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Preview: Dolly Mixtures at South Shields Customs House

The Women Who Inspired The Dolly Mixtures Looking Forward To Play’s Revival

The Dolly Mixtures
South Shields Customs House
Wednesday 21 - Saturday 31 August 2019

The original ‘Dolly Mixtures’ are looking forward to seeing the smash-hit play based on their hilarious fundraising antics return to the stage. The Dolly Mixtures is being revived as part of The Customs House’s 25th anniversary celebrations and will run from Wednesday 21 to Saturday 31 August.

The Dolly Mixtures, written by Tom Kelly, with music by John Miles, debuted at The Customs House in August 2016, receiving a rapturous reception and widespread critical acclaim.

The original Dolly Mixtures: (l-r) Betty Dickinson, Hilda Joyce, 
Doris Ashcroft and Margaret Fleck with playwright Tom Kelly.
It tells the story of eight ordinary women from the north east, who broke the showbiz mould to raise money for Cancer Research UK in the 1970s and 1980s.  They toured the region’s male-dominated social clubs with their variety show for over 14 years, raising laughs and £100,000 in the process.

Five of the original women remain – Doris Ashcroft, 79, Margaret Fleck, 77, Hilda Joyce, 84, Betty Dickinson, 74, and Sylvia Nichols, 72. The others – Jean Smith, Joan Lumsdale and Liz Errington – sadly died before their remarkable story was turned into a musical.

Betty said: “I think we were all hoping that it would be brought back.”
Margaret added: “It’s testament to how good it was first time around. It was joyous and amazing. We always thought it was, but the fact it is coming back proves it really.  The first time round we were excited, but apprehensive.”
The women were inspired to raise money for cancer research after Margaret’s husband and Hilda’s brother, Ken, died from bowel cancer, aged just 34.

Hilda said: “We were determined to raise as much money as possible for cancer research and that is what kept us going.” Doris added: “It’s amazing when you think about how much energy we must have had then compared to how we feel now!”

The women juggled their commitments as The Dolly Mixtures with work and family life. The show is littered with anecdotes and skits based on real-life events and the challenges the group came up against.

Doris said: “Every scenario in the play is true. We had some amazing times.”
They made their own costumes, created their own props, sourced their own music, arranged their own transport and organised bookings themselves. Betty said: “We were the only female group on the circuit and we were viewed with suspicion when we walked in, but by the end of the night we had standing ovations. We only ever walked out of one club.”

The women are looking forward to once again working with West End star Mina Anwar, who will direct and choreograph the latest production, having been assistant director and choreographer during the original run.

Six members of the original cast are also returning – Georgia Nicholson will play Doris, Victoria Holtom will play Sylvia, Kylie Ann Ford will play Liz, Christina Dawson will play Joan, Sarah Boulter will play Margaret and Patricia Whale will play Jean.  The new faces are Natasha Haws as Hilda, Zoe Hakin as Betty and Steven Lee Hamilton as Ken.

The cast: Top L-R: Christina Dawson, Natasha Haws and Zoe Hakin;
Middle L-R: Sarah Boulter, Victoria Holtom and Steven Lee Hamilton;
Bottom L-R: Patricia Whale, Georgia Nicholson and Kylie Ann Ford.

Bucket collections will be held after each performance to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Hilda said: “I hope everyone comes to see the show and supports the show because it will all help cancer research. That is what we have worked for all our lives.” During the original production, Cancer Research UK presented The Dolly Mixtures with a Lifetime Achievement Award on stage.

Tickets for The Dolly Mixtures are priced from £16 and performances start at 7.30pm, with a 2.30pm matinee on Thursday 22, Saturday 24, Thursday 29 and Saturday 31 August.
Contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit


Preview: Friendsical at Darlington Hippodrome


Darlington Hippodrome
Wednesday 24 - Saturday 27 July 2019

Full casting has been announced for the eagerly awaited world premiere of Friendsical the Musical coming to Darlington Hippodrome from 24 to 27 July.

Playing everyone’s favourite friends are Jordan Fox (Joey), Sarah Goggin (Monica), Jamie Lee-Morgan (Ross), Thomas Mitchells (Chandler), Ally Retberg (Phoebe) and Charlotte Elisabeth York (Rachel). They will be joined by Duncan Burt (Ensemble) and Rebecca Withers (Ensemble).

When Ross’ wife leaves him for another woman, he fears he will never find love again. But then Rachel runs back into his life... will he end up with his one true love?

