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News from theatres in their own words . . .

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Madu meets  Queen Camilla, patron of Elmhurst Ballet School, on her visit last year to mark the school's centenary,A with another milestone this year as Elmhurst celebrates the 20th anniversary of its move to Birmingham
 madu

Elmhurst ballet school student Anthony Madu stars in Disney original feature-length documentary film

 

Following a successful world premiere, opening the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on 7 February, the Disney Original Documentary film MADU will be released on Disney+ on Friday 29 March.

From Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matt Ogens (Audible) and award-winning filmmaker Kachi Benson (Daughters of Chibok), the film spotlights 14-year-old Nigerian ballet dancer Anthony Madu.

The documentary is the story of Anthony’s journey as he leaves his community on the outskirts of Lagos to pursue a ballet career, training at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham.

MADU captures Anthony’s story after being discovered through a viral 44-second video that was posted online in 2020 and garnered over 16 million views. Having grown up in an isolated community outside of Lagos and with almost no formal training, viewers will get a close look at Anthony’s journey after being awarded a scholarship to Elmhurst Ballet School, one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the UK.

Anthony comes from a community with limited opportunities, making this a unique chance of a lifetime to pursue his dream. By engaging the audience in Lagos’s culture and fascinating surroundings, Ogens and Benson use their unique perspectives to bring the film to life. Featuring candid realism and stunning visuals, the film immerses viewers into Anthony’s world and examines his journey in profoundly inspiring ways.

Anthony’s journey is a captivating story of change, progression, belief and belonging. In telling his story, Anthony’s desire is to introduce and expose more of Nigeria to ballet and hopefully inspire other young men and women in Nigeria to pursue ballet. Forming a rich tapestry told across multiple continents, MADU introduces the world to a boy chasing a dream that will resonate with audiences everywhere.

Anthony first attended Elmhurst Ballet School in May 2021 after the school reached out to him following the viral 44-second video of him dancing barefoot in the rain outside his Lagos home. The video resulted in vast amounts of publicity for Anthony, including major broadcasters and newspapers all over the world.

In May 2021, Anthony visited and lived at Elmhurst for three days, to experience life as a full-time boarding student at the school. During the three days, Anthony experienced dance and academic classes and was observed in ballet classes by the artistic team. At the end of his three-day stay, Anthony was offered a full-time place at the school. Anthony joined the school on a full bursary scholarship in September 2021 and boards full-time.

Filming of MADU at Elmhurst Ballet School began in September 2021 as Anthony settled into boarding, dance training, and academic classes. Over the course of the year, filming covered all aspects of Anthony’s life at Elmhurst, from artistic to academic classes, from boarding to the Health and Wellbeing offers. Filming also included Anthony’s UK life away from the school: his downtime in Birmingham; weekends and holidays with guardians and friends; and travelling home to Nigeria during school holidays.

Robert Parker, Artistic Director of Elmhurst Ballet School said, “I first encountered Anthony during his visit to the school in May 2021. The school invited him to join the year 7 boys in their ballet class and I was eager to observe him dancing in person, following the popular footage of him in Nigeria, dancing in the rain. Upon introducing myself, he immediately conveyed his gratitude and rushed towards me, enveloping me in a heartfelt hug!

As I watched him dance, it was immediately apparent that he possessed a great sense of presentation and artistic expression, which he used effectively to convey his passion for dance.”  

Jessica Ward, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School added, “When I first saw Anthony dancing in the streets of Lagos via Instagram during lockdown, I felt strongly that this young person had true grit! Anthony's love for dance and music is unmistakable; it's practically woven into his essence. His innate love for dance is lovely to witness.

 “Having closely observed Anthony's growth during his time at our school over the last two and a half years, I've witnessed his remarkable strides in both ballet and academics. Anthony's presence brightens our school; his enthusiasm is palpable in both the dance studio and the classroom.

“At Elmhurst, our hope is for every student to flourish during their time with us. Watching Anthony's journey unfold has been immensely rewarding. I'm incredibly proud of how much he has grown and developed. I eagerly anticipate the world witnessing MADU and experiencing Anthony's exceptional talent and journey.”

MADU is brought to Disney+ by Academy Award®-Nominated Director Matt Ogens and Award-Winning Filmmaker Kachi Benson. Matt Ogens is known for capturing authentic human stories through an evocative visual and narrative aesthetic. Matt’s Netflix Original Audible was nominated for an Oscar® in 2022, an immersive coming-of-age documentary told from the perspective of deaf high school students and communicated through sign language. His debut documentary, Confessions of a Superhero, garnered critical acclaim and a devoted following. He subsequently earned a Primetime Emmy® Award for ESPN’s 30 for 30: From Harlem with Love.

