There were two significant theatrical events in Yorkshire this week. Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad reports.
Two significant events at two different theatres in opposite ends of Yorkshire this week, seemingly unconnected, yet bound together by a shared DNA and together a perfect demonstration of why we are all experiencing and enjoying a purple patch in the county’s theatrical history.
The first is the news that Sheffield Theatres’ production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is going to transfer to the West End. As I wrote in my review in January for The Yorkshire Post when I said it was a ‘musical for a new generation and a show that will go to the West End and run and run’, it comes as no great surprise.
West End uber producer Nica Burns, the woman who theatre industry Bible The Stage puts at number six in its list of the most powerful people in theatre, is behind the decision to bring the new musical to London from Sheffield.
She said: “Everybody seemed to be talking about the show so I went to see the final matinee in Sheffield with no expectations. I came out of the auditorium singing the tunes having laughed, cried, laughed again and dancing with happiness. I found the director, and immediately offered to produce the show in London at one of my theatres. It had to come to the West End. This is an uplifting musical for our times and for everyone. Congratulations to Sheffield Theatres for backing a new British Musical Theatre composing and directing team and developing it over three years. It is a huge achievement. The city of Sheffield has every reason to be very proud of their brilliant theatre which is greatly admired throughout the UK.”
It is yet another feather in the cap for a theatre complex which includes the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Sheffield Studio and which continues to punch even above that considerable weight.
The Sheffield-forged show will be at the Apollo theatre in London from November and from the moment it opens its doors it will be bear the brand ‘Made in Yorkshire’, like Showboat before it from the same theatre and The Railway Children, made at York Theatre Royal and countless others from our theatres across Yorkshire to make the journey to London’s world famous stages.
While celebrating this news from South of the county, there was another event up in West Yorkshire that looked quite different and yet is bound together by the complex central nervous system that is Yorkshire Theatre.
On Wednesday morning visitors to Bradford will have seen a somewhat unusual sight: police horses coming face to face with something that looked curiously like one of their own species and yet at the same time, not quite.
Joey, the horse puppet that is the undoubted star of West End smash hit War Horse, was in Bradford along with his puppet masters to help launch the new season at the Bradford Alhambra.
The council-funded Alhambra, which is a part producer of its annual pantomime but creates nothing else that appears on its stage, is welcoming back the production of War Horse for a second time.
On the face of it, the Sheffield Crucible and the Bradford Alhambra don’t have a huge amount in common: Bradford is a receiving house, taking in shows made elsewhere and that you can see at many theatres around the country. Sheffield’s Crucible makes its own shows, presenting work that you will often only at that specific theatre.
By bringing War Horse back to the Alhambra, however, the people who run the venue are helping to create a thirst for world class theatre – War Horse has been an audience winner on Broadway where it was seen by Steven Spielberg who immediately adapted the story as a movie. The thirst for world class theatre like War Horse is what drives people to spend money to see a new musical – an undoubted risk – like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
In a complex way it is the commitment of the Bradford theatre to demonstrating that great art is for all that feeds into a general appetite for theatre and art that itself feeds the desire for new theatre shows. The great news is that we, the audience, are the winners, getting to witness great theatre in ever-increasing numbers.
While bringing Joey to Bradford, the Alhambra has also exclusively announced to The Yorkshire Post today a whole raft of other shows which it is bringing to the stage. Beautiful, the Carole King musical which was a huge hit in the West End last year (spotting a theme here?) opens its first ever UK tour in – anyone?– Bradford.
The show will undertake a nationwide tour after it has been in Bradford from September 9 to 16 later on this year. Telling the remarkable story of Carole King, the musical features the songs written and sung by King and charts her journey to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award winning Sunset Boulevard, considered to be the impresario’s masterpiece, will be at the theatre from February 5 to 10 next year. One of New Adventures’ most loved productions Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, an evocative love story, set in London during the Second World War arrives in May.
In November this year it’s great to note that the world class dance company Rambert is returning to the theatre. Again, it’s not obvious, but trusting that contemporary dance can work in Bradford is the same decision as trusting a new musical three years in the development can work in Sheffield. When such boldness runs through our theatres, we all win.
Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, the multi-Olivier award winning musical, September 9 to 16.
Rambert with Ghost Dances and other works, November 15 to 17.
Cilla The Musical, telling the story of Cilla Black, November 28 to December 2.
Sunset Boulevard, staged by the English National Opera, February 5 to 10, 2018.
War Horse, February 14 to March 10, 2018.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, May 8-12.
For full details and to book tickets contact the box office on 01274 432000.