Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 2 | Holly Tandy

Holly Tandy

Following on from our chat with Kelvin Fletcher, we caught up with Holly Tandy who is about to step into the ruby slippers and play Dorothy in Sellador’s Blackpool Christmas extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz.

Opening Night: This is your first musical theatre role, how are you feeling?

Holly: I’m super excited; it’s such a good opportunity for me. I’ve never done anything like this before and have always wanted to, it’s one of those things where I’m constantly learning which has just been just great. I know the skills I’m learning in addition to the things I already feel I have strength in together are preparing me for not only this role but my future career, it’s brilliant.

Opening Night: Are you looking forward to performing in Blackpool?

Holly: I’m so excited to get on stage and perform, being back up North feels really special for me too. I’m so excited for the audiences to see this show, my family are all coming along as well and they can’t wait, it’ll be really nice to share this with them.

Company of The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What is it about The Wizard of Oz that makes it so appealing?

Holly: It’s such an iconic show, a total classic that everybody knows and loves. There’s something very comforting about The Wizard of Oz and the familiarity and affection we all have for it. It’s such an engaging piece of theatre too, great for kids, just a really good feel-good show and the perfect Christmas musical for all the family.

Opening Night: How are you finding working in a cast as opposed to as a soloist on X Factor and how does the performance vary?

Holly: It’s so much fun. We all get on so well, everyone’s been so great, we’ve really clicked. There’s so much talent in this show, every cast member from the ensemble to the leads, I couldn’t be happier really with how everything’s going.

X Factor was a great was to build my confidence but this is very different. Pop elements don’t really fit with musical theatre so I’ve been really disciplined in adapting my style and the way I work for this show. I’m enjoying the challenge so much, I’ll always be grateful for my X Factor experience; it’s given me a platform to build on and led to this great opportunity.

Holly Tandy as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What’s are the challenges working on the show?

I was feeling a little nervous about working with Toto at first before we started rehearsals but we’ve got such a great team that I know it will be great. They’re so well trained. Also the amount of lines at first was something I didn’t quite anticipate, I knew there were lots but didn’t realise quite how many, but that’s come on great and you soon pick things up, the show is looking and sounding really good.

Opening Night: Are you feeling any nerves ahead of officially opening?

A little, but I think that’s healthy. It’s a nervousness of wanting to do well, wanting to do the role justice etc. it’s not the kind of nerves that are eating me up. I’m really enjoying it and I think a little bit of nerves shows just how much you care and I do really care about getting this role right and doing a good job.

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Opening Night: Selladoor are known for being inventive and dynamic how are you finding working with them?

Holly: It’s been amazing, they are just so good at what they do and such a great bunch of people, all so good at their jobs, they are all so talented, from the director, to the choreographer to the musical director each and every person I’m working with is just so brilliant and so good at getting each cast member to be the best they can be. It’s been an absolute pleasure so far and no doubt will continue to be.

The Wizard of Oz opens on Friday 7th December at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and runs until Sunday 30th tickets available here.

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 1 | Kelvin Fletcher

Kelvin Fletcher

Following on from the huge success of Peter Pan last year Selladoor Productions return to Blackpool with an iconic musical adventure as we see Dorothy click her heels together and arrive at the legendary Opera House.

This highly acclaimed adaptation from The Royal Shakespeare Company promises to be a magical treat for all the family featuring timeless classics: We’re Off To See The Wizard, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!, The Merry Old Land Of Oz and Over The Rainbow, add to this lavish sets and spectacular costumes and you really do have the prefect festive treat.

We were lucky enough to catch up with cast members Kelvin Fletcher (Tin Man), Holly Tandy (Dorothy), Scott Gallagher (Cowardly Lion) and Kate Milner-Evans(The Wizard) ahead of opening night on 7th December to hear a little more about what audiences can expect from this theatrical adventure.

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Opening Night: How are rehearsals going?

