See Tickets


Preview: Grease at Darlington Hippodrome



Darlington Hippodrome 

Wednesday 19 - Saturday 29 April 2023

Darlington Operatic Society kicks off 2023 with 
Grease, the show musical fans often rate as their best-loved musical of all time. 

It’s the beloved rock-n-roll celebration of teen angst, fast cars and first loves all set in the fabulous fifties. This all-new production is on stage from Wednesday 19 to Saturday 29 April and features the irresistible songs from the Tony Award nominated Broadway show and hit movie, including "You're The One That I Want," "Grease Is The Word," "Summer Nights," "Hopelessly Devoted To You," "Greased Lightnin'" plus many more. 

Ben Connor

DarlingtonOS is delighted to announce that Ben Connor will play the role of Danny alongside Abbie Dodsworth as Sandy. Ben recently wowed Darlington audiences with his 2022 performances in Shrek (as Donkey) and as Tick in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Abbie was last on stage with DarlingtonOS as one of the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music back in 2013 and recently graduated from Bird College.
Abbie Dodsworth

Ben and Abbie will be joined by Michael Hirst (Kenickie), Jessica Harrison (Rizzo), Andrew Hamilton (Roger), Lucy Adams (Jan), Nathan Thompson (Doody), Rachel Geddes (Frenchy), Kyle Craggs (Sonny), Katie Blythe (Marty), Jordan Hamilton-Leighton (Eugene), Natalie Robinson (Patty), Nicholas Fletcher-Holmes (Teen Angel), Zoe Bellamy (Cha Cha), David Murray (Vince Fontaine), Jackie Ball & Jenni Wilkinson (Miss Lynch), Joe Connor (Johnny Casino) and a full supporting cast. 

Grease follows love-struck bad-boy Danny and girl-next-door Sandy in a thrilling injection of pure fun with astounding dancing and amazing songs, so get out your leather jackets and pull on your bobby socks with Rydell High's senior class of 1959.  

Director-choreographer for Grease is Joanne Hand who has been at the helm for the last fifteen consecutive DarlingtonOS shows. Nigel Ball will be in control of the music – Nigel’s most recent show with DarlingtonOS was Priscilla Queen of the Desert.


Grease runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Wednesday 19 to Saturday 29 April 2023. Tickets are only available through DarlingtonOS by calling the ticket hotline on 01325 244659 or by booking online at

Preview: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells - The 50th Anniversary Celebration UK Tour




Fiery Angel Entertainment and Senbla Present

The Mult-Million Selling, Multi-Award-Winning, Iconic Album


Mike Oldfield’s

Tubular Bells

The 50th Anniversary Celebration UK Tour

16th February           Gateshead Sage Tickets:

18th March             Stockton Globe – Tickets:


To celebrate next year’s 50th anniversary of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the multi-million-selling and multi-award-winning album will be performed live in concert for a celebratory UK tour. 

Part of the fabric of popular culture, Tubular Bells is world-renowned as one of the most celebrated examples of music in film for its soundtracking of horror classic The Exorcist. Its legacy was cemented with Oldfield’s performance of the album’s main theme at the iconic London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, one of the rare performances of the project he has given.

Tubular Bells The 50th Anniversary Celebration will feature an expansive live group, conducted and arranged by Oldfield’s long-term collaborator Robin Smith. It will see Tubular Bells performed in full, along with further Oldfield compositions, touring across the UK beginning at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on 3rd February, right through until the end of March.

A version of the show premiered at Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank in London last year, with The Times calling it ‘… a slick presentation of Tubular Bells at 50’, and the Mail on Sunday commenting ‘… the bells do the business’.

Tubular Bells, created in 1971 and released in 1973, was the debut studio album by English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter Mike Oldfield. At just 17 years old when he started composing the music, Oldfield recorded and played almost all the instruments on the album, gained worldwide recognition when the opening theme was used for the soundtrack of the horror film, The Exorcist and went on to become the highest selling instrumental album of all time.

A bold and progressive fusion, Tubular Bells is a journey through classical, jazz, folk, progressive rock, and electronica and went on to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 1974.

