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Dec 17th

Peter Pan at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

50 years of Panto!  Quite an achievement.  Having in the past never been a huge fan of Pantomime I went along hoping to be suitably enterta
ined on this special panto year with a family favourite performance of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan 

I was accompanied by my young niece and nephew who, having recently moved from France to Scotland had never been in a theatre before let alone experienced the delights of panto.  From the off they were intrigued by the theatre itself and its noisy audience.  They were delighted to join in with the booing, clapping, cheering and singing from “the clout”.  Although trying to explain to two French children exactly what a “clout” was proved to be a challenge.

On stage the performers didn’t disappoint.  With a standout performance from Greg McHugh best known for his hit television series “GaryTank Commander” and as Howard in the highly successful Channel 4 comedy “Fresh Meat”.  Playing the character of Smee he was a huge hit with the audience from the moment he made his rather flamboyant, yet not unexpected, entrance.  The stage always seemed a little brighter when he made an appearanceand his ad-libbing was second to none.  Captain Hook, played by Alex Bourne, was a convincing “baddie” and, despite his successful theatrical career, Peter Pan marked Alex’s pantomime debut.  The first of many I am sure.  His side kick pirates also provided the usual injection of slap stick comedy.  The character of Peter Pan himself was played by Scott Fletcher; currently on our TV screens in River City playing Angus Lindsay and previously seen on Gary: Tank Commander and Taggart to name but a few.  Scott proved to be an audience favourite too with his delightful singing voice and graceful flying skills.   

Joining the Kings Pantomime for a third year, Des Clarke played the character of Starkey.  Being a comedian, TV and Radio presenter, Des has slipped into the world of panto with ease.     Delightful performances were also given by Joanne McGuiness as Wendy and Jenny Douglas as Tiger Lily.  Tiger Lily being a particular favourite of my ten year old nephew!  A semi finalist at the age of 18 on the BBC1 programme Over The Rainbow, Jenny’s impressive vocals filled the theatre.   Perhaps of all the females the character of Tinkerbell played by Francesca Papagno made the biggest impression.  Her portrayal as the mischievous fairy protecting Peter Pan was so convincing that at times the audience almost booed.  Francesca also impressed the audience with her powerful vocals.

The juveniles onstage were as always a delight with some rising stars amongst them.

As Pantomimes go this one was perhaps not as side splittingly funny as one would expect.  Nevertheless, the children in the audience (and adults) seemed to enjoy it.  Peter Pan has everything you would expect from a Pantomime.  Colourful sets, energetic dance routines and sing-along songs for the audience to enjoy.  The audience needed very little persuasion in rising to their feet and joining in with the singing and dancing.  So, was I suitably entertained?  I have to say “Oh, yes I was”.

Runs until 11 January 2015 (excl. Dec 25th & Jan 1st)
Matinee performances every day.

Dec 16th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Winter Rhythms

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

Between the rock and roll of the sixties and the disco of late seventies stood the golden age of the great singer-song writer.

Laurie Krauz

Laurie Krauz, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Urban Stages, in its sixth season of December cabaret, this year presented twelve days of performances that ranged from the songs of Stephen Sondheim to a tribune to Big Crosby. The performers were major cabaret artists.

One event was a “Salute to Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies” curated by cabaret critic Stephen Hanks. The writers were Carole King, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon and Elton John.

Carole J. Bufford

Carole J. Bufford, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Each artist brought her special flair to the songs, showing how different a writer’s work can sound depending on the interpreter. Laurie Krauz, with her middle range modulated voice, turned King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” into a drama. When her voice soars, it is thrilling. Lauren Fox, dressed as a barefoot flower child, gave her “Sweet Season” a country mood.

And Carole J. Bufford took over the stage with “You made me feel like a natural woman.” A bit of twang entered the rich bluesy inflection. Bufford’s performance in this and other songs made it clear that this young woman, who has made a name for herself in recent years, is bound for great things. You will hear about her.

Barbara Porteus, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Barbara Porteus, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Barbara Porteus proved a fine dramatic story-teller in Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.” Meg Flather was a charmer, exuding style and spirit in “Kodacrome.” Natalie Douglas added a swinging sound of soul to “American Tune.”

Meg Flather

Meg Flather, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Bare-midriffed Lauren Fox was just right for Joni Mitchell’s “Furry Sings The Blues” about a dying Beale Street. Barbara Porteus called forth a torch singer in “All I Want.” Meg Flather had a country sound that pulled us into the scenery “In France.”

