10th October – ILLEGAL EAGLES
Live – for one day – THE ILLEGAL EAGLES – Producer, Phil Aldridge after the success of his first theatre show, The Carpenters Story, created The Illegal Eagles. Classic hits from The Eagles include Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Heartache Tonight, Best Of My Love, One Of These Nights, Lyin’Eyes, Take It To The Limit, New Kid In Town, Hotel California, Life In The Fast Lane and many more. The Illegal Eagles show takes you through the musical history of The Eagles. The band was started in 1996 after Phil saw the Eagles Hell Freezes Over tour, where the band united for the first time in 14 years. He was devastated that this was the last time that anyone would hear the Eagles play live, so he began to assemble a band dedicated to celebrating the Eagles music in concert. It required the talent of the best rock musicians on the scene and he knew some of the best musicians in the industry. We had 37 vocal rehearsals before we even picked up the instruments. Over the years it has developed into a huge production with a complicated sound system that adds to the overall experience.
12th October – DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’
On the stage – for five days – DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’ – was billed as an evening of singing and dancing to all your favourite songs. It was a brand new show, building on the popularity of the American tv series Glee, featuring a wide cross-section of popular music including Dont Stop Believin, Living On A Prayer, Gold Digger, Dont Stop Me Now, Somebody To Love and Keep Holding On.
20th October – ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET – ROMEO AND JULIET
On the stage – for four days – ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET – ROMEO & JULIET – Celebrating the company‘s 60th anniversary, ENB bring Rudolf Nureyev’s unforgettable staging of the world’s most infamous love story to the Mayflower, revived by Patricia Ruanne, who originally danced Juliet when Nureyev first created this production in 1977, accompanied by a 70-piece Orchestra paying homage to Prokofiev’s plush score. Throw into the mix 67 dancers (with choreographed sword-fighting for the first time, no less), ‘wow’-inducing Renaissance-style set design and you were left breathless from curtain-up. The English National Ballet’s most exciting ballet partnership, Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov, took the lead roles on opening night.
26th October – SUNSHINE ON LEITH
On the stage – for five days – SUNSHINE ON LEITH – Billy Boyd stars in this new production of Sunshine on Leith which is a musical based on the songs of the Scottish pop due the Proclaimers (identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid). The musical was written by Stephen Greenhorn for the Dundee Rep Ensemble and first performed in 2007. The show won the TMA Award for Best Musical. Knotting together 18 Proclaimers songs, Sunshine on Leith is refreshingly uncynical, resisting the easy wins and clunky contrivances that characterise most shows banking on a recognisable soundtrack. Tthe Proclaimers’ music has seeped irresistibly into the city. When a drinking session turns into a singsong (Over and Done With) or a pub full of Hibs fans offer marriage proposal advice (Let’s Get Married), the tunes somehow burst organically from the action rather than feeling imposed on to it. And while the biggest hits are used with admirable restraint, by the opening riff of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), resistance is futile.
Described as a “love story about everyday life in Scotland”, Sunshine on Leith follows the highs and lows of soldiers Ally and Davy as they return from Afghanistan and find that being back home with their families and partners is by no means easy and that the ups and downs of life in civvy street present their own unique challenges.
1st November – LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD
On the stage – for six days – LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD – began as a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels about the countryside of north-east Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England, at the end of the 19th century. They were written by Flora Thompson and first published together in 1945. The stories were previously published separately as Lark Rise in 1939, Over to Candleford in 1941 and Candleford Green in 1943.
The television scriptwriter and playwright Keith Dewhurst adapted Thompson’s trilogy into two plays, Lark Rise and Candleford, which were performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of London’s National Theatre in 1978–9. Dewhurst’s concept was to reflect the familiarity, one for another, of the village inhabitants by staging the plays as a promenade, with the theatre seats removed and the actors, musicians and audience intermingling.
In the same way as Dewhurst was able to draw on Thompson’s words for his text, the musical directors for the productions, John Tams and Ashley Hutchings, made use of traditional songs as the basis for the score. In their arrangements the tunes, by turns stirring, atmospheric and poignant, allowed the audience to move (both literally and figuratively) between scenes. The performers were the Albion Band. A cast recording was released in 1980 and reissued in 2006.
In October 2005 the plays were revived by the Shapeshifter company at the Finborough Theatre in London, directed by Mike Bartlett and John Terry. A tv adaptation, starring Julia Sawalha, Olivia Hallinan, Brendan Coyle and Dawn French, began on BBC One in the UK on 13 January 2008. The series was adapted by screenwriter Bill Gallagher and directed by Charles Palmer.
