Les Miserables ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Guest Reviewer: Hayley Makepeace

Star rating: ****

Wow, what can I say, but go and book your tickets for this show now, it is pure value for money!

Cameron Mackintosh gives an incredibly cinematic production of Boublil & Schonberg’s musical, Les Miserables. The fantastic score along with top vocals and flawless lighting provide a visual feast, as though you are watching a real life Hollywood blockbuster.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Being familiar with Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, but having never seen the stage version before, I found the character developments hard to follow and wasn’t always sure of their place in the story. Like War & Peace, this epic tale runs quickly through time periods. You need to have a keen ear on the lyrics to keep up with the plot. The songs are highly emotional and permit the characters to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with a passion the audience would find hard not to be moved by. First class performances resonated the theatre and during the second half there were many a sniffle and rustle of tissues amongst the audience. However, I expected Cosette to be far more prominent, and instead found Eponine to be more integral in this production. Tegan Bannister, as Eponine, gave a passionate and captivating performance of ‘On My Own’. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself taking this away as my highlight of the evening.

In a very dark and serious story, the Thenardier’s give a welcome light relief and raised a lot of laughter with their amusing antics. I found the touch of colour in their costumes to be endearing. As I anticipated, Sophie Louise Dann is phenomenal as Madame Thenardier and as usual did not fail to disappoint with her strong stage presence.


Visually this show is spectacular especially during the barricades, although disappointingly the stage does not revolve in this production. I was particularly taken with the use of Victor Hugo’s drawings in the backdrops. These, together with the use of very dark lighting accentuated the atmosphere of deep political & social unrest.

Overall I’d say this show is a must see and judging by the entire audience giving a heartfelt standing ovation, I’d say I’m not alone in my recommendation!

Best Availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.

Shrek the Musical ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Star rating: *****

Shrek is one of my all-time favourite animated films, the sheer hilarity of the fairy-tale mickey taking ticks the box and the musical stage version is no different. With a few tongue-in-cheek nods to other musicals such as ‘Gypsy’, ‘Wicked’ and ‘Les Miserables‘ for good measure, this show has it all – outrageous comedy moments, catchy songs and a cast de force. It comes as no surprise that Nigel Harman, (who created the role of Lord Farquaad in the show’s west end debut) has directed this hit, what a superb job he’s done!

The stage incarnation doesn’t differ to widely from the movie, in fact it offers some of Shrek’s back-story which synchronises with Princess Fiona’s in a back-handed destiny kind of way! All of the jaded fairy tale characters are there too, from the Big Bad Wolf dressed as Grandma to a depressed Pinocchio to the Gingerbread Man. They’ve been kicked out of their homes by the dastardly Lord Farquaad and they’re heading in the direction of Shrek’s swamp. Outraged at the idea of sharing his home, Shrek embarks upon a journey to seek out Lord Farquaad and re-home the fairy tale rejects. Along the way he meets the talking Donkey, who becomes his insistent side-kick throughout. Subsequently, Shrek becomes a reluctant hero when he rescues the secretive Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a love-struck Dragon (a sight to behold).

Steffan Harri plays the over-sized green loveable Ogre and he is outstanding in the role, from the Scottish accent to amazing vocal ability. The chemistry with Laura Main as Princess Fiona is also palpable and in case any ‘Call The Midwife‘ fans are wondering, Laura Main is an exceptional Princess Fiona. Her singing voice is pitch perfect and she showcases herself wonderfully as a triple threat. Marcus Ayton shines as Donkey, he gives Eddie Murphy (who voices the character in the movie) a run for his money. Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad steals all of the scenes he appears in, he’s on his knees for a start off – to achieve the under-sized stature. Add a bit of razzmatazz and his musical numbers are comedy gold. Lucinda Shaw was awe-inspiring as the Dragon, the sheer power of her vocals continues to resonate. Comic timing is one of the many strengths of the multi-talented cast and I include the brilliant ensemble in that. Every performer is going above and beyond to recreate a well loved movie and they should all be proud of the ‘job’ they’re doing.

The songs in the show punctuate the story brilliantly, ‘I Know It’s Today’ was one of my favourite numbers performed by Princess Fiona, together with a selection of Princess puppets. She also has a show-stopping scene with the song ‘Morning Person’. ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’ epitomises the heart of the tale and ‘Freak Flag’ provides the ensemble with a fantastic opportunity to take the helm. The whole soundtrack is toe-tapping, engaging and memorable though.