Kachi Benson is an award-winning filmmaker whose work primarily focuses on social impact storytelling. He became the first Nigerian to use VR for a narrative film when he released In Bakassi in 2017, a virtual experience of life in one of the largest IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Camps in Northeast Nigeria. In 2019, Kachi’s Daughters of Chibok made history when it won the Venice Lion for Best Immersive Story at the Venice Film Festival, making him the first African to win the prize.

Directors Matt Ogens and Kachi Benson said, “Our shared journey is about curiosity and creating an understanding of different cultures through our connection with each other. Ultimately, this film is a journey of discovery, growth, belonging and acceptance, themes we both personally relate to. Making Anthony’s voice heard has been our ultimate drive, and we believe Anthony’s extraordinary story makes the most captivating, emotional, and riveting film either of us have told.”

MADU is released on Disney+ on Friday 29 March: Watch Madu | Disney+ (disneyplus.com)

To find out more about Elmhurst Ballet School, please visit the school website elmhurstballetschool.org or follow the school’s social media channels.

 

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Rory Mackay as Widow Simone in La Fille mal gardée;  Picture: Roy Smiljanic

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Announcing Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2024- 25 Season, the company’s Director Carlos Acosta said: ‘I am so happy to be able to share our plans for the future with everyone.

"Still riding high from the successes of the autumn/winter 2023 season, we have a lot to celebrate, but we also keep moving forward, keep challenging ourselves and keep aiming high, in terms of our goals and ambitions.

"Everyone at BRB has worked incredibly hard to ensure my vision for this company has been, and continues to be, realised, and I am very proud of our achievements and excited about our plans. This Season exemplifies the importance of balancing the creation of platforms for emerging talents to shine, alongside the joy we bring to the classical canon of work that the Company is so proud to perform.’

Fresh from the sell-out success in Birmingham, Plymouth and London, Black Sabbath – The Ballet has had a raft of international interest. The European premiere will be at the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam, presented by Holland Dance Festival (13- 15 June) and we are already in advanced talks about touring Black Sabbath - The Ballet to the USA in summer 2025.

In summer 2024, the Company will make its first-ever visit to Iceland to perform Carlos Acosta’s Classical Selection in Reykjavik.

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Marc Hayward on guitar and artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in Black Sabbath - The Ballet Picture: Johan Persson

The autumn season begins at Birmingham Hippodrome (25-28 September) where BRB presents Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, its Founder Choreographer's most popular ballet. This is the first time La Fille mal gardée has been presented by BRB under the directorship of Carlos Acosta, who, for many, is one of the definitive interpreters of Colas in this sunny, effervescent ballet.

The production will tour to Plymouth Theatre Royal (10-13 October) and Sadler’s Wells London (24-25 October) and is part of the official 2024-28 Ashton Worldwide Festival. Additional BRB events programmed as part of the Festival include A Celebration of Ashton in February 2025, and a special Ashton Foundation ‘Insight’ masterclass, featuring Carlos Acosta and Sandra Madgwick coaching BRB dancers in the roles of Colas and Lise on 30 April 2024 at Elmhurst Ballet School.

Also this autumn, BRB presents the world premiere of Luna, a 2-act (full-length), abstract ballet in six movements, which forms the final part of Carlos’s Birmingham Trilogy (City of a Thousand Trades + Black Sabbath + Luna).

This new work is inspired by the pioneering and socially enterprising women of Birmingham who have contributed to the shape of the city that Birmingham Royal Ballet calls home. Drawing inspiration from the book Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women Who Dare to Dream by Louise Palfreyman, it features an all-female, international creative team, including Choreographers Iratxe Ansa (Spain); Wubkje Kuindersma (Netherlands); Seeta Patel (UK); Arielle Smith (UK); Thais Suárez (Cuba); with music composed by Kate Whitley (UK). Costume Design is by Imaan Ashraf, Projection Design by Hayley Egan and Lighting Design by Emma Jones.

 LUNA BALLET

Luna. Picture: Manvir Rai

 The creative team will explore contemporary universal themes including matriarchal roles in society, education, female empowerment, overcoming adversity, and community. The world premiere will be at Birmingham Hippodrome (3-5 October) before it has its London premiere at Sadler’s Wells (22-23 October).

Sir Peter Wright's The Nutcracker was his gift to the City of Birmingham when Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet moved to the city in 1990 and it remains one of the world's most spectacular presentations of this festive tale. After breaking all previous box office records in the Birmingham 2023 run, this year will see the first-ever Relaxed performance at Birmingham Hippodrome, which will bring this story to life for children and young people normally unable to attend theatre productions of this scale (1pm, Tue 3 Dec). The Nutcracker’s Birmingham run begins on 22 November playing through to 14 December. The Royal Albert Hall spectacular presentation of The Nutcracker returns this year (29-31 December 2024).

