EXCLUSIVE LISTEN: Sister Act’s new Delores, Alexandra Burke, singing Fabulous Baby

sister act

After a phenomenally successful run in the West End and on tour as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard, Alexandra Burke is returning to the stage in a new production of Sister Act. And praise Hallelujah, because a snippet of what to expect from her performance has been released.

The X Factor winner will take on the role of Delores Van Cartier in the show, a role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1992 film and it’s 1993 sequel. Patina Miller originated the role in the musical in it’s West End production in 2009.

The musical, directed and choreographed by Craig Revel-Horwood, will be playing at the Sunderland Empire from Monday September 5 to Saturday September 10 and to whet your appetite, here’s an exclusive recording of the star singing Fabulous Baby, one of the show’s biggest numbers.

To listen to the song, click here.

Sister Act will begin touring Monday August 29. For Sunderland Empire tickets click here.

BBC to remake Watership Down for television

watership

The BBC have announced a star-studded remake of Watership Down.

X-Men star James McAvoy and Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley are among those who will be lending their voices to the new animation, which centres around a group of rabbits who’s re fighting for survival. McAvoy will play Hazel and Kingsley will be General Woundwort.

Other actors signed up include Star Wars star John Boyega as Bigwig, McAvoy’s X-Men co-star Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, The Night Manager’s Olivia Coleman as Strawberry and Gemma Arterton, who is currently starring, and singing, in the West End musical, Made In Dagenham, as Clover.

BBC Drama commissioning editor Matthee Read said: “Before Harry Potter, there was Watership Down. This fantastic take on Richard Adams’ novel will bring this classic story to a new generation.”

The four-part series will air on BBC1 next year, before becoming available on Netflix.

WATCH: Patsy and Eddy are Absolutely Fabulous in trailer for long-awaited film

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Sweetie darling! Pass the Stoli because London’s most fashionable groupies are back. And we can’t contain our excitement.

The long-awaited Absolutely Fabulous film is FINISHED and to prove it, the first trailer for the likely-to-become-a-classic has been released. In it, it is hilariously announced that “Kate Moss is changing her PR!” which sets Patsy and Eddy off on their frantic race to be hired by the supermodel. However, Moss’ body ends up in a river and our heroines go on the run in the south of France. A possible fashion fatality? You have our attention.

With cameos from Jon Hamm, Rebel Wilson, Emma Bunton, Joan Collins and Cara Delevigne, the film promises to be a star-studded event from start to finish. Original cast members Julia Sawalha, June Horrocks and June Whitfield are also returning. Whether it ignites the box office on fire will be seen in time, but for fans of the TV show, a full-length film version has been a long time coming.

Watch the trailer below:

INTERVIEW: Alison Carr on her new play Iris, wanting to be Victoria Wood and cock gags

alison carr

As we can confirm after seeing it last week, the Live Theatre’s latest production, Iris, is quite something (read our review here) Written by Alison Carr and starring former Coronation Street actress Katy Cavanagh, the play looks at how loss and grief can just as easy bring a family together as it can tear it apart. And whats even better is that Alison is a Geordie lass. Amazing. We chatted to the writer about the play, wanting to be Victoria Wood and ‘cock gags’.

iris and gerry

We loved Iris. What inspired you to write it?

Well, even though we’re in to the final week I don’t want to give too much away. I think it’s nice for audiences to see it as spoiler-free as possible. But, it all started with the idea of Iris’s strange bequest to her daughters. From there it built up into thinking about the kind of family it would need to be for that to happen. Why? What are the resentments, the secrets? And what are the consequences of their inheritance? I was interested in exploring ideas about legacy, motherhood, sisterhood, guilt, grief, all that good stuff. With a few cock gags thrown in for good measure!

The three actors in the show are fantastic. Did you have any part in their casting?

Yes they are fantastic, and yes I did! Myself, Max Roberts the director and the casting directors spent a couple of days in London auditioning and we held auditions in Newcastle, too. We saw an awful lot of talented actors and at many points I wished it was a cast of thirty rather than three we were looking for. We got it right, though, and Katy, Sam and Joe (below with Alison) are all great in the roles and brought a lot to the rehearsal process, too.

iris cast

How did you get into writing?

