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By The Gay UK, Dec 22 2014 12:00AM

One of the greatest musicals of all time, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, returns to the stage in a magnificent new production which opens on Thursday 15 January at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley ahead of a major national tour.


Playing the iconic role of Maria von Trapp is DANIELLE HOPE, who captured the hearts of the country when she won BBC Television’s Over the Rainbow and made her professional debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. Danielle has since played Eponine in Les Misérables in London’s West End and Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.


Joining the company as Captain von Trapp is much-loved stage and television star STEVEN HOUGHTON. Well-known for his longstanding television roles in Coronation Street and London’s Burning, Olivier-Award nominated actor Steven has taken on leading roles in Spend Spend Spend, Blood Brothers, White Christmas, Martin Guerre and Grease.


Produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor, choreographed by Olivier Award winner Bill Deamer, musical direction by David Steadman, this wonderfully lavish new staging of the classic musical coincides with the 50th anniversary of the film version - the most successful movie musical in history.


It all began with the story of the Trapp Family Singers and Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography, which inspired Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to create a Broadway musical in 1959. The Sound of Music tells the true story of the world-famous singing family, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their thrilling escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich at the start of WWII.


The unforgettable score features some of the most memorable songs ever performed on stage, including ‘Edelweiss’, ‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, ‘So Long, Farewell’ and of course, the title song, ‘The Sound of Music’.



Joining Danielle and Steven are West End stars Jan Hartley (Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story) and Sarah Soetaert (Chicago) who will play the Mother Abbess and Baroness Elsa Schrader, respectively, with Howard Samuels as Max, Grace Chapman as Liesl, Luke George as Rolf, Kate Milner Evans as Frau Schmidt and Martin Dickinson as Admiral Von Schreiber.



Completing the cast are Madeline Banbury, Lewis Barnshaw, Ellie Botterill, Zoe Ann Bown, Colin Burnicle, Elana Cerversi, Grace Chapman, Jessica Daley, Philip Day, Lynden Edwards, Cole Emsley, Grace Gardner, Libby Griffiths, Lewis Jamieson, William Keeler, Noah Key, Zach Loizou, Mia Long, Ava Merson-O’Brien, Isabelle Methven, Tilly Murray, Zaiya Omamon, Katie Shearman, Isabella Taylor, Joshua Warden, Liberty Wilson and Hanna Zienkiewicz.

By The Gay UK, Dec 21 2014 06:00PM

Madonna has given her fans an early Christmas present, by releasing six tracks from her Rebel Heart album on iTunes and the chance to pre-order her new album, Rebel Heart, which is due for release in March 2015. The six tracks are Living for Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati and Bitch I’m Madonna which was recorded with Nicki Minaj.



Rebel Heart - Madonna
Rebel Heart - Madonna

Madonna has been teasing fans for some time on social media with the hashtag #unapologeticbitch and has been posting photos of her in the studio on her Instagram account. The new studio album includes work with Diplo, Kanye West and Bilboard.


The official release comes after unfinished versions of some of the tracks from the new album were leaked online. According to Madonna’s official website, she stated “I was hoping to release my new single 'Living For Love' on Valentine's Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring. I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift,"


Madonna has also promised to release additional music on 9th February 2015 and the full album is due for release in the first week of March 2015.


According to www.madonna.com “the six songs are currently available for purchase now via pre-order at iTunes and other music outlets with purchase of the album. The music will also be available on all streaming services”.


The track listing for the album suggests that it will have 19 tracks and gives away that one of the other tracks is called “Joan of Arc”.


By Paul Szabo




By The Gay UK, Dec 21 2014 12:03PM

Following numerous requests for information on the BIGGEST Christmas question, we speak exclusively with National Treasure Michael Fish MBE for a (ahem) 'guaranteed' prediction on if it’ll snow this December 25th? Michael won the hearts of the nation (well those that kept their houses!) in 1987 when he famously told us all not to worry, a hurricane was not on its way... cue 100mph winds!



Michael Fish MBE - Image: BBC
Michael Fish MBE - Image: BBC

It’s an age-old question that us forecasters have battled with for many a year. Will it or won’t it snow on Christmas Day? Of course if I knew the answer to this then I’d be a very rich man by now. If we’re to believe the newspapers each year, then yes ‘Snowmaggeddon’ is coming and we should all bulk buy our port and Stilton now and get ready for hibernation. Sadly it’s very hard to even try to predict until about five days before the event...