Carole Bufford’s rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” was a strong, jazzy interpretation about how the “powers keep on lyin’ while soldiers keep on dyin’.” I liked Laurie Krauz’s dusky voice in the bluesy dramatic “All in Love is Fair.” And then Barbara Porteus’s jazzy rhythmic “Superstition.”

Lauren Fox

Lauren Fox, photo Maryann Lopinto.

There came a different mood with Carly Simon’s songs. Natalie Douglas did “That’s the way I always heard it should be,’ with the words you know: “You want to marry me.” Douglas’ voice climbs and circles us as she expresses the fears of a woman who is not sure that marriage won’t leave her in a strait jacket.

A more hopeful sensibility was found in Meg Flather’s bell voice rendition of loving you’s “The Right Thing to Do.”

I loved the terrific jazzy country duet that Laurie Krauz did with pianist Jon Weber of Simon’s “Mockingbird.”

Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas, photo Maryann Lopinto.

The last writer was Elton John who didn’t write his own lyrics but teamed with Bernie Taplin. His country temperament was made for Lauren Fox in a moody rendition of “Tiny Dancer,” telling a seamstress for the band that “you married a music man.” She gives us the feeling that didn’t quite turn out.

Bufford came back with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” an ironic piece about a road” where the dogs of society howl,” in which this terrific story-teller declares, “You can’t plant me in your penthouse, I’m going back to my plow.”

Natalie Douglas took us to a jazzy brassy place in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” about a sugarman.

The production was conceived and directed by Stephen Hanks. Musical director Jon Weber was at the piano, Skip Ward on bass guitar. Value for money, the cabaret at Urban Stages’s intimate theater is the best you can get in New York. Heads up for next year the first two weeks of December.

“Winter Rhythms: Salute to Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies.” Produced by Peter Napolitano. Conceived and directed by Stephen Hanks. Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street, New York City. 212-868-4444.  Most tickets are $25, a bit more for drink receptions. December 13, 2014. 12/14/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic. Her web site is The Komisar Scoop:
Nov 22nd

Wicked at Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
WICKED is set to bewitch Edinburgh audiences for almost 2 months as this whirlwind production blows in to take up residency at The Playhouse theatre across the peak Christmas season.

BELIEVE THE HYPE! If you haven’t seen Wicked on stage, you will be mesmerised – if you have seen the show, you will want to see it again and again! Wicked, in case you haven’t heard, is the untold story of the witches of Oz. The question from the uninitiated is “how could there possibly be another side to a tale which we have all known to be the truth since early childhood”? It’s more than a prequel; it explains EVERYTHING! 
We settled into our seats in the shadow of a giant smoking animatronic dragon with the highest possible expectations … only to have them promptly exceeded. This is an amazing show!
Let’s do this one superlative at a time … Music first; you’ve heard some of the music, right? The big hits from Stephen Schwartz are popular (ahem) at concerts and on TV and Radio and the original cast recording has been a massive hit on Amazon for years (a worthy purchase even if you haven’t seen the show). The live music, under the direction of Dan Jackson, is every bit as fabulous as you might hope and the characters really bring the score to life on stage.
Direction from Joe Mantello (and Petra Siniawski in the UK) was crisp - giving the audience barely time to catch their breath or dab a tear before we moved smoothly into the next scene - yet allowed for character development throughout. On my second viewing of this production I can't help but think that (from time to time) I would like the cast to revel a little more in this first class material. But, for the modern audience, PACE is king! The visual effects were spectacular without overwhelming the events onstage. Choreography from Wayne Cilento blended perfectly with the action giving us exciting partner work down at the Ozdust Ballroom and atmospheric character movement in the dramatic scenes. 
Despite the blockbuster nature of this huge touring show, one of the most impressive aspects was the styling; with credit largely going to Eugene Lee, Susan Hilferty and Kenneth Posner being respectively responsible for Scenery, Costume and Lighting. There was a wonderfully cohesive steampunk style throughout with the Act 1 scenes at “Dear Old Shiz” integrating appealing Harry Potter overtones. This manifested itself in glorious costumes featuring tail coats, canes, sunglasses, bustles and the most beautifully outlandish hats. These were complemented by sympathetic lighting and a set adorned with fantastic clockwork machinery and 19th century props and vehicles – most appropriate for a story based on characters from a novel written in 1900.