Robin Smith, conductor of the show, was completely mesmerised by Tubular Bells the moment he heard it. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe and then studied Composition at the Royal College of Music. He spent several years working as a piano/keyboard player in Africa, the Caribbean, USA, and Europe before coming back to UK to join National Youth Jazz Orchestra. He quickly became the principal pianist and spent most of his free time composing new jazz compositions.

Smith has collaborated with Mike Oldfield for over 30 years, with performances of Tubular Bells including at Edinburgh Castle, and also the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

On the tour, Smith says:  “Along with the musicians, I'm really thrilled to be offering this beautiful re-imagined version of Tubular Bells to a wider audience up and down the country. It was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in August 2021 to great acclaim, as an early celebration of Mike Oldfield’s stunning work - so to be touring the UK in the 50th year is a huge privilege for me and a perfect tribute to one of England’s greatest composers.

Joining us on the tour will be the renowned guitarist, Jay Stapley who performed with me at the iconic Tubular Bells II concert live from Edinburgh Castle in 1992.

The wonderful thing about Tubular Bells is that it never seems to age, the actual composition is just perfect and is as spell-binding now as it was 50 years ago. It incorporates so many things - folk and rock,  blues and jazz which evoke such melodic beauty and drama. This performance also features others works by Mike: Moonlight Shadow, Omadawn and Summit Day."


16th February           Gateshead Sage Tickets:

18th March             Stockton Globe – Tickets:


News: Darlington Hippodrome panto stars help launch new pirate themed playground.

Darlington Hippodrome panto stars help launch new pirate themed playground.


Cast members of Darlington Hippodrome’s smash hit production The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan helped launch a new pirate themed playground in support of Family Help in Darlington.


When Family Help moved into their purpose-built refuge back in 2003, it was considered state of the art… now, almost twenty years later, it is well-used and in need of renovation.

Family Help accommodates around 60 women and 100 children every year, which means that since 2003 almost 2,000 children have resided in Darlington’s refuge.

The playground has been thoroughly enjoyed over the years and has been an indispensable source of respite and joy for the families staying in refuge, however, years of inevitable wear and tear meant that the current playground had to be decommissioned and replaced with new equipment.

Together with invaluable advice from the younger residents, the charity devised grand plans for a new playground with nautical-themed climbing frame, swings, slide and pirate ship complete with plank, to submerge the children in an under-the-sea adventure every time they go out to play.

With a total cost of £65K, finding funding for this project was not plain sailing…  A total of over 15 different funding sources made up the pot of gold needed to complete this project.

Anna Caygill, Service Manager for Family Help, said, “When it comes to raising children, they say it takes a village, and completing this project would not have been possible without the incredible support from local businesses, community groups and members of the public. On behalf of all current and future residents, we would like to say a huge thank you to all involved in bringing this project to life.”

Audiences should hook their tickets now. The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan runs until Saturday 31 December at Darlington Hippodrome.


To book contact the Box Office on 01325 405405 or visit


Preview: The Wicked Lady at Newcastle Tyne Theatre




Spooky show The Wicked Lady heads to Newcastle on nationwide tour


The Wicked Lady

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Friday 17th and Saturday 18th February 2023


Head to the Tyne Theatre and Opera House this February for a spine-chilling theatrical experience and brace yourselves for the ghost story experience of the year: The Wicked Lady.

Flickering from within the tree-line, a single lamp burns in one upstairs window of an otherwise long-abandoned house.

The chilling disappearance of a young child is what leads to Alice Beaumont being thrown into this isolated place, shrouded in secrecy and troubled by rumours of a ghostly past. Does the house itself hold the secret or has Alice unlocked something even more unsettling? The crying winds of this terrifying ghost story become even more haunting when Alice finds herself trapped in the undeniable feeling that although she is far away from anyone else, she is almost certainly never alone.

Following sold out performances in Birmingham last year, The Wicked Lady now embarks on its first national tour…. remember, she’s waiting…

Look over your shoulder as you try to sever the grip of The Wicked Lady.