The set captures the essence of the film and moves seamlessly with the action. The choreography is also notable, it’s fairly uncomplicated to allow for cumbersome (and stunning!) costumes, yet it’s effective and eye-catching. Congratulations to Choreographer, Josh Prince and Assistant Choreographer, Jacqui Sanchez.

Miss this show and you’ll miss out, it’s the ultimate feel-good musical and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It was also the first full length musical we had taken our junior reviewer to, and at just 4 years of age it was a risk, however it was a risk worth taking as he was captivated. Therefore, I say with confidence that Shrek the Musical is a show for all the family.

Book your tickets here: Shrek The Musical Tickets

Photo credits: Shrek the Musical website

Dinosaur World Live! ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Star rating: *****

The stage at Milton Keynes Theatre was stormed by dinosaurs last week! From the plant-eating Triceratops to the terrifying T-Rex, all Dino life could be found, in the capable hands of Explorer, Miranda (Elizabeth Mary Williams).

The show is aimed and big and small kids alike, with expert puppeteers bringing to life the most ferocious looking beasts and teaching us something about Paleontology along the way. The production is packed with energy to engage the younger audience members, many of whom may have never experienced live theatre before. As Miranda, Elizabeth Mary Williams is spectacularly animated which automatically gave her a command over the packed auditorium. Selecting some of the excited children to meet the dinosaurs and feed them, take them for a walk, seemingly putting themselves in the path of ‘danger’, the character of Miranda was perfect to lead us all into the world of dinosaurs.

I personally enjoyed the arrival of the slumbering baby Triceratops and the anticipation that a baby dinosaur was going to hatch from its egg. In pantomime style, a request was made of the audience to alert Miranda to any movement from the egg.

The puppeteers not only impressed me with their movement, characterisation and sheer strength, the sounds they were replicating were exceptional. So engrossed was I in the appearance of each dinosaur that I was not easily distracted by the puppeteer and forgot they were there operating the creatures.

My four year old son was in awe of the show, desperate to meet the dinos and frightened yet excited to see the humungous T-Rex as it prowled around the stage. This production ticked all of the boxes for my young theatre-goer. Kudos to Max Humphries, the puppet designer and Derek Bond, the Writer and Director. Visually and narratively this creation has tapped into the imagination of a pre-schooler who was already intrigued by dinosaurs.

Whether you’re a dino fan or not particularly inspired by them – you’ll leave the show feeling thoroughly entertained and don’t miss the chance to meet two of the baby dinosaurs!

Book your tickets for one of the tour venues: Dinosaur World Tickets

Matilda the Musical ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Matilda the Musical is currently touring, check out the tour dates, venues and book your tickets, here: Matilda the Musical

Guest Review by Hayley Makepeace 


An amazing show from the RSC, it’s obvious why it is doing so fabulously well.

The children are the most talented I have ever seen in a production. They really steal the show. This is a musical made for children and adults alike whilst still very much retaining its roots as a children’s story. Everything about it keeps you in a child’s world…the ‘oversized’ set…huge building blocks featuring the alphabet, large swings that send the children soaring in the air across the stage, huge school gates that can be scaled. It all transports the audience to a 5 year old child’s perspective.

Rebecca Thornhill as Mrs Wormwood with Matt Gilleett as Rudolpho

Then there are the elaborate and colourful costumes that extenuate the Wormwood characters whilst Matilda is dressed plain and ‘normally’ by contrast. The set creates an imaginative child’s world with wonder, fantasy and excitement yet it is tinged with darkness mirroring the sad existence endured by Matilda.  This is a show that pulls at the heartstrings. Poppy Jones as Matilda showed us a very intelligent yet solemn, grown up but mischievous girl. A tiny girl, she maintained a stage presence that left you in no doubt who the show was about. An amazingly strong and clear voice when she was talking, a beautiful sweet singing voice that held an air of sadness but wasn’t too grown up and suited her young character.

Trunchbull (Craige Els) is a giant towering over everyone and everything, reflecting the scary darker side of life. The character was brilliantly played by the actor, Very strong and completely stood out as a character on its own against the world. I loved it when Truchbull swung Amanda (Maddie Gilbey) around by the pigtails. The scene had the effect of Amanda being swung into the audience, but then cleverly the girl fell from the ceiling onto the floor.

Craige Els as Trunchbull with Carly Thoms as Miss Honey

There were also excellent performances from Carly Thoms as Miss Honey, Matilda’s timid yet determined teacher and Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastian Torkia as Matilda’s parents, the brash Wormwoods.