Kelvin: Absolutely brilliant, it’s been such a whirlwind. We’re doing full run-throughs now and tech rehearsals are getting closer, the whole process has been amazing for me, a lot of new firsts, coming into musical theatre, I’ve never done this sort of thing before, anything I have been a little bit anxious about the team who have been great have reassured me and offered some brilliant advice. I feel like I’m really growing in confidence every day, we’re all really looking forward to getting to Blackpool now and performing in front of an audience.

ON: We all know you so well from Emmerdale, how is acting on stage different to TV acting?

Kelvin: Day to day it’s very different, yes I’m used to acting but acting on stage is so much more expressive, especially in musical theatre with such larger than life characters. It’s been wonderful really to get a chance to do things I know are in my repertoire but that I’ve never had chance to express before. I’m also really excited for people to see this different side of me, a very different side to what they’re used to seeing; it will be a lot of fun for everyone including me.

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ON: As the Tin Man you have one of the most restrictive costumes in the show, how are you finding that?

Kelvin: First couple of dances I thought it would be best to try and be quid rigid with my movement but then I was struggling a little to get the fluidity of the dance so I decided to do it the opposite way and master the dance first then add the rigidity of the Tin Man. This is the great benefit of rehearsals it allows us to try different ideas and see what works best. Then of course there’s the silver makeup which looks amazing but I’ll definitely need help with that, I managed to leave some on the other day and caught myself in the mirror still wearing a bit of guy liner!

ON: Will your family be making the trip to Blackpool?

Kelvin: Yes, they are so excited, when I first started acting it was on the stage, that’s where my love for acting blossomed so it will be nice for us all really to get back to where it all started and it couldn’t be a better show, a big flamboyant musical like this is just so exciting for us all.

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ON: How does it feel knowing you’ll be performing at the Winter Gardens?

Kelvin: I’d never actually been despite knowing how iconic it is, it’s got such a great reputation, so to be performing there is going to be unbelievable. It’s such a great space, it’s huge, we can’t replicate the size of the set in the rehearsal space because it’s so huge which gives a sense of the sheer scale and spectacle of this production.

ON: We know you’re used to working with animals from your Emmerdale days but how about on stage?

Kelvin: I keep thinking to myself “If the dog doesn’t run at that particular point what will we do?” ha ha but I don’t have a lot of interaction with the dog to be honest it’s more Holly, as if playing Dorothy isn’t tough enough! The dogs are so well trained thought that no doubt they’ll be as good as gold and more than likely steal the show!

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ON: How are you finding the singing?

Kelvin: Our Musical Director has been amazing, I’ve never had any singing training before so I’ve just been like a sponge really taking on any piece of advice. We’ve all got numbers throughout and mine’s a lovely little number which starts off with some dialogue then breaks out into a song, I really can’t wait. Then of course there are lots of great songs throughout, choreographed dances, there’s so much going on it really will be spectacular.

The Wizard of Oz opens at Blackpool’s Opera House on Friday 7th December until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.

Matilda

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Much anticipation has surrounded the arrival of Matilda to Manchester’s Palace Theatre as part of its first ever UK tour. Based on the much-loved story by arguably the world’s greatest children’s writer, Roald Dahl, the show has been seen by over 8 million people worldwide; within minutes of the opening number starting it is abundantly clear why.

Upon entering the theatre the set immediately impresses, blocks of wooden and coloured letters with shelf after shelf of books adorn the stage as the cast burst into life with opening number Miracle. Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are packed with witty cynicism, sharp observation and glorious mischief from first note to last as this fast paced, addictive musical draws you in.

Tonight Sophie Ally takes on the role of Matilda, the unfortunate child saddled with the dimmest and least loving parents in the world. While Matilda wows with her brilliance the woeful Wormwoods are too busy scratching their stupid heads to notice. It is at school she finds her outlet as Miss Honey attempts to cultivate her clever little mind despite the fearsome Miss Trunchbull’s attempts to thwart them.

Sophie Ally makes for a magnificent Matilda, quietly confident and bursting with talent she is the perfect blend of mischief, magic and fearsome might. Her full standing ovation at the finale entirely deserved.

