of the party, stunning vocal ability from Seale too. Jamie Hogarth made me smile as the somewhat uptight Harry, his strong vocals lent themselves superbly to the hits and he brought a wonderfully awkward quality to the character too. Christopher Hollis was equally engaging as Aussie Bill Austin, his scenes with Rosie were brilliant, a superb pairing. Jon Boydon put real heart into the role of Sam, the feelings the character has for Donna were palpable. All three dads were notably exceptional with effortlessly natural vocals which never waivered.

If you’ve seen it before, go again, if you’ve never seen it… GO! It’s the ultimate feel-good musical and you I know you won’t be disappointed, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Mamma Mia ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Mamma Mia is running at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20 May 2017, book tickets here: Milton Keynes Theatre

Full cast here: Mamma Mia Touring Cast List

Star rating: *****

Mamma Mia is a smash hit West End musical and its easy to see why, I’ve seen it a few times before in the west end – many years ago, now. Therefore I was keen to see how it would work as a touring show. It works a treat is my answer, from the moment the orchestra strike up with the ever popular Abba medley that helps to get the audience all geared up, to the glittering finale that has the whole auditorium on their feet. It’s a show that has stood the test of time and continues to be a delight on its UK tour.

If you’re not already familiar with the story, it’s a very simple and somewhat cheesy plot which makes the most of inserting Abba songs into every possible moment – extremely appropriately too. Girl has met boy, is going to marry him and wants to know who her dad is so she can invite him to her wedding. Girl gets hold of mum’s diary and finds out that there are three possibilities based on her mum’s promiscuous past during a certain short space of time in the summer back in the 70’s. All three potential dads are invited and mayhem ensues, with many surprises along the way. Will the wedding go ahead and who will give the bride away?

Sophie (the daughter) is played by Lucy May Barker who packs energy and verve into her performance, she has an overt chemistry with Phillip Ryan who plays her fiancé, Sky. Lay All Your Love On Me is a number where they really grasped the opportunity to put everything into their performance. In equal measure, Barker plays out a very believable relationship with Helen Hobson who plays her mum, Donna. Hobson has stunning vocal ability and put her own stamp on Donna and there are some hilarious scenes with her two cronies, Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Gillian Hardie).  Dancing Queen, Chuiquitita and of course, Super Trooper – the three are a trio to be reckoned with. Clifford is outstanding as the stuck up, man hungry Tanya. It never fails to make me smile when the character loosens up when she’s cheering up her friend during Chuiquitita, but that scene was laugh out loud funny in all the right ways. Hardie is my favourite Rosie, I’ve seen a few Rosies including Julie Walters in the movie version. What I felt that Hardie brought to her interpretation was a perfect balance of humour, empathy and no-nonsense. Her energy in creating the bumbling pal drew my attention to her even when the spotlight wasn’t on her. The harmonies that the trio produced were also quite breath-taking and I felt I could have listened to the three of them all night in their own concert! Stepping up to the plate and making as much of an impression as the girls, were Jon Boydon as Sam Carmichael, Christopher Hollis as Bill Austin and Jamie Hogarth as Harry Bright. I felt that the relationship that develops between the three of them was explored in slightly more depth, or perhaps the considered performances given by the boys provided that insight.

The trademark big numbers such as Money, Money, Money, Voulez-Vous and Mamma Mia were all as spectacular as I remember, eye-catching, slick choreography with flawless interchanges. The set almost appears to be so basic for such a large scale musical, yet you are instantly transported to Greece as it sets the tone and atmosphere immediately.

I always leave this one wanting to go back and see it again there and then – this occasion was no different. You don’t have to be a fan of Abba’s music to take this show to your heart, the songs punctuate the story and they lend themselves to musical theatre, superbly. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch this on tour, you’ll jig in your seat, battle the urge to sing along and be on your feet by the finale, if not before. This has to be one of my all-time favourite show, it was fantastic to be reminded of that.