Following the success of the award-winning BBC television series Bill Kenwright presented a new revival of Keith Dewhurst’s original stage adaptation and premiered it here at The Mayflower Theatre. The superb company of thirteen actors and two musicians included Jonathan Ansell, the chart-topping lead singer from X Factor sensation G4 who has just completed a hugely successful national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down The Wind; Sara Crowe; Eric Richar; Becci Gemmell and Christopher Beeny. Music is by folk icon Ashley Hutchings, founder of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band. He created the music for the original National Theatre production, and he returns to supervise the music for this new revival with a band that includes his son Blair Dunlop, an up and coming young performer who appeared as the young Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory alongside Johnny Depp.
Seen through the eyes of young Laura Timms, the play follows a day in the life and relationships of the farm workers, craftsmen and gentry of the fictional hamlet of Lark Rise at the end of the nineteenth century. It is the first day of harvest, and the villagers celebrate with the simple pleasures of music, song and dance, creating a moving and evocative picture of a forgotten England.
7th November – BRIAN CONLEY
Live – for one day – BRIAN CONLEY – Mayflower – a 49 year old English comedian, television presenter, singer and actor. Conley has his own tv show, The Brian Conley Show and has presented the Royal Variety Performance on eight occasions. In his television career, he has starred in multiple award-winning television sitcoms including Time After Time and The Grimleys. In the West End, he has played the lead role in musicals such as Jolson for which he was nominated for a prestigious Olivier Award. As a musician, he has released a number of albums, includingBrian Conley Sings and Let the Good Times Roll. He has won numerous awards in his career including The National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy Performer and a British Comedy Award.
He has appeared in pantomimes in Southampton and has become a favourite at the Mayflower. This tour tse out to showcase the best sketches from his magnificent television series ‘The Brian Conley Show’. Supported by a full cast of singers and dancers,‘The Best of Brian Conley’ was an entertainment spectacular with some of Brian’s best loved characters.
8th November – CALENDAR GIRLS
On the stage – for six days – CALENDAR GIRLS – Mayflower – The stage play of Calendar Girls was adapted from the film by Tim Firth and directed by Hamish McColl. The story is based on actual happenings. In 1998 Angela’s husband John was diagnosed with lymphoma and died shortly after. As fellow members of the local Women’s Institute rallied around the new widow in support, the idea of fund-raising through a somewhat unusual calendar was proposed. The rest, as they say, is history – but one which has raised over two million pounds for leukaemia and lymphoma research.
After a successful try-out at the Chichester Festival Theatre in September 2008 and anational tour, it started previews on 4 April 2009 at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End, opening on 20 April. The original cast included Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Siân Phillips, Gaynor Faye, Brigit Forsyth, Julia Hills and Elaine C. Smith. While the play was a financial success (it took in over £1.7 million in advance ticket sales), the critical reception was mixed.
The play closed at the Noël Coward Theatre in London on 9 January 2010 before embarking on this second national tour. This production included Lynda Bellingham as Chris, Jan Harvey as Annie, Ruth Madoc as Marie and Michelle Collins as Cora.
14th November – DARA O’BRIAIN
Live – for one day – DARA O’BRIAIN – a 38 year old Irish comedian and television presenter based in the United Kingdom. He is noted for performing stand-up comedy shows all over the world and for hosting topical panel shows such as Mock the Week, The Panel, and The Apprentice: You’re Fired!.
Ó Briain’s TV work also includes starring in and writing of television comedy and documentary series. He has also been a newspaper columnist, with pieces published in national papers in both Britain and Ireland. He has written books for both adults and children. His first children’s book Beyond the Sky was nominated for a Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2017. In 2009, the Irish Independent described Ó Briain as “Terry Wogan’s heir apparent as Britain’s ‘favourite Irishman'”.
This 2010 tour played 150 dates, to over 225,000 people, including 9 nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and a first date in Dubai.
16th November – CHESS
On the stage – for five days – CHESS – Mayflower – This new touring production of Chess was directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood. Most famous for his judging role on British television show Strictly Come Dancing, Horwood was an experienced dancer and director and had in fact directed the Danish production of Chess in 2001.
Craig said we had a massive chorus and all the principals were flown over from the UK. I always wanted to do it again – the music is just fantastic and it’s really intelligently written. This new production was produced by Michael Harrison, who had previously produced revival UK touring productions of several West End shows including Witches of Eastwick and Aspects of Love.
