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20/06/2024

Preview: The Kite Runner at Newcastle Theatre Royal

 Award winning adaptation of The Kite Runner returns to the Newcastle Theatre Royal stage

The Kite Runner, adapted by Matthew Spangler from Khaled Hosseni’s award winning novel, and directed by Giles Croft, is set to visit Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 June 2024, the unforgettable, theatrical tour de force returns to the region as its penultimate venue on its UK tour.

This compelling production explores themes of friendship, betrayal, and redemption amidst Afghanistan’s turbulent history. Based on Khaled Hosseini’s international bestselling novel, this haunting tale of friendship spans cultures and continents and follows one man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption.

Afghanistan is a country on the verge of war and best friends are about to be torn apart. It’s a beautiful afternoon in Kabul, the skies are full of colour and the streets are full of the excitement of a kite flying tournament, but neither Hassan nor Amir can foresee the terrible incident that will shatter their lives forever.

Originally published in 2003, The Kite Runner was Khaled Hosseini’s first novel. It became an instant bestseller and has since been published in 70 countries, selling over 30 million copies in 60 languages.

One Broadway season and two West End seasons have garnered international acclaim for this incredibly powerful story and Stuart Vincent (Amir), Dean Rehman (Baba), Bhavin Bhatt (Assef), Tiran Aakel (Ali/Farid), Ian Abeyesekera (Gen Taheri), Christopher Glover (Ramin Khan), Stanton Wright (Wali) all rejoin the cast of The Kite Runner for this UK tour.

Making their first appearances in the production are Yazdan Qafouri, who will star as Hassan/Sohrab, Daphne Kouma as Soraya and Aram Mardourian as Kamal, with Amar Aggoun and Sulin Hasso as Ensemble. 

Hanif Khan has been the resident Tabla player on The Kite Runner since 2013. His career has included international performances in Europe, the Middle East and North America as well as UK wide performances including prestigious concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, The Royal Opera House, Edinburgh International Festival, Glastonbury, and Womad festival.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and history at a high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then their homeland had witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet Army. The Hosseini's sought and were granted political asylum in the United States, and in September 1980 moved to San Jose, California, where he still lives.

Matthew Spangler is a playwright, director, and professor based in the San Francisco Bay Area, who’s other plays include one-person shows of James Joyce’s Dubliners and Finnegan’s Wake; A Paradise It Seems, an adaptation of John Cheever’s short stories; as well as stage adaptations of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway’s fiction.

The Kite Runner is a story about a father and son; a story about two best friends; a love story; a story about transnational immigration and refugees; class and ethnicity. According to Spangler, “It's a story of guilt and redemption. In some sense Amir’s narrative is a plea for forgiveness – from the audience, as well as from himself.” 

Tickets:

The Kite Runner plays Newcastle Theatre Royal: Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 June 2024. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

Book:

The book The Kite Runner is available from our affiliates Waterstones: LINK: https://tidd.ly/4cyv9Dv


19/06/2024

Preview: All White Everything But Me at Newcastle Live Theatre

 Award-Winning Play about tennis legend Althea Gibson to run at Live Theatre during Wimbledon 

All White Everything But Me

Newcastle  Live Theatre

Wednesday 3 – Saturday 6 July 2024

Live Theatre on Newcastle’s quayside is thrilled to be staging Kemi-Bo Jacobs’ award-winning play, All White Everything But Me, inspired by the remarkable life of tennis player, Althea Gibson, to coincide with The Championships, Wimbledon.   

Playing on their main stage/centre court from Wed 3 – Sat 6 July 2024, Live Theatre is offering North East audiences a chance for a rematch after it debuted at Alphabetti Theatre in 2022 to huge acclaim, with direction by Becky Morris for this round. 

Associate Artist at Live Theatre, Kemi-Bo Jacobs, is both the writer and performer of this one-woman show inspired by the life of South Carolina born Althea who overcame huge racial barriers and made history to become the first black person to win Wimbledon. 

Despite the magnitude of her victories at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, the French Open (1956) and US Open (1957 and 1958) her story has been somewhat erased from history. 

Gibson’s journey from a family of sharecroppers to Grand Slam winner is the ultimate American Dream but she remains shamefully unknown.  Jacobs’ work has tried to rectify that by highlighting her story, celebrating her unique life and extraordinary success  whilst asking the still-pressing questions of who is remembered and immortalised in sporting history, and who is forgotten...bringing back to public awareness a true sporting hero in the process. 