A captivating and energetic production that holds your attention entirely, throughout. In fact I’ve never been at a show that seemingly passes so quickly. I loved the score and may have to purchase a CD!

Matilda the Musical stays at Milton Keynes Theatre until 30 June 2018. 

Photo Credits: Matilda the Musical Website

Entertainment Views Interviews: Star of Matilda The Musical, Carly Thoms

Matilda The Musical is on UK tour – book your tickets to see the show, here: Matilda the Musical Tickets

Carly Thoms first appeared on my radar when she played the title role of Little Voice in the final production at the original Union Theatre. She shone and her performance resonated for a long time. Now, she’s playing the role of everybody’s favourite teacher, Miss Honey in the critically acclaimed, Matilda. The show will arrive in Milton Keynes next week so I was keen to catch up with Carly again to find out about her latest challenge. 

Thank you for talking to Entertainment Views, Carly. Tell me about Matilda The Musical and the part you’re playing…

I play Miss Honey, Matilda’s kind and caring teacher who is saved by Matilda’s strength!

How familiar were you with the story before you joined the cast?

Matilda was my favourite book when growing up so to be a part of this production is a real dream come true.

What’s your personal highlight in the show?

I love “When I Grow Up”. It is so relatable for children and adults alike! It makes adults think about their inner child and it’s a very magical moment of the show because of that.

What are the challenges of your role? 

Miss Honey can easily become a victim character so finding the points where she shows strength was very important to me when discovering the role.

Which character would you like to play if you could swap for a day?

Mrs Wormwood – I would love to wear that costume and she has some of the best lines in the show in my opinion!  

Why do you think that Roald Dahl stories have remained such a firm favourite?

They seem to always centre around an unlikely hero and I think the underdog winning appeals to all people whichever background they come from and whatever age.

What can the audience expect from the show?

A fun filled evening with laughter, tears and to leave with a warm feeling in your heart.

Why should everybody book a ticket to come and see it?

The show is in its 7th year and is still going strong. As the posters say, “believe the hype”!

Huge thanks to Carly for a superb interview, I’ll be excited to hear what my Guest Reviewer thinks of the production. Break a leg, Carly! 

Entertainment Views Interviews: Actor, Neil Hurst from Fat Friends The Musical

Actor, Neil Hurst is currently starring in Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends The Musical which is on UK tour and can be found at Milton Keynes Theatre this week.

My review of the show is here: Fat Friends The Musical Review

Meanwhile, Neil gave us the low-down on the musical that’s setting the regional theatres alight.

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, how familiar were you with Kay Mellor’s ‘Fat Friends’ prior to being cast in the musical?

I watched the television show when it was on in the early 2000s. I have always been a big fan of Kay’s work. I grew up watching a programme called Children’s Ward on ITV which Kay was a writer for. So, I’ve always been aware of Kay’s work but when I got old enough to watch the television I really wanted I was watching Fat Friends, Band of Gold and The Syndicate. I was lucky enough to have a part in Kay’s television series The Syndicate. I’ve always been a big fan of Kay Mellor and of Fat Friends.

Tell me about the role you’re playing.

I am playing the part of Alan. Alan is a reluctant slimmer at Super Slimmer’s which is the slimming club in the Fat Friends the Musical. Alan goes to the club because he has been told he is officially obese and has got to lose 3 stone otherwise he will lose his job. His wife is making him go as well because she is on a fitness kick of her own.

What are the strengths of the character?

Alan is very loveable. He is one of the really funny characters in the show. Fat Friends the Musical is a really funny show but Alan is one of the characters that really does dish out quite a lot of the comedy in it. As well as being loveable, he’s a little daft and always there just at the moment when you need a bit of a comic relief.

What can the audience expect from the show?

Audiences can expect a great night out, it’s a really, really funny show! We are yet to have an audience which aren’t up on their feet dancing and singing at the end. If any audience member has ever been to any slimming clubs or they’ve struggled with their weight, there are loads of little things throughout the show that they will recognise that they have done or said like taking off as much clothes as you can before you get weighed or starving yourself before the slimming club then eating loads straight after!

Have you got a personal favourite moment or song from the show?