However, never being shy of a challenge, I’ve monitored the instruments in the garden and had the Met Office charts sent over to study and I think I can quite categorically say...


Don’t worry. A Christmas snowstorm is NOT on the way... [wink].


To find out more about Michael Fish do visit: www.Michael-Fish.com




By The Gay UK, Dec 21 2014 10:00AM

It’s the start of the summer at the struggling 90 bed Cavendish Hotel in Torquay.


The roof is leaking and finances are at rock bottom. Desperate for a new lease of life, owners Vicky and Andy have agreed to take on hapless hotelier Mark Jenkins for the season as their new entertainments manager. What could possibly go wrong? For one thing there’s Mike, the Cavendish’s feisty head barman who doesn’t take kindly to finding Mark Jenkins on his patch. “He messed up three of his hotels, if he messes this hotel up, I’ll mess him up”.


Cue comedy and fireworks as Mark kicks off by bragging that he can fill Mike’s deserted bar in his first 24 hours on the job – “the impossible is my speciality” – and goes hell for leather to come good on his boast. Mark has been his own boss since the age of 19 so, as his old pal Alison points out, trying to manage him is going to be a nightmare. For Mark’s employers and workmates at the Cavendish it’s looking like a long, hot, make or break summer. This week we also meet divorced barrister Tim who tries his eccentric best to make up for lost time on a last minute break with grown up son Freddie. Freddie starts the weekend by asking “How am I related to you?”.


Will the Cavendish’s unique brand of hospitality – including a leak and a broken loo - put a dampener on their bonding?



Episode 1 'The New Entertainments Manager' - Sunday 28 December, 8pm, Channel 4


By The Gay UK, Dec 20 2014 08:00PM

Our Web Series ‘Pick of The Week’ for a change is neither a comedy or a romance or drama but a useful series of good advice of how to avoid having any of them in your own life.




Actor/writer and very funny man JASON FARONE has created the most hilarious list of tips that we have seen in a long time and that we highly recommend. The first one in his PORNOMEDY series is aptly entitled ‘6 WAYS GAYS PISS PEOPLE OFF’.




After you have played this several times (and we know you will) try the second video which has a title that needs no explaining ‘5 WAYS BAD PORN RUINS SEX.


by Roger Walker-Dack





By The Gay UK, Dec 20 2014 03:00PM

Mandy Rice-Davies actress, model and ‘good time girl’ who with her best friend Christine Keeler almost brought down the British Government in 1963, died yesterday at the age of 70.


After Keeler’s affair with War Secretary John Profumo and also a Russian naval Attaché became a public scandal there was major court trial, which uncovered tales of sex, wealth, and national security, which rattled the Establishment and became the fixation for the entire nation for months.


In the witness box Rice-Davies was told that aristocratic party host Lord Astor had denied her allegation of an affair. She replied with her now famous quip ‘WELL HE WOULD, WOULDN’T HE?’ which was splashed over the headlines of all the newspapers next day and endeared her to the public.


The story was made into a movie called ‘SCANDAL’ in 1989 for which Bridget Fonda picked up a Golden Globe Nomination for her portrayal of Rice Davies, and was the basis for the 2013 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ‘STEPHEN WARD’.


Rice-Davies went on to be a cabaret performer, before running a chain of restaurants in Israel, and she married three times to wealthy men.


She and Keeler will however always be entrenched in our memories as the two people who exposed the hypocrisy of the British Establishment who preached about the sanctity of family values whilst at the same time many of them had scant regard for them in real life. They also made sex a front-page story and became symbols of the 1960’s era of hedonism. Looking back on those days, Rice-Davies recently said ‘Good girls didn't have any sex at all, and bad girls had a bit’.


by Roger Walker-Dack




By The Gay UK, Dec 20 2014 09:00AM

Ex-Batman actor Michael Keaton must have felt more than a touch of deja-vu in the title role of Alejandro G. Inarritu's brilliant dark comedy about an actor trying to redeem his career by staging a serious dramatic Broadway debut after his career as a movie comic-book hero has faded.

★★★★★

The movie filmed almost entirely in the St James Theater on West 44th Street starts as Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is about to begin previews of a play that he has adapted from a Raymond Carver novel, which he has both directed and also stars in. Having the camera follow the actors at close quarters as they rush around the theatre gives the movie the illusion that the whole proceedings are just one big single take. It's an inspired idea and succeeds in keeping the adrenaline flowing at a rapid pace throughout the whole piece.