The 2025 Spring UK Tour will be Sir David Bintley’s Cinderella, one of BRB’s most popular ballets. With sumptuous sets and costumes by John MacFarlane, virtuoso dance and some of ballet's most memorable coups de theatre, Cinderella continues to thrill audiences across the world with one of the largest UK touring productions. One of BRB's most in-demand ballets, Cinderella opens at the Mayflower Southampton (6-8 February) before travelling to Birmingham Hippodrome (19-29 February), The Lowry Salford (6-8 March), Sunderland Empire (13-15 March), Bristol Hippodrome (27-29 March), and finally Plymouth Theatre Royal (9-12 April). 

Spring 2025 will see the third BRB2 UK tour, this time featuring an all-new programme, to be announced. BRB2 has attracted a wealth of international talent to the company already. These future stars have already made their mark within the company and, as the 2-year initiative approaches its first conclusion, all eyes are on what these talented young dancers will do next.
02-02-24
Carlos Acosta said that Black Sabbath - The Ballet was due to return to Birmingham in Autumn, 2025
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UK pop band Steps are delighted to announce the world premiere of Here & Now, a brand-new musical using their iconic music, with an original book by Shaun Kitchener. Here & Now will open at The Alexandra, Birmingham for a limited engagement from 9 – 24 November 2024.

On Friday 9 February, The Alexandra’s Box Office will open especially from 12pm for fans far and wide to come and buy tickets on the door and have their chance to meet Steps. Fans are encouraged to queue early to not miss out!

Featuring Steps’ most beloved hit songs, Here & Now is produced by the band and ROYO with Pete Waterman, and will be directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, with choreography by Olivier Award winning Matt Cole. Casting to be announced.

Welcome to seaside superstore Better Best Bargains, where it's Friday night, the vibe is right, and everyone's dancing in the aisles. But when Caz discovers the shelves are stocked with lies and betrayal, the summer of love she and her friends dreamed of suddenly feels like a tragedy. Have they all lost their chance of a 'happy ever after'? Or does love have other plans in store . . .

Steps said: “We’ve been lucky to do many things together as a band, but the question we get asked again and again is ‘where is the Steps musical?’ Well...it’s finally here and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ve searched for the perfect story for our music and we’ve found it in the aisle of a seaside superstore, where four friends set out on their own Summer of Love.

“It’s a story of friendship, romance and community; packed with our biggest hits and sure to have everybody laughing, crying and dancing in the aisles. We can’t wait to open the doors later this year, and see you there!”

Steps (Claire Richards, Faye Tozer, Ian ‘H’ Watkins’, Lee Latchford-Evans and Lisa Scott-Lee) are the UK’s most successful mixed sex pop group of all time, with 14 top five singles, 4 number one albums, 22 million record sales, 500 million streams & 11 sold-out national arena tours under their belts.

The band’s hits include #1 singles Tragedy/Heartbeat and Stomp, the gold certified One For Sorrow & Better Best Forgotten, the silver certified 5,6,7,8, Last Thing On My Mind, Love’s Got A Hold Of My Heart, Chain Reaction, all of which will feature in the musical alongside many more.

Steps’ 2017 comeback tour sold out all 300,000 tickets, making it one of the biggest pop tours of the year. The band have since continued to release new music including two further iTunes #1 singles, the Sia-penned What The Future Holds in 2020 and the Michelle Visage duet Heartbreak In This City in 2022. In 2022 Steps celebrated their 25th anniversary with a headline summer tour and released the #1 album Platinum Collection which means they join ABBA, Rolling Stones and Stereophonics as the only groups in UK history to score #1 albums in four consecutive decades.

Choreography is by Matt Cole, set design is by Tom Rogers, costume design is by Gabriella Slade, sound design by Adam Fisher with casting by Will Burton for Grindrod Burton Casting.

27-01-24
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https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/whats-on/party-games


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Party Games! by Michael McManus (Maggie & Ted) has its world premiere at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford in May and before a trip around the constituencies before arriving for a party political broadcast at Malvern at the end of June.

 

Directed by the Director and Chief Executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Joanna Read, Party Games! is written by a man who was on the inside of party politics, Michael McManus, who worked in Central Office while Margaret Thatcher and John Major were Prime Ministers and as a special adviser to a number of UK ministers between 1992 and 1995. He was then head of Ted Heath’s private office from 1995 to 2000 and the Conservative Party candidate for Watford in 2001.

Party Games! is set in the UK in 2026.  John Waggner, newly elected leader of the hastily formed centrist One Nation Party, presides over a hung parliament, a discontented electorate and striking cheesemakers.  He and his power-hungry MPs must cling onto authority through whatever shaky means possible.  Can one man, a Svengali spin doctor, and some dodgy data unite the country?   And what role can his wife, the King and a large spider play in keeping the lights on, not to mention his trusty AI?