I do! I have a few favourite moments. Following the opening run of the Fat Friends the Musical in Leeds, we put in a new number in the show when we started the tour this year. The new number is called Chocolate. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading but audiences will get to see a bit more of Alan than perhaps they wanted to! That’s my favourite moment in the show and I didn’t think it would be. Kay, our director, said I was going to do it and originally, I didn’t want to but when it comes around to it in the show, the audiences have been going wild and I think I feel like a bit of a Chippendale for a minute! My favourite song in the show has probably got to be The Only Fool Is Me, which the character of Kevin sings and it’s like a rock ballad – it’s really good!

What led you into a performing career?

Performing is something I have always done. My mother and father were heavily involved in amateur dramatics and I used to tag along to rehearsals with them. Then one day there was the opportunity to take part in one of the shows so then I started to perform and act and I have been doing it ever since. I decided to do it as a career when I turned 18 and I have never done anything else, I am no good at anything else in fairness! I am lucky to do what I love to do for a living.

Any advice for budding performers?

You’ve just got to do it, follow your dreams – you don’t want to look back wishing you had done all these different things. That’s what working on this show has taught me. Freddie Flintoff is part of the cast and performing in some of the shows on the tour. He is someone you would never expect to be in a musical but when he gets the opportunity to do something, he grabs the bull by the horns and does it. It’s the right idea, you don’t know when you could get these opportunities again and you don’t want to look back in 20 years’ time wishing you had done it.

Finally, sell the show – why should we all come and see Fat Friends The Musical?

Fat Friends the Musical is a great, fun night out! The cast are fantastic! We’re all having a great time and we’re having as much fun on stage as you will have in the audience. So, make sure you come see the show!

I’d like to thank Neil for his time, I can attest that Fat Friends The Musical is a superb musical and you should catch it if you can! 

Fat Friends The Musical ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Fat Friends The Musical is on UK tour – catch it at a venue near you: Fat Friends The Musical

Star rating: *****

What a rip-roaringly hilarious, emotional rollercoaster and musical treat of a production! Rendered speechless is not a term often associated with yours truly, especially when it comes to musical theatre and also a slight reservation given the fact that I was a huge fan of Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends the drama when it aired on ITV years ago. However, Queen of pen(wo)manship and story-telling, Kay Mellor has done it again! She’s taken the story that many may be familiar with from the television, with local slimming club and an anticipated wedding at the centre of the action, added songs to which she has written the lyrics (music composed by Nick Lloyd Webber) and has another hit on her hands.

Much of the original story from the ITV series remains, with the chip shop as one of the central locations where Kelly (Jodie Prenger) and her family live and work. Kelly’s mother Betty (Sam Bailey) is a regular at Super Slimmers and is in the running to win an award for losing 5 stone. In the class, which is run by over-thinking Lauren (Natalie Anderson) in the church hall, courtesy of Paul (Jonathan Halliwell) we find Alan (Neil Hurst) who spends most of his time and calories at the chip shop and television journalist, Val (Chloe Hart). They’re amongst many others who are on the quest to lose weight with Julia Fleshman’s (Laura Mansell) diet. Kelly is set to get married to the love of her life, Kevin (Joel Mantague) who’s fairly hopeless, and she’s also flanked by her slim sister Joanne (Rachael Wooding) who doesn’t take much seriously and enjoys ripping the proverbial out of her over-weight sister. With the wedding only six weeks away and the bride’s wedding dress being two sizes too small, Julia Fleshman spots a great PR opportunity and offers to pay for the dress and indeed the whole wedding if Kelly loses weight with her initiative.

The story is punctuated by a mass of upbeat musical numbers, such as ‘Move It’, ‘Diets are Crap’ and ‘Chocolate’ and ballads which contain the heart, soul and glorious raw emotion that Mellor is famous for putting across. ‘If you don’t want to marry him’ is one to watch out for, the chemistry between Prenger, Bailey and Kevin Kennedy who plays Kelly’s dad, Fergus – is a joy to behold and touched my heart.

As you would expect, with a cast featuring so many fantastic performers, this is a strong ensemble to be reckoned with. Prenger is cast perfectly as Kelly, her vocal ability never fails to wow me and she embraces the role with everything she has. I was astounded by Sam Bailey’s performance as Betty, I knew she could sing, however she is also a gifted actress and shone opposite Prenger and Kevin Kennedy. Rachael Wooding is a fire-cracker, what a talent! Not only does she enjoy some superbly raucous one-liners as Joanne, she also plays the role of mousey Pippa, assistant to Julia Fleshman and channelling Mrs Overall! Neil Hurst stood out for all the right reasons as Alan, outstanding vocals and it’s a part he has really made his own. Joel Montague almost blended into the background as hapless Kevin, however in his solo number he was a revelation. Chloe Hart is a performer I’m familiar with and she didn’t disappoint as ballsy Val, I imagine she understudies the role of Kelly brilliantly too. Which coincidentally brings me to Laura Mansell who was in fact the understudy for the role of Julia Fleshman and gave a power-house performance. Natalie Anderson and Jonathan Halliwell were also well cast as would-be lovers, Lauren and Paul – it was such a believable relationship and between them, they carry a variety of exceptional songs.