Craig Els reprises his West End role as the towering Miss Trunchbull to great comedic effect. His physical comedy is sensational, embodying the gargantuan villain entirely evoking roars of laughter as well as teeny, tiny, terrified nervous giggles from the audience as he struts menacingly round the stage. He looms large over his students, suspicious about everything and everyone, his insults stinging with hilarious outrage.

As Matilda’s parents the Wormwoods, Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastien Torkia the larger than life cartoonish characters are as grotesquely gaudy as Roald Dahl imagined them, selfish and simple but enormously entertaining they both give a star turn in demonstrating everything a parent shouldn’t be via their hilariously outlandish actions.

The true starts of the show are of course the ensemble of incredibly talented children who deliver Peter Darlings choreography with punchy precision. Their joyful enthusiasm is soaked up by every member of the audience, hitting a magnificent climax in the final number, the utterly addictive Revolting Children. Through scene after scene the sheer talent on stage renders you speechless, enthralled and desperate for more. The now iconic swing scene during When I Grow Up is heart-warming and beautifully effective in its childlike innocence and impressive staging.

Matilda is one of those uniquely brilliant shows which don’t come around very often. Every piece of the puzzle fits perfectly together from Tim Minchin’s magnificent music and lyrics to Dennis Kelly’s razor-sharp book. Matilda captures the hope and joy in celebrating and embracing difference, being who you want to be even and standing up for what you believe in…even if that means you have to be a little bit naughty. This RSC production evokes wonderfully one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes, ‘And though she be but little, she is fierce’.

Powerful, punchy and utterly perfect, grab a ticket immediately!

Matilda is on at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 24th November, tickets available here.

RSC | Hamlet

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Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From it’s opening scenes showing Hamlet receiving his degree at Wittenberg University, it’s clear that the RSC are offering something very different, director Simon Godwin has painted this version of Hamlet with glorious technicolour and focuses firmly on a Prince who feels displaced, an outcast amongst his own people.

Making history back in 2016 when Paapa Essiedu became the first black actor to play Hamlet at the RSC he is undoubtedly the heart of this production with director Simon Godwin very much shaping it around him. Essiedu is of Ghanaian descent which has been used to influence the piece and shifted the coordinates offering a rich and absorbing West African flavour. Ripped away from his overseas education due to the death of his Father, Hamlet is struggling not only with his grief but also with a feeling of dislocation from his people as well as a confusion at the swiftness in which his mother has remarried. Seeing the haunting ghost of his dead father impacts him enormously, from here he begins a powerful psychological unravelling as he bids to seek revenge upon his uncle Claudius who murdered his father before stealing not only the throne but also Hamlet’s own mother for his wife. In Hamlet’s bid to expose the truth, lives and loves are lost as almighty tragedies unfold.

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Essiedu is a revelation as Hamlet, sardonic and unpredictable, charismatic and incredibly witty; he devours Shakespeare’s words and delivers them as if they were his own. His commanding presence fills the Lowry’s expansive Lyric theatre entirely, this riveting and contemporary Prince of Denmark is playful and beguiling with a unsettling element of danger that’s fascinating to watch. He questions, dissects, flips the expected on it’s head and offers an entirely new Hamlet.

This critically-acclaimed RSC production feels incredibly fresh, unlike any Hamlet I’ve seen before. The cultural richness and sheer brilliance of the ensemble brings an entirely new spin on this Shakespeare classic while playful, exuberant choreography casts light on the shade on Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. While there is intensity there is also great humour with sharp performances from gossipy chief counsellor to the King, Polonius (Joseph Mydell) and matter of fact, take-each-day-as-it comes Gravedigger, Ewart James Walters. Mimi Ndiweni makes for a heartbreakingly tragic Ophelia partnered beautifully with a touching and honest performance from brother Laertes (Buom Tihngang).

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The vibrancy of designer Paul Wills staging breathes further life into this ground-breaking production, the staging reflecting the state of Hamlets grieving and maddening mind. Lighting designer Paul Anderson succeeds magnificently, from the hauntingly atmospheric to the blisteringly bold every scene lit to perfection and recreated for this tour by Matt Peel.