Party Games! stars Matthew Cottle (Stan Laurel in the film Chaplin, Martin in BBC’s Game On, ITV’s Unforgotten, Dave in BBC’s Citizen Khan and Edward in Channel 4’s The Windsors) as Prime Minister John Waggner, Debra Stephenson (Diane Powell in Playing the Field, Shell Dockley in Bad Girls, Frankie Baldwin in Coronation Street, The Impressions Show and Dead Ringers) as Deputy Leader Lisa Williams, Natalie Dunne (Anna Schmidt in The Third Man at Menier Chocolate Factory, Your Christmas Or Mine? for Amazon, Trying for Apple TV and Locked Up Abroad for Disney+) as Anne Waggner, the Prime Minister’s wife, Krissi Bohn (three years as Jenna Kamara in Coronation Street and a storyteller on the CBeebies series Treasure Champs and a series regular in the CBBC series Biff & Chip) as Private Secretary Candice Edwards, Jason Callender (Upstart Crow and The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, Malory Towers for the BBC and 4 O’Clock Club for CBBC) as would-be Chief of Staff Luke Roberts and William Oxborrow (The Madness of GeorgeIII at the National Theatre, the title role in The Picture of Dorian Gray at Gate Theatre, Dublin, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and A Clockwork Orange for the RSC and The Clandestine Marriage and Guys and Dolls in the West End) playing multiple roles.

Party Games! is an Yvonne Arnaud original production, directed by Joanna Read and designed by Francis O’Connor, with lighting design by Chris Davey.

Age Guidance: 12+ (contains swearing)

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford 02-11 May, 2024

Malvern Theatres 25-29 June, 2024

24-01-24
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Stage, film and TV star Joseph Marcell will head the cast of Seán Aydon’s new production of The School For Scandal, which will play at Malvern Theatres on Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th April, as part of a major UK tour this spring.

Marcell, who is probably best-known for his role as Geoffrey the Butler in the six seasons of the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, will play ‘Sir Peter Teazle’ in this fresh take on Richard B. Sheridan’s classic comedy of manners. 

Joseph Marcell was most recently seen in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s debut feature film, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. TV credits include Mammoth and I Hate You, both for the BBC and he is soon be seen in Candice Carty-William’s Queenie on Channel 4. His prolific stage credits include Hamlet at the Young Vic with Cush Jumbo, Kathy Burke’s Lady Windermere's Fan, extensive work with Shakespeare’s Globe including the titular role in Bill Buckhurst’s King Lear and Derek Walcott’s Omeros, as well as seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The School For Scandal also features Garmon Rhys (Out There (ITV), Gangs Of London (Hbo/Sky Atlantic) And Tina: The Musical (West End)) as ‘Charles Surface’, Ayesha Griffiths (soon to be seen in Channel 4’s Queenie and Get Millie Black) as ‘Maria’, Emily-Jane McNeil (The Mousetrap and Brexshit, both West End) as ‘Lady Sneerwell’, Alex Phelps (As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe, When Darkness Falls, Park Theatre and UK tour) as ‘Joseph Surface’, Lydea Perkins (Private Lives, The Mill At Sonning, Sense & Sensibility, Theatre By The Lake) as ‘Lady Teazle’, Tony Timberlake (Little Shop of Horrors Storyhouse Chester, Maggie May, Leeds Playhouse, When Darkness Falls UK Tour) as ‘Sir Oliver’, and Guy Dennys (Tilted Wig’s Around the World in 80 Days and Lady Chatterley's Lover) as ‘Rowley’.

Deliciously naughty and outrageously silly, this timeless comedy is a masterclass in social satire and the art of gossip.

The School For Scandal is one of the greatest comedies ever written, featuring an unforgettable cast of larger-than-life characters, each armed with a lacerating wit.

Join us for a lightning-paced evening of romance, revenge and rollicking fun that promises to leave you entertained, enamoured – and perhaps even a little scandalised.

The School For Scandal is directed by Seán Aydon who recently adapted and directed the national tours of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Frankenstein. He was also assistant director on the world premiere of Tom Fletcher’s The Christmasaurus at the Hammersmith Apollo.

 The production is designed by Linbury Prize winner Sarah Beaton whose recent credits include The Merchant Of Venice (Sam Wanamaker / The Globe), Nineteen Gardens (Hampstead Theatre) & Wild East (Young Vic). She previously worked with Tilted Wig as designer of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

There is sound design/composition from Ed Lewis whose recent work includes The Box Of Delights (RSC), Killer Joe (West End) and Henry V (Donmar); lighting design from Peter Small whose work includes Kathy & Stella Solve a Murder! (Bristol Old Vic), King Stakh’s Wild Hunt (Barbican) and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas (Dailes Theatre, Riga); and movement direction from Stephen Moynihan whose credits include Ted Lasso, House Of The Dragon and Tilted Wig’s Frankenstein.

The School For Scandal is produced by Tilted Wig Productions and Malvern Theatres In Association With Theatre By The Lake.