The script followed Tim Rice’s ‘definitive’ version, which had been presented in the Royal Albert Hall concerts a couple of years earlier, but with a completely new look. Featuring ‘The very latest in computer-generated scenery and an amazing LED chess board.’ and a production budget of £500,000 it sounded like this was going to be a very interesting development in the history of Chess.
This new production retained some design elements of Horwood’s Danish production, but had a very different orchestral presentation. It was an actor-musician production, meaning the cast were the orchestra, playing their instruments while also acting and dancing onstage. It was an interesting proposition and one which many fans waited for with great anticipation, while others who were worried about what effect this would have on the beautiful orchestrations were not so sure. Tim Rice had originally been reluctant to revisit the piece when he was first approached, but later when the idea to stage it as an actor-musician production was suggested, his interest was piqued, in fact he was ‘fascinated’ by this new concept.
21st November – JANE McDONALD
Live – for one day – JANE MCDONALD – a 47 year old English easy listening singer, songwriter, media personality, actress and television presenter, who became known to the public in 1998 after her appearance on the BBC show The Cruise. In 1998, she married Henrik Brixen, a ship’s plumbing engineer, who later became her manager. Their whirlwind romance was one of the key segments in “The Cruise” documentary. Brixen later admitted that he did not understand the music industry, and the couple split in 2003, largely for the sake of her career. Beginning in 2004, McDonald was a regular presenter on the ITV daytime television programme Loose Women, appearing on the show three times a week. In 2008, McDonald was reunited with musician Eddie Rothe, an old acquaintance from her teenage years and a member of The Searchers. They became engaged on 24 December 2008 after Rothe proposed and subsequently she has focused on her music career.
23rd November – WELSH NATIONAL OPERA
On the stage – for five days – WELSH NATIONAL OPERA – This visit was categorised as “Singspiel“ when the operas are presented in the original language.
The first of the three works, Ariadne auf Naxos was presented on Tuesday. Originally premiered in 1916, the second collaboration by Richard Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hoffmanstahl followed their highly successful Der Rosenkavalier premiered in Dresden in 1911. Originally conceived as incidental music for Moliere’s play Le bourgeois Gentilhomme it evolved, after some strife and much compromise between composer and librettist, into a Prologue and one act opera in Vienna in 1916. In Llandudno the extensive spoken dialogue caused some difficulties, even for that consummate singing actor Eric Roberts, famous for his attention to acted detail very evident here, in the wholly spoken role of the Major Domo.
Second up in this trio was on Wednesday and Friday, Beethoven’s rescue opera Fidelio in a production by Giuseppe Frigeni imported from Bordeaux. This 1814 version is that usually presented and without the use of the Leonore Overture No. 3 before the second act. This would have been a big plus as the main, overwhelming, virtue of the evening was the conducting of Lothar Koenigs. Whilst Klemperer made his staged interpretations famous, they were, as I understand, traditional. The fact that I mention the name Klemperer in an adjacent sentence to Koenigs, says a lot about how satisfying and appropriate I found the latter’s interpretation from the opening of the overture to the concluding bars.
The final work of the week on Thursday and Saturday was Mozart‘s The Magic Flute. The setting a basic shoebox shaped set of nine doors, in sets of three, allowed the comings and goings, but there is also the gaucheness of hands coming round doors to remove a chair; likewise the noose that Papageno hangs over the door for his own use and which disappears as if by magic in full view of the audience. The dragon to be killed by the three ladies was an over-sized prawn cum lobster with large antennae and threatening mandible, both protruding through open doors. Sarastro’s brotherhood is dressed in orange greatcoats, bowler hats and shoes. The removal of twelve or so pieces of stage floor trap doors, having to be handled in a kind of choreograph, to permit the orange bowler hatted heads of the brethren to appear and vote, had the audience laughing at the production rather than with it, an important difference. The trial of fire was one of the few really imaginative and creative instances as were the offspring of Papageno and Papagena emerging from the trap doors and the three boys on bicycles. Not the best week presented by WNO on their many visits.
28th November – MARCUS BRIGSTOCK
Live – for one day – MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE – is a 37 year old English comedian, actor, and satirist. He has worked in stand-up comedy, television, radio and musical theatre. He then attended the University of Bristol, where he studied Drama, but did not complete his degree. In his youth, Brigstocke struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Aged 19, Brigstocke worked on a North Sea oil rig, and later as a podium dancer; he used his earnings to travel, and the experiences as inspiration for a stand-up routine.