Wicked Costumes
Performances from Ashleigh Gray (Elphaba) and Emily Tierney (Glinda) were nothing short of amazing. Truly. Ms Gray brought emotional shivers from the low tones of I’m Not That Girl all the way up to goosebumps at the dizzy heights of Defying Gravity. I was literally astonished by Ms. Gray's vocal range and power combined with a delightfully likable characterisation of this fast developing leading role. Meanwhile Ms Tierney had us in stiches during Popular yet we were welling up as she sang Thank Goodness. Both characters developed smoothly (almost imperceptibly) throughout the performance. Let’s face it, we were all asking “can they bring talent the equal of Menzel and Chenoweth all the way to Scotland?” – the answer is a resounding “YES”! Samuel Edwards transformed Fiyero into a hero to the audience’s delight. The supporting characters were flawless, humorous, beautiful and grotesque just where we needed them to be.
With a wickedly modern sense of humour this show delivers a fiendishly clever plot and a spellbinding score in a perfectly styled steampunk package. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself floating 6 inches above your seat and return home to find your cat doing the crossword!
Tickets are being snapped up quickly for dates in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Whatever you do, order your ticket today!
WICKED – Edinburgh Playhouse
Wednesday 19 November 2014 – Saturday 10 January 2015
For Online and Telephone Bookings a £4 Transaction Fee per booking applies
Monday – Thursday: £52.50, £42.50, £32.50, £25, £20
Friday, Saturday, Sunday 28 Dec & w/c 29 Dec: £55, £47.50, £35.50, £27.50, £22.50
Premium seats available at all performances (£75 / £72.50)
Box Office (0844 871 3014)
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
Tuesday 5 May 2015 – Saturday 30 May 2015 
Monday – Thursday: £53.50, £49.50, £44.50, £38.50, £26
Friday & Saturday: £56, £52, £47, £41, £28
Premium seats available at all performances (£73.50 / £76)
Box Office (01224 641 122)
Nov 18th

Testing Times at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle

By Cameron Lowe
It is a rare occasion, indeed, when a play lives up fully to the rhetoric contained within the marketing material. Billed as being “poignant and provocative, funny and frank” and being audacious enough to boast quotes that compare the piece to The Vagina Monologues, Calendar Girls and Blood Brothers, the creative team responsible for Testing Times had set the bar about as high as it goes. As I first suspected, the play did not live up the rhetoric – it surpassed it by far!
Testing Times by Steve Burbridge
Image: David Thorman 

Steve Burbridge, who has written, directed and produced the piece has bestowed upon the theatrical world a play that is nothing less than a modern-day masterpiece. The script crackles along at a pace that makes the time fly by and the performances from the cast of three exceed outstanding. 
The story centres around the extremely camp but very likeable Dominic – a young gay man who, throughout the course of the play, is diagnosed HIV+, his feisty mother, Brenda, and Chris, Dominic’s “straight-acting” partner.
Based upon genuine interviews with HIV+ men from the North East, the script rings with authenticity. The dialogue is deliciously conversational and never stilted for a moment. Laced with wonderfully wicked on-liners, moments of genuine tenderness and flashes of conflict, the actors really have a script to get their teeth in … and they don’t disappoint.
Christopher Strain (Dominic) takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride, switching from carefree, youthful effervescence to the dark depths of despair and back again. Pauline Fleming draws upon her wealth of experience as a TV soap regular and depicts a no-nonsense matriarch who has the audience on side from her first speech, her forthright opinions and nagging of Dominic making her all the more funny and real. Jamie Brown completes the line-up perfectly as the g committed, caring and compassionate partner of Dominic.
The chemistry between the three is something special to behold and there isn’t a weak link amongst them. And the tears that are shed by all three, when Dominic is given his HIV diagnosis, were certainly not manufactured in their dressing rooms – they were real and heartfelt.
Testing Times is an utterly compelling, really enjoyable and hugely important piece of new writing: it made me laugh, it made me cry and, more importantly, it made me look at HIV and AIDS in a completely different way. 
This is a must-see show and I cannot recommend it highly enough! 