Part tragedy, park dark comedy Hamlet is a drum-thumping, high-energy, intoxicating triumph of theatre. The contemporary twist, perfectly paced & honest performances ensure the RSC succeed in delivering Shakespeare in an accessible and wholly captivating way. Paapa Essiedu captures not only the heart and soul of the character but makes the text seem new and original. I struggled to find any fault in this daring & dynamic production which will stay with me for some time. Inspired and inspiring theatre at its finest.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 3rd February tickets available here.

Matilda to visit Manchester!

Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical. Credit Manuel Harlan MAT 14.3-242

As part of a newly announced UK and Ireland tour, the Royal Shakespeare Company will visit Manchester’s Palace Theatre with their multi award-winning production Matilda The Musical, for an impressive 10-week run from Monday 18th September-Friday 24th November 2018.

Tickets for Manchester will go on-sale to the public on Wednesday 26 April following a priority booking period between Wednesday 19 – Tuesday 25 April. 

Winner of 85 international awards, including 16 for Best Musical, the RSC’s touring production of Matilda The Musical will open at Leicester Curve, playing from 5 March 2018 and will also visit Dublin, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Cardiff with further dates and locations still to be announced in due course.

The production will be accompanied by a new education programme to engage young people, inspired by Matilda The Musical. From a travelling library of stories led by Mrs. Phelps, to whole school takeovers of Matilda, the RSC aims to reach over 15,000 children, in collaboration with touring theatre partners. Further details to be announced.

Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical. Credit Manuel Harlan MAT 09.09.16-253 Small

Dennis Kelly, (book) said: “It’s been a long time coming but I’m delighted that we get to take Matilda around the UK and to Ireland. We have some fantastic theatres in this country and in Ireland, supported by smart, engaged audiences and we can’t wait to bring this crazy, messy, anarchic explosion of a show to them.”

 Tim Minchin, (music and lyrics) said: “I – like millions of others – feel like Dahl is in my blood, because I grew up with his books. So to have contributed to a piece of work that brings one of his most famous stories to life is one of my life’s great joys. I’m utterly thrilled that audiences in cities all across the UK and Ireland will now share and be part of Matilda’s story.

Catherine Mallyon, RSC Executive Director said: “We are thrilled our home-grown miracle, which started life after a seven year gestation in Stratford-upon-Avon, has grown into a bit of a global phenomenon. Following Matilda’s successful run on Broadway, our current tours around North America, Australia and New Zealand, and continuing into our sixth year at the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End, it is fantastic that we can share Matilda with audiences around the UK and in Ireland. In collaboration with our touring partners we will also deliver a programme of ground-breaking interactive education projects to enable young people to emulate Matilda, sharing the extraordinary power of story-telling and the boundless creativity of their imaginations.”

Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical. Credit Manuel Harlan MAT 11.09.15-99

Now in its sixth year in London’s West End, Matilda The Musical is the longest running production at the Cambridge Theatre where it continues to play to packed houses. With book by Dennis Kelly, original songs by Tim Minchin and direction by Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical is the story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

Inspired by the incomparable Roald Dahl’s beloved book, Matilda The Musical was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered at the RSC’s The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2010, before transferring to London’s West End in October 2011, where it opened to rave reviews.

Matilda The Musical has been seen by more than 6.5 million people worldwide. Having swept the board at the 2012 Olivier Awards, with a record-breaking seven awards, and winning four Tony Awards and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater for the four girls sharing the title role on Broadway, Matilda The Musical has now played in 50 cities worldwide and continues to delight audiences in London, Australia and on tour around North America.

