Hope Mill Theatre announces 2018 season!

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Award-winning Hope Mill Theatre and resident producer Aria Entertainment today announce their much anticipated 2018 season, with three bold, exciting and ambitious in-house productions.

The converted mill in Ancoats currently hosting the European premiere of Little Women enjoyed a landmark 2017 season which saw 5* critically acclaimed productions and London transfers for Yank! and Hair with Pippin following in early 2018 will begin the season with the world premiere of new British musical The ToyBoy Diaries (on sale today).

This new musical comedy which runs from 18 January to 10 February 2018 charts the hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking sagas of mid-life dating. When twice-divorced Lily inadvertently finds herself under a much younger man, it opens the door to a wild new world of inappropriate relationships. From Tom the Tender to Sam the Submissive, via Paul the Policeman, Hat Trick Patrick and Matt the Monstrous (with Old Willy and Philandering Phil mixed in along the way) Lily finally finds Ben the Bountiful.

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Spring Awakening will run from 19 March to 3 May 2018. A production hailed as “one of the great musicals of the last decade” (New York Times) and the winner of eight Tony and four Olivier Awards, Spring Awakening follows a group of teenagers in late-19th-century Germany navigating the struggles and virtues of blossoming youth, with an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and a Grammy award-winning rock score. This landmark musical will be presented in an intimate and bold new production helmed by director Luke Sheppard (In The Heights, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole).

Third show to be announced is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love which will run from 5 July to 4 August 2018. Featuring the iconic “Love Changes Everything” Aspects of Love tells the story of passion, love and loss across three generations of a family and their artistic companions, against a background of 1940’s France and Italy.

The hugely successful partnership between Joseph Houston and William Whelton, the co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre and producer Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment is further testament to their commitment to make Hope Mill Theatre the home of new musicals and revivals in the north and beyond with two more yet-to-be announced productions in Autumn/Winter.

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William Whelton and Joseph Houston, co-founders of Hope Mill Theatre said: “We wanted to make sure our third season was even more ambitious and we feel we have managed to achieve that with the world premiere of the new British musical The ToyBoy Diaries, an exciting revival of Spring Awakening with an Olivier Award-winning creative team and our first staging of an Andrew Lloyd Webber classic – Aspects of love. Once again we have proved the power of regional theatre and continue to spearhead Hope Mill Theatre as a leading player in new musical staging, musical premieres and exciting revivals.”

Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment, who has just seen her production of The Addams Family transfer to Singapore stated “I have enjoyed working with the theatre on taking our shows to new commercial levels in London and am extremely delighted to announce the first three shows of our 2018 season, it is an honour to share this diverse selection of work with you. We hope to continue to champion the genre and bring in audiences from far and wide.”

Further information can be found here

@Hopemilltheatr1

@ToyBoyDiaries

 

Sunset Boulevard

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond'. Photo Manuel Harlan (4)

After firstly workshopping the role of Norma Desmond an incredible 26 years ago Ria Jones finally gets to shine as the leading lady in Leicester Curve’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s magnificent Sunset Boulevard which opened at Manchester’s Palace theatre last night.

Forgotten screen siren Norma Desmond (Ria Jones) lives a lonely and reclusive life in her mansion up on Sunset Boulevard, the silent movie star is surplus to requirement now that talkies have taken over tinsel town, yet she refuses to believe there could ever be a bigger star than her. She desperately needs a comeback, an opportunity to make people realise she is still a big deal, cue the arrival of penniless screenwriter Joe Gillis (Danny Mac) who stumbles into her fantasy world and becomes seduced by the luxurious lifestyle and the potential ‘masterpiece’ she feels will make them both their fortune and catapult her back where she belongs.

Ria Jones gives the performance of her life as Norma Desmond in this twisted and tragic love story. Her portrayal of the aging actress, clawing onto her past relevance is sublime. One minute she is carefree, laughing, smiling and full of joy the next full of rage as her insecurities suffocate and threaten to consume her. Fragile yet fearless, talented but tragically cast aside by Hollywood, Jones puts every ounce of her being into her performance and is an absolute triumph.

Danny Mac is equally superb as writer Joe Gillis, his desperation to succeed sucks him into Desmond’s fantasy, vocally this is a hugely demanding role and Mac is more than up to the job as he guides us through this tragic tale, rarely off stage he delivers and then some, he is perfectly cast and entirely believable, his voice smooth and strong.