Photography by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Star of Mamma Mia, Lucy May Barker

Mamma Mia is currently on UK tour, click here for details and to book tickets: Mamma Mia UK Tour

Lucy May Barker is starring as Sophie in the show and I was delighted to ask her a few questions about one of my favourite musicals.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Lucy, how does it feel to be playing a key role in the touring cast of Mamma Mia?

A dream come true. I absolutely love the show and getting to perform it to all the lovely audience around the UK is a feeling like no other.

How familiar were you with the musical and with Abba’s songs?

I grew up listening to Abba and we had the Abba Gold CD in my mum’s car, so I knew almost all the words already when I auditioned which was very handy ha ha!

What is your favourite scene and why?

I love going on for Lay All Your Love, I love singing that number and from then on I don’t leave the stage for the rest of the act which is a total rollercoaster.

Why do you think Mamma Mia is so popular and has stood the test of time?

The music, for sure, but also the story. It’s about real people and is so relatable, even nearly 20 years on.

If you could play a different character in the show, who would it be and why?

Pepper is a great role, and if I played that role it would mean I could dance and do tricks, which I most definitely can’t, haha!

Which Abba song means the most to you?

Thank You For The Music has my favourite lyrics, “without a song or dance what are we?” and that pretty much sums up my life. I love it!

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to book to see the show?

I’m probably biased, but I would say that I think it’s the ultimate feel-good night out at the theatre and my parents have seen it twenty times (and counting!) so that’s got to be a good sign!

Thanks so much for a lovely interview, Lucy – see you next week!

Break A Leg’s Top Five West End Shows of 2016

West End theatre visits are such a vital part of my theatrical calendar and I have firm favourites that I like to see over and over ~ it’s always fantastic to see the new shows and other revivals too of course! However, my year would not be complete without a spot of Masquerade and Chiquitita! Here’s the best of what I’ve been watching this year…

htohl-1
Gillian Wright and Jason Merrells in just one of many side-splitting scenes in How The Other Half Loves.

How The Other Half Loves (Duke of York theatre) – this was recommended to me and ended up snagging the Best West End Show award at Break A Leg Critic’s Choice Awards earlier this month. Gillian Wright was the stand-out performer for me, but the whole cast were spot on when it came to portraying a classic farce on stage. It provided my friend and I with a much needed belly laugh or two, it was a pity we had left it late in the run to see it as I would have gone again.

miss-saigon

Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre) – as a regular theatre-goer, you may find it surprising that I had not seen this show before, however it managed to escape my radar until this year. I took my husband to see it as a Christmas 2015 present and it was one of the most emotional and powerful musicals I have sat through. Having a male toddler myself, I found the fact that a little boy was at the centre of the action was a hard hitting issue to cope with. If it hadn’t have been performed to perfection, I wouldn’t have felt it quite so deeply. What a tear-jerker.

phantom

The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s) – this will always appear on my top fives list, it is without doubt a classic show which is never a disappointment whenever I decide to pay another visit to see it. I have particularly enjoyed Megan Llewellyn’s performance as Carlotta, this year and there are always an incredible cast of understudies for Phantom. It never matters to me if an understudy goes on in any show, unless I REALLY wanted to see a particular performer, because often I find that you discover another hidden gem of a talent. However, I do find that in Phantom, you are guaranteed a phantastic understudy (see what I did there? No?…. Phan…. Oh forget it!).

kinky-boots

Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre) – Wowzers, how I love this show, I’ve always been a fan of Cyndi Lauper, too so it’s pretty cool that she is responsible for it. Matt Henry has definitely found his metier and the cast have so much energy and verve, it’s infectious. Singing The Sex Is In The Heel on a weekly basis in not unusual at Break A Leg HQ since the arrival of this gem. Walking out of the theatre and wanting to turn around and walk right back in there for more is the over-riding feeling with this one.

mamma-mia

Mamma Mia (Novello Theatre) – I am as much of a fan of this musical as I am Phantom, two totally different shows that both leave me craving more. It seems to get better each time, which given that the cast has changed almost every time I have seen this, is testament to the production itself. Standing up and jigging to Waterloo  is always the highlight of the show for me. Remaining on the ground and restraining myself from leaping onto the stage to join in is the difficulty. I never did take to the film in quite the same way, I much prefer to pay homage at the theatre than via the telly.