Riggan's nerves are very raw as he has sunk everything into this production from his reputation to every single cent from the Bank, and he is racked with such self-doubt about the production being a success. The play's cast include Lesley another film actor making her Broadway too, and Laura who is also doubling the role with also being Riggan's on/off lover too. The third member of this four-handed drama is such a hammy actor that when an accident (!) incapacitates him, Laura persuades Riggan to re-cast the part with Mike a well-known and popular stage actor who just happens to be her current boyfriend.


Mike is possibly the most talented actor of the play's cast which he is happy to remind Riggan at every single opportunity, but he is a bit of wild card who can behave erratically on and off the stage. He however isn't the only problem that Riggan has to face. There is Sam his teenage daughter just released from re-hab who he has misguidedly employed as his personal assistant. When she is not rebuking her father for ignoring modern phenomenon of social media try and boost his sagging career, she is having inappropriate sexual relations with Mike. Also girlfriend Laura announces she is pregnant just before the curtain rises too.


The deeper the mess that Riggan seems to find himself too, he resorts to listening to the voice of his alter-ego and he has also convinced himself that he has this superpower to move inanimate objects by the power of thought alone.


During the countdown to the opening night of the play there are manic scenes straight out of a comic farce. Such as when a near-naked Riggan is accidentally locked out of the theatre's stage door midway through a preview and must stride through the packed crowds of Times Square in just his underpants to get back in. Then there is the encounter in the bar next to the theater when he has a contretemps with Tabitha the NY Times Theatre Critic who tells him she has vowed to give him the worst review in history to ensure the play is a flop as she bitterly resents Hollywood celebrities invading Broadway which she considers is her holy grail.


However, convinced that Mike will yet again upstage him on the play's opening night and firmly believing that he is about to lose everything, Riggan finds some inner strength to add a totally unexpected twist that shocks us all and wins him rave reviews from the Times after all.


Throughout this whole process Riggan is still completely obsessed with his past playing the infamous Birdman that brought him fame and success and has unquestionably shaped who he has become on so many levels. In the end he accepts the inevitability and simply gives in and let's him take over completely.


This is one amazing joy ride of a movie that never lets up both delighting and confronting the audience for the entire two hours. Inarritu's has imbued this, his 5th feature, with his extraordinary impassioned imagination that as, is his raison d'etre, is evident in every minute detail of the movie. The stunning cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) is nothing less than breathtaking. and it's accompanied by constant bursts of jazz drumming from Antonio Sanchez.


Keaton's very raw and brilliant performance as Riggan is what really makes the movie soar. He literally exposes himself in a role that could easily be conceived as based on his own life with a career that has hardly been in ascendant since his last Batman movie twenty years ago. Here he shows what a remarkable and honest actor he really is as he totally captures every nuance of this fallen star who wants to rise and fly again. I'd go so far as to suggest that this is a career best for Keaton, a fact which will be borne out when the Acting Award season starts soon.


He however wasn't alone up there on the screen and was complemented in particular with two powerful performances from the remarkable Emma Stone as Sam, and the ever wonderful Edward Norton as Mike. Nods also to Naomi Watts playing Lesley, Andrea Riseborough as Leslie, a very low key Zach Galifianakis as Riggan's manager, Amy Ryans as his ex wife, and also Lindsay Duncan as Tabitha.



I would hesitate to declare that this is director/co-writer Inarritu's best ever movie as the four memorable ones that proceed this (especially 'Amores Perros') are quite brilliant. However it was good enough for me at least to consider the thought for more than a moment. He is nothing less than a cinematic genius who continually successful pushes the boundaries of our imagination and gives us something remarkably refreshing and unique that is always such a sheer joy to experience.


Reviewed By Roger Walker-Dack



By The Gay UK, Dec 19 2014 07:00PM

When I was asked ''Do you fancy a day in The Rover's Return this Christmas?'', it took a fraction of a millisecond to say yes. If nowt else I was open to the possibility of uncovering some juicy backstage dirt. Purely in the name of investigative reporting of course.




The politically correct term for them these days is ''background artistes''. Everyone still calls them ''extras'' though to be honest. They are the people you see in movies and TV shows, fleshing out the screen and adding depth and presence; whether the thousands of mourners in the funeral scene in Gandhi or a handful of punters in the pub on Coronation Street.