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High praise must also go Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer and Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling, both are superb in their supporting roles making each hugely memorable.

With deliciously dramatic staging, involving Norma Desmond arriving into most scenes via moving platforms or via theatrically winding staircases Sunset Boulevard really is a show of great style and serious quality. Ben Cracknell’s atmospheric lighting is outstanding, illuminating both Colin Richmond’s set and costumes to perfection, Norma Desmond’s costumes especially are delightfully opulent, velvets and silks are lavishly jewelled and feathered, further rubber-stamping the undeniable diva we see on stage.

Accompanied by a sublime sixteen piece orchestra Sunset Boulevard is not to be missed, dramatic, dark and utterly compelling.

★★★★★

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 4th November book tickets here; http://m.atgtickets.com/shows/sunset-boulevard/palace-theatre-manchester/

Interview – Sunset Boulevard’s Ria Jones

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond'. Photo Manuel Harlan SMALL

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning Sunset Boulevard opens at the Palace theatre next week starring Ria Jones, who received standing ovations every night when performing the role of Norma Desmond at the London Coliseum, joining Ria is Strictly Come Dancing‘s Danny Mac as Joe Gillis, in this compelling story of romance and obsession.

We chatted to Ria Jones ahead of the show opening at Manchester’s Palace theatre on Monday and discovered more about the show that critics have described as a masterpiece.

Opening Night (ON):You have a real history with Sunset Boulevard, where did your involvement first begin?

Ria: Well I first workshopped Sunset Boulevard 26 years ago at Andrew Lloyd Webbers home in Sydmonton where he workshops all his new shows, it’s in a beautiful converted chapel, so whenever he writes a new show he invites family , friends, agents, producers to come and see the piece and then discuss it afterwards, I was 24 at the time so I know I was way too young then to play Norma Desmond so I joked with him and said ‘Maybe one day I’ll do the revival’ then fast forward all those years and there I was stepping in for Glenn Close, very surreal.

ON: What is it about Norma Desmond that you love so much?

Ria: She’s such an iconic character, she’s such a dramatic, strong, powerful woman and yet underneath like us all so fragile and broken, and lonely and insecure. She’s a real mixture, she can flip on a coin, one minute she’s saying ‘Don’t mess with me’ and the next minute she’s absolutely in bits, like so many of us she just can’t deal with aging, she can’t deal with the fact that her career has fallen because talkies came in and she was a silent movie star, and not just a star, a big star, the biggest star of all as they say in the piece and she feels forgotten, she lives as a recluse in this huge mansion on Sunset Boulevard, with her butler Max where she lives a life of delusion, she happens upon a writer called Joe Gillis and their lives collide and they need each other for certain things in their lives that they’re lacking and they use each other, it becomes a very dark love story that results in a very dramatic ending, I think the most dramatic ending of any musical out there.

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ON: How important is it that there are strong lead roles for older ladies to play?

Ria: Very important, it’s so very current too particularly in Hollywood older stars such as Meryl Streep are saying there’s a real lack of parts for them out there and it’s the same in musical theatre too I think you have Mamma Rose in Gypsy, you have Dolly, Mame and Norma Desmond, and I think that’s about it. Also particularly with Norma is a tough role, my voice is different now to how it was when I was in my 20’s or 30’s it changes and I think this role really is a big sing, I’m doing 8 shows a week so I really have to ensure I look after my voice, I’m twice the age of most of the Company and I get envious sometimes when they’re going out after shows, I think ‘oh I wish I could do that’ but I know I can’t anymore, the role is so demanding that I really have to ensure I take care of myself. But I am really, really enjoying it and the challenge of her, I just think she’s such a great role to get your teeth into as an actresses well as a singer and to have more roles out there like this would be brilliant. There’s shouting, there’s some real emotion, I cry, I’m running up and down stairs, each performance is a real workout, I absolutely love it, the end of the show is just so dramatic and by that point I am so emotionally drained it’s a great way to be at the end of the show because it lends itself then to those final scenes.

ON: How does this production differ from recent London Coliseum version?

Ria: The one at the Coliseum was a staged concert, there were costumes and the whole score and dialogue was played out whereas this is a full production with set changes, costumes changes, full orchestra in the pit where the orchestra were on the stage at the Coliseum, this is a proper full production and there’s not been a full production on tour since 2002, there was an actor musicians one but it didn’t tour so this is the first full scale production in many years. Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn’t tour it often, he doesn’t give the right often, it’s a rare outing. We’ve got a 16 piece orchestra which is by far the largest touring orchestra in the UK so to hear the score alone just played by that incredible orchestra I think is worth the ticket price, it’s absolutely stunning.