Theatre Director Jo Johnson commented: “The Tyne Theatre and Opera House has somewhat of a haunted history, which makes us a great fit for this ghostly play. We excited to welcome audiences to see this spooky show!”

Tickets are priced at £27 - £21  and can be bought from:


Darlington Hippodrome Reveals Line-Up Of Shows To Kick Off 2023


Darlington Hippodrome Reveals Line-Up Of Shows To Kick Off 2023

A new spring season of shows at Darlington Hippodrome includes The Buddy Holly Story and the family classic Around The World in 80 Days.

The curtain has gone up on Darlington Hippodrome’s new spring season of shows which is packed with an array of showstopping performances guaranteed to fire up audiences on chilly nights as we move towards a much anticipated summer.

With the annual festive family panto just days away from opening, the venue is celebrating a fabulous year of theatre. Starring pantomime royalty Christopher Biggins, The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan is breaking all box office records and is expected to be seen by over 800,000 people by the time it closes on Saturday 31 December.

With a new line up of shows into 2023, Darlington Hippodrome has once again affirmed its commitment to present an exciting and wide ranging programme of shows in what is still a difficult post-covid time for theatre production companies. The new spring programme includes the best of the West End, traditional family favourites, breath-taking  dance productions and hard-hitting drama as part of its extensive list.

In January we welcome for the first time the Varna International Ballet who will present Coppelia, Giselle, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 January.

The roof will be rocking in February with Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story which is celebrating 30 glorious years of entertaining audiences world wide.

In March the family favourite Around The World In 80 Days will dazzle and amaze with a mix of drama, circus and madcap adventure.

In May the Hippodrome will again welcome BalletLorent with two unique and very different interpretations of the Rapunzel story.

Looking a little further ahead to June, we go back in time to the garish 1970s for a brand new stage adaptation of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party – a ruthless and achingly funny examination of British suburban life.

The new season will see a host of familiar names on the bill including Hey Duggee, James Lavelle, Sir Geoff Hurst, Dave Gorman, Giovanni Pernice, Patrick Monahan, Justin Moorhouse, Zog and Anton Du Beke to name but a few.

Tickets are still available for The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan – hook your tickets now!

The Spring 2023 season at Darlington Hippodrome is being sponsored by Space Architects. For more information on the new season and beyond at Darlington Hippodrome or to book visit or call the Box Office on 01325 405405


Preview: Strictly Come Dancing: The Professionals 2023 at Utilita Arena Newcastle


Strictly Come Dancing: The Professionals 2023

Utilita Arena Newcastle 

Thursday 4 May 2023


A spectacular line-up of not just one, not two, but 10 of the world’s best professional dancers will be hitting the road next year for the 2023 official Strictly Come Dancing: The Professionals UK Tour.

This exhilarating show is set to stop off at Utilita Arena Newcastle and will showcase the exceptional talent of TV’s hugely popular professional dancers, performed within the wonderful world of the BBC show, with its stunning costumes and sparkling sets.

Audiences across the country will enjoy world-class dance, stunning choreography and glamorous costumes, live and up close from 10 talented Strictly Professionals: Dianne Buswell; Vito Coppola; Carlos Gu; Karen Hauer; Neil Jones; Nikita Kuzmin; Gorka Marquez; Luba Mushtuk; Jowita Przystal; and Nancy Xu. Directed by Strictly’s Creative Director Jason Gilkison, Strictly Come Dancing: The Professionals will surprise and delight audiences with dance and choreography at the highest possible standard.

Don’t miss your chance to see these much-loved dancers coming together to perform in a theatrical ensemble that will simply take your breath away.


An Interview With A Dame


An Interview With A Dame

Sunderland Empire's Miss Rory, who is appearing as Widow Twankey, talks about Panto


Sunderland Empire Theatre

Until Monday 2 January 2023


Miss Rory reveals all about her double act with Tom Whalley, working with Gary Lucy and the magic of panto in Sunderland. 

It’s Panto season once again, how are you feeling about being back at the Sunderland Empire? 

It’s my favourite time of year, I absolutely love it! 