Following its World Premiere run at Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre in 2022, Kemi-Bo Jacobs was shortlisted for Best Writer in The Stage Debut Awards and was Winner of Writer Of The Year at the North East Culture Awards. 

Jack McNamara, Live Theatre’s Artistic Director and Joint CEO said: “Kemi-Bo Jacob’s play was the deserving winner of a North East Culture Award so we are thrilled to be able to bring it to audiences during Wimbledon. The play is so lovingly crafted, totally transporting you to another time and place. Kemi-Bo is a compelling performer, and her writing is deeply committed to celebrating people who have been overlooked through history. We want these stories on our stage at Live and for groundbreakers like Althea Gibson to have the recognition that is due to them.” 

Audiences coming to see the play at Live Theatre can expect to be immersed in the tennis tournament with Pimm’s on the menu at the bar and grass court coverage being shown on TV screens for the must-see championship matches before performances on stage.   

As well as accolades achieved for her writing and performance in her debut solo play All White Everything But Me for its first run in 2022, Durham-based performer and writer, Kemi-Bo Jacobs was also the recipient of the New Writing North and Channel 4 Writing Award 2021.  Her most recent acting role was in The Other Boleyn Girl at Chichester Festival Theatre. 

PhotosMatt Jamie

Tickets:

All White Everything But Me, is a game, set and match winner and plays at Live Theatre, Newcastle for six performances from Wednesday 3 – Saturday 6 July 2024.  Tickets £15 online at https://www.live.org.uk/whats-on/all-white-everything-me  or from Box Office on (0191) 2321232. 

REVIEW: Here You Come Again at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Here You Come Again

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Until Saturday 22 June 2024

Here You Come Again shows that there was always plenty of scope for another Dolly Parton musical. This is a joyous celebration of the human spirit and the collective trauma that came from the shared experience that was lockdown. A fun frolic, the show has the spirit of a high budget fringe show and the pathos of something much more serious. It is worth a trip to Newcastle.

Set in Halifax in 2020, Steven Webb appears as Kevin, a man on the wrong side of 40 whose boyfriend Jeremy has decided that they should try a separation as lockdown began. His only option was to move back into the space he occupied in the loft of his parents home. The result in Paul Wills set design is a very busy space full of childhood memories.

Kevin has to come to terms with the position he finds himself in and to reconcile the decisions he has made. This is framed around a passion for the songs of Dolly Parton. As a concept, it works.

The script makes regular reference to lockdown. As a collective experience, it is something that the audience appreciate. It runs as a sub plot around a fan of Dolly Parton who is going through a relationship break up. We have never been fans of spoilers here, however the tone was set immediately as the central character arrives with his parents playing a broadcast from number 10 in the background (remember "next slide, please?") with a tonne of toilet paper. This starts the show with a laugh.

What I was not expecting as much was the regular breakdown of the fourth wall. There are a number of points that the audience are expected to react to the action on stage. I say it has the feel of an excellent fringe show as it is has a small cast. One has to remember that the Play That Goes Wrong and Six are amongst the many shows that began life in fringe. The only other main character is Dolly, who is brought alive from the image on the bedroom door by Tricia Paoluccio. There is support from the backing vocalists Aidan Cutler and Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke who occasionally interact as parents, employers and boyfriends.

The show works mainly because there is a connection with Steven Webb's character. If we did not like or care about Kevin then the show immediately fails. The fact that we have a largely positive tour de force in the shape of Dolly helps too. Tricia Paoluccio is able to behave as you'd imagine Dolly would and she is able to sing her songs in the style of Dolly, which is important when you consider that her songs have been covered by numerous others. Jolene, Two Doors, Down, 9 to 5, Islands In The Stream and I Will Always Love You are all there. For me though, the delicate Love Is Like A Butterfly was the stand out number as it closed act one. 

A live band operate both in view and behind the scenes and did not put a foot wrong all night. From the music point of view the show was a success.

Setting the show in 2020 is an interesting one. My last show in March 2020 was the Royal Shakespeare Company. As there season was cut short you were wondering if "normal" would ever return. Sure, there were broadcasts of comedy and theatre but it did not feel the same when you were not sharing it with a room full of strangers. Theatre, like all live entertainment, works best in front of a interactive audience that react to the action on stage. Having said that, the opening Tuesday night crowd in our section had pockets of issues: mobile phones, regular toilet visits and, of course, the amateur singers who feel they need to join in with the professionals on stage that people have paid to hear. We had it all. 

This was a fun night at the theatre. By relating with two people, a person we can relate to and their favourite star, in a situation like lockdown that we all remember adds up to an uplifting evening. 