The School for Scandal will also play Derby Theatre, 26 - 30 Mar 2024

23-01-24
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Simon Friend Entertainment, in co-production with Leeds Playhouse, is delighted to announce that following its UK Premiere in Leeds from Saturday 11 May to Saturday 8 June, Here You Come Again will embark on a major UK tour, bringing together for the first time ever all of Dolly Parton’s biggest hits in a rollicking and joyful new musical, fully authorised by Dolly herself, arriving at The Alexandra, Birmingham from 10 to 14 September.

Having enjoyed several successful runs across the United States, Here You Come Again was originally written by multi-Emmy award-winning comedy and songwriter Bruce Vilanch with Gabriel Barre (who also directs) and writer and actor Tricia Paoluccio (who co-writes and stars as Dolly). It has now been adapted by acclaimed British TV and theatre writer Jonathan Harvey (Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and Coronation Street). Full casting to be announced.

Packed with the iconic songs Jolene, 9 to 5, Islands in the Stream, I Will Always Love You, Here You Come Again and more, this lively and touching new musical tells the story of a diehard fan whose imagined version of international icon Dolly Parton gets him through trying times. With her wit, humour and charm, Dolly teaches him a whole lot about life, love and how to pull yourself up by your bootstraps…even if your bootstraps don’t have rhinestones! This is one musical that is sure to make you smile.

Director Gabriel Barre said: “We are so excited to bring this gem of a show to the UK, following its successful regional tour in America. Setting it in the UK with a brilliant new British actor playing the lead role of Kevin, along with a creative UK design team, gives us a chance to take a fresh approach to a story that features all of Dolly’s biggest hits, along with her wit and wisdom, which the world needs today, more than ever. She will be gloriously brought to life by the American actor, Tricia Paoluccio, who has been stunning audiences everywhere, embodying the spirit, humour, and heart that have made Dolly an enduring icon.”

Producer Simon Friend adds: “I’m delighted to be co-producing the UK premiere of Here You Come Again with the team at Leeds Playhouse. It’s a marvellously original and joyous new musical which celebrates the timeless classics of Dolly Parton, and lets us indulge in her biggest hits for a wonderful evening of theatre.”

Artistic Director and CEO of Leeds Playhouse James Brining said: It is fantastic to be co-producing this joyous and heartfelt musical. We can’t wait to welcome the wonderful team to Leeds, to have the Playhouse filled with the sounds of Dolly and to share this incredible production with audiences across the UK after its run in Leeds.”

Bruce Vilanch is a writer, actor, comedian and stripper (accepting all offers, bitcoin only). In America, he was featured for many years on Hollywood Squares sitting to the left of Whoopi Goldberg, if that's possible. He has a nook of multiple Emmy awards, two of them for a pair of the 25 Oscar telecasts he has written. On Broadway and across America he sang, danced and ironed as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. There is a documentary about him called Get Bruce, which is worth re-activating your Netflix account for. Several decades ago, he collaborated with Dolly on a massive Sunday night variety TV series which hit a ratings iceberg and plunged to the depths. They both survived. Here they come again.

Gabriel Barre’s credits as a Director include, Broadway: Amazing Grace. Off Broadway: original productions of A Sign of the Times, The Wild Party by Andrew Lippa, Summer of ’42, john & jen and Almost, Maine. National Tours: Amazing Grace, Pippin, and Cinderella. Regional: original production of Memphis, Billy Elliot, Sweeney Todd, Finian’s Rainbow, Here You Come Again. International: Sound of the Silk Road, Billy Elliot, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Holmes-The Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar, Carmen, Czech premiere of Beetlejuice this year.   

Tricia Paoluccio, born on a picturesque almond farm in Modesto, California, is a versatile artist known for her Broadway performances in Fiddler on the Roof, The Green Bird and A View from the Bridge. Inspired by Dolly Parton, she has graced both Broadway and Off-Broadway stages, showcasing her range. Tricia's acting extends to television with recurring roles in Saint X and Homeland, among others. Beyond acting, she is a celebrated visual artist, transforming pressed flowers into high design. Explore her creative world on Instagram @triciapaoluccio and @domainoftheflowerings. 

For theatre, Jonathan Harvey has written over 20 plays that have been produced by the Bush Theatre, Royal Court, National Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, and in the West End. Last year saw the 30th anniversary of his landmark play Beautiful Thing, co-produced with Leeds Playhouse. He has also written two musicals with Pet Shop Boys and one celebrating the life of Dusty Springfield. Last year also saw a five-month tour of his panto Mother Goose starring Ian McKellen and John Bishop. For TV Jonathan created the sitcoms Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful People and has written over 300 episodes of Coronation Street.

His work has won him a Writers Guild of Great Britain Award, the John Whiting Award, the George Devine Award, an Evening Standard Theatre Award, two Manchester Evening News Awards and two British Soap Awards.