This time round you’re playing Widow Twankey. Tell us about your fabulous character this year.  

She’s great. She’s a bit like a sort of Dot Cotton. You know, she works in the launderette, she’s got a bit of a troublesome son but unlike Dot Cotton she ends up quite wealthy. So she’s got this big sort of transition as the show goes on and I can see her being a bit of an aspirant. She feels like she deserves more than her lot. She's a bit downtrodden then she gets it.  


Gary Lucy has joined the cast this year. Are you looking forward to working with him?  

Yes, I mean, I was and am a huge fan of Footballers' Wives, that is my kind of television, so it’s great to be working with Gary. When we met, we got on very well and Gary said he thinks it’s probably best that him and I stay apart during the show, or we’ll end up in too much trouble. So that’s always a good sign! 


You and Tom Whalley have great chemistry on stage. Why do you think that is?  

Tom and I have been friends for about 10 years now and we’ve worked on various bits and bobs together. Tom had written a musical, I think as part of his degree, it was called Asco, and it was a musical set in a supermarket.

Typically Tom, typically zany and they had the premiere night at Boulevard, and he asked me to host it. I think that’s the first time I met Tom and since then we’ve always kept in touch and been friends and I think it’s that friendship that works so well on stage. I will often look at Tom and he’s got that look of fear in his eyes on stage and it’s because he can see a glint in my eye that means that there’s going to be trouble. So yeah, I love working with Tom, he’s so gracious. He’s so incredibly talented but he doesn’t shout about it which makes him even better. I just love the bones of him.  


What is it about Panto that’s so special and brings people back year after year?  

It’s a tradition, isn’t it? And it’s one of the few traditions I think that we’ve still got and one of the few chances that a whole family can come out together. You know, at the Empire, you have people in now who are maybe around my age that bring their kids and they’re coming in with their parents who are now grandparents and long may it go on and on and on. It’s like a treadmill of generations that come through and it’s really special to be part of people’s Christmas like that. We’re very lucky.  


The Panto had great reviews last year, does that add more pressure or is it welcomed? 

I mean the reviews for last year were amazing. The reviews for the year before, before the pandemic, were amazing and hopefully that’s why they keep asking up back and back and back to make it even more amazing. So yeah, we’ve got big shoes to fill every year because we set the bar consistently high but that’s what drives you to do better and better every year.  


You get to wear some fantastic outfits can you reveal anything in regards to your sparkling looks this year?  

They’re great this year. Widow Twankey goes from being quite dowdy to quite glam, which was interesting because usually as a dame, I suppose unless you’re playing the Queen in Sleeping Beauty or something, you don’t really go too glam, but the way I like to think about Twankey is she got all this money but she doesn’t quite know how to spend it. So, she’s a bit tack as well which is great and the finale of course, how am I going to beat last year’s finale with 75,000 feathers? Well, watch this space!  


Why should people book to see Aladdin at Sunderland Empire this Christmas?  

Because it’s the canniest Panto in the North East!



REVIEW: Aladdin at Sunderland Empire Theatre


Sunderland Empire Theatre

Until Monday 2 January 2023

The Sunderland Empire provides the traditional pantomime elements but in their own particular way, with drag doyenne Miss Rory and panto specialist Tom Whalley leading a small, hard-working team in a show full of local references and bouncy pop numbers.

Pantomime is very much a matter of taste and different regional theatres each have their own special blend. Newcastle’s Theatre Royal has its lavish juggernaut of a panto with the frantic energy of Danny Adams and a well-established comedy team. The little panto with the big heart enchants Customs House audiences in South Shields with the tight, topical script and the legendary team of Ray Spencer and Davey Hopper. Regulars will know that the fixtures at the Sunderland Empire are Tom Whalley, a prolific pantomime writer and performer and Miss Rory, cabaret drag star and a Northeast institution.

Whalley has pantomime in his bones and his Wishee Washee is in the great tradition of knockabout comics. He supplies the requisite number of cheeky jokes to engage the children and the young at heart and has a pleasing rapport with the audience.