 

TOUR Listings

 

Leicester Curve

Monday 5 – Saturday 24 March 2018

Box Office: 0116 242 3595

www.curveonline.co.uk

 

Dublin Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Wednesday 4 – Saturday 28 April 2018

Box Office: +353 (1) 677 7999

www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie

 

Sunderland Empire Theatre

Tuesday 8 May – Saturday 2 June 2018

Box Office: 0844 871 3022*

www.atgtickets.com/venues/sunderland-empire

 

Milton Keynes Theatre

Tuesday 5 – Saturday 30 June 2018

Box Office: 0844 871 7652*

www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre

 

Birmingham Hippodrome

Tuesday 3 July – Saturday 8 September 2018

Box Office: 0844 338 5000**

www.birminghamhippodrome.com

 

Manchester Palace Theatre

Tuesday 18 September – Saturday 24 November 2018

Box Office: 0844 871 3019*

www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester

 

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff / Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru

Tuesday 4 December 2018 – Saturday 12 January 2019

Box Office: 029 2063 6464

www.wmc.org.uk

 

Much Ado About Nothing – Opera House

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Now that we have witnessed the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Edward Bennett electrocuted inside a giant Christmas tree, the festive season can officially begin!
What better way to mark the conclusion of 2016 – and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death – than with two of the Bard’s best-loved comedies, played on consecutive nights at the Opera House Manchester, with the same cast?
Director Christopher Luscombe and production manager Paul Hennessey’s grand experiment examines the long-rumoured synergies between Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing – setting them in the same country estate (modelled on Charlecote Park, near Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon) and bookmarking them in summer and winter, before and after the Great War. 
Both deliver a witty, sparring couple; a supporting cast of characters that include a policeman, a curate and many domestic servants; masked encounters between lovers; and – one of Shakespeare’s favourite devices – endless cases of mistaken identity. 
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Associate director Guy Unsworth concludes that Shakespeare ‘deliberately shows us two sides of the same coin’ and ‘does indeed want us to view them as an extended double-bill’… Mark thee well!
Anon – immersing ourselves in Much Ado About Nothing’s wintry scenes on a cold Mancunian night – we encounter fast-talking, resolutely single bachelorette Beatrice (Lisa Dillon), who declares: ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me’. The equally marriage-adverse Benedick (Edward Bennett) has just returned from the war, yet it is Beatrice’s quick-fire degradations of his character – spoken at a masked dance – that leave him mortally wounded. 
Their union seems doomed until their eavesdropping antics reveal a surprising fact… they are each madly in love with the other. These revelatory conversations – staged by Benedick and Beatrice’s family and friends, for their benefit – are some of the funniest scenes in the production. Bennett’s comedic antics inside the family Christmas tree solicit great guffaws of appreciation from the audience; it feels inevitable when he breaks the fourth wall – dissolving into barely suppressed laughter himself.  
In another plot, Beatrice’s cousin Hero (Rebecca Collingwood), who radiates chastity and goodness, is due to be married to besotted Claudio (Tunji Kasim); however, he jilts her at the altar when her name is sullied by an accusation of infidelity. With Beatrice and Benedict’s – and Hero and Claudio’s – unions both hanging in the balance, could it be that all hopes rest on hapless constable Dogberry (Nick Haverson) riding to the rescue?
Gripped in a fit of body spasms and crashing around the set, it feels as though he is perilously close to tumbling from the stage; Haverson gives every fibre of his being to the slapstick comedic stylings of Dogberry. Along with Lisa Dillon, his performance is a highlight among the sublime cast – assembled by Gabrielle Dawes and Helena Palmer.  
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Designer Simon Higlett has created a sumptuous Christmas card-style stage – rich, festive and twinkling. His team seamlessly interchange between the house and its grounds by virtue of a large sliding truck and the sub-stage trap. It’s as ingenious as it is beautiful – complemented by Melody Wood’s sumptuous period costumes that brilliantly encapsulate fashion on the cusp of the 1920s. 
This is the second time that composer Nigel Hess has scored the two plays for the RSC, but with exception of a couple of affection quotes, he has revisited them again with completely new music. To further explore the cohesion between the comedies, he uses musical cross-references between the two productions. It’s a triumph, with nuances that complement the on-stage gusto and frivolity to perfection. 
Christmas is a season of laughter and good cheer – and you will find both in these sparkling, immaculate productions by one of our nation’s greatest treasures: the Royal Shakespeare Company. 
Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing are on at Opera House Manchester until Saturday, 3 December.