22-01-24
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Paul Murphy with The Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Pictures: Johan Persson
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Birmingham Royal Ballet today announces the appointment of Paul Murphy as the Company’s new Music Director and Principal Conductor leading the company’s orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. He will assume the role on 1 July 2024, following Koen Kessels stepping down as BRB’s Music Director on 30 June 2024. 

Carlos Acosta, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, said: ‘I couldn’t be happier for Paul. His unfailing energy and enthusiasm has been a source of inspiration to me, all of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia players, our dancers and the Company as a whole. While we are sad to see Koen leave, Paul is his natural successor and his appointment could not be more well deserved.’

Paul Murphy, who will take on his new role alongside his existing role as Principal Conductor said: ‘I am thrilled and honoured to accept the position of Music Director and Principal Conductor of Birmingham Royal Ballet. I look forward to working alongside Carlos Acosta and Caroline Miller to build a strong and secure future for the wonderful Royal Ballet Sinfonia, expanding our partnerships and developing the hugely successful Constant Lambert Conducting Fellowship.’

Paul Murphy has been a member of Birmingham Royal Ballet for 31 years since he joined the company in 1992. He was appointed Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Principal Conductor in 1997 and has been instrumental to developing exceptionally talented young ballet conductors through the Constant Lambert Conducting Fellowship.

Paul Murphy is a regular  guest conductor for the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden since 1994, working with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. He has also been the conductor for the Royal Ballet School’s annual performance since 2005. He has conducted many of the UK’s finest ensembles including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hallé, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Orchestra of Opera North, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Manchester Camerata. Abroad, he has worked with such orchestras as the Bergen Philharmonic, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Osaka Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Washington National Opera Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony, the Sofia Opera Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo in Sicily. 

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Paul has also been a guest conductor for New York City Ballet, Ballet du Rhin, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Dutch National Ballet, The Australian Ballet, BalletBoyz, NDT 1, Acosta Danza, Finnish National Ballet, Sarasota Ballet and the Tokyo Ballet, with whom he conducted performances of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring at La Scala, Milan in July 2019. He has been a frequent guest conductor with the National Ballet of Japan since 2008.

He has made numerous recordings for BBC Radio 3, BBC Television, Channel 4, and released CDs with the Hallé, the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

He has also recorded DVDs of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House, The Tales of Beatrix Potter and Les Patineurs with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Aladdin and Sylvia with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and NHK broadcasts of Coppelia with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Swan Lake with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Paul studied conducting at the Royal Academy of Music with Colin Metters, John Carewe, George Hurst and Sir Colin Davis. He was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 1997.

César Morales announced as new Artistic Director of Santiago Ballet.

In addition, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Principal, César Morales, has been appointed Artistic Director of the Santiago Ballet, a position which he will assume in March 2024. 

A former student of the Santiago Municipal Theatre Ballet School and former member of the Santiago Ballet, Morales has developed a vast and successful career spanning three decades in Europe.

Carmen Gloria Larenas, general director of the Municipal Theatre of Santiago said ‘After an extensive selection process, we have announced the new Artistic Director of the Santiago Ballet, a person who knows the company and the Municipal Theatre of Santiago well. His international career and achievements through his artistic merits make him an artist loved by the public and admired by the media. César Morales returns home.’

Morales, upon being informed of his selection, said ‘I am happy to return to the Municipal Theatre of Santiago to work with the company's dancers. It is a new stage in my career that I am ready to face and I am sure that my European experience will be a contribution to the development of the company’. 

22-01-24

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Birmingham Hippodrome is inviting audiences to experience an early look at a new musical theatre production in the making, with workshop performances of This Is A Love Story (Thu 1 and Fri 2 Feb).

Telling the story of the romantic relationship between characters Earth and Humanity, This Is A Love Story features a high-energy pop soundtrack and a razor-sharp script. With music and Llyrics by Jack Godfrey and book and additional lyrics by Ellie Coote, This Is A Love Story brings fresh attention to the climate crisis.

This Is A Love Story is a part of the Hippodrome’s commitment to developing and sharing new work with audiences and will be the first public workshop produced by the organisation’s recently established New Musical Theatre department.

Deirdre O’Halloran, Head of New Musical Theatre at Birmingham Hippodrome said: “We are really proud to be the UK’s first in-house New Musical Theatre department, dedicated to developing new musicals in the West Midlands.”

“Workshop performances are a chance for audiences to discover new talent and play their part in developing a new musical theatre show. Looking forward, we have ambitions to expand our department’s work throughout 2024 and This Is A Love Story is a wonderful way to introduce our work to the public.”

Associate Producer Vicky Graham said: “This Is A Love Story has been a labour of love since the pandemic. Following early workshops and a concert performance at Dundee Rep in 2021, it is now in the final stages of development. We’ll be trying out some early ideas for costume, choreography and staging, and bringing our original pop sound to the Patrick Studio.”