Miss Rory’s Widow Twankey is something different from the norm. 7 feet tall in her heels, with a piled-up red wig, she certainly fills the eye. Instead of traditional comic costumes, she wears a parade of glamorous OTT outfits in the drag tradition. This sets a very different tone from the traditional dame with hobnail boots peeping out from the skirt and produces a distinct dynamic with both the cast and the audience.

The audience is constantly being reminded, somewhat superfluously, that Twankey is a man and there is more genital-related humour than one can shake a… well, a stick at. Drawing the line is always a personal preference and I prefer my entendres a little more double than single but then, as Miss Rory might say, times are hard.

The show is staged in a panto-traditional Chinese style, moving away from the Arabian nights setting, though the location is only referred to as Far East Boldon.

Hollyoaks’ Gary Lucy as Abanaazar bellows appropriately at the audience, though the script leaves him not too much to work with, frequently alone on the stage and not always entirely at ease, perhaps because on this performance, he seemed to be experiencing voice problems. He has a semi-running gag about being a bad magician, which will no doubt develop more polish through the run. After one deliberately bumbled trick, a child’s voice was clearly heard shouting, ‘But that’s not funny’ and, to be fair, it wasn’t. Still, he maintains his characterisation throughout and definitely looks the part.

Richard Anthony-Lloyd was a pleasingly pompous Emperor and Millie Gabriel was a sinuous Spirit of the Ring. Liam Morris danced well as the Genie, all muscles and glitter, in an athletic rather than a comic portrayal. The ensemble of 5 worked hard filling the stage, supported at times by the well-drilled babes from the Kathleen Davis Stage School and the Worx-Dance Theatre Arts, bringing the cute factor.

Mikko Juan and Aisha Numah made an appealing Aladdin and Jasmine, though their relationship is more spoken of than seen. They had little opportunity to generate any romantic spark in their fleeting moments on stage together.

But then, the children would tell us panto isn’t really about the romance; it’s about the comedy and the traditional set pieces were here. The second-act take-off scene was the funniest and successfully generated loads of audience participation.

An appealing mix of pop songs are cleverly re-purposed with some clever new lyrics. ‘Hey, hey we’re the Twankeys’ is a particular favourite and the three-part band manage to punch well above their weight, under the direction of Arlene McNaught.

There is also a spectacular special effects scene with a flying carpet, though I couldn’t help thinking this may have had even more impact if the technology hadn’t already been seen in the prologue.

Before the finale Whalley reads out birthday and Christmas messages from the audience and gave a shout out to the block bookings, which is a nice local touch and must be a tradition with this panto. He also works really well bringing up the children from the audience – always a panto highlight that is welcomed back for the first time after the pandemic. This brought some lovely moments, reaffirming that it’s definitely panto time in Sunderland!


REVIEW: Wishes on the Wind at Newcastle Live Theatre

Wishes on the Wind

Newcastle Live Theatre

Until Sunday 18 December 2022

Two playwrights that have been developed through Live Theatre's talent development present their plays, both of which has a festive feel. The combination of two stories worked well to give a view of this time of year that will be familiar to the intended adult audience. Great casting results in a warm feel, with the occasional laugh along the way.

First up was Alison Scurfield's Secret Santa, directed by Rachel Glover. A short play about Christmas Eve. Jackie Lye appears as Margaret, a mother who has apparently invited half of the village around before the Midnight Mass so such tries to encourage their stomachs are not grumbling through the service. As she rushes in with another batch of mince pies she tries to encourage her daughter Christie to give her a hand. Brogan Gilbert presents her offspring as a young lady with other things on her mind. After all her girlfriend is also expected to arrive and Christie is worried how she will react to having the local elderly WI milling around.

For such a short performance this was a remarkable spot. The mother who is rather quick to consume wine trying to bite off more than she can chew in terms of organisation is a situation that the audience may recognise. They will also remember the awkwardness of not being sure how your friends will react to a situation that your family springs upon them. 

Brogan is a young and confident actor that we first reviewed back in 2016 (link) and it has been wonderful to see her continue to grow in to a versatile character actor. Jackie continues to be a versatile actor who can bring roles to life with a sense of humour.