I hope to be covering more West End shows next year, here’s to it! OK, I’ll probably see Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia again… I admit it!

Spotlight on… Lesley Nicol

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*** Spotlight On… Lesley Nicol ***

How do I introduce this ‘Spotlight On…’? This is an actress who has been on my interview wish list since before this blog-site was born and she has been one of my personal heroes for the past two decades at least (longer, probably!). Many of you will know her as ‘Mrs Patmore’ from the ridiculously successful ‘Downton Abbey’ – so, overwhelmingly, I give you my interview with Lesley Nicol!

Lesley, thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg Review, I first became a fan of yours when you starred as Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for the BBC, but when did you feel that your career really started?

I don’t really think there was a time to be honest, there have been certain jobs that have been important, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was one of them because it was filmed over several months, rather than quick TV. It felt like a significant thing to do.

I don’t ever think “oh, my career has taken off”, it’s all about the current job and whether it’s fun. There have been notable high spots which have been The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, East is East, Mamma Mia and Downton Abbey. They have all been things that make you go “oh blimey that was a bit special!”

When you became a actress, were there any roles that you had a particular ambition to play or still want to play?

No, I always struggle with that when people ask me this question. I did want to play Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers and I did play her, I loved that, that was a good fit but otherwise there isn’t anything I’m aware of that I want to do.

I saw you play Rosie in Mamma Mia three times and thought you were amazing, what are your best memories of that show?

It was surreal even auditioning for it, I actually auditioned for Bjorn. I was introduced to what felt like about twenty people so it didn’t even feel like a normal audition. I was walking along a long line of people and when I got to Bjorn, I curtsied! He didn’t quite understand the joke.

Then, I was singing Dancing Queen for him and I’m good at music but I’m not very good at remembering the words of songs so I was singing “doing the dancing queen” and he looked at me, very puzzled and said “no, no, no, it’s not “doing the dancing queen” it’s “digging the dancing queen!”. I said “oh yeah, sorry!” and thought “why didn’t I know that?!”.

But it was quite a surreal job because I was in it between 2000 and 2002 when it was a hot show, I’d look out into the audience and see Cher, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep – all the Americans were coming to see it. Of course, now we know why, because they made the film.

It was just glorious, though and my dad came to see it 35 times! He became a great fan of the show, he loved it.

Many people claim that Abba songs are notoriously difficult to sing, did you find that to be the case?

I think people who sing karaoke, for example, think it’s easy to just knock one out. We had the best musical team and they were very strict about what we did, it was very strictly organised and beautifully directed. I know we were given certain guidelines about how we were to sing the songs.

In fact I was in a tour of The Vagina Monologues with Linda Robson, we were in Worthing one night at a karaoke bar and the little minx got me up on stage to sing an Abba song, but all the words were wrong! That was really weird!

You’ve done many more musicals as well as Mamma Mia, would you be keen to perform in a musical again or indeed on stage in any capacity?

Yes, yes I would, I like to sing actually, I’m trying to get brave and follow my dear friends Annie Reid and Richard Dempsey, both of whom have done such brilliant cabarets. I’d love to have a go but I’m a bit scared, I’m trying to get my confidence together to do that.

I have to move onto Downton Abbey, the series finale was well worth waiting for, were you happy with how things turned out for Mrs Patmore? Did she have a good ‘send-off’?

I didn’t feel it was a ‘send-off’, because it didn’t feel like the end to me and it might not be the end, there might be a film, we don’t know. I didn’t feel like he’d put the final stamp on it, he did a bit with some characters, but I thought it was just a really good episode and very touching. It would have been nice if things had progressed a bit further with Mr Mason, but not everybody can have a happy ending because life isn’t like that.

