WATCH: First-look at Cats star Leona Lewis singing Memory on Broadway

leona cats

She won The X Factor back in 2006 (10 years what?!) and has gone on to have a successful career post-show, but now Leona Lewis has swapped Hackney for the Great White Way with a starring role in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Broadway revival of Cats – and we’ve got the first look and listen of her singing the show’s most famous number, Memory.

The current production of the show transferred to Broadway this year after premiering back in 2014 in the West End. In that version, the role of Grizabella, the former ‘glamour cat’, was played by another X Factor face, Nicole Scherzinger. She was nominated for an Olivier award for the part, which saw her finely fill the shoes of iconic Grizabellas like Betty Buckley, Elaine Paige and, of course, Jane McDonald. After she decided not to take the role in New York, Ms Lewis was called upon to step in.

Cats is the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as “the Jellicle choice” and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. It is based on the T.S Eliot book Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats. It first premiered as a musical in 1981 and yes it’s as bizarre as it sounds.

Scherzinger shade aside (Lloyd-Webber famously blasted her for opting out of the show in favour of The X Factor judging duties) Leona is sounding the best she has sounded in years. After a rough couple of years career-wise, it’s nice to see the Bleeding Love star back in her stride and flying the British flag on Broadway. Even as a mangy old cat.

Watch the video below:

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Video: Broadway.com

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WATCH: Celine Dion impersonates Cher, Rihanna and Sia on The Tonight Show

celine

The Wheel of Musical Impressions has in the past featured Ariana Grande copying Whitney and Christina Aguilera as Shakira, but last night The Tonight Show’s segment stepped it up a notch with a performance from a true icon.

Celine Dion, who was on the show to chat about her long-running Las Vegas residency, faced off against host Jimmy Fallon in the game, which requires contestants to imitate famous singers.

The music legend, who has been out of the spotlight since the death of her husband and manager Renee last year, treated the audience to a spot-on impersonation of her friend Cher singing Frere Jacques. She was then challenged with a flawless imitation of Michael Jackson singing Drake’s One Dance by Jimmy.

The game also saw Celine twerking to Row Row Row Your Boat as Rihanna (prompting Jimmy to tell her to rein it in as there was kids watching) and Jimmy doing a turn as Johnny Cash.

Celine’s piece de resistance, however, was Sia – she started off with Hush, Little Baby before tossing her hair forward in homage to Sia’s famous fringed wigs to belt out Chandelier to rapturous applause.

She also revealed on the show that she was originally apprehensive about recording one of her most famous hits, My Heart Will Go On. “I’m glad I sang the song,” she told Jimmy.

“I didn’t want to record the song. I’m so glad people don’t listen to me.”

Watch the video below:

Club goes classical: Manchester’s classic Hacienda sound to be showcased in Sunderland by 40-piece orchestra

new order

Whoever says you can’t like classical music as much as you like acid house is a liar. And to those liars I say, check this one out. One of the North East’s leading open-air concert venues is gearing up to follow in the footsteps of the Royal Albert Hall.

Herrington Country Park in Sunderland will play host to Haçienda Classical – a very special, one night only tribute to classic acid house and rave hits, performed by a 40-piece chamber orchestra with the backing of two of the UK’s top DJs.

Around 5000 people are expected to attend the event, on Friday August 19, which boasts a set list full of dance music classics from the heyday of Manchester’s legendary Haçienda nightclub.

Classic tracks by New Order, Inner City, Black Box and Marshall Jefferson have been reinterpreted by the club’s original DJs, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park. They will be performed alongside the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, who have been called “one of Europe’s best chamber orchestras.”

Also on stage will be the AMC Choir, New Order’s Peter Hook (above) and X Factor star and Happy Mondays’ singer, Rowetta (below)

ROWETTA

(Photo credit: Al De Perez)

A special, three- tiered concert stage, with a performing area of 48ft by 40 ft, is to be erected by organisers, who are also laying on festival-style food and drink.

Hacienda Classical aerial

A previous Hacienda Classical concert (above)

“As a venue, it’s got numerous practical advantages such as plentiful parking and superb access to the region’s two leading roads; the A19 and the A1,” said Karen Makepeace, in-house promoter for Northern Sessions, which is bringing the event to the North East.

“Plus the venue is perfect for an outdoor concert like this. We can’t wait to bring Haçienda Classical to Herrington.”

General admission tickets are £35 and VIP packages, for £100, include on-site car parking, entry to a VIP enclosure with outdoor deckchair viewing area, arrival drink, access to pay bar facilities, VIP toilets and a barbecue buffet.

For more information click here and for tickets call 0844 8889991 or click here 

WATCH: Michelle Obama and James Corden get down to Stevie, Beyonce and Missy

michelle obama

In possibly the most unexpected Car Pool Karaoke yet, James Corden has taken the First Lady of the United States for a spin.