I must say I am not the most regular of viewers these days but Corrie will always have a special place in my heart. Still going strong after over 50 years of existence, it's influence and importance can not be overstated. On a personal note, I remember how it was the only telly show my dear old mum considered unmissable. I'm also old enough to get a touch misty eyed at the slightest mention of Elsie Tanner (aka The Greatest TV Character Ever).


Production of the show has moved out of Manchester in recent years to a purpose built studio complex at Media City, Salford. The studio is just yards away from BBC North and the legendary cobbles and familiar terraced houses are a stones throw from the sleek glass and metal, Blader Runner-esque buildings of Salford Quays.


On arrival at reception, extras are ushered into a nearby area called The Hub, a holding area where we await further instruction. With its white and bright orange walls, it is not dissimilar to the breakfast room of a budget hotel. Trays of ITV branded mugs sit in a small kitchen area, next to a fridge crammed with milk and loaves of bread. After making coffee and toast, it was time to sit and wait to be told the plan for the day.


Young assistants, or runners, rush in and out in their unofficial uniform of hoodies, battered jeans and Converse. They clutch clipboards loaded with lists and wear headsets constantly connecting them to the show's Mission Control, as vital as life support to the smooth running of a logistical juggernaut like The Street. The runners are friendly enough but have the brisk, no nonsense manner of people well drilled in getting disparate tribes of people from A to B with minimum fuss on a daily basis.


I asked our runner, Paul, if the novelty of working on Corrie ever wore off.


''It does become just a job, yeah. But when you tell someone where you work and see the reaction, you remember it is a cool place to be working.''


Paul took us across into the studio, a vast low ceiling hangar like space. Off the main walkway are the individual sets; rows of plywood boxes with words like ''The Kabin'' and ''Bookies Flat'' written on the back of them. Moving through the studio, I caught brief glimpses of familiar rooms through gaps in the flimsy walls.


After a brief delay, we were taken onto our set; The Rover's Return. An obvious statement but the first impression was that it looks just like it does on the telly but smaller and darker.


The scenes we were filming were short and light in tone. They were for the Christmas episodes, so the pub was festively decorated including a string of silver tinsel around the picture of the much missed Betty Turpin on the wall. That made the inner long term viewer inside me go “Aw''.


Us extras were briefed on what we were doing and when and where to move and work on the scenes commenced very shortly after. Film and TV making can be notoriously slow moving and exacting, but turning out over two hours of television a week Coronation Street is factory like in approach. Flubbed lines or technical hitches cause only the briefest of breaks in the production line and it resumes at a relentless pace.


From my privileged position as ''Man At Bar Reading Wetherfield Gazette'' I eavesdropped as the regular cast on set gossiped, joked and chatted between takes. Listening in it all seemed to me so, for want of a better word, normal. As they discussed weekend plans and showed each other You Tube clips on their phones, it felt exactly like the light, time killing banter that takes place in a million other workplaces day in and day out. Although not many workplaces have a cabinet packed full of BAFTAs and Royal Television Society Awards in the foyer admittedly. The cast shared private jokes, talked about family and gently teased each other; the universal language of professional colleagues who get on well together.


It stands to reason actually. With their grinding schedules and constant demands, Coronation Street and the other long running soaps are the actor's equivalent of a 9 to 5 office job. And just like in any other place of work, there is even a spot of office politics as I overheard a couple of long standing stars having a grumble about management. Discretion of course prevents me from naming names. That and I would quite like to be invited back one day.


So I can't say I was privy to any major revelations or noteworthy nuggets of gossip during my visit to The Rovers. However next time I read one of the show's stars tell an interviewer how the cast are One Big Happy Family, I'm now slightly less likely to write it off as PR bull and roll my eyes in cynicism.


This Christmas On Coronation Street:


Will Gary Ruin Christmas? Does Kylie stand to lose everything? Find out in the Christmas Day Episode on ITV1 at 8pm.


By Richard Glen



By The Gay UK, Dec 19 2014 01:25PM

Today (19 December 2014) is dubbed ‘the black Friday of booze’, as the Christmas party season reaches its peak with an influx of revellers in pubs, bars and restaurants creating high demand across the emergency services. However, a spike in sign-ups to Dry January is also predicted, as people start to think about giving their bodies a break in the New Year.



This comes as new figures show that:


* last year, Friday 20 December 2013 saw sales of alcohol in pubs, bars and restaurants rise by 114% compared to an average Friday


* £3.7 billion was spent on alcohol last December, with total sales of alcohol rising by more than a quarter (28%) from November to December


* sales of sparkling wine and liqueurs jumped by 88% and 54% respectively


Jackie Ballard, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said:


"In the run up to Christmas many people start drinking more than usual as they celebrate the festive season with parties and get-togethers.