Featuring original songs such as ‘(He’s her) Lobster!’, ‘Richard’s Moustache’ and ‘You’re Over Me? When Were You Under Me?’, the gang take on naked Thursdays, a power cut, and a dinosaur convention.

What could possibly go wrong?

Friendsical is written and directed by Miranda Larsson, with designs by Anthony Lamble, lighting by Dom Jeffery, sound by Julian Butler, musical composition by Barrie Bignold, choreography by Darren Carnall, associate choreography by Michael Vinsen and is produced by Birdbrooke Entertainment ltd.

Friendsical opens at Darlington Hippodrome on Wednesday 24 July and runs to Saturday 27 July.
Tickets are on sale now.

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 405405 or visit  


REVIEW: Kinky Boots at Sunderland Empire

Kinky Boots
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 6th July 2019
Online Tickets at * #Ad

A feelgood hit to start the summer, Kinky Boots is a happy musical that both entertains and poses some deep questions about identity and acceptance. It has landed in Sunderland for two weeks and with its live band and fabulous cast, it is great night out.

Some of our older readers may recall a BBC tv series called Trouble At The Top? In one 1999 episode, a struggling shoe company, called W J Brooks Ltd, had decided to launch a range of male fetish shoes under the brand Divine Footwear. This inspired Geoff Deane and Tim Firth to write the screenplay for the film Kinky Boots, based upon that company, which hit the cinemas in 2005. Fast forward to 2013 and the Harvey Fierstein penned Broadway musical made its debut, complete with songs from the 80s star Cyndi Lauper.

In this tale, Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) inherits the family business Price & Sons. He is the fourth generation to run the firm but it is in a bad way as fewer people are buying well made, but dull shoes for men. Adding to his problems is that his heart is in real estate and he’d rather be in London with his fiancĂ©e, Nicola (Helen Ternent). A chance meeting with drag queen Lola (Kayi Ushe) makes him realise that there is a market for very sturdy stilettos...

The show starts with Don (Demitri Lampra) walking across the stage, taking a call and pointing out that phones shouldn’t be used. This was a different way to get the message across and it seemed to work were I was sitting – a nice chance not to have the glare of a mobile screen distracting from your view of the stage.

The show has a number of highlights: real chemistry between the cast’s central characters, a fabulous score played by a talented live band under musical director Patrick Hurley, a great ensemble which includes the unforgettable Angels and a fairly decent book.

The main character battles play off nicely. Central to them all is Joel Harper-Jackson’s Charlie. Helen Ternent plays a high maintenance girlfriend who is very materialistic. The character is not that likeable as Charlie has much more heart with regards loyalty to his employees. Speaking of which there are some great moments between Charlie and Lauren, played by soap-star Paula Lane, and between Charlie and the factory manager George (Adam Price).

The show-stealing action tends to be whenever Kayi Ushe fills the stage with their presence. Playing a larger than life character, Lola, and with some great songs including The Sex Is In The Heel and What A Woman Wants, Kayi’s charisma is as much about how it is said – or not spoken – that makes the difference. Lola had the bulk of the funnier moments too. The standoff with Demitiri’s Don adds much to chat about on the way home too.

Cyndi Lauper’s score is not a lazy melody that repeats the vocal line. The music supports the narrative. It didn’t feel like padding in the 2 ½ hour show, including interval.

The choreography, especially from Lola’s dancers ‘the Angels’ was in the tone of the rest of the show: both brassy and sometimes sentimental. The set, mainly of the factory, helped the story to develop without breaks. I did think performing on the conveyor belts did look hazardous!

Niggles? It was first night and the sound at the start had some issues especially with one mic – but it was resolved.

In my opinion, this musical was better than the film. We left the theatre feeling really positive, even though it was raining the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits. It may be The Full Monty (without the stripping) meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert at times but that distillation of success in the face of adversity is not that easy to get right. Now we need to add the cast recording to our collection. This show is a lot of fun.

Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Helen Maybanks

Book:                                                      Harvey Fierstein
Composer & Lyricist:                              Cyndi Lauper
Director & Choreographer:                     Jerry Mitchell
Musical Supervision,
Arranger & Orchestrator:                       Stephen Oremus
Scenic Design:                                        David Rockwell
Costume Design:                                    Gregg Barnes
Lighting Design:                                      Kenneth Posner
Sound Design:                                         John Shivers
Hair Design:                                             Josh Marquette


Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online from our affiliate ATG Tickets at * #Ad

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your plus your phone company's access charge. Booking and transaction fees may apply.