Following a hairy confrontation with White House security, Michelle Obama gives the British host a little tour around the grounds before breaking into Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder (“I love Stevie Wonder! I think I know every Stevie song on the planet) and sharing stories about driving around with her daughter. “That was the only time in seven and a half years I’ve been in the passenger seat, listening to music and rocking out,” she tells Corden.

Mrs Obama also reveals she will miss the staff at the White House most. “To walk away from people you see every single day; that’s going to be hard.”

The pair also jam to Beyonce’s Single Ladies, dance routine included, and Michelle gives info about her Let Girls Learn initiative, which is aimed at helping underprivileged girls get an education.

An ultra-glam Missy Elliot brings things to a close with her song, This Is For My Girls and a fly version of Get Ur Freak On, showcasing some serious rap skills in the First Lady.

For more information on Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, click here and here

REVIEW: Lords and Ladies holds court and more than holds it’s own

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Magic seems to be having somewhat of a resurgence in theatre, recently. With the stage version of Harry Potter selling out in London and productions of Mary Poppins and an opera Beauty and the Beast heading for Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, the People’s Theatre’s Lords and Ladies throws itself into the cauldron, telling a whimsical tale on a slightly smaller scale.

I must confess to knowing very little about the Terry Pratchett novels the play is adapted from. But, moments into the Irana Brown-adapted, Hugh Keegan-directed production, I got the impression they would be something I’d get a kick out of. Granny, Nanny, and Magrat, the witches of Lancre, return to their home kingdom after several months abroad. Magrat learns that her married to King Verence, the former Jester, is to take place on Midsummer night. After an argument with Granny, Magrat quits witchcraft and moves into the castle to prepare for her coronation.

The language is silly and the characters likeable. The story, however, can be a little hard to follow in places. Knowing it is a loose parody of A Midsummer Night’s Dream helps, although the plot is never really explained clearly, leaving the audiences to wade through references to trolls, witches and dwarves in order to figure it out for themselves.

It’s almost pantomime-esque in places, characters hitting each other with pans and weeing on sleeping enemies like a classic episode of Bottom, which for me can only be a good thing.

4L&L Kath&Val broomsticks

Kath Frazer and Val Russell (above) are a great double act as Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, with Russell in particular getting the laughs. Sarah Scott plays our heroine Magrat and turns the damsel in distress schtick on its head to win the day. She is strong in the role, albeit sometimes second, or third, fiddle to the other ladies. Stuart Laidler also has the hapless King Verance down to a tee. A mention must go to David Robson, who is an anchoring presence as Shawn Ogg. He dips in and out of the story as both the unlikely hero and the comic relief. The real belly laughs though, come courtesy of Casanunda ‘the second greatest lover in the world’ played by John MacDonald. With a ludicrous voice and a somewhat phallic hairdo, MacDonald shines in the role and is a total scene-stealer, with standout lines including, “Count! I’m a count!”

5L&L 4 witches

Dominated by a sculpture of Stone Henge and an eerie sunlight/moonlight Stuart Taylor’s stage design is otherwise simple; a large crate sits in the middle, a ladder to the side and little else. The actors themselves roam the stage manically, and the fair-sized cast always feels ten extra than it is. A funny little touch, the cast fall asleep at the end of Act One and remain asleep on the stage during the interval. Act Two comes flying in like a witch on a broomstick, with more belly laughs in the first few minutes than the whole of the first act combined.

Whilst at times lacking the magic touch an enchanting story like this could use to get its message across, it is a strong effort, nonetheless, and one of the best productions I’ve seen at the People’s Theatre. A proper, laugh-out-loud experience – Lords and Ladies holds court, and more than holds it’s own.

Lords and Ladies is at the People’s Theatre until Saturday July 23. Tickets from £11 are available by calling 0191 265 5020 or online here

WATCH: The ‘superhumans’ of the 2016 Paralympics shine in new advert

paralympians

Both the Olympics and the Paralympics are just around the corner, and Channel 4’s new advert for the latter is, in a word, stunning. (There aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary for the amazing athletes that compete in the games, and throughout the year, but stunning is a good start.)

Channel 4 are broadcasting all of the coverage of the games, as they did in 2012 – programming which won them a BAFTA. Their slogan this year, We’re The Superhumans, is backed up by the advert, which showcases ordinary members of the public, stunt men and women, and athletes, including swimmer Ellie Simmonds.

The clip is set to the swinging sound of Sammy Davis Jr’s Yes I Can, performed by a band of disabled musicians. Other scenes include someone landing a plane with her feet and a particularly stirring moment featuring a school counsellor telling a young lad that he can’t do something, followed by the lad fiercely playing wheelchair basketball.