"This is the perfect time to sign up to a holiday from alcohol. Dry January is not about never drinking again. It’s just an opportunity for people to reflect on their drinking patterns and to give their body a break from alcohol after the festive period. We know from previous years that people who do Dry January will feel better, lose weight and save money.


This data is supported by a number of people who have been keeping a record of their drinking for the past month, with many noting that their alcohol consumption in December had increased considerably from the previous month.


Charlotte Gowing, aged 38 from London, said:


"I don’t really see myself as a big drinker but I was quite shocked to see just how much more I drink in the run up to Christmas. Drinks on nights out with work and friends, as well as a few when I’m at home, all start to add up.


"I am definitely going to give my body a bit of TLC after New Year’s Eve and Dry January will be a good place to start.


Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, says:


"Over 17,000 people took part in Dry January in 2014 and many reported that taking a month-long break from alcohol acted as a reset button concerning their alcohol use for months afterwards, not only helping people to drink less per drinking day but also to drink less frequently.


"As with any commitment to a healthier lifestyle change, people need some time to prepare themselves in advance so that they are in the best position possible to successfully achieve their goal. People who sign up to Dry January will receive the tips, ideas and encouragement to stay motivated and make the most of their month off alcohol"


To sign up for Alcohol Concern’s Dry January and register for tips and tools to make the most of the month, please visit the Dry January website.








By The Gay UK, Dec 19 2014 08:00AM

Mews of Mayfair



££

★★★★

A short walk from Oxford Circus tube, tucked behind shopping chaos is the tranquil Mews of Mayfair. The clientèle appeared to mainly be tourists which is not surprising as the menu design is a marriage of classic familiar dishes (Fish & Chips, Burger, Club Sandwich etc.), alongside more refined sophisticated dishes including Duck Egg, Salt Baked Cotswold Chicken, Superfoods Salad, and rare breed beef.


The team within Mews of Mayfair were all really lovely, welcoming and engaged in conversation with us both. I find especially in London that service can be almost robotic and cold at times, but the team here were faultless and this was consistent as I observed the service with the other diners.



To start my friend ordered the Mosaic of Wild Duck & Red Deer- and why wouldn't you want to order the mosaic to start? Their creative flair continued through to the taste of this well constructed starter. Essentially a pate paired with a raisin bread, and the flavours in this were superb.


I chose the Orkney Isles Scallops served with pork belly and artichoke. Again the Mews of Mayfair showcase their expertise in the execution and presentation of this dish. Butter-like scallops served in a shell on top of a rock/seaweed filled bowl it was great to see their presentation going that extra step further. I was really impressed with the scallop and would highly recommend it.





For the Winter period the restaurant have come up with their take on a Bambi Burger, on the menu as Venison Burger. With this dish only being available til Christmas I went for this and had it cooked medium. Served in a brioche bun with a gin and redcurrant sauce, this really was a good burger. My friend opted for their traditional Mews burger but with added meaty chunks of lobster atop the meat, which was cooked to her liking perfectly.


With so many new restaurants opening with meat as their headlining dishes it's important to be able to get a burger right, which the Mews of Mayfair have done so here. There were plenty of caveman flesh in face style grunts from us during eating the burgers. Always a good sign.




Dessert. Here is where the show was stolen. I would come back here just to have the desserts alone, and I do not have much of a sweet tooth so this is really a big credit to the restaurant. I chose the Chocolate Delice served with honeycomb, yoghurt and hazelnuts. Pow in their presentation and an “oh god” moment with the first mouthful. The Chocolate Delice really is something special. Rich and mousse-like with subtle orange notes and light honeycomb with globes of cream and yoghurt.


We also had the Roast Williams Pear served with croissant ice cream. The pear was perfection and such a great match with the ice cream- seriously good ice cream, and I should know after many a summer spent in Italy.


I will definitely be back, not only for the dessert and friendly service, but to next time try something a little more adventurous with their main courses. Portion sizes throughout were good value for money, especially with the desserts (£7.50 most expensive for one) and the food arrived at the exact right amount of time between courses, making this a good venue not just for dinner but lunch (we dined over lunchtime).


Mews of Mayfair


www.mewsofmayfair.com

10 Lancashire Court

New Bond Street

London

W1S 1EY


Reviewed by Jordan Lohan



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