Preview: The Bodyguard at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Alexandra Burke To Dazzle As Rachel Marron In Smash-Hit Musical The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Tuesday 23 July – Saturday 3 August 2019

Alexandra Burke is set to make a triumphant return to Newcastle Theatre Royal as ‘Rachel Marron’ in the award-winning blockbuster musical The Bodyguard at the evening performances from Tuesday 23 July to Saturday 3 August 2019.

The X Factor winner Alexandra previously wowed Theatre Royal audiences when she previously performed the role to packed audiences during the musical’s run in 2015 and received praise for her performance as ‘Deloris Van Cartier’ in Sister Act in 2017.

Most recently, Alexandra has appeared as ‘Svetlana’ in Chess at the London Coliseum and can currently be seen as ‘Roxie’ in Chicago at the West End’s Phoenix Theatre. Last year she reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing and her debut single Hallelujah reached number one and sold over one million copies in the UK, a first for a British female soloist.

Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard, the musical tells the story of former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

Directed by Thea Sharrock with book by Oscar winning (Birdman) Alex Dinelaris, The Bodyguard had its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End in 2012 and was nominated for four Olivier Awards. A sell out 18 month UK and Ireland tour followed, before the show returned to the West End at the Dominion Theatre.  The Bodyguard has also played in the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Italy, Australia, Madrid, France, and on tour throughout the US and can currently be seen in Stuttgart.

Photos: Paul Coltas

Please note: Alexandra Burke is scheduled to perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at all evening performances only.

The Bodyguard plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 23 July – Saturday 3 August 2019. Tickets are priced from £22.50 and can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).


Preview: The Hound of the Baskervilles at Newcastle Northern Stage

The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted by Douglas Maxwell 
Newcastle Northern Stage
11 – 23 September 2019

This autumn Northern Stage presents Sherlock Holmes’ most infamous case, adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle’s gothic classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles. 

Last year, Northern Stage expanded its pioneering NORTH programme beyond actor training to include staging and touring a new production - The War of the Worlds, which had two sell out runs in Newcastle and a successful tour.  As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting and developing new talent in the region, Northern Stage has once again cast four emerging North East actors in a new adaptation of a classic, which will open in Newcastle this autumn before touring.  

This new adaptation is by Douglas Maxwell (Yer Granny, National Theatre of Scotland), with set and costume design is by Amy Watts (West End Girls, Live Theatre/Elevator Festival), music and sound design by Jeremy Bradfield (The Wizard of Oz, Northern Stage), lighting design by Michael Morgan who regularly works with Northern Stage associates BalletLORENT, and directed by Jake Smith.  

Originally from the North East, Jake trained on the National Theatre Directors’ Programme and has held positions as Resident Director at the Almeida Theatre, Resident Director at Chichester Festival Theatre and Creative Learning Facilitator at Hull Truck Theatre. He is the current Artistic Director of the award-winning Petersfield Shakespeare Festival, and last year was assistant director on The Last Ship (Northern Stage and UK tour)

He said, “It's great to be home in the North East and directing The Hound of the Baskervilles with four talented North East actors shapeshifting through this supernatural thriller. We’re doing Holmes in a way that’s never been done before - our Sherlock finds himself lost and unable to continue solving cases after losing his last. It's going to be a visceral theatrical thriller, blending movement, music and the power of storytelling to transport us to the Moor - the world we’re creating is rooted in its original Victorian setting but we’re hoping to shake off any dust. It's full of folklore, and the battle between the natural and the supernatural in an isolated environment makes for real tension and danger.” 

The cast are James Gladden (Sherlock Holmes, Soldier, Barrymore, Mr Stapleton) – James graduated from BA Acting at ArtsEd where he finished his year playing Mr. Parks in Roy Williams' Play This Is directed by Lynette Linton and has previously worked with director Jake Smith on Hamlet at Petersfield Shakespeare Festival and WormTown at The Customs House; Rebecca Tebbett (Henry Baskerville, Miss Stapleton, Laura Lyons) – Rebecca is a LAMDA graduate who was awarded the Laurence Olivier Bursary whilst training, and recent theatre credits include Jane Eyre (The Watermill) and Fragment (Battersea Arts Centre); Jake Wilson Craw (Dr Watson) – a NORTH participant since 2017, Jake is thrilled to be involved in Hound of the Baskervilles and can't wait to get his teeth into Watson; and Siobhan Stanley (Dr Mortimer, Mrs Barrymore, Mrs Franland) - Siobhan graduated from Northumbria University in 2018 with a First Class Honours Degree in Performing Arts and has recently completed the Northern Stage's NORTH actor programme. 