This Is A Love Story will play at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 Feb. Tickets are on sale now and can be booked at www.birminghamhippodrome.com or by calling 0844 338 5000 - 0844 calls will cost you 4.5p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

16-01-24 

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Andrew Alexander chased by Ian Hughes in the 2014 tour. Picture: Tristram Kenton

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For the first time in eight years, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning comedy, THE 39 STEPS, is to tour the UK this year.  The production will arrive at The Alexandra, Birmingham from 4 to 8 June 2024.

Patrick Barlow’s hilarious adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller ran in London’s West End for nine years, finally closing in 2015.  It won the Olivier Award and What’s On Stage Award for Best Comedy in 2007.  It also took Broadway by storm, winning two Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award in 2008.  The play, with its quintessentially plucky spirit and dashing sense of British fun, has toured to 39 countries and played to over 3 million people worldwide.

Follow the incredible adventures of our handsome hero Richard Hannay, complete with stiff-upper-lip, British gung-ho and pencil moustache as he encounters dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents and, of course, devastatingly beautiful women.

This wonderfully inventive and gripping comedy thriller features four fearless actors, playing 139 roles in 100 minutes of fast-paced fun and thrilling action.

Casting of the 2024 UK Tour of THE 39 STEPS is to be announced.

The 2024 UK Tour is brought to the stage by the original creative team of director Maria Aitken, with tour director Nicola Samer, designer Peter McKintosh, lighting designer Ian Scott, sound designer Mic Pool, movement director Toby Sedgwick and casting director Abby Galvin.  The original production of THE 39 STEPS was directed by Fiona Buffini and was adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon.

THE 39 STEPS at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is presented by Fiery Angel in association with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.  The 2024 UK Tour is produced by Fiery Angel.

www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/

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Lost and found in Moomin

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B:Music, the Birmingham music charity responsible for Symphony Hall and Town Hall, has launched its new Spring programme for 2024 which includes comedy, live music, dance and spoken word on its two world-famous stages.

Highlights include two-time Grammy Award-winning singer and instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens who returns to Town Hall in February with her spectacular brand of folk music.The much-loved film Paddington comes to Symphony Hall in April, accompanied by the London Concert Orchestra playing Nick Urata’s calypso-infused score live.

Town Hall hosts The Queen’s Cartoonists in April, who bring animated films to life, perfectly synchronising their performances with the films projected on stage.

Based on the much-loved novels by Tove Jansson, the heart-warming show Mystery and Mischief in Moominvalley comes to Symphony Hall’s Justham Family Room & Jane How Room in February and tells the story of a year in Moominvalley.

Grammy Award-winner Samara Joy graces the Town Hall stage in April for what promises to be a dazzling performance.

The new season showcases an array of performances at Town Hall and Symphony Hall. From internationally acclaimed comedian Jimeoin to Cumbrian indie rock sextet Sea Power, February sees a varied and exciting programme. There is plenty more live music to choose from, with three-time Grammy Award-winning Lucinda Williams and The Pretenders, still going strong with 45 years of classics under their belts, gracing the Symphony Hall and Town Hall stages in March. And April sees the return of Rumours of Fleetwood Mac as well as Lemar performing chart-topping hits and fan favourites.  

Dazzled by dance? The award-winning Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company presents its long-awaited Andalucia, a stunning flamenco production accompanied by a chamber orchestra, which promises to be an unmissable Flamenco experience on the Town Hall stage (15 March). Join Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia as they celebrate the music of Tchaikovsky, the legendary composer of the glorious scores for The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker - the jewels of ballet’s classical repertory. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s world-class dancers will perform some of the highlights from these great works on the Symphony Hall stage (28 March). And Giovanni Pernice is back in Birmingham in 2024 with his brand-new live show, Let Me Entertain You (4 April). The Strictly Come Dancing champion and BAFTA winner will be joined by a world-class cast of professional dancers and West End performers to bring the Symphony Hall audience non-stop action and an unforgettable experience.

Crazy for comedy? B:Music is providing the laughs this Spring with a plethora of comedy A-listers to choose from. Stand-up stars including Jonathan Pie: Heroes and Villains (2 February), Stewart Lee: Basic Lee (3 February), Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time (9 February), Jimeoin: The Craic (9 February), Daniel Sloss: Can’t (23 February) and Ross Noble: Jibber Jabber Jamboree (24 February) will be taking to the Town Hall and Symphony Hall stages for the ultimate feelgood night out. And for one night only, for the first time ever in a live environment, Leigh Francis will be bringing all his favourite characters to Symphony Hall (31 March). From Keith Lemon, Bear and Avid Merrion, to 'David Dickinson', 'Ant and Dec' and Myrtle, this show will be packed full of hilarious sketches, with buckets of audience interaction.