I wrote my first play when I was a student for the Uni Theatre Society. It wasn’t great but we all have to start somewhere. I kept writing after I graduated and got a play picked up by a company called 5065Lift for their Edinburgh Festival Fringe line-up. That was my first professional work and gave me confidence to think ‘maybe I could do something with this’. I’ve kept going ever since, really. I did the Old Vic New Voices quite early on that led to me getting an agent, and I left my full-time job to go part-time to give me more time to write about ten years ago.

You won a bursary from the Live Theatre back in 2013. How did that come about and how did it help your career?

The bursary was for my one-woman play The Soaking of Vera Shrimp that I had been developing with director Rosie Kellagher. We’d been working on it in various forms for a while, and we were re-imagining it when we entered it for the award. We were delighted to win it, it gave us time and space to work on the play further with actor Tessa Parr and get it to a really good place. We were then able to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe, with some support from Live, where it did very well and was seen by a lot of people.

You wrote a touching piece on your website about Victoria Wood’s death. How did she inspire you and who else inspired you growing up?

It was my deep desire to be Victoria Wood that got me writing in the first place. I loved her from when I was a teenager and wanted to emulate her. Obviously as I wrote more I started to find my own voice and style, but that inspiration to start in the first place was largely down to her. She was also bloody funny and talented and amazing and worked damn hard. What better role model?

It’s always exciting to find new writers and inspirations – I remember reading Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and it blowing me away. I like Tennessee Williams and Martin McDonagh. I love classic films like Sunset Boulevard and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? programmes like Psychoville, The Mighty Boosh and Nighty Night. If it’s dark and funny and maybe a bit odd, chances are I’m a fan.

You had success with Soar in Salford and Vera Shrimp at the Edinburgh Fringe. Are there any plans for Iris to play elsewhere?

Watch this space…

And finally, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m working with Forward Theatre Project on their Clothes Swap Theatre Party at the Derby Theatre in July. There’s some other stuff pending, but subject to various factors so I can’t really confirm them at this point. I’m developing an idea for television, and am getting ready to start with a blank page on something brand new for the stage. Always exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

Iris is playing at the Live Theatre in Newcastle until Saturday April 30. For tickets and more information, click here

WATCH: McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence return in X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

x men

Theyyyyy’re baaaaaack!

Following the critically acclaimed global smash hit X-Men: Days of Future Past, everyones favourite mutants return in the new trailer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

Apocalypse is the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe. He amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible.

Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign.

As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with the help of Professor X (James McAvoy) must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.

The trailer features jaw-dropping shots like the Sydney Opera House being blown to smithereens and a host of new characters, so to say we’re excited would be the understatement of the year.

X-Men: Apocalypse is released May 18

REVIEW: Iris by Alison Carr at the Live Theatre, Newcastle

iris and gerry

There’s something quite special about seeing a new play, by a talented home-grown writer, on home turf and Iris, by the North East’s own Alison Carr, is just that: special.

Iris is a three-hander, held together watertight by Katy Cavanagh – probably best-known for playing Julie on Coronation Street – and two North East talents, Samantha Neale and Joe Caffrey. Julie (Cavanagh) has returned to the North East, and her childhood home, to bury her estranged mother. The play sees her attempts, and resistance, to reconnect with her sister, Ruby (Neale). Loveable crime scene cleaner Gerry (Caffrey) enters their lives and what follows is a touching, caustic, at times volatile but genuinely emotional look at grief, and how haphazardly some people deal with it.

iris ruby

Alison Carr is a unique writer; the kind you feel is telling stories from your childhood, your mind and your heart. Following Edinburgh Fringe successes like Patricia Quinn Saved My Life and The Soaking of Vera Shrimp, this play sees Newcastle writer Carr return to the Live Theatre – the same theatre that in 2013 awarded her a bursary in collaboration with The Empty Space, which supports local theatre companies and artists. Iris is full of nostalgia for the North East and little nuances that warrant genuine belly laughs and tears in equal measure. The dialogue can go from angry to acid-tongued to beautifully emotive and back again within one scene.