According to Dan Brooke, chief marketing and communications officer at Channel 4, the advert is aimed at not just athletes, but “anyone with a disability”.

The Paralympic Games take places in Rio September 7-18. You can see all of the coverage on Channel 4. Watch the advert below:

Should’ve Been Huge: MKS – Flatline

MKS

A few years back, pop tarts were elated when the three original members of the Sugababes announced they were reuniting under a new moniker to try and revert pop to its glory days of early noughties fierceness.

Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy, under the name MKS (makes sense) announced they would be returning to the music biz and releasing new material in July 2012. It was over a year later in September 2013 when they released their single Flatline, setting the internet on fire. Critics lost their shit over it and bloggers praised the band’s new sound. Sleek and modern, it screamed No. 1.

Commercial success, however, wasn’t so easily garnered and the song, well, flat lined. It limped to number 50, failing to chart. A second single and the as-promised album failed to surface, which left us in girl band limbo.

Will it ever be heard?

Let’s go back to the start for a second. Mutual and Keisha meet at primary school in London. As teens, a manager adds Siobhan to the mix and the Sugababes are born. Unfortunately, after a couple of hits, it all went a bit wrong.

Siobhan famously bolted from the group whilst they were on tour in Australia. A press release was sent out on her behalf, and without her consent, saying she had a kidney infection. She never went back.

Mutya left in 2005 and was replaced by Amelle Berrabah and in 2009, Keisha threw the towel in, with Jade Ewen taking her spot. If all of the girls had stayed, the band would have been seven members-strong at this point. Rumours of fights between the girls have always been banded about, some of which they themselves have confirmed. They blame their managers for the split however, claiming they pitted them against each other.

With all three original Babes out of the picture, the band became more about looks than music. In 2011, this incarnation announced they were over and done with, too.

Which brings us up to 2014. After a less-than-triumphant return, Mutya fueled rumours the band was about to split again, tweeting “Gym diet and letting go to any1 that dnt make me feel good…Time to move on.” Fans despaired but the girls’ each took to their Twitter accounts to assure them all was well and the band’s spokesman said: ‘The tweet is nothing to do with the band.” Their label says the album is still on its way. Siobhan recently gave a radio interview saying the album would be coming in 2017.

Whether the split rumours are true or MKS are just making us wait so they can make the grand entrance they deserve, we’re ready.

Flatline

Produced by Dev Hynes, the man behind Solange Knowles’ debut EP and hits by Florence and the Machine and The Chemical Brothers, Flatline was the first time in over a decade fans were able to hear Buena, Buchanan and Donaghy’s voices together on the same record. And boy, was it worth the wait.

Just like their introduction to us the first time round, 2000’s Overload, it’s a slice of sassy, slick, all-round amazingness. Pop music can sometimes get a bad reputation as being cheesy or camp but these girls ain’t having any of that. Mixing 90s drum beats with 80s synths, it’s a hybrid of genres and sounds that at the time truly sounded like nothing else on the pop landscape.

The opening lyric, ‘don’t say it no, please wait ‘til we’re sober. Don’t play a sad song, put your guitar back down’ is goose bump-inducing and throws you off immediately. All the production of a club hit with gut-wrenching lyrics Amy Winehouse would be producing were she still around today.

Their voices blend beautifully as they approach the chorus. Mutya brings the husky soul, Keisha the riffs and Siobhan the belt. The eponymous Flatline of the title refers to the unfulfilled expectations of a relationship. ‘I can feel a flatline that ought to be a wave,’ the girls sing with the soul of an American 90s R&B group. And we’re talking En Vogue here, not Destiny’s Child. It all builds to an almighty crescendo as drummers and a male chorus join together with the girls’ soaring vocals to take us to church. Amen.

And don’t get us started on the video. Think Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford flitting off to Venice Beach for a girls’ holiday. Then add a marching band, vintage sports car and leather mini skirts, and you’re about there. All filmed on a camera with a filter Instagram would gag on, of course.

It was our favourite track of 2013 and we truly believe it will go down in music history as the little-pop-song-that-could, but didn’t. Charting at No. 50, it was a sad day when this pop gem failed to reach its real potential. We salute you, MKS.

Now PLEASE give us an album.

Newcastle Pride 2016: Parade details and who’s on the main stage and when

pride logo1

It’s that time of year when the LGBT community and their straight allies descend on Newcastle’s Town Moor for a weekend of fun, celebration and, perhaps this year more than most, reflection. We’re here to give you the DL on how to take part in the parade what’s happening on the Main Stage when. Last year, 10,000 people marched in the parade and thousands more partied in the park to the sounds of Belinda Carlisle and B*Witched. And this year could be the best one yet.