The set offers a vibrant window into the lives of the Headingly residents and there’s very little movement aside from the interiors of the Wedding Dress shop and the Church. I feel that this is a typical Mellor touch as she has allowed the performances to speak for themselves and set the scene without too much fuss. A few comedy touches in the form of windows (ever so slightly reminiscent of Avenue Q, I thought!) adds just enough dimension to the overall picture.

This is truly a theatrical experience not to be missed, it’s got quick wit and northern humour, a cast who are as passionate about the production as their audience appeared to be and it’s got Mellor’s life-affirming stamp on it, too. Uplifting, joyous and surely should be on target for a West End transfer.

Photo credits: Helen Maybanks 

 

 

Wonderland ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Wonderland stays at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 22 July 2017, book your tickets here:  Wonderland Tickets

Star rating: ****

Alice in Wonderland has been incarnated on more occasions than I care to remember, but one thing’s for sure, the story never gets old (in my humble opinion) and the magic, craziness and wonder remains as curious as it did when I first read the book by Lewis Carroll.

This musical version with music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Jack Murphy, book by Gregory Boyd & Jack Murphy and directed by Lotte Wakeham – didn’t play out how the way I had expected. In fact the first half I found to be a little slow, the lighting and set creating a murky atmosphere although I found it fascinating that the setting is in a modern period of time. Having Alice (Kerry Ellis) living in a block of flats and working in a call centre job she despises couldn’t have been more current. The arrival of the White Rabbit (Dave Willetts) signalled the shift from real life to fantasy, however I felt that the ensuing transition caused the show to take a distinctly pantomime-style turn. Musical numbers also appeared to be inserted for the sake of it rather than fluidly integrated into the flow of the piece.

In this version, Alice has a daughter called Ellie (Naomi Morris) who is willing her mother to get over her failed marriage and desperately seeks change in their lives. Alice also wants a different life and is not at all at peace with the real world. Neighbour, Jack (Stephen Webb) desperately wants to be a hero and has admired Alice from afar since she first moved in to her flat. The White Rabbit was once a judge who dreamed of being a rabbit and who was able to remain in Wonderland because the Queen of Hearts had cut off his head. It seems that once you are beheaded by the Queen you are permitted to remain in her land and you are reunited with your head! Another distinct difference is that the Mad Hatter is played by a female – which works brilliantly and she and the March Hare (Ben Kerr) have a thing for one another. I loved this spin on the classic tale, insightful in my view.

The arrival of Wendi Peters as The Queen of Hearts was also an unbridled joy, I wager that never will you have witnessed anybody munch on a jam tart so comically and my my my this actor can sing. In fact her vocals rivalled Ellis’s extraordinary and instantly recognisable singing voice. When the Mad Hatter (Natalie McQueen) landed, her bonkers characterisation was glorious and again, captured my waning interest. There was also a stellar performance from Kayi Ushe as the Caterpillar and Dominic Owen was a fabulously skittish Cheshire Cat, an intelligent and physical performance was offered by him. Dave Willetts has long been a favourite performer of mine and he didn’t disappoint, this was a different yet intriguing role to watch him play.

Although I took time to warm to the production, the second half was the defining moment and I was glad to have returned after the interval. The musical numbers in the show are engaging, toe-tapping and as an overall soundtrack, they impressed me. I Will Prevail (the Mad Hatter’s big number) is a powerful piece and I Am My Own Invention which is mostly led by the White Rabbit is stunning. Advice From A Caterpillar is a soulful tune and the choreography matched it, perfectly. Equally, The Cat Shoe Shuffle was a highlight, it appeared chaotic and precise all at once. In fact I noted that all choreography seemed to follow a contrary theme which worked brilliantly.

The set is quite a construction to behold and the looking glass is the piece de resistance. Costumes are as spectacular, as would be expected given the story and the Mad Hatter’s outfits are particularly outstanding. Overall, this new musical grew on me and by the finish I felt I’d be keen to see it again.