Until Thursday 20th November 2014
Review by Erica Clements.
Nov 18th


By Cameron Lowe
Dirty Dancing

Review by Graham Clark

Dirty Dancing is advertised as "the biggest live theatre sensation of all time": a bold statement but one which is not far from the truth.
This stage production of the 25 year old movie is a magical, energetic and colourful show. If you liked the movie then you will not be disappointed by this production. With the success of TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, the public's appetite for dance musicals seems to be in favour again.
At times it was like watching Strictly with the choreography being tight and in perfect timing. The story is light: set in 1963, Penny Johnson (played with flair and innocence by Claire Rogers) becomes pregnant so she can no longer dance with her dancing partner, Johnny Castle (Gareth Bailey); a suave and muscle chested heart-throb.  Her place is taken by Frances "Baby" Houseman (Roseanna Frascona) but there is a flaw … Houseman can't dance!  The newly formed duo blossom together as Castle teaches ‘Baby' the steps and, inevitably, they become a romantic couple as well as dancing partners.
The songs in are a mix of early 1960's hits mixed with elements of the original movie soundtrack which work well in the production as there are more songs than dialogue.
There is some humour, too, with corny lines such as" Are you going to take a bath?" with the answer, "I didn't know one was missing".
It is easy to make comparisons to the movie but Gareth Bailey portrays Johnny Castle well; his dancing and good looks seemed to be a hit with the female members of the audience who probably have fond memories of Patrick Swayze playing the role.
Colin Charles as singer Tito Suarez is one of the overlooked characters but he added to the 1960's feel of the night.
With a standing ovation, the feeling was that this is a musical which lifts the spirits and is as enjoyable as the movie. For fans of the movie this was an early Christmas present.
Runs until Saturday 6th December 2014.
Tickets from £15.00 available from: 
Nov 17th

An Evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Cameron Lowe
SHOWBIZ Arnie 6.jpg

I didn’t grow up as an Arnie fan. Never quite “hit the spot”. But a reserved seat requires reserved judgement and a man who won Mr Universe five times can’t be wrestled with. 
This night of ‘Total Recall’ hosted by Jonathan Ross on Saturday at Lancaster London Hotel explored his progression from ‘The Terminator to The Governator’. Expendable time it was not, and the evening taught me he’s passionate in an unconventional way.
By day I’m a live show producer, so the 30-minute wait for Ross to appear with 1,200 fans, tapping their toes to a music-free room didn’t feel quite right. However, once the big man was there, he was greeted with a standing ovation and slowly it became a more interactive experience, with a live Q&A session, arm-wrestles with Ross and lots of heart-pumping, muscle-bulging laughter. 
Arnie had extraordinary presence. You could palpably feel that the audience was in awe. Parts of what he spoke about were quite emotional, because of his honesty. You’d think someone who has been THE visual power-house, THE action man, THE politician couldn’t possibly be authentic. Preconceptions can be True Lies. He was beautifully open.
SHOWBIZ Arnie 10 (1).jpg
Ross didn’t say much throughout Arnie’s initial storytelling. It began as a virtual monologue, because he’s done so much and by ’eck he knows how to talk. He was watchable, humorous, funny, obviously attractive, but a little sweaty on the big screens - possibly having just sprinted from California, so we’ll forgive him at the age of 67.
Arnie talked about his start in life and “wanting to be a body man”,yet by the time he was The Terminator, realised he didn’t have to keep taking his clothes off. Only 500 press-ups at lunch-time while the rest of us are chillin’ at Costa Coffee. And then a political Governor of course. It doesn’t come much more eclectic or fascinating than this.  
One drop-side to the event: I work in such spaces as the Westbourne Suite at Lancaster London Hotel on a daily basis, so I’d hoped not to be wedged into a conference chair with no room to exercise my biceps. People were tightly crammed. I therefore chose to watch the show with the production team at the rear of the room, sensing how they reacted to such an important night, and they dealt with various changes brilliantly. I’m a naughty reviewer/producer, but also nice. Musical act Cosmic Sect jumped on stage when required and were supermen.
The stage had two large projection screens which could have had slightly tidier surrounding edges and there were added 60-inch plasmas for those who weren’t sufficiently close to His Muscles and Wossy. The interviews happened mid-stage, with a retro drawing (or should I say dwawing?) room feel: standing lamps and studded armchairs, aiming to be intimate and re-create a Wossy-style TV studio set. 
I’d be giving you a Raw Deal to suggest that the whole evening was awesome because I was hoping for him to go Commando. But in “breaking the rules and not the law”, I did find him inspiring and I could become a Predator.  More of these events from Rocco Buonvino please and big thanks to Show Manager Chaz DaBat for letting producer-cum-reviewer Kate loiter with the very strong production team. Even if Arnie isn’t, I’ll be (at the) back. 