Brigstocke’s first stand-up comedy DVD, Planet Corduroy, was released in November 2007. In April 2008, Brigstocke and fellow comedian and snowboarder Andrew Maxwell founded a comedy and music festival in the ski resort of Meribel, in the French Alps. In 2009, Brigstocke starred in the British tour of the American live improvisation show Totally Looped. His second stand-up show God Collar toured in 2009. In June 2010, he announced that he had signed a publishing deal with Transworld to turn the God Collar Tour into a book, he also made his musical theatre debut as King Arthur in the British tour of Spamalot which played the Mayflower in July, earlier in the year.
Marcus was supported by Jim Jeffries, an australian-american comedian and Rufus Hound.
29th November – THE RAT PACK AT CHRISTMAS
On the stage – for six days – RAT PACK AT CHRISTMAS – An early festive overkill which recreates the feel of the legendary Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. A brilliant 12-piece orchestra on stage throughout bring the big band sound to life as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr perform a selection of their greatest hits as well as carols and yuletide songs by other artists. George Long, Mark Adams and Stephen Triffitt, our Sammy, Dean and Frank, are the trio from the original Olivier Award nominated West End cast. They perfectly recreate the sound and even mannerisms as larger than life caricatures of the three entertainers.
Some of the asides between songs were amusing, others less so, but the real highlights were renditions of their biggest numbers including That’s Amore, New York New York and Mr Bojangles. I would have rather had more of these standards and less Jingle Bells, Silent Night and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, but it is nearly Christmas I suppose.
10th December – ALADDIN
On the stage – for FOUR weeks – ALADDIN – Lily Savage is back! Coaxed out of retirement to appear in Michael Rose’s big budget pantomime Aladdin – A Wish Come True at the Mayflower Southampton. Courtesy of Paul O’Grady, Lily stars as Widow Twankey, and she certainly is one impressive dame!
Blessed with a full orchestra, sumptuous costumes and lavish sets, and a script which is genuinely funny, this is a classy panto, with a difference. The comedy is sharp, and aimed squarely at Lily’s legion of fans, so more adult in content. But there is nothing crude, and it is all well hidden in eye catching visual imagery and slapstick, so parents shouldn’t face too many awkward questions from puzzled kiddies.
The Genie of the Lamp is a huge cartoon-like puppet with a huge personality, who towers over the stage; whereas the Slave of the Ring comes in the shapely form of Wave 105 radio presenter Shireen Jordan, in a suitably exotic performance that is bound to please the Dads in the audience. There is the world’s cutest panto elephant, in the shape of Bobo, who steals the show every time he wanders on stage, and an awe-inspiring magic carpet ride in which Aladdin appears to soar out over the auditorium, as a breath-taking Act 1 finale.
Comedy policemen, Ping and Pong (Matthew Rixon and Andy Spiegel) do a crowd pleasing variation on the Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine, and there is much camp villainy from Darren Bennett’s Abanazar, and bluster from Nigel Garton’s Emporer. Ex S-Club 7 singer, Jon Lee, makes a dashing Aladdin to Marissa Dunlop-Bidwell’s Princess Jasmine – both delivering top-notch vocals in the various love songs and anthems. Indeed the entire cast, including the blonde from Birkenhead herself, sound superb in the varied score, ranging from west end showstoppers to Take That.
Of course it is for “the blonde bombsite” that the crowds turn out, and she does not disappoint. O’Grady’s Twankey grudgingly participates in all the panto clichés – the “oh yes it is, oh no it isn’t” routines, the outrageous costume changes and the asides to the audience, in a delightful, multi-layered performance.
This is a strange pantomime in many ways – there are no sing-alongs, no sweet throwing, no speciality acts and for most of the show Twankey is the only character that really interacts with the audience at all. It feels at times more of a west end show (and a very slick and entertaining one and that) than a true pantomime. However, by the end, you do get the festive, feel-good glow, and once you get over the oddness of being part of a booing and jeering crowd of mainly grown-ups acting like children, you can’t fail to be won over.
Lily Savage is the ultimate Dame for the modern age, and I hope that she can be coaxed out again and again to keep this wonderful tradition fresh and alive.With the tag-line A Wish Come True, this Aladdin is full of magic and adventure. It is just a shame that pantomime, being seasonal as it is, means that the Mayflower’s production can’t transfer to the West End, which is where it truly belongs.