Cavanagh shines as Julie. Although best-known for her daft comedic turn on Corrie, here she is stony-faced serious; I was genuinely shocked, in the best way possible,  at how good an actress she is. Caffrey has the bumbling nice guy to a tee and it is impossible not to be concerned that hard-faced Julie is going to break his heart. As Ruby, Neale is a revelation. My star of the show, she is heartbreaking as a girl still recovering, emotionally not physically, from a childhood accident that has left her scarred for life. Angry at the world, scared to leave the house and still ruled by her overbearing mother, even in death, Ruby is a complex character but Neale pulls it off like a seasoned vet. The scene where she begs Julie to stay with her instead of going back to London is devastatingly sad.

Carr’s writing is stunning but it is the talents of the play’s three actors that help to elevate it to masterful. Iris is a great night out – but it is one you will be mulling over long after it finishes.

Iris is at the Live Theatre until April 30. Click here for tickets.

iris promo

WATCH: Jennifer Hudson and the cast of The Color Purple pay musical tribute to Prince

The cast of Broadway’s The Color Purple have paid tribute to Prince, who passed away this week.

Jennifer Hudson and British actress Cynthia Erivo led the cast in an impromptu performance of Purple Rain, one of Prince’s biggest hits, after a performance of the show on Thursday night – and brought the house down.

“We lost a legend, who was a good friend of mine, Prince, who was dear to all of us,” Hudson told the audience. She described how the singer asked her and her cast mates to come visit him whilst he was writing his book.

THOSE VOCALS THOUGH! What a privileged audience to have witnessed it.

Rest in peace, purple one.

Watch the tribute below:

NOW PLAYING: Juicy J and Wiz Khalifah ft. Liam Payne – You

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Fresh off former band mate Zayn Malik making music history, ex-One Directioner Liam Payne has thrown his proverbial hat into the ring and released a teaser of his upcoming solo project.

Liam, who is currently dating our Cheryl, features on a track called You by Juicy J and Wiz Khalifah, and it’s pretty good. A laid-back, R&B affair, it has Brummie Liam holding his own against some US hip hop heavyweights, smoothly singing “all I need is you” in falsetto. An ode to his leading lady, perhaps?

The song is a less edgy approach than what Zayn, who debuted at number one in the US album charts with his debut Mind Of Mine, has put out – let’s hope Liam isn’t gearing up to be the JC Chasez to Zayn’s Justin.

Listen to the track below:

WATCH: Little Mix show serious girl power in Hair video

The girls are back with new single Hair, their fourth single from album Get Weird.

little mix hair

Currently touring the world, Little Mix have somehow found the time to release a new video. Hair is the latest offering from their third record, and the clip sees the girls have a sleepover, downing cocktails, seducing the pizza guy and, of course, giving face and hair. This single version of the song features dancehall king Sean Paul, who is becoming somewhat of a comeback kid this year,  also featuring on a new version of Cheap Thrills by Sia.

Watch the video below:

This is so fetch! Tina Fey says Mean Girls musical is definitely ON

tina fey

Get excited! Mean Girls and 30 Rock funny woman Tina Fey has revealed that she will spend this summer writing the long-awaited musical version of the teen classic.

Speaking during the Tribeca Film Festival, Fey – who wrote the film in 2004 – said: “We’re working on the musical adaptation, and thanks to Ellie Kemper’s pregnancy, we have this whole summer to work on it.” Ellie Kemper is the star of Fey’s other writing baby, Netflix TV show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which recently premiered its second season. Kemper, who also starred in Bridesmaids, announced recently that she was expecting her first child with screenwriter husband Michael Koman.

Speaking back in 2007 about the possibility of a musical version of the film, Fey said: “I thought the movie in some ways mostly appealed to young girls and gay men, and I feel like that could be a recipe for success on Broadway.”

mean girls

Mean Girls tells an age-old tale of high school politics, where home-schooled Cady arrives at an American high school from Africa, where she is befriended by me Janis Ian and “too gay to function” Damian. Together, they infiltrate the inner circle of The Plastics: Regina, Gretchen and Karen, the queen bees of the school, and attempt to take them down. The film became a noughties classic and made stars of it’s leading actresses Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried (above with Lacey Chabert).

Seasons one and two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are available on Netflix now