‘Widdy in Waiting’, waiting for her pantomime debut! Ann Widdicombe and Craig Revel Horwood – together again!

It’s difficult not to be inspired by Ann Widdecombe, whose career spans from Maidstone and Weald MP, novelist, dancer and now pantomime star. Having turned down the opportunity to star in the West-End Musical Grease, “because of the Strictly tour – they clashed”, Ann is preparing for her stage-debut opposite Craig Revel Horwood in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs this Christmas at The Orchard, Dartford.

Ann says, “I’m delighted that the first panto I’m ever doing is in Kent. It will mean a lot of friends will want to come along.” And it’s not just Ann’s friends who are excited about her leading role as ‘Widdy in Waiting’ – tickets are flying out the box office.

Chrismas has always been busy for Ann. “Apart from last year, which was the first Christmas of my retirement as an MP, I spent every single Christmas in Maidstone going around the hospitals as well as visiting personnel in  the fire, police and ambulance services.”

Her various careers all lend themselves to one another – the theatricality of Westminster, with the jeering of each other’s political opinions, Ann hopes will enable her to throw her voice. And though none of her celebrity friends have offered advice about performing on stage yet, she is convinced she’ll be getting some tips. 

Having been misquoted in the media as saying she had no interest in a showbiz career, Ann is quick to set the record straight. “I probably said Strictly was a one off, because I genuinely thought it was. But, I never said I wouldn’t do showbiz. And if I had said that, I wouldn’t have done the Strictly tour.”

The Orchard are thrilled that Ann has not ruled out a career in showbusiness. Audiences this Christmas will love Ann and her fantastic personality – and fans of Anns’ Strictly performance won’t be disappointed either, “Craig and I are going to do a hilarious dance routine in the middle of it.”

Performing alongside her new friend, Craig Revel Horwood, is something she never would have anticipated when starting the Strictly TV series. “We’ve been dancing on the Strictly tour. At first, I was decieved by his screen persona but, in fact, he’s not a bit like that, he’s a huge pussy cat!”

Never-the-less, Dick Whittington this isn’t and Craig’s newly dubbed pussy cat status will remain safely guarded by his performance as  the Wicked Queen. This is his third year working with Qdos Entertainment, though the introduction of Ann’s ‘Widdy in Waiting’ will bring a fresh edge to his outstanding performance in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In terms of life after pantomime, Ann’s keeping things open. “Whatever comes along,” she says, “I’d be quite at home if Spielberg rings.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, from Friday 9 to Saturday 31 December 2011. For more information, please visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk

Grease The Musical is to Close Early!

Grease The Musical, which was originally booking to 3rd of September, has posted its closing notices for 30 April 2011, at the Piccadilly Theatre.

The smash-hit musical GREASE is now in its third great year at London’s Piccadilly Theatre – the longest running show in the venue’s history!

NOEL SULLIVAN (Flashdance The Musical, Hear’say) stars as Danny Zuko and SIOBHAN DILLON (finalist in BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?) stars as Sandy.

GREASE is the original high-school musical featuring all the unforgettable songs from the movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’.

Book now. Don’t miss GREASE… IT’S ELECTRIFYING!

Ice Champion ‘Robin Cousins’ stars in Grease

The former Olympics champion and Dancing on Ice judge Robin Cousins will guest star as ‘Teen Angel’ in the smash hit musical Grease for a limited season until 19th of June 2010 at Piccadilly Theatre.