ON: Are you looking forward to returning to Manchester?

Ria: I cannot wait, I did Evita there when I was 19 at the Opera House, I also did Les Mis in 1992 at the Palace, when I played Fantine, that was the first time Les Mis had been performed outside of London, I had such a great time there. I’ve been back several times since then with High Society, Anything Goes, Acorn Antiques at the Lowry, directed by Victoria Wood playing Mrs Overall, what a difference to Norma Desmond! Manchester is very dear to me because some of my best roles and best times have been in Manchester, it’s such a great, great city and we’re there for 2 weeks which I’m thrilled about, I’m in my hometown at the moment which is wonderful and I’m having such a great week so I’m really happy our next stop is Manchester because after such a high this week I thought I need to go somewhere wonderful to continue this high so Manchester will be brilliant.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Ria Jones 'Norma Desmond'. Photo Manuel Harlan (4)

ON: Do you have any superstitions or rituals you have to do before taking to the stage?

Rita: I always say a little prayer to myself and to my Nanna who I know watches over me, I’m not terribly religious but I do have a moment between me and her before every show. I’m not a fan of whistling in the dressing room, if I see one magpie I’ll always salute it and I’d never walk under a ladder, and always try to enjoy it as much as possible, when I get nervous I tell myself ‘come on this isn’t life or death’ I do actually get nervous before every show because I want it to be good, people have paid a lot of money so I always want to deliver.

ON: Finally we have to ask is Danny Mac as gorgeous in the flesh?

Ria: He’s an absolute dream, he’s a lovely person to work opposite, lots of people didn’t realise he could sing and I can tell you he’s absolutely brilliant, come and see it and you will be blown away, he’s so fantastic.

Sunset Boulevard opens at the Palace theatre on Monday 23rd October and runs for two weeks until Saturday 4th November, tickets available here; www.atgtickets.com/shows/sunset-boulevard/palace-theatre-manchester/

 

 

Joesph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat

2)Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (c)Mark Yeom...

Sibling rivalry has always made for a decent narrative tale: Cain and Abel, the Hound and the Mountain in the Game of Thrones saga, and of course the on-going feud between Noel and Liam Gallagher. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat goes one step further including a colourful coat, human trafficking and the slaying of a goat!

Director Bill Kenwright brings his version of the theatre classic to the Palace for a 6 day run this week as part of an extensive UK tour. The story centres on Jacob and his twelve sons of whom Joseph is his undoubtedly his favourite. Jacob bestows a multi-coloured coat to his number one son which somewhat irks his eleven brothers who sell their sibling to be a slave and inform their father that Joseph has tragically died whilst wrestling a goat. So begins Joseph’s long journey back to his father, not before he discovers a talent for dream analysis and meetings with a Las Vegas style Pharaoh.

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I must confess I hadn’t seen a production Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat until tonight however on this basis I can certainly see why it’s still a fan favourite after 45 years.  It’s bright, it’s camper than an entire series of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and most of all its jolly good fun.

Star of the show Joe McElderry sparkles as Joseph, bringing warmth and charm to the role. He clearly loves being the face of this prestigious production and it’s clear to see he’s having as much fun on stage as the audience are having watching. His voice is smooth yet powerful, his performance cheeky and hugely likeable. Trina Hill more than holds her own as the Narrator and does a fine job, guiding us gently through the story. Both are supported by a hard working cast who are clearly having a ball and relishing their roles. A scene stealing turn by Ben James-Ellis as the Pharaoh is comedy gold. Special mention also must go to the children of Chester and Wirral Stagecoach who are excellent.

14)Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (c)Mark Yeo...

There are toe-tapping songs from the opening ensemble number of Jacob and Sons, the earworm that is Benjamin Calypso through to the big tunes of Close Every Door, and Any Dream Will Do.  The costumes and set design are bold and vibrant, fully in keeping with theme of the show.

There were a few opening night nerves: faulty sheep, a dysfunctional stage curtain but these were minor quibbles. My main issue was with the sound, at times some of vocals weren’t quite loud of enough at the start of the song, small tweaks which I’m sure will be swiftly looked at.

Overall this fun feel-good show suitable for all the family and well worth a watch.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 21st October, for tickets head to www.atgtickets.com/shows/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat/palace-theatre-manchester/