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Hugo Glendinning

 


Tickets:

Here You Come Again, a musical that is sure to make you smile, plays Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 18 – Saturday 22 June. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

15/06/2024

Interview: Steven Webb: Here You Come Again at Newcastle Theatre Royal

 Steven Webb On Bringing The Magic Of Dolly Parton To Newcastle


An interview with Steven Webb, who will be starring as Kevin, the has-been-who-never-was comedian and die-hard Dolly Parton fan in Here You Come Again when it visits Newcastle Theatre Royal this week.

What can audiences expect when they come to see the show?

Apart from the obvious thing of hearing all of Dolly Parton's biggest hits, there's a bucketload of stage magic and illusion, but I think the unexpected thing is that audiences can really relate to it. Every single person went through some of the same things during lockdown. There are a lot of nuances and little reminders that will take audiences back to that time. In my experience, every time I speak to people about it, it's like we've compartmentalised it. It's almost like it didn't happen, so it's cathartic and therapeutic going back to that time. But it isn't all doom and gloom; it's very light and it's about a journey and navigating through that.

Steven Webb

Who is Kevin and what is his role in the story?

He describes himself as a has-been-who-never-was comedian. He's one of those people that are naturally hilarious when he's not trying to be, then when he tries to make you laugh it's met with silence, and I think that there's something so endearing about people like that. Kevin works at a comedy club in London and his narcissistic boyfriend has just broken up with him. They were isolating together and now he has to be sequestered to his parents' attic back in Halifax, where he has all of his old childhood memorabilia. It used to be his den and it's especially full of his old Dolly Parton memorabilia, being that he's a superfan. 

How does Dolly herself come into the picture?

Kevin starts to self-medicate and he's having a bit of a rough time. He loses his job, he's lost his relationship, and he's surrounded by all these childish things. He's a bit down and out and feels like he has nothing. Then through necessity and magic and music he puts on Dolly's Here You Come Again album. She materialises and almost stages an intervention to help him through this time using tough love. She doesn't solve anything for him, she just gives him pointers. There's a line in one of her songs, Better Get To Living, which is about how all healing has to start with you. The show is about that journey of self-recovery and self-discovery and listening to that inner positive voice.

Are you a Dolly Parton fan?

Hugely! Once night, back in 2002, I was going through a rough time with a boyfriend that I had. Dolly was doing a one-night show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, and I just got myself a ticket and went on my own. It was an unbelievable experience because you had so many different groups and types of people in the audience. You had drag queens and housewives and just this massive mix of people, but what struck me most was seeing how many other people were there alone. You don't often get that at concerts, and it was the most incredible experience because we all obviously went there for a reason, and we got what we came for because there was something magical about Dolly's message and her strength and her power.

Why do you think Dolly is such an icon for the LGBTQ community?

I think it's because she's always refused to be confined to the parameters presented to her. Even some of her earlier songs, like Dumb Blonde and Just Because I'm A Woman, are about taking a swipe at the gender divide and the inequalities of the world. She has this unflinching non-conformist attitude and she's managed to maintain that message. For the queer community we see someone who demands respect, ignores gender expectations and promotes love and tolerance whilst remaining true to and promoting her faith. She's proof that kindness is key. She's such a role model in that way.

If you got to meet Dolly, what's the one thing you'd want to ask her?

I don't think I'd ask her anything. I would just thank her for what she's given to the world and continues to give to the world.

After a long run in The Book Of Mormon, how is it being in a brand new musical?

It's wonderful and it's such a different experience. When I joined The Book Of Mormon, which I ended up being in for nearly seven years, it was three years into its run, so it was already the hot ticket in town. I knew what I was going into, and I came in halfway through a contract, so I rehearsed on my own. I learned the entire show in 12 days on my own and I didn't get to actually do it with the cast until the first day I was on. With Here You Come Again this we're starting from the ground up, being in a room where even though the show has been done before in the States, not everything is set in stone. It has been Anglicised and it's organically taking on a new shape. It is the most collaborative room I've ever been in and everyone is allowed input. Also watching Tricia Paoluccio embody and transform into Dolly every day is uncanny. You feel the warmth of Dolly every single day. It's incredibly magical.

 

What do you see as the key message of Here You Come Again?

Apart from what I said earlier about how all healing has to start with you, as Dolly sings in those lyrics, I think it's about finding the volume control on your inner voices. We all have a positive and a negative voice inside us and as adults I think our default setting is to have the negative voice louder than the positive. So, it's about finding those dials and levelling them, if not allowing the positive voice to become louder.