Robin Cousins is one of Britains most famous and best loved individual ice skaters. He won the World Free Skating Championship Gold medal for three consecutive years from 1978 and rose to the top in 1980, winning World Championship Silver and capping his amateur career with the European Championship and Olympic Gold medals. During his highly successful career as a professional skater, Robin made several appearances as a guest star with Holiday on Ice and Ice Capades (USA). As a director and choreographer, he has worked extensively on shows for the ice spectacular Holiday on Ice including Spirit (currently touring the UK). His choreographic achievements also include ice interpretations of The Wizard of Oz, Starlight Express and Disneys Toy Story along with many shows for his own ice company such as Electric Ice, which enjoyed a worldwide tour and sell-out run in London. Away from the ice, Robin has forged a successful career in theatre including starring roles in acclaimed shows such as Cats, The Rocky Horror Show (in the West End) and Rodgers and Hammersteins Cinderella. Robin retired from the ice rink in 2000, after 30 years on the ice and 20 years of professional skating. He is currently commentating for the BBC on figure skating at the Winter Olympics 2010, which marks the 3oth anniversary of his Olympic Gold win (Lake Placid, 1980). After this, Robin will return to the ice panel of ITV1s hit show Dancing on Ice where he will reside as head judge for the series before gliding into Grease on 29 March.

Book Tickets for Grease at Piccadilly Theatre  London!

Ray Quinn joins the cast

Ray Quinn, making his West End debut, has joined the cast of GREASE in the role of Doody for a limited season – until 15 November 2008. Ray recently appeared on our screens in a head-to-head with Leona Lewis in the race to become X-Factor champion. He began his acting career in Channel 4’s hugely popular soap Brookside and is already the bearer of a No 1. Platinum selling album Doing It My Way’.

Having completed his own sell-out tour, Ray is now rockin ‘n’ rolling all-summer-long in GREASE.

Producer David Ian says, “I’m absolutely thrilled. This production has been wowing audiences for 15 years now and with the terrific Ray Quinn joining us as a special guest star, I know it’s the one that audiences will want for years to come!”

Book Tickets for Grease The Musical

Grease the Musical Reviews

Grease was always supposed to be about an age of innocence tinged with sexual awakening, a paean to first love and first cigarettes, Cadillac cars and dance night in the school gym. Once upon a time in the West End, this seemed like a good idea; Richard Gere was the first, very good, UK Danny at the New London in 1973 (Elaine Paige had a small role).

Somehow, with the passing years and the iconic elevation of the very bad 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton- John, the fun has been squeezed out of it, and any residual charm in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s ersatz rock and roll musical flattened in a rush to the finale of selected highlights.
As at the opening of this production by David Gilmore in 1993, I feel defeated by decibel levels and churlish with disappointment. The amplification has a tinny, invasive quality that’s the enemy of musical enjoyment, and when things quieten down a bit in the second act – you can actually hear some good rhythm guitar in “Sandy” at the drive-in movie – the songs are less good than the frantic ones.

For those who could bear to watch the entertainment abomination that was Grease Is the Word on ITV earlier this year, a verdict is required on the performances of 19 year-old Danny Bayne as Danny Zuko and 24 year-old Susan McFadden (sister of Brian McFadden, the Westlife pop singer) as Sandy Dumbrowski. That verdict is mixed. It’s impossible to isolate acting talent, or even personality impact, in the first half because the entire cast is encouraged to squeal, squawk, face-pull and cackle like a cage full of angry baboons in the zoo. No one bears even a passing resemblance to a human being.

But as Arlene Phillips’ whiplash musical staging (re-created by Stori James) kicks in, you can see that Bayne does indeed have a powerful stage presence and his command of the moves is total (it turns out he’s been British champion in hip-hop, freestyle and Latin American dance for years). McFadden’s Sandy, however, remains a dumb cluck even when she dons the black leotard and says goodbye to the wholesome image of Sandra Dee that has hampered her pulling progress. She’s sweet enough, but nothing special, and her singing lacks depth or resonance.

Terry Parsons’ design remains as colourful as it was, though the floating Cadillacs have gone and the sun shines with far less golden intensity on the bleachers. Thin strips of red neon light make a good design link between the local DJ’s recording studio and the high school, where everyone seems to be about 35 years old.

Jayde Westaby makes a mark as the suddenly pregnant Rizzo and Charlie Cameron is a prettily pneumatic Marti. Siobhan Dillon, one of the best of the runners-up in the BBC search for Maria programme, whom Grease co-producer David Ian slobbered over in the adjudications, is rather hidden away as Patty but will surely have a second chance in the near future.
– Michael Coveney

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