Reviewed on 15th November 2014 at Lancaster London Hotel by Kate Braxton. Pictures Yui Mok/PA
Nov 5th

Thriller Live at Bradford Alhambra Theatre

By Cameron Lowe
Review by Graham Clark

Thriller Live celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. If you are a fan of his music then this is the show for you. Otherwise, the quality of the presentation ensures that this remains an entertaining and uplifting evening's entertainment. 

Thriller Live

This musical has been running in the West End in London for over 5 years now and has toured the UK previously. Every time it tours there are a few changes to the production.
The young Michael Jackson who used to start the show has now gone, though we do still get the Jackson 5; albeit without the afro wigs that they wore in previous incarnations of the production.
Following his career, the tracks are performed in chronological order starting off with I Want You Back when the Jackson 5 were the "the new Teen sensation", with Michael singing lead vocals.  We get the disco period from 1977 and their Number 1 hit, Show You the Way to Go before moving on to his golden period of the Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad albums of the 1980s.
There is a live band in the show: the guitarist's become an integral part of the performance later on.
The dancing is energetic and the dance crew work hard throughout, but it is the lead vocalists who make the difference with an outstanding performance by Wayne Robinson. 
As the title, suggests the production's highlights are the songs from the Thriller album with the video of the title track being performed with the dancers dressed as the walking dead ghouls.
This is an easy on the ear show; sometimes gushing too much towards Jackson "he influenced everyone from Justin Timberlake to Beyonce to Usher to Maroon 5" the former names maybe true but I'm not too sure about Maroon 5. 
The audience were on their feet for the reprise of Thriller at the end of the show. Although a musical jukebox, this remains a high quality entertaining production. Thrilling indeed.
Thriller Live runs at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 8 November 2014.
Tickets from£14.00 available from: 
Image courtesy of Bradford Theatres.
Oct 22nd

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

The star of this mesmerizing production is director Marianne Elliott. Her co-star is video designer Finn Ross. Of course, Alex Sharp is superb as the intense, erratic, edgy, wound-up Christopher, the 15-year-old autistic youth whose mind works like a machine but who can’t get personal connections in gear. He is literal, as precise as math. “Where is heaven?” he asks the pastor. He speaks in great detail but doesn’t like metaphors, because they obscure reality. When a cop says, “Park yourself,” he goes “beep! beep!” and moves backwards.

Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

The play by Simon Stephens is adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, which is told in the first person. Here is a case where the play may be better than the book. The visualization of how Christopher thinks and perceives the world is stunning and one of the best uses of video in a theatrical production I have seen.

The set is a box made of sides of graph paper, white lines on black. Sometimes, objects are taken out of a square of wall that suddenly becomes a shelf or drawer. Christopher thinks like that mathematical graph. The people of the story all sit on ledges around the set, as they exist in his mind.

The story, which is rather thin, revolves around the mystery of who killed Wellington, the neighbor’s big white dog. The murder weapon, a large garden fork, is still stuck in the animal when we see it. Christopher is accused of the crime, denies it, and resolves to find the culprit. In the course of his detective work, he writes down everything he learns or that happens.

Ian Barford as Ed, Alexander Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

Ian Barford as Ed, Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

The play title is from a line in the Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze,” about a dog that doesn’t bark, because it knows the killer. And Christopher of course is as methodical as Holmes.

So much is in his mind, and Francesca Faridany as Siobhan, his special-education teacher, recites from his chronicle, which tells us what goes through it.

His father, Ed (Ian Barford) had informed him his mother had a heart attack and died in hospital. (Barford is good as the broad-shouldered working-class guy.)

His investigation turns up the fact that his mother was having an affair with a neighbor. He writes that down. In fact, Judy (Enid Graham, fine as the distraught mother) could not handle Christopher’s behavior — he even screamed when she held him — decamped from Swindon to London with her lover (Ben Horner), the ex-husband of the lady who owned the dog.

Alexander Sharp as Christopher finding the letters, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher finding the letters, photo Joan Marcus.

The plot takes another turn when Ed comes across the journal. And hides it. But ever the detective, Christopher methodically searches and finds it. And a cache of letters. In the visualization, letters fall out of the sky and he collapses. (Here’s a metaphor made real!)

It turns out his mother had written repeatedly to Christopher from London.

He resolves to go to London to find her. Here’s where the set (by Bunny Christie) and lighting (by Paule Constable) become spellbinding. Planning the trip, he uses little houses to represent the village where he is and the place where his mother is. They are connected with a train track complete with model train.