Tickets start at £10; for more details or to book tickets see or call the box office on 0191 230 5151. Tour venues and dates will be confirmed shortly. 


Preview: Cinderella at Sunderland Empire

Queen of Banter: Scarlett Moffatt
Announced As Fairy Godmother In Cinderella
At Sunderland Empire

Sunderland Empire
13 December 2019 – 5 January 2020

Tickets on sale now online from our affiliates ATG Tickets: #Ad

As the clock strikes 12 (noon) the Sunderland Empire are delighted to announce that I’m a Celebrity and Gogglebox star, Scarlett Moffatt will be setting up camp in Sunderland this festive season. The Queen of Banter will be stepping into the magical role of Fairy Godmother when the enchanting tale of Cinderella arrives at Sunderland Empire, 13 December 2019 – 5 January 2020.

Miss Rory
Joining Scarlett will be the undisputed Queen of North East comedy Miss Rory (aka Dan Cunningham) as the feisty Rorina Hardup (we’ll make sure she minds her Ps and Qs), alongside Duncan Burt as her equally ugly sister Ruby! Also starring are Nick Jnr’s Gemma Naylor (Go! Go! Go!) as Cinderella, ITV’s Superstars finalist Jon Moses as the Prince and the hilarious Tom Whalley returns as Buttons.

Scarlett Moffatt
So, tick tock the countdown to pantomime season has officially begun as UK Productions, the producers behind last year’s swashbuckling pantomime, Peter Pan gets set to make a spectacular return with the Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes!

Duncan Burt
As producer Martin Dodd, of  UK Productions explains “I am not only absolutely delighted to be bringing such a fabulous line up of stars to this year’s pantomime, but also that many of them are home grown in the North East. They may work nationally and internationally, but there is only one place that they want to be for Christmas and that’s at home in the beautiful Sunderland Empire.”

Scarlett Moffatt has become a regular on our screens since making the public laugh with her quick-witted humour on Gogglebox, before capturing our hearts on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, which saw her crowned Queen of the Jungle in 2016. Scarlett is currently the host for I’m A Celebrity: Extra Camp on ITV2 and the new Team Captain on CelebAbility also on ITV2. She is currently filming a brand new show for Channel 4 which will air this Autumn.

Her warm and bubbly personality has led Scarlett to land a number of presenting roles, including her first live role alongside Dermot O’Leary interviewing award winners backstage at the NTAs, her dream-come-true gig hosting with Ant and Dec live on Saturday Night Takeaway and as host on dating show, Streetmate.

Away from the camera, Scarlett released her debut book ‘Scarlett Says’ in 2016, which was met with great acclaim, topping the Sunday Times Number 1 Bestsellers list. Her second book, ‘Me Life Story, Sofa So Good’, was released last year and takes a look at the starlet’s life, from her time as a student to her ever-developing career in front of the lens.

Miss Rory (the comic creation of North East born Dan Cunningham) has appeared at Newcastle cabaret hotspot ‘Boulevard’ as host since 2010, carving a place in the affections of audiences who visit from far and wide. Becoming a household name in the region and beyond, synonymous with glamour, wit and the edge only a lady like Rory can bring! Billed as ‘A Tyneside Institution’ Rory’s razor sharp wit and cutting asides along with hilarious observational comedy have led to numerous sell-out solo shows.

Tom Whalley
The North East casting theme continues with Tom Whalley, returning to Sunderland Empire after his hilarious comical debut as PC Pong in Aladdin in 2015 and ITV’s Superstars finalist Jon Moses returns home for the festive season. Born and bred in Sunderland, Jon Moses, has performed for millions of viewers on Andrew Lloyd –Webbers ITV’s Superstar search for his leading man, working with Mel C, Amanda Holden, Jason Donovan and Dawn French. His dynamic and powerful voice has taken him onto various leading roles in several national theatre tours. Jon’s recent album ‘Journey’ peaked at a whopping number 5 in the charts!!! Securing him a sell-out solo theatre tour all over the UK and Europe.
Jon Moses
So get set to experience the classic tale of Cinderella and join Cinders on a magical adventure as she transforms from rags to riches, outwits her very ugly sisters, plus with the help of her best friend Buttons, a magical Fairy Godmother and a glittering glass slipper, wins the heart of the dashing Prince.