I thought Mrs Patmore really got a chance to shine as a character in this series and I agree that she hasn’t had a storyline ‘ending’ as such, so if the rumoured movie does go ahead, what do you think we’d find the character doing in the future?

I have no idea, I wouldn’t even try to guess, I do know he’s got an idea for the movie and he’s always doing about five things at once, he’s a workaholic, so you never know!

The Downton Abbey Text Santa sketch for ITV was hilarious and easily lived up to expectations after the previous year’s effort featuring George Clooney, how many takes were needed to film it?

I think we did it a couple of times because I wasn’t sure how bonkers to be, really, but I just decided to be totally bonkers, I thought that was the way forward. Of course, Gordon Ramsay wasn’t actually there so I didn’t have anyone to shout at. But I got the best Christmas jumper, with a pudding on it! I’m glad you thought it was good because the George Clooney one was quite special wasn’t it.

As you’re a household name, you have been able to promote exceptionally worthwhile charities such as Animals Asia. How did they come to your attention?

I read about it on Twitter throughPeter Egan, Peter was a friend, not a close friend at that point, I didn’t know him very well but I was aware that Peter is very very involved with animal welfare. I remember clearly looking at a picture of a moon bear, about to investigate and read the article with it and said “oh god, Peter not another sad animal story”. I do follow him on Twitter, I read what he shares and it’s always sad, but on this occasion I didn’t think for one moment that it would grab my heart, which it did. Then I investigated the site and started reading about what bile bear farming is and I suppose interestingly when I look back, I was showing one of the videos to my niece here in America and my husband, just to show them and I started really sobbing and they looked at me like “what in god’s name is wrong with you?” and when I think about it, if I had been aware of it (which I wasn’t), that was probably a sign that I was totally hooked by the sadness and the tragedy of this.

Then I started to watch some of the films featuring Jill Robinson, there’s a very disturbing documentary called Cages of Shame which I watched, and I met her after that. Somewhere in the works somebody told me that 160 million people in China watch Downton Abbey, so I asked Jill if that meant I could be any help to her and she said “yes it would mean that and if you’re able to come out to China to visit us we could get the local press and use the fact that you’re here”. So I did and now I’ve been out four times because I’m totally and utterly besotted with Jill and the cause. To meet a moon bear is absolutely amazing and I’m totally up to my neck in it, I won’t ever be able to walk away from that.

The fact these bears can learn to trust humans again is something we can learn from, when all they’ve known is fear of pain and that a human has meant hurt to them – when you go out there you can hand feed them and they’re relaxed with you. You wonder how they’ve made that transition after twenty years stuffed in a cage.

Medical Detection Dogs is your other main charity, how did that one come to the fore?

I was at Chiswick Dog Show which is very close to where I live and I walked my dogs through the park and noticed these dogs with red jackets on and I heard someone say “go and find out about this, it’s amazing” so that got my interest and I went and listened to somebody and it was connected with things that I related to. I’ve had Cancer in the family and my husband has type 2 Diabetes, I love dogs and at this point they were quite a young charity, really not very well known at all. So I said “I think this is amazing and if there’s anything I can do”, I then watched a demonstration and met some of the dogs and the people, many of whom I’ve grown very attached to.

That is also not something I can walk away from, there are other ambassadors on board now and while I’m not in the country, that’s a good thing that other people are supporting and fundraising, but there place in my heart and always will be.

You recently filmed a piece for ITV’s This Morning reporting from Blue Cross  and Dogs Trust, I thought it was fantastic…

I want to know if Teddy from Blue Cross has been re-homed! He was so beautiful and people are scared of staffies and rotties, but in the right hands they’re completely people pleasing, easily trained dogs.

I give money to the Oakfield Oldies because we can’t have a dog where we currently live.

Oh do you! They were lovely and I can’t tell you how full of beans they were. There was a fabulous one called Chewbacca, he’s 13 and probably has many years left because they go into their twenties, that breed. He was a beautiful dog and all he wants is to sit next to you and have a cuddle.