Alexander Sharp as Christopher navigating the Tube, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher navigating the Tube, photo Joan Marcus.

In London, the Tube is a projection of diagrams and staircases – one of which he slides down. He is never intuitive, only arithmetically exact – using a map book, he walks at right angles to find a destination. Red lights dance on the wall map as he walks through streets.

As in any Holmes mystery, the boy’s pulling together the strands of everyone’s motives will solve the killing. But by then, we don’t care about Wellington, we care about the amazing young man whose psychological handicap is overshadowed by a special kind of genius. It’s a riveting production.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Written by Simon Stephens, adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, directed by Marianne Elliott. The National Theatre at the Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200.  Opened October 5, 2014. 10/21/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic. Her web site is The Komisar Scoop ( 
Oct 21st

LAFFALANG Returns to Westovian Theatre for Yuletide Japes

By Cameron Lowe
The Laffalang will return to the Westovian Theatre,  South Shields,  in December due to popular demand.

The comedy show, which was first performed last December at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle (250 attended), has already gained a strong following with 275 people attending the Summer Laffalang in July.
The Laffalang, which comprises themed comedy sketches linked by a stand-up comedian, was performed at the Westovian Theatre in Ocean Road and it will return to the venue on Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6, when the theme is Christmas.
Laffalang producer and director Gareth Hunter said: “The response to both shows has been fantastic. People are now talking about the Laffalang and constantly asking when the next one is.
“The sketches are written by Ed and the cast includes Paul Dunn (Dracula in Dracula: Die Laughing), whose latest success is I Left My Heart in Roker Park, and panto legend Bob Stott who dons the Widow Twanky costume for three sketches (including the Queen’s Speech). A special sketch has been written for the original Dirty Dusting trio of Helen Russell Gwen Doran and Jean Southern, who are sold off as slaves. Other sketches include the Geordie Nativity (Part 2), The Fabulous Five in an all-new spiffing adventure (huge favourites since their introduction in the Summer Laffalang) and The End of the World is Nigh. The other wonderful cast members are Viktoria  Kay (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham) Dylan Mortimer (Son of Samurai) and Rosie Ramsey (I Am Christ Ramsey TV sketch show).  
Gareth added: “Every sketch is different from last year’s Xmas Laffalang. Once again it will be hilarious. The read through took a lot longer than it should have because we were howling with laughter.
“Any work groups looking for a great Christmas evening out should come along. It’ll be a cracking night.”
Tickets for the Christmas Laffalang cost £10 and are now on sale from the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point Sports Centre (opposite the Westovian Theatre).  0191 424 7788
Oct 17th

Alexandra Burke Leads The Bodyguard UK Tour

By Cameron Lowe

Following her sell-out run at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End, producers Michael Harrison and David Ian are delighted to announce that three-time Brit nominee and X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, will star in the leading role of ‘Rachel Marron’ in the forthcoming UK and Ireland tour of Thea Sharrock’s hit musical THE BODYGUARD 
www.thebodyguardmusical.comThe tour opens at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on 12 February 2015 and makes its Scottish premiere at the King’s Theatre Glasgow on 4 March 2015.

Alexandra Burke said "I couldn't be happier to be joining the tour and I'm excited to get started. Being on the theatre stage has brought me great happiness. It is an honour to have been asked to join the team and I look forward to creating new and long lasting memories with the cast.

Alexandra Burke photo by Uli WebberAlexandra Burke rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor. Her debut number one single Hallelujah sold over one million copies in the UK, a first for a British female soloist. Burke’s first album, Overcome saw the release of her subsequent number one singles Bad Boys and Start Without You. In 2011 she embarked on her first solo tour and was invited by Beyoncé to support her I Am... Tour. Her second album, Heartbreak on Hold, was released in June 2012 and later this year sees the release of her third studio album.

Alexandra Burke will perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at all evening performances. At the matinee performances, the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ will be played by Zoe Birkett.

Zoe Birkett is probably best known as the highest placing female contestant in ITV’s Pop Idol, 2002. Since then she has appeared in the West End productions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and originated the female lead in Thriller Live. Her other theatre credits include the Acid Queen in Tommy and Maureen in Rent.

Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. film, THE BODYGUARD, which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Set Design and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, THE BODYGUARD features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the NightSo EmotionalOne Moment in TimeSaving All My LoveI’m Your Baby TonightRun to YouI Have NothingI Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

Photo by Uli  Webber,  courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group