The main event is Wishes On The Wind - an hour long play about a couple of schoolmates living in a Northumberland who meet up on a number of successive New Year's Eves in which it is traditional to go to the village hall for a disco/ceilidh. Sam (Caitlyn Barber) is a social media influencer who catches the train North in order to attend the event. Upon arrival at home she quickly discovers all is not well as her mother has a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's and hence she did not remember to pick her up from the station.

Threaded through the story is Charlie (Luke Hammond) who is utterly bored with his office job. He has run out of options on a dating website as he lives in a more sparsely occupied area. 

Benjamin Storey's tale has the pair giving the audience a snapshot of their story before their paths cross. Sometimes when chopping and changing a story can lose pace but director Graeme Thompson keeps both characters on stage and orbiting each other until they meet. This keeps up the momentum, and interest, in them both.

Once their paths cross the story keeps up pace by quickly moving over each new year - once we know the village's routine there is no need to keep repeating it. The two actors are succesful in convincing that the are the characters that they are portraying. Caitlyn comes across as an influencer, Luke is the ;ad who never left their place of birth. That authenticity allows you to want to know what happens. Chuck in music and a sense of humour and the audience are in for an engaging ride.

In a season full of shows aimed at children and families it is pleasing to see Live Theatre offer something seasonal and more grown up. The result is a rewarding night at the theatre.

Creatives - Wishes on the Wind:

Script and music Benjamin Storey

Director Graeme Thompson

Designer Aileen Kelly

Lighting Designer Drummond Orr

Sound Designer Dave Flynn

Costumes Lou Duffy

Stage Manager Craig Davidson

Deputy Stage Manager Gabi Oliver

Production Technician Taylor Howie

Starring Caitlyn Barber and Luke Hammond

Creatives - Secret Santa

Written by Alison Scurfield

Starring Jackie Lye and Brogan Gilbert

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Von Fox


£10 - £15, concs from £6 - Box Office:

Approx 1hr 15 mins

Age rating: 14+


REVIEW: The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan at Darlington Hippodrome

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan

Darlington Hippodrome

Until Saturday 31 December 2022

Written by Alan McHugh, Peter Pan as a pantomime adventure moves away somewhat from the J.M. Barrie book. It is simmered down to a simpler story where Wendy is returned to Never Never Land to help Peter recover his ability to fly, while Captain James Hook tries to play a reformed character in order to exact a revenge on Peter.

In this condensed format it works absolutely fine with Steve Arnott returning to his natural role as Hook an providing all the battering down of the fourth wall required by a villainous character. He had the audience reacting to him exactly as it should.

Christopher Biggins returns to the theatre where he had his pantomime debut in the mid 1970s. As Mrs Smee he is a treat. Whilst his mobility issues were compensated by creative, and funny, use of props, he had lost none of his cheeky humour and engaged the audience (and his young volunteers at the end) with a delightful charm. His costumes are another valuable source of comedy in the show.

Ricki Jay is refreshing as Smee with his mature approach to comedy that has a good balance of child and adult appeal. Peter Peverley as, Starkey had a very different comic approach which also had us in stitches.

Wendy Darling and Peter Pan, played by Sheri Lineham and James Hameed hold the story together and had a lovely onstage chemistry, which in this production did not elicit jealousy from Tinkerbell, played by the bubbly and engaging Tegan Bannister.

Effects were impressive and the costume design unique. No microphone problems were detected unlike every other Christmas production we’ve seen this year. The sound was excellent. The music was different to that heard at other pantos and used a live band and the excellent singing voices of the cast and chorus. A live band always lifts the quality of a show for us.

The audience reaction was clearly positive. We heard a child outside telling her parents “That was amazing”... and these are the people that matter, not us reviewers! Nevertheless the three of ad an excellent time, at what we think will be our final pantomime of 2022.

Review: Joanne Oliver

Photos: Scott Akoz


The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan runs from Friday 9 to Saturday 31 December. Tickets are on sale now with early booking advised. For full details and to book visit or call the box office on 01325 405405