The parade will start at Newcastle Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH then head down Northumberland Street, up Percy Street and in to Exhibition Park and the Town Moor.

It will start at 12pm so make sure you’re at Newcastle Civic Centre by 11.30.

The theme for this years parade is Be Yourself, Change the world #BE PROUD. Participants are encouraged to wear fancy dress, bright colours and make lots of racket!

Once the parade is done and dusted, the day’s line-up will begin. Headlined by noughties boyband 5ive on Saturday and M People front woman Heather Small on Sunday, there will be a host of other acts to keep you entertained all weekend.

Here is the Main Stage programme for Saturday:

From 12.00 – 14.00

Pride Radio

Northern Proud Voices

Carol Laula

lorraine crosby

From 14.00 – 16.00

Winner of Drag Idol, Octavia Die

Lorraine Crosby

Debbie Roberts

From 16.00 – 18.00 

Jordan Gray

Shane Richie Jr Band

Hazell Dean

five

From 18.00 – 20.30

Tina Cousins

Jake Quickenden

Heather Peace

5ive

jake quickenden

And Sunday is as follows:

From 13.15 – 16.00

Pride Radio

Courtney Dixon

AJC

NE Girls

From 16.00 – 18.00

Christian MJC & J-Sol

David Stoker

Nathan Moore

heather small

From 18.00 – 20.00

Boulevard’s Danni Dee & The Broadway Dancers

Sonia

Heather Small

There will also be a dance tent, sponsored by Powerhouse, and a cabaret tent, in association with Eazy Street, with plenty of DJs and drag talent if the Main Stage isn’t your scene. Market stalls, an assortment of bars and funfair rides complete what is looking to be a fantastic weekend.

This year, the bars have been removed from inside the tents and put outside – more room for dancing!

Please remember that Newcastle Pride is a free event (the biggest free pride in the UK, no less) and that it is vital to donate anything you can to keep it that way. So if you see one of their hard-working volunteers, put some money in the bucket, put on your (glow in the dark!) wristband and have a ball.

Have fun and stay safe. Happy Pride, Newcastle!

Listen to Man About Toon’s playlist featuring this year’s Newcastle Pride line-up

pride 2016 poster

Lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machines and…get ready to be proud! Newcastle Pride 2016 is almost upon us and in case you were thinking, ‘Ooh, I wonder where I can listen to this year’s performers in one, shiny little playlist,’ Man About Toon has got your back.

From headliners Heather Small, of M People fame, and noughties heartthrobs 5ive to a host of other acts taking part in this year’s festival, we’ve compiled a list of their best-loved hits (and maybe a few newbies) to get you in the mood for the UK’s largest free Pride, which takes place this Saturday July 16 – Sunday July 17 on the town moor.

Making an appearance on the playlist are 80s icon Sonia, Pride stalwarts Lorraine Crosby (with a little help from Meat Loaf) and Hazell Dean, X Factor and I’m A Celebrity… star Jake Quickenden, actress and singer Heather Peace and dance diva Tina Cousins and Sash!

Don’t forget there’s a host of others on the bill this weekend, including the North East’s own Cortney Dixon, NE Girls, Danni Dee and the Broadway dancers from Boulevard and many more.

For more details and to  purchase VIP wristbands for the weekend, which gain you access to the gold circle, visit the Newcastle Pride website here.

Listen below to our playlist:

 

Sir Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies to hold court at the People’s Theatre

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The Heaton theatre’s current season continues next week, with a stage version of Sir Terry’s fourteenth novel in the Discworld series.

Irana Brown’s adaptation of Lords and Ladies is set in said weird and wonderful Discworld, where King Verence is to marry Magrat Garlick, a witch who is finding it rather difficult to adapt to court life at Lancre Castle.

Her struggle isn’t helped by an incursion of elves from a parallel universe, which prompts an outbreak of mischief starring trolls, Morris Dancers and the odd orangutan.

4L&L Kath&Val broomsticks

The play stars Kath Frazer, Sarah Farmer, Val Russell, Jessica Chapman and Sarah Scott. It is a parody of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and sees the return of much-loved book characters Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.

The People’s Theatre is currently undergoing a renovation costing over £1m but productions are still valiantly going ahead.

Lords and Ladies is the last play of their current Season. The next Season will start in September and includes Alan Bennett’s Lady In The Van; smash-hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors; a classic Christie whodunit and Panto Jack And The Beanstalk. Tickets will be on sale for all of these and more from the end of July/early August.

Lords and Ladies is at the People’s Theatre from Tuesday July 19 to Saturday July 23. Tickets from £11 are available by calling 0191 265 5020 or online here

Photos by Paula Smart