Don’t be late to the ball! Cinderella will feature all of the ingredients of the perfect pantomime with sparkling sets and lavish costumes, amazing song and dance numbers, romance, laughter and bags of audience participation.

Book your tickets and get ready to experience the thrill and enchantment of a spectacular panto at Sunderland Empire. #SundEmpirePanto

Booking Information:
Tickets on sale now and available in person at the Box Office on High Street West and online from our affiliates ATG Tickets: #Ad
*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings


Preview: Jack and the Beanstalk at Darlington Hippodrome


Jack and the Beanstalk
Darlington Hippodrome
Friday 6 December 2019 - Sunday 5 January 2020

Britain’s Got Talent winner George Sampson joins Shirley Ballas in this year’s giant family pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Darlington Hippodrome are delighted to announce that George Sampson, Phil Walker and Daniel Taylor are joining Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas in the festive family pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk from Friday 6 December.

George Sampson
Starring in the title role of Jack Trot will be Britain’s Got Talent winner, George Sampson. The Warrington-born dancer, presenter, singer and actor rose to fame when he entered the second series of ITV’s flagship talent show Britain’s Got Talent where he wowed audiences with his impressive street dance abilities and performance skills, which he showcased in front of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at the Royal Variety Performance. Since then George has gone on to headline at regular summer festivals across the UK, host weekend specials at UK resorts, host various product launches, released his debut single ‘Get Up on the Dance Floor’, and released his debut dance DVD, Access 2 All Areas.

He continues to dance, but is now also known for his acting, having starred in the hip-hop musical Into the Hoodz in London’s West End and in the feature films Streetdance 2 and Streetdance 3D, held roles in Waterloo Road and Casualty for the BBC, starred in Mount Pleasant on Sky One, appeared in The Dumping Ground for CBBC and made his soap debut as Ryan in Emmerdale for ITV. Last year he starred in the Madness musical Our House and made his pantomime debut for producers Qdos Entertainment at the Crewe Lyceum.

Phil Walker
Starring as Jack’s hapless brother Simon will be comedian Phil Walker. Having started his career as a Butlins redcoat, Phil went on to forge a successful career as a stand-up comedian, appearing regularly across the northern club scene and winning accolades including the City Life Comedian of the Year. Since then he has headlined at comedy clubs across the UK, entertaining thousands of people every year. He has also starred at the Edinburgh Fringe, winning rave reviews for his show ‘Is this it?’ and has entertained over 4,000 troops on two tours of Afghanistan, The Falkland Islands, Bosnia and Germany. A regular in pantomime, Phil spent 11 years starring at the King George’s Hall in Blackburn, and the last four years at Preston’s Guildhall. Jack and the Beanstalk marks his Darlington Hippodrome debut. 

Daniel Taylor
Joining them as the evil villain Fleshcreep will be actor and comedy writer Daniel Taylor. On stage he is best known for his portrayal of Sammy in Blood Brothers, Mickey in Down the Dock Road at the Royal Court, Tommy Cooper in the critically acclaimed The Tommy Cooper Show and as John Lennon in the off-Broadway production, Lennon - Through a Glass Onion at the famous Epstein Theatre in his native Liverpool.

Jack and the Beanstalk will be produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and the team behind Darlington’s annual pantomime, who guarantee another must-see production packed with audience participation, sensational music and even more spectacular dance routines, jaw-dropping special effects and fantastic festive entertainment suitable for all ages.

Shirley Ballas
Jake Hine, Executive Producer for Qdos Entertainment, said: “I’m thrilled that George, Phil and Daniel will be joining the wonderful Shirley in Darlington’s pantomime this year. Between the four of them we have every facet of dance imaginable, hilarious comedy and the ultimate panto villain. Together they will ensure Darlington can be sure of one of the best pantomimes yet, with plenty of exciting things planned.”  

Darlington Hippodrome Director Lynda Winstanley said: “We are absolutely thrilled to announce that George, Phil and Daniel will be coming to Darlington Hippodrome to join Shirley Ballas. I’m sure Darlington audiences will be as excited as we are to see this fantastic cast in action ensuring Jack and the Beanstalk is another festive, family pantomime success.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Friday 6 December 2019 to Sunday 5 January 2020. For full details and to book visit or call 01325 405405.