 

Spotlight On… Star of Billy Elliot, Anna-Jane Casey

Billy Elliot is completing a tour which starts again on Tuesday 30 May in Milton Keynes – to book tickets, click here: Billy Elliot

Having recently stepped up to temporarily take over from Tamsin Outhwaite in Stepping Out, Anna-Jane Casey is playing the role of Mrs Wilkinson and she kindly gave an exclusive interview to Break A Leg…

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Anna-Jane – so you’re appearing as Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot the musical…

Yes, it’s a part I’ve played before as I appeared as Mrs Wilkinson in the West End too. I’m playing her at Milton Keynes Theatre and then in Hamburg.

What do you particularly enjoy about the show, have you any favourite songs or moments?

I enjoy working with the different ‘Billys’ they all bring some different to the role and they’re all so talented.  My favourite moment is when Billy shows his letter from his mum to Mrs Wilkinson, it makes me cry, I’m a big softie and I cry at anything!

What do you think are the strengths of Mrs Wilkinson’s character?

On the face of it Mrs Wilkinson is dressed like a parrot for a start off, you know those kind of women they’re not posh or loaded but they like to spruce up when they go out. In those sad times of heartbreak and uncertainty this is a woman who must have walked into a room and looked like she had fairy lights on her – so it’s nice to be that loud a character. The story of Mrs Wilkinson is that she’s a failed dancer and she nearly got a job in the West End but didn’t quite get there so she went back to her home town and she’s got this school, now. She comes across as though she’s hard but every day she goes to that dance class and hopes that there’ll be one little spark of genius and she finds that in Billy. As brusque and as brash as you think she is on the surface she’s always thinking “please god let someone be good today” and that’s nice to play, the hard outside and the soft inside.

Do you find something different in the character every time you play her?

Oh definitely, while I’m away I facetime my two daughters and I was facetiming them last night as I was pulling on another lycra leotard and my blue spangled hot pants and my daughter said “oh my god mummy, what have you got on?”. In the eighties that’s what people used to wear, of course but it’s great to reveal that outfit every night and hear the audience go “sweet Jesus”. Also the kids are amazing around you, you get a real buzz from them.

You popped quickly into Stepping Out to play Mavis, how was that experience?

Tamsin’s (Outhwaite) a very old friend of mine, we did Grease together before she was a TV star so when she found out that she’d broken her foot, my sister Natalie was already in the show and I know the director very well so it was one of those moments where my sister had said “why don’t you ring AJ?” and Tamsin had said “ring AJ she’s the only one I know who could do it in a week!”. So I had a week’s rehearsal and it was brilliant working with my sister, we had a right laugh, but it was a flash in the pan because I was only going to be there for a month because I was due to start in Billy Elliot. It’s one of those moments that I’m going to look back on when we get to New Year’s Eve and think “bloody hell I managed to learn a show in a week!”. Amanda Holden is one of the nicest women on the planet and brilliant, she really is, I’d never worked with her before and she was heavenly.

Going back to 2015, you appeared in Mack and Mabel which I didn’t get to see but I read amazing reviews for…

I did the show previously, a good fifteen years ago I played Mabel, the main part. This time I played Lottie and the lovely Michael Ball was in the show. It was nice to do the show playing the secondary female lead, I couldn’t have played Mabel, people would have said “what’s that old woman doing?” and it was a very different production as when I played Mabel years ago it was an actor-muso show and we all had different instruments to play. I was given percussion which was hilarious, so I was clanging and banging at the back! So it was nice do the show and not have to have the responsibility of playing one of the title roles but also to perform that big number (Tap Your Troubles Away) which I’ve known for years and I performed at a prom with the John Wilson Orchestra a couple of years ago.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see Billy Elliot?

It’s still very politically true and it’s totally in our consciousness, we’re about to have a general election and the gap between what the Conservative party believe and what the Labour party believe at the time that the show was written it is the same. You had Margaret Thatcher on one side and Labour on the other who were fighting so hard for the Unions and we’re still fighting those battles today. I think the show has got real heart and it’s a show that will give you a brilliant story and the children are phenomenal. Any show where kids are swearing is hilarious, so come and see these brilliant kids saying the F word!

I’d like to thank Anna-Jane for a great interview, such a delight to chat to her (I’ve been a fan for years!) and wishing her and the rest of cast all the best for the rest of the Billy Elliot tour.

 

 

 

 

 

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