Photos: Hugo Glendinning


Tickets:

Here You Come Again plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tue 18 – Sat 22 Jun 2024. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.


Preview: Dear Evan Hansen at Sunderland Empire

 Full cast announced for the new production of the Olivier, Tony® & Grammy® Award-Winning Best Musical

 

Dear Evan Hansen

Sunderland Empire

Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 November 2024


Book by Steven Levenson

Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

The full cast is announced today for the brand-new production of the Olivier, Tony and Grammy award-winning Best Musical Dear Evan Hansen, playing at Sunderland Empire from Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 November 2024. Tickets are on sale now at https://tinyurl.com/SunderlandDearEvanHansen

The Cast Photos: Neil Shearer

Ryan Kopel (Newsies) will play the iconic role of Evan Hansen, alongside Lauren Conroy (Into The Woods) as Zoe Murphy and Alice Fearn (Wicked, Come From Away) as Evan’s mum, Heidi.

 

They will be joined by Helen Anker (Mamma Mia!) as Cynthia Murphy, Richard Hurst (The Lion King) as Larry Murphy, Killian Thomas Lefevre (Bat Out Of Hell) as Connor Murphy, Tom Dickerson (Heathers) as Jared Kleinman, Vivian Panka (9 to 5 the Musical) as Alana Beck and Sonny Monaghan (discovered via TikTok) as alternate Evan.

 

This is the first production of Dear Evan Hansen in the UK to perform the show with an ensemble. The ensemble are Lara Beth-Sas, Will Forgrave, Daniel Forrester, Jessica Lim, Sonny Monaghan and Shakira Simpson.

The casting team collaborated with TikTok during the audition process, inviting TikTok users who were interested in being cast in the production to upload a video of themselves singing any number from the show. The team then reviewed all submissions and invited those they felt could be a part of the cast to participate in the formal audition process. Over 2000 videos were submitted and of those, 36 TikTok users were invited to in-person auditions. Sonny Monaghan was cast in the ensemble, and as alternate Evan (performing the role twice a week, at every matinee performance), as a result of the TikTok collaboration.

Director Adam Penford said “I am beyond thrilled with the talented cast we have assembled. An exciting mix of musical theatre legends and rising stars. It's been nine years since the original show premiered, and it's an honour to be the first production to reimagine this powerful story through a contemporary lens.”

The production is also delighted to announce its partnership with The Mix, the UK’s leading digital charity for under 25-year-olds.  The show deals with sensitive topics, very relevant to young people today, and this partnership will ensure that anyone affected by the issues explored in the show knows where to find support. 

The Mix will provide training to the cast and creative team on how to appropriately respond to queries from the public, both online and offline, and equip them with the knowledge to direct individuals to the right support channels. The partnership also aims to create engaging and informative content to help elevate and empower young people at a time when they need it most. This will include resources and tips on essential life skills for transitioning into adulthood.

Morgan Large is Set and Costume Designer (Newsies, Sister Act), with Carrie-Anne Ingrouille as Choreographer (Six, Zoo Nation), Matt Daw as Lighting Designer (Pet Shop Boys, Lorde), Tom Marshall as Sound Designer (West Side Story, Sister Act), Ravi Deepres as Video Designer (School for Scandal, Woolf Works), Matt Smith as Musical Supervisor (Dear Evan Hansen, My Neighbour Totoro) and Natalie Gallacher CDG for Pippa Ailion & Natalie Gallacher Casting as casting director (Mean Girls, MJ The Musical, Moulin Rouge), Michelle Payne as Associate Director and Laura Llewellyn-Jones as Orchestral Manager.

Packed with some of the biggest musical theatre songs of the last decade, Dear Evan Hansen has a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Oscar-winning composers for The Greatest Showman and La La Land) and a book by Steven Levenson. Its many awards include the Tony® Award for Best Musical, Olivier Award for Best New Musical and the Grammy® Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

Today is going to be a good day. And here’s why…

Meet Evan: an anxious high school kid who wants nothing more than to fit in. The thing is, on his way to fitting in, he didn’t tell the whole truth. And now must give up on a life he never dreamt he’d have. As events spiral and the truth comes out, Evan faces a reckoning with himself and everyone around him.

Dear Evan Hansen is presented by ATG Productions and Gavin Kalin Productions by arrangement with Music Theatre International.


Tickets:

Tickets are available from our affiliate ATG Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/SunderlandDearEvanHansen