Are you going to be doing any more of those films for This Morning?

I think the door might be open to do more, yes, they seemed to be pleased with it, they know I’ve got an interest in animal welfare so it could be something different next time.

Favourite Things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite time of year?

Spring.

Favourite memory from your career?

Seeing my dad dancing in the stalls at the Prince Edward Theatre, he was dancing to Waterloo.

Favourite Mrs Patmore line?

“Daisy, I said you could go for a drink of water, not a trip up the Nile”

and the other one which Sophie (McShera, who plays Daisy) and I laugh because we didn’t know what it meant:

“It’s you and me, Daisy, contra mundi”

Favourite way to spend your time off?

Walking the dogs on the beach.

Favourite holiday destination?

I’d like to go to Bali.

You can hear Lesley’s voice in ‘Goldie and Bear’ on Disney Junior – she plays the mad ‘Fairy Godmother’! I think I speak for many when I say I hope the ‘Downton Abbey’ film happens.

Also, ‘Teddy’ from ‘Blue Cross’ has been re-homed!!

Links to Animals Asia and Medical Detection Dogs can be found below:

http://www.animalsasia.com/uk/

http://medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams

Here’s your opportunity to get to know me 🙂

*** Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams ***

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Why did you start ‘Break A Leg Review’?

I was contributing as a reviewer and interviewer to another online review site, I told one of my favourite actresses (during an interview) that I was considering setting up my own site, and she was very encouraging about it. I had been building up a network of contacts around the  West Midlands and wanted to continue to do that for ourselves, with Garry (my husband) in tow. Garry takes a backseat these days as his own career is taking a few exciting turns. I owe thanks to Tracey Childs who was the actress encouraging me to ‘go it alone’!

What piqued your interest in becoming a writer?

I was always interested in writing stories when I was a child. However entertainment journalism became a career goal due to the vast amount of theatre shows that my parents took me to see from a young age, coupled with the fact I was a little telly addict  (and still am), I was hugely inspired by many actors and actresses and the idea of being able to promote them via articles and interviews was appealing.

Who inspired you in your youth when you were first thinking about this career?

Judy Buxton, Tracey Childs, Felicity Dean, Sandra Huggett, Liz Robertson, Carol Royle and Cath Shipton were my real heroes when I was in my youth and all of them remain  my heroes. They’re my magnificent seven!

I was and still am hugely inspired by Robert Daws, Sylvester McCoy, Jeffrey Holland and Derek Thompson.

What is your ambition for the site?

My ambition for this year (2015) was to include interviews with authors as well as actors and other industry-related individuals. The new ‘Spotlight On…’ page has drawn in a few more excellent interviewees from many walks of the arts. Our links with London theatres have opened up this year and I hope to expand on that, which is a huge ambition for the site. I wanted to interview as many of my personal heroes as possible, as well. That is happening and overwhelming me, constantly!

What are you writing in your fictional ‘career’ at the moment?

I’m so busy with this site and working for ‘Union Times’, ‘Theatre and Performance Magazine’, I have let the fictional work take  a lower priority, for now…

What is your advice for budding writers?

Write about what you know, network with other writers and have your work read aloud to see if it works. It should always be an enjoyable experience, not a chore – and try your hand at a number of genres, you might surprise yourself!

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

Favourite Actor?

Oh, I love so many actors – I’m going to have to say Jeffrey Holland AND Robert Daws. Both appeared in hit television shows which were a big part of my youth. They’ve both gone on to great things, too!

Favourite Actress?

Nooooo, don’t ask me! Ok, Carol Royle AND Judy Buxton – I’ve loved them both since I was a little girl, seen them on television and in Judy’s case, I’ve seen her on stage many times. (I have a short list of ten favourite actresses, so this was hard!!!).

Favourite Television Programme?

Home Fires

Favourite Play?

This changes so often, this year (2015) my favourite play has been ‘Harvey’.

Favourite Musical?

Rocky Horror Show and Phantom of the Opera. I am hopeless at choosing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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