Love live music? Join two-time Grammy award-winning singer and instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens on a spectacular journey through her own brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, which she has stretched into just about every field imaginable, including opera, ballet, and film (22 February). B:Music is proud to host the London Concert Orchestra as they play Nick Urata’s calypso-infused score of the award-winning 2014 film Paddington, while the movie plays on a giant HD screen at Symphony Hall (5 April). Join The Queen’s Cartoonists as they bring animated films to life, perfectly synchronising their performances with the films projected on stage. The band matches the energy of the cartoons, leading the audience through a world of virtuosic musicianship, multi-instrumental mayhem, and comedy (19 April). And there are even more award winners coming to B:Music’s stages, including 23-year-old jazz singing sensation Samara Joy who performs at Town Hall (25 April). Samara Joy took home two Grammy Awards in 2023; Best Jazz Vocal Album for ‘Linger Awhile’ and the auspicious Best New Artist award. Her voice, rich and velvety yet precociously refined, has already cemented her status as the first Gen Z jazz singing star.

Looking for family fun? Bring the whole family to Symphony Hall’s Justham Family Room & Jane How Room to experience Mystery and Mischief in Moominvalley (10 February). This heartwarming show provides an unforgettable journey to Moominvalley where everyone is welcome, nature thrives, and adventures are plentiful. Brand new for 2024, Fireman Sam Live! The Great Camping Adventure comes to Town Hall. Norman wants to go on an adventure to impress his friends, so when two famous animal explorers arrive in Pontypandy, he decides to follow them into the mountains. However, Fireman Sam must save the day and ensure everyone is safe on their camping adventure (17 February). Join Monster, Dragon, Alien, and Unicorn as Tom Fletcher’s beloved ‘Who’s in Your Book?’ series makes its debut as a brand-new musical production, There’s a Monster in Your Show (6-7 April). The show promises to be packed with playful moments for big imaginations. Or why not come to Symphony Hall to sing and dance along with the Kidz Bop Kids on their Never Stop live tour as they perform today’s biggest hits, live on stage (6 April). This is the ultimate pop concert for kids (and the entire family), so don't miss out on making memories that will last a lifetime.

Looking to learn? B:Music is bringing some world-class speakers with plenty of stories to its stages. Fresh off the tractor on Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat farm, join Kaleb Cooper (19 February) as he gives audiences the chance to participate in some rather interesting rural pastimes during the show, as well as highlighting some of the many challenges that British farmers face today and perhaps share how we can all help to make a difference and support them. And Professor Alice Roberts is at Town Hall to launch her new book Crypt (26 February). This final instalment of her acclaimed trilogy delves into life, death, and disease in the Middle Ages and beyond.

Other highlights of the Spring 2024 season include the nation’s favourite newlyweds, Jamie Laing and Sophie Habboo coming to Symphony Hal. NewlyWeds: The Honeymoon Tour will see Jamie and Sophie sharing their hilarious experiences navigating married life and leaving no stone unturned (21 April). Sunday Times bestselling author, journalist, and TV presenter Candice Brathwaite, along with presenter, actor, and TikTok comedy sensation Coco Sarel bring their hit podcast Closet Confessions to Town Hall (26 April). And ABC perform their classic album The Lexicon of Love in its entirety plus the band’s other greatest hits at Symphony Hall (12 February).

To see the full programme and to book tickets, visit www.bmusic.co.uk

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farm boy cast
Alan Booty who plays grandpa and Jonathan Houlston who plays the grandson in Farm Boy

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Lichfield Garrick Theatre is thrilled to announce that actors Alan Booty and Jonathan Houlston will be leading the cast of their upcoming production of Farm Boy, an adaptation of the much-loved sequel to Sir Michael Morpurgo's War Horse. 

Adapted and directed by the venue’s Artistic Director, Daniel Buckroyd, this critically acclaimed play, which has previously toured the UK and transferred to New York, will be performing at the Garrick from 29th February to 11th March before embarking on a two-week tour to villages across the region.

Alan Booty will play Grandpa.Alan’s career includes productions at the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and with a host of regional and touring theatre companies, as well as on TV and film. Roles have ranged from King Lear at Brockley Jack Theatre in 2019 to Hermann in a recent critically acclaimed run of his own play The Loaf with Pogo Theatre.

Alan is thrilled to be making his Lichfield Garrick debut and is looking forward to bringing the amazing stories Grandpa recounts to life for family audiences.

Jonathan Houlston will play Grandson. He is a recent Royal Birmingham Conservatoire graduate, has already built up a wealth of stage experience, having played Sidney Barnsley in The Making of Lucy and Ian in Holes. His screen credits include a memorable guest lead role in Doctors for the BBC, and as a founder of Mad Dragon Theatre Company he performed in its debut production of his own play Physical Education.

Jonathan is looking forward to working with the Lichfield Garrick team to bring Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy to life.

Don't miss the chance to join Alan and Jonathan ‘down on the farm’ for this critically acclaimed show that picks up the story of Albert and Joey where War Horse ends and paints a forgotten history of the changing face of life in rural England.

For ticket information and show details, visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com

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